This is the fourth of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.
Everything is new now. Routines, safety measures, everything. So our job is to give relief to our potential audience members.
Fear comes from the unknown. Thus, you need to make anything you can think of to be “known.”
Now in Part 3, we focused on Test Runs so that things are “known” to you before the performance. It is only fair for this knowledge to extend to the general public. You will want to take pictures and video galore and see what can be done with some video editing.
You could hire a videographer. Though, we like to get a videographer for the day of the event and use our own filming from our cell phones and compile it into an “what to expect” piece. Ours tend to be 2-3 minutes long, which feels not too short and not too long. We like to combine it with a invite/reflection from our featured teller(s).
See below an example from the past-
Having a visual of the place before arriving helps in this time of proper-distancing and masks.
You need to be clear on any and all advertising–video, fliers, emails, etc.–on what you expect about masks.
Some organizations or individuals are more relaxed with masks when it is outdoors. For Story Crossroads, we prefer to be strict and actually enforce the rules we put in place. We require masks. Period. People will have differing opinions. Though once they step onto our “land” – such as a host for a house concert or a park for a festival – then our rules are in place.
Your audience needs to know how strict you will be. Never assume.
You will notice that our video reveals some details though we save some of those details for the bullet-point listing on our webpage. We also include those details in the registration and reminder emails to registrants. There is no such thing as over-communicating when it comes to safety.
Details that Audience will want to know before arriving:
Set-up of the Location
Rules you have about Masks
Any other sanitization measures such as having hand sanitizer around
What to do about the facilities and expectations
Your feelings about “sitting by household” – especially if from same family but not the same household
Any recording option in case cannot attend OR if more comfortable staying home yet supporting the event
DaVinci Resolve – many tutorials on YouTube if you type “DaVinci Resolve” and what you need to figure out
We will share more in Part 5 on audience isolation behaviors and how to still have wonderful reactions for the performers. We will share some interesting moments during and after the proper-distanced events.
You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event.
This is the third of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.
Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – REVEALED
Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups – TODAY
Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience
Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors
People are used to Sound Checks the day of the live event…but a Test Run several weeks before are crucial when re-phasing from virtual to live.
You don’t want to figure out the routine and look the day of the event. Have your stopwatch ready to find out how long it takes to set-up. Remember that it could take shorter if you have help (still keep properly-distanced) as well as longer for the first time testing out the placement of everything.
Time flies when you have a show to put on. You want to start on time. Or at least within five minutes after the start time. Proper-distancing naturally takes a longer time for people to get to their seats due to more lines.
Be watchful and actually set-up the space to solve the following:
Any areas that could be bottle-neck areas for crowds of people and how to stretch out and guide people in those locations
Placement of visual cues for people to find stage/seating for the event
Places for signage, even repeating the same signage at key points
Location(s) of sanitation table(s) with hand sanitizer, disinfectant, etc.
Distances of electricity outlets – inside or outside – and making sure you have long enough extension cords as well as surge protectors that work
Ways to cover cords for the safety of performers/volunteers/audience when walking around – such as large outdoor mats/rugs
Easy place for people to find bottled water – whether given or sold
Practicing of how to do assigned seating for individuals/households – small 1-foot wooden stakes with last names, taped names on back of chairs with last names, etc.
Location of Pre-packaged refreshments for people to take home to eat (NOT on location), if offered
You need to figure out how people will enter the area – no matter if it is outdoors or indoors.
With our re-phased proper-distanced House Concerts, we needed to use the Executive Director’s backyard.
A narrow “gauntlet” exists to the right of the garage to enter the yard. If people arrived at the same time, this could be a danger zone of bottle-necking and potential problem with proper-distancing. Thus, we used the wooden stakes (as mentioned in Part 2), and pounded them in 6 feet apart. Each wooden stake was 3 feet long so we had two extra that worked as a quick 6-foot measuring tool. You can use measuring tape or two yard sticks as other measuring guides.
Now, wooden stakes combined with signage reminds people what they already know. We can all be a little forgetful.
While testing out where to place items, equipment, and signage, take pictures as well as video.
We decided that not every wooden stake needed a sign. You have too much signage…and none of them get read.
