What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth 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.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Sanitation & Other Safety Measures – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Test Runs & Early Set-Ups – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Relief to Potential Audience – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Audience Isolation Behaviors – TODAY

You have an event…and the audience arrives. Nervous for how the audience will react after being in isolation or limited social contact?

Every audience is different. That has stayed the same during this Historic Time.

You must be ready to “warm up” the audience.

You need an energetic emcee. The emcee needs to prove that safety measure were made for this proper-distanced and masked event while giving permission for people to express themselves through laughter, sighs, cries, and applause.

Some people will say, “No! The audience cannot laugh! At least not as much.”

True, when people laugh, more water droplets are expelled. Thus the need of masks. You already worked out proper-distancing and had 15 or more feet from the microphone to the front row. If you are worried that the audience responses will be a danger, then increase the distance of the microphone to the front row.

Before Halloween, I was invited to a live event to perform. I already explained what I expected so to feel safe as a performer. When I arrived, they doubled the distance between me and the front row. It was 30 feet–at least. I did not move that front row. I was plenty happy.

Now, I knew that distance could make a difference in the audience response. This is where the performer can help warm up the audience even before the emcee. I welcomed people–while wearing my mask and being at least 15 feet away–and did a type of informal survey of where people were from or how many times they had attended this type of event. Being talkative psychologically told the audience that people did not have to be “hush, hush” when it came time for me to perform.

I have seen the extremes in audience behavior at the Story Crossroads proper-distanced events.

Our Story Camp held at the International Peace Gardens in Salt Lake City, Utah had a quite bunch of youth. We spanned a wide area despite limiting our group to no more than 20 people (we ended up having 15 youth and 3 adults). When our two professionals led them in songs or story activities the youth held back. They looked around to see how loud the other kids reacted. The camp was in August while the quarantine had occurred from March until that moment. Five months. Five months of limited or no social interactions besides their families.

We still had wonderful interactions and growth and learning…but the energy level was much lower than any other youth gatherings I have seen with storytelling–or any arts or topic.

Why is that? Hmmm.

Then I saw the starved audience member. When we resumed our house concert series in August 2020, I asked for much applause and whooping to celebrate live art while doing so in a safe manner. For many, it was the first live performing arts event for them since March 2020. They were ready to celebrate!

These are some comments shared with permission from our audience members–

“Be honest, I did not know what to expect so I came totally open. I just had a wonderful time. It was wonderful to get out and be around like-minded people, lovers of stories….My husband commented that it really lifted his mood to participate in that evening.” – Elizabeth, Utah

“We do appreciate your dedication to proper distancing. Thank You!!!” – Lenore, Utah

“I believe it would be well to implement the same safety measures as does Hale Center Theatre. If a a “group” of two or three people come together–or wish to sit together–they seat them together. It is up to the people involved to determine what they feel safe with in that regard. Much the same as in CDC restaurant guidelines: ‘Change restaurant and bar layouts to ensure that all customer parties remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., marking tables/stools that are not for use).’ Emphasis on the word ‘parties.’ Other than that, the safety measures were lovely–plenty of space–markers to remind people to be distanced and to wear masks.” – Karla, Utah

The trickiest time was when two different households of the same family attended an event.

These groups were hard to remind and enforce to keep the distancing. I had to be more firm and diligent in those situations. I learned it was best to remind of the “different household” rule as people checked in…all while saying it with a smile.

I searched around for articles connected to audiences – for live or digital events:

You can make this live event happen. Think with logic and love. Enjoy the energy from a proper-distanced event. Thank you for joining in this particular blog series.

Besides our usual “Cap’s Off to You!” series, we will be doing a 9-part blog series soon called “What We Learned from Timpanogos Storytelling Festival & Virtual Offerings.”

Become a member with Story Crossroads with exclusive content and connections.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Katherine and David Hurley featuring Karl Behling in Murray, UT on December 28, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

What We Learned from Proper-Distanced Events – Part 3 of 5

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.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Distancing & Spacing – REVEALED
  • 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.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Join us for our proper-distanced house concerts such as with Nannette Watts in West Jordan, UT on September 18, 2020…or get the recording afterwards.

