One very effective way to publicize an event is with a good email list. With an email list, people who have shown an interest in your event can be reminded about when and where it is happening (is it the Third Saturday already!?), who is performing, and anything special that might be happening this time around. This is a good way to ensure the regulars have all the necessary information, and also to encourage beginners to return for their second and third times.
Compile Your List
Ask people who attend your event if they want to sign up to be notified by email about upcoming events. Some organizers walk through the crowd at the break and sign people up; others specifically approach newcomers and ask if they'd like to know about the next event. Make plugging the email list a part of your announcements. Ask people as they pay at the door to sign up on the email list. Some communities maintain listservs (such as a Yahoo Groups email list); if you do this, be clear about the purpose of the list and your policies for Off-topic posts, email conversation vs. announcements, etc. I recommend keeping discussion lists separate from announcement lists, so people don't tune out your important info.
Send one email per event with the pertinent details. Your email can be less formal than a press release, with a personal touch or a bit of humor, but as with a press release, be brief and concise and include all the necessary information, including a link to a web site with directions as well as who to contact for more information.
This sample shows how to write a publicity email for your email list.
Date: May 1, 2008
Bcc: [your recipients list]
Subject: Announcing: Contra Dance in Walpole Saturday May 17
Hello Walpole Dancers,
It's time again for the Walpole contra dance, this Saturday May 17. We are excited to have Ralph Sweet calling contras and classic singing squares this month, with a great band to back him up. Here are the details:
Saturday May 17
Contra Dance in Walpole, NH
8:00 - 11:30 PM dancing
7:30 PM Beginners' workshop
Ralph Sweet, calling
Ethan Hazzard-Watkins, fiddle
Van Kaynor, fiddle
Ann Percival, piano/guitar/ukelele/harmony vocals
Admission: $8, or $6 for students, seniors and first time dancers
At the Town Hall, next to the Common in Walpole, NH
For directions and more information visit http://www.walpoledance.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 123-456-7890.
I hope you can make it!
This email was sent to [email address] from [your name] (email@example.com) because you requested to receive information about the Walpole Contra Dance series. If you would like to be removed from this list please reply and let me know.
WARNING: you can get in a lot of trouble by sending out anonymous, unsolicited or bulk email to people who don't want it. If your recipients repeatedly mark your messages as SPAM, you can lose your email account or cause your internet service provider to be blacklisted. Be very careful only to send announcements to people who have requested to receive them or to those you know personally. Do not share your email list with other people or organizations. Do not forward other people's announcements to your list. Take people off your list if they request to be removed. Do not put all the email addresses in the To: or Cc: field; this will allow their addresses to be visible to everyone who receives the email. Instead, use the Bcc: field (blind carbon copy). This will protect the identity of the list members. Alternatively, use a bulk emailer software such as Direct Mail (for Macs) to maintain your email list and write messages. Finally, make sure to include a statement about how to request to be removed from the list.