However, make sure your most important reminders are at the beginning, middle, and the end of “the path” no matter if outdoors or indoors. Always think “the power of three” for signs.
Debate if you want your sanitation to be at the front/beginning of the path or closer to the gathering area.
We chose to have it closer to the gathering area. This allows us to keep a better eye on it and possible for people to re-apply hand sanitizer, if wished. When indoors, people usually have sanitizer in the lobby area where no one can miss it rather than inside the stage area.
Please, please, please test out your electricity cords and outlets.
Connect lights and click the switches on and off. Every so often, the outlets do not work! You thought you had two or four to work with and find out that only one works. As we have sound, trio box lights, and two video cameras at any one proper-distanced event, we need all outlets and be confident that all will be well during the event.
We had two surge protectors. We tested out one of the surge protectors for our sound and lights. We…forgot to test the other surge protector needed for the two video cameras. Luckily, those cameras were charged up, but how embarrassing. Never assume. We also discovered the value of having at least one more than what you think you need. For example, are you planning on two 100′ electrical cords? Have a third. You plan on two surge protectors? Have a third.
You got this. Test, adjust, and adapt.
We will share more in Part 4 on what to do after taking pictures and videos of this Test Run so as to educate your potential audience members.
You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event.
The Utah Presenters Network is a “must” gathering at the annual Mountain West Arts Conference. We would meet across several tables and share thoughts and ideas as fellow producer of events. Little did I know until recently that the Utah Presenters Network has been around since 1991. For some time, the Utah Presenters Network has served as a nonprofit that sought to boost collaborations among producers while promoting the arts in the state of Utah and beyond. Then, during this crazy 2020 year, it was announced that the Utah Presenters Network would give a one-time COVID-19 relief grant. We applied and received $950, which was a relief considering some of our non-refundable costs due to transforming from a live to a virtual festival.
Besides Story Crossroads, the following organizations were funded:
Davis Arts Council
Friends of the Moab Folk Festival
Moab Music Festival
Mountain Town Music
Park City Performing Arts Foundation (Park City Institute)
Pilar Pobil Legacy Foundation
West Valley Arts (Utah Cultural Celebration Center/Harman Theatre)
For a long time, Wendi Hassan served as Executive Director of the Utah Presenters Network. She is the Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts in Logan, Utah and has always been an active volunteer and supporter with the Utah Division of Arts and Museums.
Robin Wilks-Dunn is the new Utah Presenters Network Executive Director. She knows the theater world due to experience with the Salt Lake Acting Company and working with the Playwrights’ Lab. She serves on the National Advisory Committee for Kennedy Center Partners in Education.
The Utah Presenters Network has a closed/private Facebook group, which allows organizations to share a Google Drive and work out block booking of performing artists…including professional story artists.
Some topics of most importance to UPN:
Crisis Communications Best Practices
Keeping Audiences Engaged during all the Virtual Programming
Future Funding for Arts Organizations and Performing Artists
Best Practices in Communicating with Sponsors and Donors
Effective Advocacy Efforts
In many ways, the UPN is a “quiet” group with much happening through networking, emails, and phone calls. The performing artists get the stage, but producers–and this whole network of producers–takes care of the details to make sure that stage still exists.
Many thanks to what UPN has done for us as well as many presenting organizations throughout Utah.
So toss, tip, or take off your cap to the Utah Presenters Network!
This is the second of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.
Lysol has been extremely popular and hard to get unless you order online or find a local smaller store. While Lysol wipes have been popular, we have loved the spray better. It is faster and not only helps to sanitize the object-in-question but also the surrounding air near it, as COVID-19 is spread through water droplets.
All hand sanitizers are not made equal so be careful whenever buying “off” brand.
You can still get “off” brand, but look at reviews from other people before committing to purchasing it. And…sanitizer does not have to smell pretty. It only has to work. Click here for “Best Hand Sanitizers of 2020” put out by Healthline.
We already warned about performing indoors in a classroom-sized or smaller area in Part 1. Though, what these rooms do have for many Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms is a sink. Hand-washing has been proven to be MUCH more effective than hand sanitizer. So…if you are working with classroom students, then ask for the teacher to make sure they all wash their hands with soap before walking out of the classroom to the larger indoor or outdoor space.