The Checklist: How to Set up Virtual Events – Part 5 of 5

This is the fifth of five parts on setting up online events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or virtual event. Our blog as well as our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series are wonderful professional development resources.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Event Type, Audience, Timing & Pricing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Choosing the Right Platform & Registration – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Rapports & Introductions – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – Feedback Forms and Follow-Ups – TODAY

You’re done, right? The event is done…or is it?

Take the opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. Most likely, this event is one of many you will do.

Besides finding out what people loved best, you can notice what is NOT mentioned. This is as much of an eye-opener as anything else.

No matter if live or virtual, we have always involved feedback forms. Though, we always had these forms as hard copies with two other options – Large Print and Spanish. This was the first year we did all the feedback forms through online means.

Even when virtual events are free, having a type of registration and/or a “plan on virtually attending” form allows for an email to ask a couple questions.

However, we prefer to use Google Forms.

Here are common questions on ours…please adapt as you wish or use the wording exactly. As long as this is helpful, we are happy.

  • Basics – Name, Position/Role (teacher, parent, storyteller, etc.), city/country, Zipcode
  • Email – if do not already have from registration (helpful if people decide to be part of Story Crossroads E-Newsletter, email lists, etc.)
  • How did you enjoy _____________________ (performance/workshop/presentation)? What did you like best? Find interesting?
  • Did ________________________ (performance/workshop/presentation) meet your expectations? Why or why not?
  • What action(s) will you now take with ________________ (storytelling/writing/acting/singing, etc.) as a result of experiencing ____________________ (performance/workshop/presentation)?
  • Does Story Crossroads have permission to quote your comments on publications, fan page, websites, etc.?
  • Would you like to be added to any of our email lists and/or volunteer for Story Crossroads in some way? (list out the options – people can fill out as many as wished – only ask if not part of registration)
  • How did you learn about this virtual opportunity? (ask if not part of registration)
  • Do you have questions or comments?

We find that feedback forms that are any longer…have a harder time for completed ones to be submitted.

Sometimes, all you want is a simple 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 rating sent in an email. No Google Forms. Nothing complicated. Yet, this is so much more than what most people do. We noticed this approach for “History in Person: A Virtual Chautauqua Festival.”

While having many sessions, the St. Louis Storytelling Festival gave a link to a Google Form after each session. They posted it at the beginning of the livestream and then at the end.

We recommend posting at least five times per session:

  • Beginning, close or part of the welcoming message
  • Three times in the middle – spaced between real-time comments from other participants
  • End, close or part of the thank you/come again/upcoming events after this message

Once you have responses to the feedback forms, actually add people to your E-newsletters, email lists, or reach out if they wish to volunteer within a day or two.

For those who do not respond–or as a general email to all your registrants–you can send a “last chance/farewell” that you will no longer email them unless they chose to be part of your lists.

Who knows? Those people could be lifetime fans, tell their friends and family, and more lifetime fans cheer on what you are doing.

All because you realized that the end is not the end. Only a beginning.

You can make this virtual. You can realize your dreams for it.

Our next 5-part blog series will be “What We Learned About Proper-Distanced Events” on rephasing into live performance with safety measures.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Participate or present as part of the All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series that kicks off Monday, September 7, 2020 with Simon Brooks.

The Checklist: How to Set up Virtual Events – Part 4 of 5

This is the fourth of five parts on setting up online events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or virtual event. Our blog as well as our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series are wonderful professional development resources.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Event Type, Audience, Timing & Pricing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Choosing the Right Platform & Registration – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Rapports & Introductions – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics – TODAY
  • Part 5 – Feedback Forms and Follow-Ups

Test Runs are different than Sound Checks. And do you get headaches with Logistics? Discover what we learned.

The timing and length of time dedicated is the biggest difference between Test Runs and Sound Checks.

The “Run” part of Test Run means you could “run” to the store (or online ordering) in case something needs to be ordered to make everything smoother.

