Assessing 2018

Looking Back and Looking Forward!

Assessing Your 2018 Season and Planning for 2019

Greetings Folks, Santa True here, and welcome to 2019! First, CPW is hoping and praying that our good friend Bo Turner heals swiftly and well, and our prayers go out to him and his family.

As you know, every month we at CPW try to release an article full of helpful information for your Christmas Performing journey and to throw a shameless plug out there for Christmas Performer Workshops. Now that we are safely into January, it is a great time to be reflective about our most recent experiences.

As I look back at my 2018 season, I try to divide it into two sections: the Business side (how many gigs, what kind, marketing, administration, and earnings) and the Performing side (what I actually did at those gigs, what went well, and what needs work). Here are some things that I think that are important for any professional Christmas Performer to consider.

  • History: If you don’t look back at what you’ve done, you are missing an important part of the picture. I heartily recommend keeping a gig journal. It will definitely help when you have repeat performances for the same customers.
    a. Check your overall numbers: How many gigs did you do and what did you do at them?
    b. Check your specific metrics: These are notes including pay, audiences (size and age), length of gigs, travel time, and even prep time.
    c. What stands out? What went well and what was problematic? What was fun? What do you want to do more of in 2019?
  • Goals: I try to have some new goals for every season to help me build my repertoire.
    a. Some goals are business-related (better paying gigs, better publicity)
    b. Some goals are performing-related (new songs to sing, do more dancing)
Ready to Perform!

Ready to Perform!

As you look back over your season, try to visualize each appearance and interaction. Make notes about your engagements. Circle the ones that were really good or when something important jumps out at you. You may try considering the following points that go beyond numbers.

  • Spiritual: How fulfilling was this season to you spiritually? While this may not be front and center, it’s an important part of what drives us and helps us to be compassionate and empathetic people. If you feel burnt out or elated after this season, ask yourself why? Think about what you want to do (more pro-bono gigs or fewer gigs) to maximize 2019.
  • Emotional: This seems similar to Spiritual but it’s a different aspect. Some jobs are a grind, where you feel like a glorified seat cushion. Others leave you grinning all the way back to your sleigh. Consider the emotional stand point of your gigs and figure out what made the difference. One tip: Often your emotional standing is linked to the people you are working with. When some partners influence you for feeling better, consider how you can work with them more!
  • Financial: How does this relate to performing? It’s very important to avoid those situations when we feel like we’ve been taken for granted. We know that we can put up with a lot of things. And when we work pro-bono, we feel that this gig is important and we really WANT to be there. There are times when we are not as emotionally invested in some situations, so the way in which we are treated and compensated can really make the difference. We often “go the distance” for a client who has limited resources but truly shows us how much we are appreciated. And financial benefits are not limited to pay. Did the client provide additional benefits such as great exposure on social media, outstanding photos, a marvelous review, or even just the chance to do something new and interesting? These have value, too.
  • Professional: As Christmas Performers, we are all on a journey. If you use the rubric that we have approximately “700 days” in our career, you want to make each one count and to do better every time you suit up. When you look back, you may see photos that are not the best, you’ll remember gigs that were not the most fun, or remember when you would have liked to improve something. You can also see where your investments in costuming, training, and marketing have improved your photos, your videos, and your experiences. How does your last season compare to your ideal performer skills and appearances? Where do you want to take your particular specialties and offerings in 2019? Are you most interested in more corporate events or additional home visits? What will you need to do to get there? Remember, it’s a two-sided coin: Getting the gigs and then nailing your work at the event.

Going beyond this first evaluation of your season, let’s next consider some of the more subjective topics. Consider giving yourself a rating (perhaps on a scale of 1-star to 5-stars) for each of the following (as applicable). Ask yourself if you want to do more or less of these or if you see something missing from the list you’d like to add to your season evaluation.

  • Character Work: Did you do any improv, persona or back story development , any mime, vocal training, or vocal performances? How would you rate your preparation and use of character work?
  • Storytelling: Not out of a book, but told directly to the audience. You might have used traditional stories, written your own new stories, or told tales about the North Pole.
  • Story-Reading: Here’s your chance to read out of book and engage in character voices, presentation, and working with others for the story.
  • Q&A sessions and Working with Duos: Did you have a chance to work with others in character? Did you spend any time answering North Pole questions from your audiences such as talking about the reindeer, the elves, and how all the North Pole activities are done?
  • Magic and Props: Did you weave in any magic tricks, the use of props like a magic key or the Naughty or Nice book, present any balloon tying, or other physical props into your presentation?
  • Languages: Did you have opportunities to use other languages besides English? Have you considered learning languages spoken in your local communities (Spanish, Armenian, maybe American Sign Language)? Would you have liked to know how to say “Merry Christmas” in more than one language?
  • Singing and Public Speaking: Did you conduct any sing-along sessions, perform any solo songs, or serve as an Emcee or “cat herder” for events, perhaps work the crowd and get them excited? How did your voice hold up throughout the season? Did you have vocal strength and stamina?
  • Costumes and Themes: Did any of your gigs this year provide a chance to appear as Father Christmas in other colors than red and white? Did you do any specialty Santa appearances on skis or ice skates? Were you able to use a casual workshop outfit or Christmas in the kitchen? Would you like to expand your closet for available looks and costumes to expand your performing opportunities?
  • Photo Mojo: Yes, modeling for photos is performing! How did you do? Same old poses? Anything new?
  • Other Fun Stuff: Did you get to do anything new and fun this year? Dancing? Puppetry? Go snow tubing down the mountain?

