2 Ways to Make Your School Events Stress Free
Booking a children’s entertainer for an incursion into your centre is like a dance between the children, the staff and the performer. If the partners are in sync, it all flows and is fun. If you’re not moving to same rhythm though, you’ll probably smile politely, say thankyou and quickly search for another partner.
By taking a few moments to view a visit to your centre through the eyes of a children’s performer, you will quickly be on your way to achieving a win-win-win situation: you get top value for money, the performer can give a cracker show and most important, the children get the best experience possible.
1. Ask the performer how they want their audience seated.
2. Don’t drill the children to be on their best behaviour.
“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” Henry David Thoreau
All performers are different. Within any chosen discipline, there are variations on a theme. Let’s look at Magic Shows for example – I speak from experience here. Magicians differ wildly in the way that they present their shows and each will have an optimum way they would like, or more to the point, need, the audience seated to give the audience the best experience.
Quite often I’ll come in to a center and the children are pre-seated in the time honoured (starting from the front) young to older, tiny to bigger. The logic is: this let’s the little kids see better. Could there be a better way?
Counter intuitive as this may sound, seat them in the reverse order. The 4 year and 5 year-olds are really the engine room of the audience. They understand the content of the show better and will respond better, so the performer will want to ‘play’ to this group as their reactions will drive the rest of the audience.
Whether it’s quiet listening or spirited bantering, from my unique view of the audience dynamic, I always see the older children set the lead and the younger ones looking to them for cues, on how to respond and behave, then dutifully following.
For any show with lots of audience involvement, put the older kids front and centre, the 3 yr olds behind them, then the toddlers and bubs around the sides and back. This way their attention can wander in and out and carers can attend to situations without disrupting the flow of the show.
Having the older children to the front also creates a much needed physical barrier to the meandering 2 yr old. This is especially important in 2013 as public liability insurance nowadays requires the performer to have taken preventative measures. Blind-siding a wandering toddler with my knee is a sure fire way to ruin your show and potentially harm a career. Take a few moments to ring the performer and ask what works best for them.
“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.” Phyllis Diller
Nothing makes my shoulders slump more as I am entering a center, and I hear the trailing-off words, “remember your manners and be very quiet during the show”.
I am not disappointed at you, I’m disappointed with the many less-than-professional children’s performers who have come before. Let me categorically state that anyone who is charging you professional fees, should by definition, be able to artistically engage your children plus have COMPLETE control from the moment they walk in. If not, consider pay them baby sitting rates.
Any good children’s performer will command respect and easily take control and encourage interaction from the audience. If children are encouraged to remain quiet and meek, then you may as well save your money and roll out the TV set and a DVD. Live performance is spirited and engaging and takes the kids on a thrilling ride. Even at a young age audiences sense if they feel safe, and will give themselves over for the ride if they trust the performer to deliver them back safely at the end.
Just treat your children as usual before a show. Simply insist that they remember their manners, but that’s it. Good performers feed on spirited interaction.
Too many ‘performers’ see the pre school age market as way to earn a few extra dollars. I say you and the children deserve better. It is not your role to try and provide optimum conditions for a performance. The rough and tumble of the playground is the stage. Check your performers bona-fides, ask for testimonials and remember to spend a moment to ask how they want the audience seated. Then sit back, let them take control, and let the kids be themselves and enjoy a great show.
Derek lee is a magician specializing in children comedy magic shows.