IETM Spring Plenary Meeting FAQs

What is IETM?

IETM is a membership organisation which exists to stimulate the quality, development and contexts of contemporary performing arts in a global environment. It aims to initiate and facilitate professional networking and communication, the dynamic exchange of information, know-how transfer and presentations of examples of good practice. IETM has more than 500 members – organisations actively engaged in contemporary performing arts and international collaboration from over 50 countries. Two of their core aims are to connect diverse organisations who share common interests in a cross-sector network and to catalyse international partnerships, exchanges, collaborations and knowledge transfer.

What is an IETM Plenary Meeting?

A Plenary Meeting is the main IETM network meeting organised twice a year (spring and autumn) in different cities in Europe. It brings together between 500-600 professionals to exchange ideas in an informal way and build closer relations with other members. While the core focus of the meeting is informal networking, the meeting includes working and discussion sessions that address key issues and topics of relevance for the international performing arts community. Each meeting has a theme, around which the discussions are loosely based. There is also a platform of work from the host country or city that gives some context of local performing arts.

Who goes to these meetings?

Attendees of these meetings include: mostly independent artists and producers as well as directors, managers and staff from theatre and dance companies; some venue and festival programmers; some European cultural organisations, training and information centres, funders and support networks. There is a full list of IETM members on their website, however each meeting is significantly swelled by non-members who attend on a one-off or recce basis.

What are the benefits of attending?

There are many benefits to attending IETM meetings, and to being a member of IETM.

The primary functions of the network and the meetings are to foster transnational relationships between artists, presenters, venues etc. and to facilitate the informal exchange of information and experience. Attending an IETM plenary is a first step in developing such relationships, though it will form a small part of a relationship building process that can take years but can prove extremely fruitful in the long term. Most importantly, the Plenary Meetings give an insight into international cultural trends, ideas and experiences.

Is IETM for me?

Researching the context of IETM will help you understand if it is the right network for you. Go to the IETM website and check out the programs for past meetings: http://ietm.org/IETM-past-meetings. Talk to colleagues who have attended previously (ask the Australia Council for details). Check out what other Australians and international delegates who have attended IETM have said about the experience:

www.unlimitedimpact.org.uk/international-networking/

www.unlimitedimpact.org.uk/ietm-valencia/

Australian independent artists write of their experience:

“I recently attended the IETM in Brussels and found it pretty overwhelming so I thought I would share some tips that I found useful as an independent artist attending these types of events:

Do NOT try to sell or pitch your work. This is not the place (or at least this is my experience).

When meeting presenters/festival programmers etc. ask them about their interests ... find out who you are talking to and take the time to build real relationships.

Stay out late - this is where/when people stop wearing their presenter/producer hats and start becoming more relaxed and personable.

Don’t take it too seriously.

Find allies - i.e. people who you can approach at a party when you have no-one to talk to who will take you under their wing and introduce you to people or just chat to you! These spaces can be hugely intimidating...”

“This was my first IETM meeting. As a newbie I focused on learning how the meetings work, how to best approach it and to begin conversations with artists and colleagues, collaborators and presenters, both known and unknown. I was also interested in sharing my own experiences working internationally with others.”

“I used this opportunity to connect further with international peers. Since I have been working in Europe more frequently than ever in the last two years, I viewed this as a good opportunity to make new friends and get advice regarding the region. I met many international peers, including individuals from countries where I have established plans to work. These peers were able to give me cultural insight into their contexts and advice on where to focus my energy. I also met interesting colleagues from places I have never visited and learned from them what the issues, struggles, and specialties of their regions faced. I took the chance to connect more closely to my Australian peers, which included several colleagues I have been eager to spend time with due to relevant interests. These conversations happened over drinks, walks, at the sidelines of meetings, and among the crowded energy of the event itself. IETM was useful to survey the dialogues relevant to European and international performance practice, many of which were new to me.”

What will it cost to attend an IETM Plenary?

Other than any local travel or accommodation that you may need to attend, there is a registration fee for non-members which is based on their annual turnover. As a member of the IETM network or a representative of an IETM member organisation, the fee is lower or free of charge. As an indication, you can see the breakdown of registration fees for past events here . You often have to pay for your tickets to any public performances you wish to attend. There is almost always early-bird discount registration so keep a close eye on the website.

How do I become a member of IETM?

All information about joining IETM, membership fees and benefits is available on the website.

