How to Assess IMPACT on Your Audience

Recently I have been working with small devising companies to explore how they can obtain meaningful and accurate data to assess audience impact. I am going to give you three scenarios of their process of evaluating impact, and then how they re-worked this data gathering the second time they performed. The first performance was a ‘soft’ sharing or rather a ‘work in progress’, which is common practice for many devising companies, so they can evaluate their work before it is fully formed.

Scenario 1: Theme of Exploitation
This group had created a piece that explored how workers were exploited in some communities, and, while the poor workers slaved away or lost their jobs through the building of factories and introduction of machinery to do manual tasks, the wealthy carried on oblivious to their suffering.

Way of Assessing Impact 1
Ask the audience to identify one thing they took away from the performance. Audience members then shared this with a partner, then with another pair, then each group of four shared what they saw as a common message.

This meant that the impact became watered down and vague.

Way of Assessing Impact 2 (Revised)
The second time the group performed they re-worked their feedback by asking the audience to do a silent written task on Post-it notes. One thing that they took away, one image and one key word. This enabled them to have a broader range of material and more individual feedback. It was also concrete data to include in the CP Portfolio.

Scenario 2: Theme of Progress and Identity
This group explored how a developed world can look upon citizens of an undeveloped community and offer to ‘help’ them have a better life. The piece addressed the question of what makes a happy life, and what is worth living for.

Way of Assessing Impact 1
Choose three words that you hear or are evoked as you watch the piece.

The answers the audience gave did not illustrate what impact the piece had had on them in terms of the issues and message; they focused more on text or image.

Way of Assessing Impact 2 (Revised)
Before the piece, answer the question: ‘What makes a good life?’ At the end of the piece, ask the same question. This way the actors had data to evaluate if the piece had changed the audience’s perspective.

Scenario 3: Big Corporations Taking Over Small Ones
This group was looking at how progress in industry is taking away from the cottage industries that rely on small numbers of customers and traders to survive. It was exploring the mind-washing of big corporations that breed a mob mentality to follow them and leave small businesses floundering.

Way of Assessing Impact 1
Ask two questions: ‘What relationships did you observe?’ and ‘What resonated with you?’

These questions got lots of good answers, but did not really identify if the message about the danger of big company takeovers was seen as a threat.

Way of Assessing Impact 2 (Revised)
The group asked the audience to come into the performance space and take up a position that was a moment in the play that they connected with. They then explained what that moment meant to them and why. This got some rich feedback. It could be filmed so data could be gathered.

I hope that this has been helpful, and you will have time to try out these six ways of gathering data regarding the impact on your audience.



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