For festival-sized events, you will want to purchase or rent portable hand washing stations with paper towels (NOT the cloth ring that gets re-used).
Even after this historic time, you may wish for a few of these stations to be part of your regular festival inventory. For example, the Utah Arts Festival has always had many of these portable hand washing stations near the portable toilets. This has always been a smart way for good hygiene. Click here for “Top 10 Portable Handwashing Stations” of 2020 that can be found on Amazon.
Back-up masks must be made available…even if you have already told your attendees to wear masks.
Well-intention audience members could forget. People who prefer not to wear masks could also arrive. You must be insistent and be firm and be willing to guide people in a loving way. Already discuss as an organization/individuals of what the policy would be if someone refuses to wear a mask. There are medical reasons…but rare.
Even someone with asthma can wear a mask. We allow if someone is on the spectrum for Autism or other mental needs. However, someone who purely refuses – despite knowing from all your advertising that masks are required – needs to be politely dismissed. Work out together on the right words to say in that moment.
You will also need to be clear that masks must cover the mouth and nose. Certainly not the chin or chin/barely-the-mouth. Any people who are monitoring the event (emcees, volunteers, etc.) need to know how to nicely remind people how to wear them. If someone is a repeated offender, then, again, know how to politely dismiss someone. It is better to be firm than lenient in this case. We have not experienced this level of refusal or inadequate wearing of masks yet…but have the verbal/mental preparation, if needed.
Discuss with your story artists on what they plan to do for masks.
Performers are allowed to take off their masks if all other safety measures are followed. The performers will still want to wear masks before and after…possibly during.
When it comes to sanitizing microphones, please make sure it happens.
People will cringe if there is an emcee followed by a performer and nothing has been done. Well, not everyone will cringe. We would!
We like the quick spray of the Lysol. Some people wipe down with Lysol wipes or something similar. As shared at the beginning of this post, we love the idea of the microphone and the air around it to be sanitized. You miss that part when it is only a wipe-down. If you are worried about stickiness, then you can wipe after the event is done. We have not seen any problems yet.
A microphone is practicaclly required now whether your event is indoors or outdoors. The rule before COVID was always have a microphone outside no matter the size of the audience.
We forgot our own rule when it came to our live Story Camp. We properly distanced the 15 youth (we could not no more than 20 at the park and that included the adults) that took up at least 2-3 classroom sizes. We did not bring a portable microphone. Our two facilitators/presenters had to project and we worried if their voices would last for three days of this camp. Somehow, their voices held. However, this is a different safety measure beyond sanitation: protecting the voices of your talented and valued performers.
The other microphone rule is to have a microphone indoors if there are at least 25 people. The fact that properly spacing 15 youth already takes up 2-3 classroom sizes, then the spacing alone means you need a microphone and a way you will sanitize between people.
Whether indoors or outdoors with a microphone, you will want the minimum 12 feet (or perhaps 13ish feet/4 meters) from the front row as already shared in Part 1.
But you ask, how do we best indicate to the audience of the spacing? What equipment do we need?
The following can work to give visual cues:
Wooden stakes, both 3′ and 1′ ones – found at hardware/home improvement stores and really affordable
Bright sports discs – used often by little league sports such as soccer and weaving balls around and such, we found a set of two discs for $1.00 at the dollar store and only spent $10 for 20 discs
Hula Hoops with Carrying Case (holds up to 12 per Case)– think of them like light-weight carpet squares that works whether you are a kid or an adult BUT expensive and ones found in dollar stores sometimes are too small OR the hula hoops are seasonal and found only at certain times of the year
By the way, if you do order any of these items on Amazon, please choose Smile Amazon instead and give back to our nonprofit, Story Crossroads.
Of all these options, we LOVED the bright sports discs and the wooden stakes. We cannot always use the wooden stakes or anything that would mark the grass.
With the Story Camp, it was held at the gorgeous International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah. No staking or painting of any kind could be used. We used the bright sports discs…but a bit of warning. While setting up, the grounds crew was mowing the grass. We did not think they were mow towards us since we had the space officially reserved. The lawn mower ran over two of our discs before he realized what was happening. And this is why you need more than you need in any situation. We had extra and all was good. Except for bits of orange plastic everywhere. Glad we got that cleaned up before starting!