The “Check” part of Sound Check means you are checkmarking that things are still smooth since that Test Run and happens the day of the virtual event itself.

Having Successful Test Run(s):

  • Schedule Test Run a month before the actual virtual event…though can “squeeze” one in within one week before actual event, but then you can run into trouble if someone needs to purchase better equipment/lighting as a result
  • Allow for the Test Run to take about 30 minutes while people want it to be a rehearsal and be the same length of the virtual event – and thus you would moving away from a “Test Run” and into the “Rehearsal” realm
  • Doing early Test Run makes it possible to have a 2nd Test Run if things do more “interesting” than you expected
  • Invite all presenters and co-hosts/emcees involved and give clear instructions and plenty of reminders
  • Have all presenters listed in your phone so you can text in case anyone forgot or miscalculated for the time zone
  • Of the 30-minute or so Test Run, take about 15 minutes to check and play around with lighting/sound/positioning while the last 15 minutes could be to live-stream (whether or not this is what you plan to do for the virtual event) that acts as a test AND a type of promo/anticipation for the event
  • People who are NOT part of the Test Run can still participated and be scheduled to watch for any live-streaming of test runs – have these people give comments within the feed of the virtual event AND send you group text for anyone else assigned to be “watching”
  • Always connect to the Ethernet/modem and NOT wi-fi
  • Not all Ethernet cables are equal – they have “categories” with number 6 being the best for the time being for fastest ability plus you can even get 100′ cable so you can set up in the room that you wish with your laptop

Thanks to storyteller Donna Washington, I learned about this 5 1/2 -minute video that visually shows you what you need to do for Test Runs. I agree with it all except for always worrying about centering on the screen. Sometimes it is smart to be on the side depending on your needs. AND…the best 90-minute version of the know-how is through Simon Brooks and his workshop “Breaking Boundaries of the Screen: Presenting On-line” on Monday, September 7, 2020 from 9-10:30am MDT that is part of our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series.

Having Successful Sound Check:

  • Schedule your Sound Check at least 30 minutes before the virtual event
  • All presenter(s) and hosts/co-hosts/emcees need to be part of this Sound Check
  • Make sure sound/lighting/positioning work even though checked during your Test Run(s)
  • Keep the length to 15 minutes so you can allow early people to jump on early and open it up to mingling

Logistics Before and During:

  • Create/update/receive any paperwork with presenter(s) such as – contract, digital release (live-streaming and/or recording and/or picture taking/screen-shots) – see templates you can adapt at the Story Producer Resources page
  • Assign 2-4 hosts/co-hosts to divide the following roles – emceeing, admitting people into the virtual space (if applicable), watching real-time comments and/or chat within the virtual space, sharing screens
  • Develop “scenes” to share within the virtual space such as listing of funders, volunteers, upcoming events – can be video or picture files – can create using Canva (free and paid versions) – you can see examples of what we did for “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” (live) versus what we had for scenes for “Story Crossroads Spectacular: Youth & Community Tellers” (pre-recorded)
  • Give updates as people register to your volunteers/Board as well as to the presenter(s) – this motivates people to continue to promote the event – registrations always go up when you keep track as a team
  • Receive any handout(s) as well as any slide shows–if being used–at least a couple days before the event – offer to double-check for any typos so there is time to fix

Continue with us to Part 5 for the Logistics after the event in “Feedback Forms & Follow-Ups.”

You can make this virtual. You can realize your dreams for it.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Participate or present as part of the All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series that kicks off Monday, September 7, 2020 with Simon Brooks.

The Checklist: How to Set up Virtual Events – Part 3 of 5

This is the third of five parts on setting up online events. While focusing on storytelling, the information applies to any performing arts or virtual event. Our blog as well as our All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series are wonderful professional development resources.

5-Parts:

  • Part 1 – Event Type, Audience, Timing & Pricing – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Choosing the Right Platform & Registration – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Rapports & Introductions – TODAY
  • Part 4 – Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics
  • Part 5 – Feedback Forms and Follow-Ups

Once registration is under way, what details will your attendees need?Potential participants?