I want to organise a tour for my show. Will this help?

This is a networking event for people, rather than a marketplace for shows, and is not comparable with (for example) the Australian Performing Arts Market or CINARS. Being involved in an IETM meeting can be a step towards building professional working relationships internationally, and a step towards having a broader impact outside of Australia. These relationships take time to develop, however. We encourage you to attend the meeting, but to also have realistic expectations of what it will do for you.

I don’t know anything about EU cultural funding or policy. Do I need to?

There will no doubt be much discussion around both these areas during the meeting. Also, many of IETM’s members use Plenary Meetings to help find partners in projects that they are submitting for EU funding grants. While there will be many other conversations and discussions happening that you can get involved in, it will enrich your experience and the quality of your interactions to have some knowledge around EU cultural policy.

What advice can you give me about making the most of an IETM Plenary?

Arrival and orientation

Arrive as early as you can in Europe as jet-lag can make the heavy meeting schedule tough.

Try to orientate yourself online in the city you are visiting so you do not waste too much time getting lost or searching for somewhere to buy bananas or whatever it is you need to survive.

Try to get a good lot of sleep in before your meeting and to clear your desk and let the folk back home know you are not available. You do not want to be attending to emergencies back at the ranch during your precious time at the Plenary. You also want to be as energised and engaged as you can be.

Engage with the Australian delegation. This will include the International Development Manager Europe and funded and non-funded Australian delegates. We always get together on the night before the first day of the meeting for a social gathering and also meet on the first morning to share experiences, help foster solidarity and ensure nobody is left behind.

Go to the Newcomers and New Members Welcome. It’s a nice way to orient yourself.

Meetings

In terms of thinking about who you might want to meet, go through the Participants’ List, identify may be 10 or 12 people you want to meet and email them in advance. 50% is a really good strike rate on this kind of cold-call strategy and it is fine to do it. Nobody minds so don't be put off if they don’t respond, it just means they are busy. If you really want to meet them and they haven't responded to your email you can enlist some extra help from your networks and hunt them down at the Meeting itself. If at the end of the Meeting you have made two or three really good connections then you should consider it a successful enterprise.

Consider engaging with the IETM staff at the meeting itself. They are always incredibly busy in the run up to the meeting, but they enjoy saying hello to members and welcome a brief and friendly introduction.

Cafés and bars can be workplaces

Hang out at the café or bar, or the Night Meeting Point. This is the ideal way to meet people. IETM people are quite generous and hospitable and demonstrate a kind of unspoken etiquette of being friendly and accommodating if they have time.

Do not worry if you ONLY hang out at the café or bar; or conversely if you spend most of your time in the programmed sessions. You need to do what feels right for you personally and you will achieve more out of the meeting if you are not beating yourself up about missing things that are happening elsewhere.

Have a good time! More than anything these meetings are contexts for old friends to meet each other and make new friends. The more fun you have, the more you are likely to meet great people.

It is great to hang out with your fellow Australians

We always ensure there is a meeting of the Australian delegates to share experiences. It is very helpful to share experiences with colleagues and friends from your own context and we encourage spending time with other Australians, especially as not everyone knows each other prior to the meeting. As a recent participant wrote:

“My view of networking has always been long-term and after discussions with Sophie and previous participants I already understood this would be the best way for me to operate here. I found it incredibly beneficial to meet with the Australian contingent on the first day. It helped me to not only get my bearings but to hear advice from Sophie and the other participants. It was invaluable meeting with colleagues that I knew as well artists I did not know. I had several meetings and discussions over the course of the meeting with these Australians and others. These meetings involved discussing ideas and experiences and giving and receiving advice about working internationally. One of the best things about talking with other Australian artists was simply talking about the art.”

Other tips

Many IETM meetings will set up a buddy system where new members are allocated a more experienced member buddy. Make the most of this by perhaps Skyping your buddy in advance so they feel like they know you and what you are after.

Do not bring a lot of collateral with you. This makes you look like you are selling but is also a burden for you to carry around all day when the internet etc. has all but replaced printed material. IETM is also a very green environment, so having heaps of paper is not a good look.

It is often a good idea to organise at least one other city stopover with professional meetings and strong potential outcomes, on your trip to an IETM meeting, so that you know you will bring something back from your travels. This leaves you more open to enjoying the serendipity of the IETM context and not feeling any pressure to ‘perform’ in terms of meeting some killer contacts. 

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