What of Liability Insurance?
No, we would never use our liability insurance to replace two orange discs worth $1.00.
When Story Crossroads first existed, we focused on special events liability insurance. Since 2018, we have general liability insurance so that it covers beyond our main festival in mid-May and any and all events we do as well as day-to-day volunteer work. Our liability insurance does not cover any vendors. They have their own signed agreement that either they prove to us that they have their own or sign a waiver to hold us harmless.
Yet, COVID-19 has brought up this topic on if it is covered. The answer? No.
When we renew our general liability insurance in February 2021, we will be curious to see if rates are suddenly much higher or there will be some mention of COVID within the policy or at least for an additional premium. For example, “acts of terrorism” is an optional coverage that became more prevalent after September 11, 2001 (also known as 9/11).
Whether free or for a cost, we have people read our Liability and Indemnity Agreement (COVID) and checkmark that it was read and understood. This is during our required pre-registration, which is easier to set-up with a paid registration service like our through Wild Apricot.
This is the first of five parts on setting up proper-distanced events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or proper-distanced event. Our blog as well as our proper-distanced house concerts with rental of recordings are wonderful sources of information and entertainment.
Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – TODAY
Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures
Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups
Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience
Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors
You are ready for live performance again…with spacing and masks…and what else?
Nothing beats the intense energy when performing live. Naturally, you want to rush to it as fast as safely possible.
We paused our regular house concert series from March – July 2020 and then rephased into proper-distanced house concerts on August 14. That same week, we offered both live and virtual story camps.
And people thanked us.
So what works for spacing?
No longer did it feel like indoor house concerts could be considered. The most we packed into my home was 45 people. If proper-distancing, I feel like I can only have 10 people. True, that is better than nothing.
Think of bigger areas.
Outdoors combined with proper-distancing and masks is the triple net of safety.
Even if your area is fine with people not wearing masks outside, we decided to be ultra-sensitive to it as we–as an organization and as individuals–put the safety of our story artists and audience first.
Here are large outdoor spaces that can work for proper-distancing:
Backyards – do you or an Executive Director, Board Member, Volunteer, Amazing Citizen have a large space that can hold at least 30+ people with spacing of 6 feet/2 meters front/back/sides (think spacing of 3+ classrooms)
Parking Lots – largest ones tend to be of churches, schools, events centers – does anyone you know work or volunteer at one of these places to “strike a deal”? – can work with folding chairs and/or parked cars like drive-in theater/movies
Parks – depending on your code/phase for your area, find out how many people you can gather in one place – 20? 50? 100? – receive permission/permit from park to allow the gathering
School Grounds – not parking lot, but the grassy parts – again, do you know someone with that school to “strike a deal”?
Any other Big & Open Areas – does not always have to be a field as hills can work as a natural amphitheater even if not originally set-up as an official venue
Here are large indoor spaces to consider for proper-distancing:
Chapel area of Churches – probably could fit 20-40 with 6 feet/2 meters front/back/sides
School Gymnasiums, Auditoriums or Cafeterias- probably a quarter of original capacity, if that
Super Large Living Rooms – most people do not have super large living rooms but I saw one once that could easily hold 100+ people, which probably could hold 40 at most now with proper-distancing
Event Centers – again, double-check on what actual capacity would be compared to original capacity
On Top of Roofs – if gated/safe, number of possible audience members depends on spacing
Any Other Large Buildings with Chapel/Ballroom/Large Gathering Areas – figure out number for proper-distancing by multiplying 1/4 by the original capacity number
During this time, avoid classroom-sized areas.
You will still get people offering an opportunity. Brainstorm with them on larger areas that both of you can easily access–and hopefully for free or minimal cost.
How far apart is the performer from the front row?
Minimum 12 feet (or perhaps 13ish feet/4 meters)
Some places are more 15 feet to 20 feet, especially if the performer admits to being a “spitter”
What about spacing between rows?
6 feet/2 meters is the minimum – though strangely some students are back in the classroom and lucky to be 3 feet apart! – but don’t let that be the standard for the performing artists
Feel free to space out more if you wish
Need some studies or articles to support the importance of spacing/distancing?: