These are the things that will make you exude professionalism to the people in charge of the venue you will be performing at as well as the audience.
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
- William Shakespeare
Being prompt goes hand-in-hand with accountability. Being reliable is important to the team, to the leadership of the team, and to those that the team will be serving.
As a leader
It is extremely important if you are on the leadership of your team to be prompt. This is for practices as well as events, but most important at events. If the leadership comes off as being unreliable when it comes to promptness, this will reflect on the team. To come off as unreliable will guarantee that you will not be asked back or, in the very least, you will only be brought back as a last resort “filler” to do smaller parts in the program.
As a team member
As a team member, your promptness is important because each member will have a part and if you are not prompt to the event then the event must go on whether you are there on time or not and cannot be held up because of one person.
This means that it will have to be assumed that you will not show up and your role will have to be given to someone else. This will cause a snowball effect in the direction of the performance. Even if you show up late, then there is already a spirit of confusion and worry placed on the performance from the start.
As a team
If a team is late to an event, this could throw a monkey wrench into the entire event. The worst thing isn’t losing a possible future gig, but rather having to talk to an event leader to discuss with you how disappointed they were with you for causing the event to start late or to force them to reorganize the program because they couldn’t trust if you would show up or not.
It is easy to think that a few minutes will not hurt anyone, but what if you are at a venue that you cannot set up until right before the event? To show up late gives you less time to set up and could affect your performance.
Because being on time is one of the single most effective ways to give a great first impression, a rule of thumb for me is to show up at the location three to four days in advance and calculate where and how the stage is going to be set up, estimate how long it will take to set up, add 15 minutes to that, subtract that from the time the event is going to open its doors to the crowd and you have the time that you need to show up at the event and properly set up.
In spite of the old adage "you can't judge a book by its cover," your professionalism is, in fact, a standard by which others create an impression of you, therefore your appearance can make or break you.
Military, businesses, restaurants and schools all enforce dress codes to promote the values, morals, even positions in some cases. Dress codes also can provide uniformity to a team that fosters a feeling of oneness and unity.
Throughout history, dress codes have provided uniformity. History shows us that many religious groups, organizations, and country leaderships have used dress code as an identifier.
Dress codes more recently gained notoriety in both private and public school systems, after school districts decided that dress codes reduce violence, alleviated the influence of gang colors and limited the distractions in classrooms.
In business, dress code often visually separates the management from the workers as well as, in some cases, can determine departments.
I always suggest a laid-back dress code, but I still have a dress code. Even in practice, you need to have a level of professionalism. I have heard many negatives about even having a dress code for practice, but let's look at some examples that have occurred in the past that could lead to bigger issues down the road.
Example #1: A guy is wearing tight dress pants and needs to get on his knees to operate a puppet on a lower level stage; he splits his pants. Do you think that he is going to stay for the entire practice or is this going to be a disruption to the practice? Should it be during a performance, how will that direct how the performance goes?
Example #2: A young lady is wearing a loose fitting top that, from certain angles, can be very revealing to anyone operating a puppet next to her. Or maybe a short skirt that hikes up a little too much if she has to operate a puppet on a lower level stage; how will this direct a practice or performance?
Example #3: You are doing a black light performance and one of your team members thinks that it would be cool to show up at practice or even a performance wearing a day glow green shirt because he or she thinks that it would be funny to see how it looks under the black light.
And last, but nowhere near least, example #4: one of your team members comes in wearing a suggestive message on a shirt and the pastor of the church you are getting ready to perform for decides to show up to thank the team members in advance for their performance (trust me when I say this has and can happen).
As stated already, I always suggest a more laid-back dress code, even for practices. Maybe matching shirts with same colored pants and shoes for the practices. My own personal addition to this would be to not have any extreme piercings or hair colors that detract from the professional look of the team, but this, of course, is at the discretion of the leadership.
Yes, hygiene. Unfortunately, with team situations, you have those who are not as “hygienically focused” as others, so this creates situations when you are in close proximity to each other, such as behind stage or in a vehicle going to or from an event.
Yes this is an embarrassing topic, but if you put it out there in the beginning and have set codes for the team to follow; just trust me when I say that it’s less embarrassing to talk about it in general among the team than to have to have a one on one with a team member later because other team members are complaining.
There was a situation where I had to be the one to break it to a team member that he needed to take a shower before doing anything with the puppet team. There were literally three of us on the leadership team that were playing “rock, paper, scissors” to see who would be the one to break it to him. Needless to say, there was no real way to handle it without embarrassing the boy. It wasn’t long after that; he decided that he didn’t have time for the puppet team anymore, which was a shame because he did have a natural talent for it and was also really good with the technical end of things.
Someone comes into a practice with a bad attitude, there is a leeway there to work with the person and help him or her get over it, but if you are in a performance, there is no time to address it and if the person reflects that bad attitude in his or her performance, it could bring down the entire performance.
I have actually seen a team member blow up at a leader during a practice and walk out leaving the rest of the team to pick up the slack. This was not a group that I had a leadership role in, which is good for him because if it were my call, that individual’s last day would have been right then and there, but (against my suggestion) they let the team member stay on and, sure enough, I found out two months later, this person did the same thing at a performance because of an issue with another team member not returning something that he had borrowed at school.
Whether practice or performance, there needs to be a code of conduct dealing with attitude. The “greater good” so to speak, is more important than someone’s personal issues that can be handled at a later date.
Coming into a performance with a good attitude will also project to the venue directors who see you before and after the performance and will assist them in making a decision to bring your team back for future venues.
The Emergency Kit
Yes, this is an odd place in the book to discuss this, but it does really fit in this chapter because this is truly something that is a must have. You need to have this with you at every practice and definitely any performance. For the hosts of the event that you are performing at to see this level of preparedness will most definitely score you quite a few points in their eyes which will often lead to more scheduled engagements in the future. It shows to them that you are professional and prepared for anything that might happen.
The emergency kit is there to take care of any and every foreseen problem that may arise before, during and after the performance. This could be a large tote or a series of large totes that are specifically marked as Emergency Kit on the tote and the lid so that they do not get separated too easily.
I will get into what you need to have in your Emergency kit in the next post. Until then, start working on your codes of conduct, include your entire team in creating this so that they are a part of the process and then create a contract.