We live our lives at a frenzied pace. It is easy to overlook formalities and niceties because of the urgency of all that must be done. As people of great influence in the lives of children, though, it is our duty to help them learn to value others and their work. In this article, let’s take a break from the “tyranny of the urgent” and address one area that is easy to overlook—hosting a performer who has come to educate and entertain children.
The way you welcome a performer affects the performance, which further affects how children receive the information being communicated. Granted, a hired performer is a professional who should be able to accomplish his or her task regardless of personal emotions. If, however, you wish to experience his or her best work, there are things you can do to provide the best working environment.
Here is a checklist of ways to embrace a guest performer and better enable him or her to accomplish your common goal of entertaining and/or educating children. I’m also including anecdotes from my experiences in performing Treasures of the World, an interactive cross-cultural storytelling assembly, sometimes followed by related crafts and activities.
Before the day of the event:
• Publicize! Your performer has worked hard to prepare and you want as many children as possible to benefit from his or her work! One time I received a confirmation letter, with the group’s publicity sheet of upcoming events; however my show wasn’t listed among the publicized events!
• Be sure to correctly spell the performer’s name and check the accuracy of the show’s name and other show details in your publicity. I have been Christina and Kristine, and the show I am performing has been publicized several places as “Treasures Around the World.”
• Provide your cell or home phone number in case the performer has an emergency. While I have yet to use this, I feel trusted and peaceful not needing to worry about how to contact my host in case of an emergency.
• Ask if there is any preparation you can do ahead of time.
Before the performer arrives
• Watch for the performer’s arrival. Ask a co-worker to do so if you are unable to. There is nothing more discouraging than to be greeted with blank looks and, “Oh, is there a program this evening?”
• Inform all your co-workers of where the event will be held and who is coming to perform. You never know what could happen that would prevent you from greeting the performer yourself. I was once told, “I guess we can put you back here in this little room..,,” a conference room with a huge table, not at all conducive to storytelling or the comfort of children. Fortunately, before I unpacked, the person who was supposed to meet me arrived and escorted me to my REAL performance location—a spacious room!
• Prepare the performance space if the performer has given you requests ahead of time. Though I specify what I need in advance, I have sometimes needed to help arrange chairs and tables.
When the performer arrives:
• Introduce yourself. Welcome the performer as you would an old friend. Tell the performer how much you have been looking forward to his or her coming.
• Give the performer an estimate of the group size. This is just polite. I do have some places tell me—even in advance—how many attendees have signed up. It really helps me know how much “stuff” to bring along.
• Offer to help carry props or educational materials the performer has brought. This has happened to me at many places. It is such a small but honoring gesture.
• Respect the performer’s time and peace of mind by promptly showing him or her where the performance will occur. I once arrived at a library 30 minutes before my performance, which was plenty of time to set up. I waited at the general information desk, then I waited for the librarian meeting me to come to the desk, and then I waited for her to get the key.... Finally, 15 minutes before show time, I was allowed into the room where I would be performing. I hurriedly prepared and was less than calm at the beginning of my performance.
• If the performer has given you requests ahead of time, show him or her where you have placed the requested items, or politely acknowledge your inability to provide them. (Editors Note: Actually, if you can not meet the performers needs, please tell them before they arrive! -SB) Ask if there is anything else needed. Most hosts do a wonderful job of supplying my requests. At one place, the staff neither provided what I asked them to provide nor acknowledged their inability to do so. Fortunately I had a few of the items along, so the children in attendance shared the things and could still do the crafts and activities I had brought.
• Tell the performer who will be introducing him or her. If no one, check in with the performer right before starting time to be sure that all needs have been met and to let him or her know when to begin. Several times I have been left alone in the room while attendees came. The announced start time came (and went), and I continued to wait, not knowing if I was just to begin or if I would be introduced.
During the performance:
• Stick around and enjoy the show! You will be better able to address comments and questions later, and you may even learn something! It is very satisfying as a performer to watch the adults in the crowd enjoying my work. Also, the most helpful feedback comes from someone who has actually seen the program, not just heard about it from others.
• As the host, it is your job to provide the best environment for both
the performer and all those in attendance. If there is a child who is being noisy, rude, or obnoxious, out of courtesy to the performer and the other children, do what you can to help the child behave or escort him or her to another room. You will get more for your money this way, as the performer and the other children will be able to concentrate on the performance and not on the child who is out of line. I recently had two librarians talk with me after my show about how distracting a noisy toddler was as I was telling stories, and how much the situation improved after “Mom” finally took the child out of the room.
Right after the performance:
• Thank the performer for coming. Find at least one thing to compliment.
• Offer to help clean up and carry things out. This little nicety I hadn’t expected, but is just so helpful, and happens on many occasions. Some hosts have helped me in ways that I hadnt even thought to ask.
• Ask attendees to leave if the performer needs to clear the space to set up for another show or to tear down and leave. It is your responsibility, not the performer’s, to ask them politely to move to another room. After a recent show that I attended (as an observer), I caught myself gabbing with friends. I wasn’t thinking about the performer who had another show to prepare for. I was glad the host asked us to move!
Some time after the performance
• Send the performer a thank you note, acknowledging his or her contribution to your event’s attendees.
• Fill out evaluation materials as requested by the performer. These comments help me improve my assembly program. I am grateful to hosts who take the time to do this.
• Find ways to honor outstanding performances. I was tickled to receive a letter recently from a library informing me that a book was being placed in their collection in honor of my performance.
Following this checklist should enable any performer coming your way to do his or her best work. That will certainly profit both you and the children in your program! Honoring the performer’s time and work can only result in good—a positive outlook on the event for the performer, a greater likelihood of a smooth performance, and peace of mind for you.