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Connection and Presence

Erin Koppel writes about Tessitura Arts & Culture Connections 

Erin K.

Erin KoppelChief Strategy Officer, Tessitura Network

TitleConnection and Presence


Read/View Time3 min

Can you have connection without physical presence?

Yes, you can. But you have to try harder, and in different ways.

I want to tell you the story of how Tessitura Arts & Culture Connection groups were born, because I want you to attend. We are opening these groups to the sector, beyond our usual focus of the member organizations we serve, because we believe that it is important for the future of arts and culture.

•      •      • 

A few weeks ago, we at Tessitura knew it was necessary for all of us to begin to comprehend the scope of challenges the arts and culture industry is facing right now. We set out to connect members of our community by creating an atmosphere of collaboration, inspiration, and encouragement.

While other companies rushed to host sessions online, we eliminated the usual webinar format pretty quickly. We didn’t think that one-way communication was the answer: our primary focus was to deliver connection. And to be honest, we needed the connection as much as our audience did.

But could we create true connections without physical presence?

Connection is a mutual exchange of ideas. We had to invent the virtual infrastructure to accomplish that. To get people to talk with each other, we used some learnings from in-person gatherings. When we bring together peer groups at our Leadership Summit, the most successful ones have 5-6 people. For our Connection groups, we assign 6–8 because at any given time someone might be distracted with real life (it happens).

We also choose highly relevant topics for discussion, such as Relational Fundraising during Physical Distance, New Revenue Streams, Revisiting your Case for Support, and Season Announcements and Subscriptions. We help people exchange ideas by giving them solid discussion prompts. And we set clear expectations that what you bring to the conversation is what you will get out of it. (It’s hard to lurk in a group of six people.)

We are hosting Connections on topics across all revenue streams: fundraising, marketing, ticketing, and education. The role of the host is to frame the topic, listen in to the breakouts, and then elevate ideas from the group at large in the takeaways. If you’ve been feeling the absence of connection, these sessions are a good antidote right now.

I feel privileged to host the fundraising topics on behalf of Tessitura. We start each session by taking a few breaths together. We are on video, remember? So you can see people (including me!) relax, focus, and start to get to work. Those are the intangible benefits of connection in this way, and those benefits sustain me personally.

Imagine an hour to toss around ideas, gain inspiration from others in the sector, and hear encouragement that you are doing the right things in these wild times. We’d love to have you join the conversation and share the connection for yourself, and with us.

Ultimately, we’ve decided the presence necessary for connection is that which you bring with you. A desire for a meaningful exchange of ideas. And the sector deserves to have all of us invited into that process. Hope to see you soon. Be well, friends.


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Top photo by Andrea Piacquadio  from Pexels

Erin K.

Erin Koppel

Chief Strategy Officer

Tessitura Network

Erin Lively Koppel works globally with Tessitura member organizations to advance their business and help them connect more visitors and patrons to the art they produce.

As Chief Strategy Officer for Tessitura Network, she leads a highly skilled team of industry experts who create revenue-generating strategies, deliver meaningful insight via Tessitura Analytics, and provide fundamental CRM guidance which deepens engagement with constituents, and improves operational efficiency using Tessitura.

Known for her ability to inspire and ignite organizationally-inclusive teams, Erin is a highly sought conference speaker and workshop facilitator in Europe and North America. She has personally worked in all genres of arts and culture, from major metropolitan museums and aquariums to regional theatres. Prior to working for Tessitura, Erin spent nearly twenty years fundraising for Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of North America’s largest opera companies, and using Tessitura herself to support multi-million dollar fundraising campaigns she directed. She resides in southwest suburban Chicago.

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