The Art of the Incoming Call: (Part 1 of 3) Homework Makes a Difference

(This series of articles are geared towards performers who book multiple gigs during a season.)

Homework Makes a Difference

Booking your next gig and getting all the information you need is one of the most important skills you can develop as a performer. Consider that you are often talking to a complete stranger. You want to sell them on yourself, establish their vision, and then make it your own. In the process, you want to facilitate a smooth running event and make it even more magical, if you can. And while much of this can be done over email, at some point you’ll need to be on the phone.

The entire booking song and dance is another performance. The more fun and graceful you make the experience, the more your client will look forward to booking your next engagement!

When the phone rings, there are five critical milestones to accomplish.

  • Set the tone and categorize the call
  • Engage the client and understand their vision
  • Identify all the details to make the gig go smoothly
  • Create a respectful and professional working relationship, agreeing on details
  • Help them feel excited while confirming pay and event requirements

To perform at our best on the phone, we need to have done our homework before the phone rings. How will you give them the impression that you are rock solid performer? By walking them through the phone call milestones confidently and quickly, you help them identify their needs and you leave them excited about your abilities to provide the best experience.

Our homework includes preparing all the details and checklists in advance so that the phone call is not burdened by delays as you flip through paper and look for files on a computer.

Your Personal Specifics

Before the phone ever rings, you need to fully understand your own goals and abilities.

  • Who is your target market?
  • What kind of events can you commit to?
  • What activities do you want to do at events?
  • How long is a typical event for you?
  • What is your typical rate for an event?
  • What modifiers affect your rate such as length of event, distance you can travel, time of day, day of the week, or number of people in the audience?
  • What is your current calendar this year? Which days are already booked? Which days are not confirmed but might have possible events?
  • What assistance does your client need to confirm for you such as designated parking, escorts, air-conditioning, or crowd control?
  • What type of environment do you need for an event including an off-stage dressing room, bathroom access, or meal breaks?
  • Do you have any ad-on options like bringing a Santa Chair, employing some Elves, bringing candy canes for hand-out gifts, or other give away items?

Your Personal Preparation

After you’ve made a thorough list of all the goals and abilities you can offer, you still need to do some additional preparation.

  • Your Website: This can be an excellent resource while you are on the phone. You can help them find details and answers as you talk. They can see photos of your various outfits and looks, plus any specialty options you can offer. Videos and photos demonstrate your singing, magic, puppetry, storytelling to large and small groups, or the set pieces you have available such as benches or Santa chairs. You can include a page of helpful tips on how to host a great home visit or how to set up a public event with Santa or Mrs. Claus.
  • Your Calendar: During a phone call, you must have a reliable calendar you can consult. You might have some calendar listings on your website. Consider which details are appropriate to a public website. Some events are private, some are open to the public, and some clients will not want their names mentioned. However, if you have public events, you may want to promote these so that people can come see you. Make any list or calendar large enough to see appropriate details because scheduling conflicts are terrible. Be extra careful that any online calendar is in sync with any paper calendar. If you accept an appointment by email or over the phone, log it properly on every calendar immediately. Get in the habit of checking your calendar daily. Make notes in your private calendars about potential appointments until the contract is signed or the event is confirmed. When an event is confirmed, add notes to your private calendar to do a check-in usually about a week in advance to remind them any details (like your balance due), a final check-in on the day of the event (as needed or to confirm changes), and for your own post-event follow-up (thank you acknowledgements, request for feedback, requests for photos, solicit a review that you can use, any referrals, and any repeat bookings to pencil into the calendar).
  • Your Map: Repeat these sacred words, “I shall never book an event without confirming the ACTUAL location on a map and compare it to all my other events, time of day, time of week, traffic, and travel times. And if two addresses show up on the map, I shall confirm BEFORE we sign this contract. And Google Maps (and possibly the Waze app) shall be my resources. Amen.” In all seriousness, you can get off the phone and double-check details then call them back. A rushed confirmation can lead to scheduling conflicts and trouble with traffic or commuting between events. Know your absolute hard-stops, such as any rush-hour traffic or known construction that will hamper your professional punctuality. Pay attention to seasonal weather that can seriously affect your schedules.
  • Your Contact Sheet: This is your script and checklist as you handle your incoming calls. It includes all important questions you need to ask and all the specifics you need to provide. Keep your Contact Sheets easy to access. Use this contact sheet to place calls to your client, confirm the specifics of your quoted rates and event details, and for follow-up after the events.
  • Your Contract: After a successful phone call, you will send your contract to your new client. When the contract is returned (by standard mail or scanned and sent by email) and your retainer, deposit, or fee is paid, keep a copy of the printed contract with your contact sheet. You could have several templates to use for different contracts: Short contracts for home visits and small events, Long contracts for repeating events, special events, or major gigs.

Wow, that’s a lot of work. But it pays off.

You might be thinking, “Where’s all the performing information? How will I impress these potential clients on the phone?” The actual phone call is the payoff opportunity only after you’ve done a ton of preparation, behind the scenes, before the gig, and definitely before the phone rings. Once the details are nailed down, then the phone performance will be that much easier!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of 3: “Role-playing for fun and profit!”

Always double-check your calendar(s)!

* * * * *

Planning for 2019

The season is right around the corner and already our schedules are filling up. We are now lining up our schedule for next year, February to August 2019.

CPW offers a unique model for hosting and booking our workshops. We work closely with local organizations who help host the training. Your host group handles the money, books the venue, arranges for the equipment in the classroom, and promotes the event. CPW asks for a minimum of 20 students (50 students max). The $200 tuition from 20-minimum students pays for travel and lodging of the instructor. Here’s the best part: Bring in up to 30 additional students, and the additional tuition money goes to your hosting organization!

That means your organization can get up to $6,000 dollars to use however you see fit. Some groups use the additional tuition to pay for the venue, to reduce the student tuition cost, to offer scholarships, or offer discounts for couples. One group lowered their tuition down to only $120 per student and included free meals.

There is no other Christmas school out there that uses this model. And all our workshops are customized for your group.

We are happy to report that many of our 2018 groups plan to bring us back for the Advanced Workshops in 2019! (The Advanced Workshop focuses on Storytelling, Character Work, and Back Story, through hands-on participation.) Please contact us today!

Santa True, Cat Ellen (“Mrs. Santa True”), and all our friends at Christmas Performer Workshops (CPW)

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