3 Lessons for Event Planners From Broadway’s “Hamilton”

Hamilton,” the musical adaptation of the life of U.S. Treasury founder Alexander Hamilton, has become a Broadway sensation, and an 11-time Tony-winning musical production. From the genre of its music to its cast’s diverse professional and personal backgrounds, the show is expanding what Broadway looks like. The genius of “Hamilton” has attracted enormous crowds and inundated its ticket lottery system to the point where it moved from in-person to online in winter for fear of too many people standing in the cold New York City street outside the theater. Celebrities like BeyonceJimmy Fallon and President Obama have expressed their overwhelming praise for the show and its creator, Tony-Winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, who began crafting the masterpiece nearly 10 years ago. Click to read three lessons event professionals can take from the success of “Hamilton” and apply to the planning process.

1. Be disruptive.

When you think of Broadway, do you think of hip-hop? Musical theater savants may jump immediately to “In The Heights” (incidentally also a Tony Award-winning creation by Miranda), but usually musicals are linked to Rodgers and Hammerstein or Disney, not beatboxing. One of the multitude of reasons “Hamilton” has been so successful is it stands out definitively—much like the man whose life the show follows—from its competitors. Don’t be afraid to step outside the norm: Restructure your education sessions, change seating arrangements, try brand-new snack breaks or mix up your speaker lineup. The risk of trying something different from what people expect can pay off in big ways.

2. Show your audience you value its loyalty.

“Hamilton” is the hottest ticket on Broadway in years. It’s completely sold out eight shows per week—in fact, the Richard Rogers theater doesn't have a single ticket available until February 2017, so buyers are forced to spend upwards of $800 per ticket through resale vendors if they want to get in the "room where it happens." Because of that, audiences flock to the theater every day to try their luck at being chosen as the $10 ticket lottery winner. When Miranda realized how many people were giving up their time to wait in this line, he started a program called #Ham4Ham (Hamilton’s face is on the $10 bill), where he would surprise those in line with a fun performance by himself, members of the cast and special Broadway guest stars including Norm Lewis, Lea Salonga, Kelli O’Hara, Matthew Morrison, Wayne Brady and Laura Benanti. The Tony Awards followed Miranda's lead on this and brought the casts outside the Beacon Theater on Sunday night to perform Broadway's favorite tunes for the crowds in the street hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars. Take a page from Miranda’s book and make sure your audience knows you appreciate its loyalty and excitement about your event. Incorporate surprises that will blow them away, create buzz and encourage guests to come back.

3. Remember who tells your story.

The show ends with Hamilton’s wife questioning whether or not she’s done enough to tell the story of Hamilton to the world after he is (spoiler alert!) killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. The message of her song is clear: Keep in mind who will tell your story after you’re gone. It may seem dark, but take this question into account as you plan your event. Who tells the story of your event? Is it a clear story someone could explain to a friend and use to convince them to come to the event next time? If there’s one thing this musical teaches us, it’s that history is often dependent on the perspective from which we hear it. Think about how your conference could be perceived and give attendees a reason to walk away with only good things to say. Photo credit: Joan Marcus