People want a confirmation of registration right away.

For our first virtual workshops, we asked for proof of payment. This was doing the opposite of what we discovered would be better for the future.

An automatic email is sent whenever people pay online whether done through Square, Wild Apricot, or any number of registration systems. Had we paused and thought about that, we would not need to add another step such as “proof of payment.”

In the beginning, we also chose to confirm and send out our first email to registrants a couple days before the event. This made some people nervous who registered a month or more before. Automated emails are better unless you plan on checking and sending manual emails each day.

The following is the most important information in the form of 1-3 emails to registrants (3 emails is best -day of payment, day before, day-of an hour before):

  • Registration confirmation (same day of payment)
  • Repeat of date/time/title of virtual event WITH time zone as well as ability to convert time zones (explained in Part 1, )
  • Any link(s) and passcode(s) needed to access the virtual event OR web addresses to find event if live-streamed (recommend same day of payment and repeated for reminder email day before as well as day-of event)
  • Any training, if any, for attendees to watch before event (such as our 5-minute Zoom Basics training)
  • Indication if there will be mingling/early entry before as well as after the virtual event
  • Easy contact of the host – telephone to call/text as well as email checked every day

Consider these optional add-ons to your emails to registrants:

  • Any special line or two from the presenter(s) as a welcome message (different than message from the host/you)
  • Reminder of any extra benefits to those who paid suggested price or higher such as access to video/audio from event
  • Pdf handout if virtual workshop or educational in any way (perhaps better to send after the event rather than before)
  • Any other message(s) from the organization of other upcoming events
  • Whatever you wish…though the longer the messages get, the less likely to be read completely

With your registrants cared for, then think about who has yet to sign up for your event.

Here is a “to do” list that can be as long or as short as you feel necessary:

  1. Add to your website
    • Dedicate events page that is easy to find
    • Include countdown on the homepage either as a widget or through plug-ins (hint of plug-ins that work for WordPress websites or search online for plug-ins available to whatever company hosts your website)
  2. Create and execute countdown plan for social media/emails/texts/calls
    • Countdown can mean a post every day once you reach a month away or at least a one-week countdown
    • Popular use of countdown is spotlighting the skills of the presenter(s)
    • Typical phrases are “3 days before…” or “last chance”
    • You can have help in scheduling these posts ahead of time and peruse “15 Of the Best Social Media Posting and Scheduling Tools” by Influencer MarketingHub
  3. List event on online calendars – local, national, international
  4. Discover other ways to spread the word such as “30 Creative Event Promotion Ideas to Increase Attendance” on the Eventbrite Blog
  5. Develop and send out press releases
    • Live and virtual events need press releases – does your website have an easy “Press Kit” page seen from the home page?
    • Create 1-page or shorter press release in Word or similar software that is easy to copy and past as well as tailor for the different TV, radio, blog, magazine, newspaper, podcast contacts
    • Include most important details at top
      • Date(s) of Event
      • “Media Advisory” and “For Immediate Release”
      • Contact Name, Telephone/Email
    • Include more details below
      • Eye-catching yet informative title
      • County/State/Country followed by no more than 2-4 paragraphs
      • At-a-glance listing of – What, When, Where, Cost, Audience, For more info (website)
      • Any funders/grants given to make the event possible
    • Never send out press releases on Mondays or Fridays…but better to send out than not at all; Tuesdays-Thursdays are best from 9am-Noon of the media’s time zone
    • Feel free to send out press releases for different events once a month to keep rapport and familiarity with the media

Time will fly by.

We never accomplish all we intended to do to promote an event. Still, we are happy with what we can do.

Give yourself permission to NOT get everything done that you had wished to do. Celebrate from the small to the big items you check off your lists.

Continue with us with Part 4 to “Test Runs, Sound Checks & Logistics” for those important actions that make a difference before show time.

You can make this virtual. You can realize your dreams for it.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Participate or present as part of the All Things Story Virtual Workshop Series that kicks off Monday, September 7, 2020 with Simon Brooks.