This is the second article in an 9-part series with tips on planning, producing, and paying for your school assembly program. The complete School Assembly Handbook will be available online at my website for school assembly programs.
What programs have worked well for your school in the past? If you’re new to planning assembly programs, talk with other PTA members who have been involved for a while. Ask teachers and staff for names and recommendations of quality presenters.
Look for presenters who are experienced, age-appropriate, and have a proven track record of doing great work for schools like yours.
Search online. Google, Bing, or use your favorite search engine to get some ideas. A good website is a great resource and should be at the top of your list for doing research, but it’s not the final word. Choose quality of content over a “flashy” website.
Tip: Narrow your search a bit by specifying the city or state you’re in. No point in calling a presenter on the east coast if you’re in Washington!
Tip: It’s normally best to talk with the assembly presenter rather than a booking agency. This minimizes confusion and insures that your questions and requests reach the person that matters most; the one who will be visiting your school.
The advantage of working with a good booking agency is that they will probably be easier to reach by phone or e-mail. Busy performers may be on the road, performing, and not able to answer their phones in person.
Attend a booking conference in your area. Visit http://www.assemblyshowcase.com/ for information about performers in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. Each September a conference is held in the Seattle area featuring a live performance showcase. It’s an ideal opportunity for you to meet and talk with potential assembly presenters.
Experienced. Be wary of someone who doesn’t have much experience performing for schools. Holding the attention of five hundred kids of varying ages is difficult. Make sure you’re getting a polished presenter.
Age-appropriate. There’s a huge difference between what a 3rd grader will find fascinating and what will hold the attention of an 8th grader. Be sure that your presenter is experienced and has a message and program specific for your school.
Part-time vs. Full-time Pros. Dealing with a full-time pro gives you confidence knowing that you’re working with someone who has a quality program. “Show business” has two words, and the business side of things is every bit as important as the show when it comes to being easy to work with.
At the same time, part-time presenters can be every bit as good as their full-time counterparts. It simply emphasizes the importance of doing research.
Research online reviews. Go through the performer’s website. Look for testimonials that address the issues that are important to you. (“Bob did a great show” is not specific enough. Look for comments that reflect on the quality of the information as well as how easy and professional the person was to work with.)
Even better, look for online reviews posted on an independent site. Places like www.yahoo.com, www.yelp.com, yellow page directories, and other sites give people a chance to give feedback on all kinds of services.
Watch the video. I love videos! Online video is a great way to see what you’ll experience at your school… or is it? Look for video that is more than a series of quick edits and still photos done to music. Be sure that you can get a feel of the presenter’s personality and their presentation .
Demo videos can be deceptive. Anyone can look good in slickly edited takes of five seconds here and five seconds there. Look for quality of program rather than production quality of the video. Ideally they’ll have both a professional video and a quality program, but content always trumps appearance.
Who are you booking? “The guy (or gal) on their website!” Or are you? Find out if you’re working with a franchise or organization that hires other presenters to work for them. Ask for the name of the specific person who will be visiting your school. It can be a rude surprise to book “the person on the video” and then have someone else arrive at your school. It’s always best to talk directly with the presenter to reduce the chance of a misunderstanding.
Speak with a client. Even better than reviews, ask for a client who you can speak with. Ideally you want to talk with an assembly coordinator at another school who had the same program that you are interested in.
Any presenter who is a professional and working on a regular basis will be happy to give you references. If they don’t, run away. Fast.
See if for yourself. There is also a chance that you may be able to preview the performer’s show. Ask if they are performing a show in your area that you can visit.