Flyering tips for introverts | Ian Lane shares his wisdom

Flyering tips for introverts

Ian Lane shares his wisdom

After reading a few articles on how to flyer successfully, I ran out into the streets of Edinburgh like a driver who'd just finished their speeding awareness course at the Marriott Hotel, eager to put my newfound knowledge to good use.

Within a matter of seconds, however, I remembered that I'm an insufferable malcontent who hates selling themselves and considers interpersonal communication at best an unwanted bodily tic. As I imagine at least half of the comedians in Edinburgh suffer from similar levels of introversion (I haven't talked to them, so I don't know for sure), and are too shy/proud/stingy to pay someone to flyer on their behalf, here are some helpful nuggets on how to survive the flyering process on your own terms:

1. Find a quiet location to flyer in

You don't want to have to compete with the sort of interaction-savvy banterlords whose first words out of the womb were 'Hi guys, I'm performing at The Incubator this afternoon, and there's a waiting room seat with your name on it.' In this regard, Cowgate is suicide, Grassmarket is seppuku, and The Royal Mile is Death By A Thousand Tuts. 

Find a nice quiet corner of Edinburgh with no gaudy rivals to compete with, very little road traffic to shout over, and an intermittent stream of human traffic steady enough to allow you to flyer them a couple of people at a time. Essentially, what I'm saying is go flyering in Danderhall or Musselburgh. You'll know just how committed people are to seeing your show by whether they follow you Pied Piper-like on to the bus back into town.

2. Let the flyer do the talking

Be honest with yourself: you didn't spend four hours of your life fiddling around with the crop function on MS Paint just so that you could then do a dog-and-pony press conference to the sort of people who don't read everything they're handed in the street. Your flyer, if designed correctly, will contain every little gobbet the punter needs. Your name. Your show's name. Your show's venue and time as illustrated by a handy map and clock. Your offensively out-of-context review quotes.

Further questioning of the public on whether they're truly happy with their lives without your show is intrusive bullying, akin to those feral Phones4U employees you used to see on the high street in the mid-noughties.

3. Keep your pitch concise

Of course, you do need to say something so that prospective gawpers are assured you have the minimum sentience required to actually perform comedy. However, try not to journalise too much. People are cynical, and in the absence of charisma, the vacuity of the flyerer's self-aggrandizing buzzword rhetoric is heavily exposed.

Instead, maybe try describing the image on the flyer in a matter-of-fact way, e.g. 'quizzical face on a bit of card.' That way, when people inevitably respond with 'No,' you can rest safe in the knowledge that they're the sort of ignorant naysayers who disagree with true statements (you didn't offer them a show, remember? You just described an object to them), and are therefore not worth shepherding into your field of dreams.

4. Only flyer people when they're walking

Remember the good old days when David Cameron deliberately went all the way to Brussels with a full bladder just so he had the requisite urgency needed to veto an EU treaty, back when that was still a thing we had to worry about?

Well, it turns out that urgency is your friend: people make their most headstrong decisions not when they're meandering aimlessly, but when they're dashing about purposefully like extras in a disaster movie. Reserve your flyering only for people who look like they are on their way to something. Relying on their capacity for snap decisions is a crucial means for finding your audience.

Don't ever flyer someone who looks like they have time to stop (let alone someone who has already stopped, e.g. is sitting on a bench), as they will no doubt grill you for further details about your show, like what 'style' of comedy you do, or whether the venue you're in has adequately PAT tested their coffee machine. These are little more than glib distractions from the kind of clinical, efficient paper dispensing techniques those chaps who distribute the Metro in the morning have nailed so ardently.

5. Only flyer people when you're walking

The reverse is also true: people will trust you more if you look like you've got an urgent appointment with an agent/headshot photographer/masseuse. A comedian who does their flyering in one spot clearly doesn't have offers billowing out of his satchel, whereas a comedian who hands out a cheeky flyer hit-and-run-style is one who looks safe in the knowledge that if you can't make it to their show, you are the one missing out. But just like on a country road, always be sure to walk against traffic. Never walk with the people you are flyering, as this has the same effect as the two of you stopping and chatting, but without the energy-conserving benefits of standing still.

6. Justify your reasons for not flyering certain people

Let's face it, with 19 billion people squelching through Edinburgh every 15 minutes, there are going to be at least a handful you will give a wide berth to. So always be sure to tell yourself why you let those ones get away.

'They've got kids with them.' 'That man's eating with both hands.' 'Those lads look like they play darts.' 'They're about to cross the road, let's not put them in jeopardy.' 'He's wearing work clothes and my show clearly exceeds his lunch break.' 'That woman's definitely listening to The Mars Volta on her iPhone 5.'

Vocalising your alibis after you've let some footfall trickle past will serve as a reminder that, in doing nothing, you 'did the right thing'.

Only say these things to yourself, though. Never to them.

7. Elect a spokesperson for any big group of people you encounter

Much like fish, people are prone to shoaling and schooling. Without these desires, most modern dance wouldn't exist, from the late, great Pina Bausch to the conga line at your nan's wedding. Very often you will be confronted with a significant group of people (at least 10 in size) who, despite not knowing each other, quickly form a symbiotic relationship as they colonise a large section of the pavement, whether they're your standard Edinburgh tour or just a ragtag bunch of disparate entities who converged at the pelican crossing. 

Whoever they are, however, one thing is constant: if the 'leader' of the gang says 'No' to your flyer, their successors will quickly realise that they are also at liberty to refuse, and will thereby follow suit.

So conserve your energy: pick the one member of the group you feel like you have the most chance with, and thrust your calling card in their direction. If they decline, leave it there - the precedent has now been set for the rest of the group, so there is no further point in engaging. If they take it, leave it there - you don't want to compromise a rare victory.

8. Allow chats with clearly uninterested parties to drag on interminably

Every now and then, you will accost someone, typically a local, who doesn't even realise they're in the midst of the world's largest arts festival, and certainly isn't about to start giving a shit. Contact engaged, they just want to tell you about their brother's operation or the ethnic demographic across town.

When this happens, a tectonic shift in your relationship with the passerby occurs: you stop feeling judged for your inane platitudes and stupid Photoshopping, and you start judging them for their incendiary halitosis and regressive views. Savour this moment for as long as you can physically feign an attentive 'Yep' for, and you will be positively ecstatic when you get a chance to start flyering again. Don't judge them too visibly, however, or you might end up in the same hospital as their brother.

9. Make time for 'unofficial' breaks

Don't be too regimented about this, but if you flyer, say, two or three people in a row successfully, you can entitle yourself to a little break in which you can refresh Chortle on your smartphone or buy a bottle of Frijj. Taking seven or eight mini-breaks like this an hour (each around five minutes long) is a good way to keep your stamina up during that crucial last stretch of flyering before the show.

10. If all else fails, turn yourself into a signpost

Signposts don't have conversations with people. When a building is ablaze, the little man from the Fire Exit sign doesn't shout: 'Follow me, lads!' When a car drives the wrong way up a one-way system, the No Entry sign doesn't crane its neck around and cough indignantly with that garish white rectangle it calls a mouth.

Signposts consistently handle all their communication visually, so if you can't beat them, join them. Graft a spare poster onto your torso or, better yet, strap the show's logo to the front of your head, and you will get your brand out there with minimum effort.

It worked for me.

Stick with these tactics, and getting through flyering will be a doddle. And above all, don't worry about the audience for your show: both of them will be there.

Ian Lane has been flyering for his show Aloof!, at Sabor at 18:30

Published: 23 Aug 2016

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