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Audience development professional Leonie Hodkevitch taught in Trenčín how to work with different types of audiences and how to develop it
Leonie Hodkevitch was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and raised in Vienna, Austria. She earned her Master’s degrees in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Spanish Philology and French Philology. Leonie’s fascination and commitment to culture led to founding the platform Clearly Culture pursuing inclusion through innovative educational programs. Leonie is also a founding director of the Cultural Management Postgraduate at the University of Vienna and a long-serving member of the Jury of Experts to the European Union. She teaches Cultural management for distinguished universities across Europe and the U.S.
In her workshop, Leonie worked with topics such as gaining, educating, and attracting audiences, engaging diverse communities and especially 'atypical' audiences. Leonie is convinced that audience development tools include cultural mediation strategies, relationship marketing and community building. Her workshop participants take this acquired knowledge into everyday practice, in which they learn how to implement tools and strategies and how to look at the same issue from a new perspective.
How can cultural managers in Trenčín achieve more people to come here for cultural events?
The magic wand is building relationships with your audience. Audience Development is all about creating and maintaining relationships and communities. If we want our audiences to visit regularly and bring friends, we cannot keep them at an arm’s length distance.
What cultural events did you have the opportunity to visit during your stay in Slovakia, or in Trenčín?
I had two evenings only on the first I arrived late. So, I did what I love most with these two evenings, taking an extensive walk through this beautiful city, and going out for dinner with new friends from the amazing team of Trencin 2026 and the municipality. The city enchanted me – the castle with its breathtaking view, the impressive synagogue, and the cafes and bars have had their own soul. The elegant magnificent past and the vivid, promising future meet in Trencin, and the atmosphere is great!
What new knowledge and contacts do you take away from your visit to Trenčín?
What I enjoyed a lot was that, in the 2 days of working together, the workshop participants opened up and shared their worries, challenges, hopes, and solutions. I got a bit of an impression of the ‚Trencin way of life ‘, and I deeply cherish it. I am taking it with me, the Trencin feeling! I definitely would love to come back and resume the conversation with the people I met, I’d like to keep them in my life.
How was it working with the participants of the workshop in Trenčín?
Try to tell us about your workshop, which you conducted as part of the visit to Trenčín. What moments are stuck in your memory?
The frank and intelligent exchange of opinions was very nice! The workshop is interactive and includes exercises, role plays, presentations, and discussions. People were always super-interested in their peers' projects, and their enthusiasm and respect never changed. It must be cool to work in such a team.
Trenčín is a city in Eastern Europe, how do you see the cultural scene here compared to other Austrian cities? What can Trenčín do to improve its cultural level?
Well, it looks to me like the cultural level here is high already! No, I don't like comparing the level of different places in terms of good and bad, this doesn't serve the purpose. What matters is if the cultural offer is relevant for the local community including tourists and satisfies their needs. Trencin has an exciting and diverse history that you literally can feel at every corner, and it also anticipates trends. I think the most important is to stay in touch with the local communities, work with them, and make sure, everyone is involved or represented. That's what makes a cultural landscape strong and sustainable.
If you had to explain to a small child what audience development means, how would you describe it?
Audience Development is if you want ice cream, but I want you to eat a pizza, find out what you like in ice cream that you might enjoy in a pizza as well.
In which areas can we encounter audience development? Can this know-how be applied or implemented in other social areas as well?
Talking about small children, convincing a small child to swallow a bitter medicine with a little bit of sugar, like Mary Poppins, is already audience development. Arts and culture are like bitter medicine for some people, they are not used to them, but they don't know it will be a nice and easy experience. So we have to convince them to give it a try, explain, help to understand and tear down the barriers.
What are the most effective ways to educate your audience?
It's the other way around. Audience Development as educating our audience. Audience Development is a process that puts the needs and interests of your audience at the centre of your organization. We do this by ending the guesswork – by finding out what our audience needs, by asking them simply. Then we can react to this in multiple ways.
In today's fast-paced world, when everyone is competing for a person's attention, it's hard to impress. What are your tricks or tips for capturing the audience's attention?
Tricks don't work here. What works is honest deep involvement in what the communities need. This doesn't mean that we must adjust our creative ideas and program to target groups. It means that we must have representatives of relevant target groups as participants and contributors to our work.
Your expertise is primarily in the field of audience development. How did you get into this discipline? What other fields are you interested in?
I am a fiction writer, a cultural producer and a docent for Cultural Management and its biggest challenges – Sponsoring, Intercultural Communication, Audience Development, and Social Justice. Cultural producing, I started because writing is a lonely and secluded work and I am a social creature. Teaching Cultural Management, I started because we were making mistakes in organizing cultural projects. So, each of them is a solution and challenge to the other activity.
We now have space for reflection questions, Leonie. What would you like to ask the mayor of Trenčín?
Which 3 words will Trencin 2026 enter history with?
Ask the organizers of Trenčín 2026 something you wish to know.
Which 3 words will Trencin 2026 enter history with?
You have space to ask your workshop participants one question. What would you like to know from them?
What would you like to keep and what to change in your city, and are the two compatibles?