As you look over your 2018 season experiences, if you find some areas you want to strengthen, grab your calendar and start scheduling your training goals. You don’t want to be like the old joke, “Bubba was so unaware that Christmas snuck up on him.” You will have days like me when you glance at the calendar and think, “Holy buckets of reindeer treats! I better get a move on!” One of the ironic elements of any great performer is that they can make everything look effortless. And we know that there is a ton of rehearsal, trial and error, plus hard work in the background that is never seen by the clients or audience.

May your 2019 Season be amazing, and thank you for all you’ve done in 2018. Now, let’s look at some training opportunities!

Sing with Santa!

Sing with Santa!

There are four official CPW engagements currently on the books and several tentative ones in the works. We are looking for a few more. Now is the time for your group to sponsor an amazing workshop like no other. The best part is that this is a team effort: CPW and the sponsoring group can do some cool things!

We are offering three different programs right now, all of which are tailored for your group.

  • Christmas Performing Fundamentals – The Fundamentals never go out of style and are where all our success starts with Vocals, Physicality, Storytelling, Photo Mojo, and more.
  • Advanced Christmas Performing – When you’ve started working through your fundamentals and you’re ready to stretch your muscles, it’s time for an Intensive study of Storytelling, Character Work, and Back-Story.
  • Turbo Charging Your Christmas Community – One of the best things you can do to improve your craft is to mentor others and to be mentored. Develop a coaching relationship with your peers invests in your entire network with an in-depth workshop on Resourcing, Brain Storming, Peer Review, and Coaching.

Current 2019 Schedule

  • Oklahoma: OKC Advanced Workshop, *March 8-9-10 (*current status unknown, watch this space for more information)
  • Louisiana: Shreveport Fundamentals Workshop, March 29-30-31
  • Georgia: Northern Lights ATL/CPW Basics, April 12-13-14
  • Indiana: Indiana Fundamentals Workshop, May 3-4-5
  • Florida: Florida Advanced Workshop, PalmTree Santa’s, June 7-8-9

We have some other tentative workshops in the wings but need to nail those down. If you are interested, please contact us today:

Heading into the concert!

Heading into the concert!

Sending you all the best from Santa True, Cat Ellen “Mrs Santa True,” and all of us at CPW

Cute kids win every time!

Cute kids win every time!

Top Answers Prepared

Have fun with all the answers you’ve prepared! (photo by Stephanie Gill Photography)

Thinking about the Answers!

All Part of Our Preparation for those Top Questions! (Part 2 of 2)

The Question and Answer Exercise

In our last post, we presented 12 common questions or discussion topics that might come to any Santa, Mrs. Claus, or Elf. We suggested that you jot down various answers or further questions these made you consider. We also suggested that you try answering them in character with a partner, being careful to answer in Character, and try to be as sincere and considerate as possible.

Your thoughtful responses will mean a lot to your audiences. Go for the best short and concise answer that you can use. Look for these discussions to cue you for additional stories, songs, or props that you can reference.

Always be respectful and never glib or flip, no matter how old your audience. When possible, praise the person by name and make certain you engage them with good eye contact. “Why that’s an excellent question, Susie!” You can also always ask them what they think, and you can get some real insight that way.

12 Common Questions and Answers

  1. Are you really Santa Claus / Mrs. Claus / an Elf?
         Your answer will vary, since often this question could be followed up with “Prove it!” from the person asking. I usually poke myself and say, “I feel real. You look real. Maybe I’m really here! What do you think?”
  2. Am I on the Naughty or Nice List?
         With children, we always say “the Nice List” but often include small hedges like, “we could use some work on…” and name something the parents may have suggested—like improved homework or cleaning their room or not fighting with a sibling.
  3. What is your / their favorite cookie?
         Often we ask, “What kind of cookies do YOU like?” or the standard, “The kind of cookies you make!”
  4. Where are the reindeer? Can I see them?
         My go-to answer is usually, “The reindeer are very shy, so they are waiting for me in a park nearby.”
  5. How do the reindeer fly? How many do you have?
         My reindeer have magical reindeer feed. And at last count, I have 1,172 reindeer in my herd.
  6. What do reindeer like to eat? Do they like cookies or carrots? Who is your favorite reindeer?
         This is a great lead-in to discuss how amazing reindeer are, and to use a very Dad-joke line, “Takin’ a Likin’ to some Lichen!” I also love all my reindeer, but perhaps my favorite is Zephyr who is very old and the first one who learned to fly.
  7. Does Mrs. Claus or the Elves have their own Reindeer/Sleigh?
         We have many sleighs at the North Pole. The small ones are called Zoomers. And Mrs. Claus has her own, pulled by Bouncer and Breeze.
  8. Why does Rudolph’s nose glow?
         It’s a very handy mutation, isn’t it? Rudolph absorbs magic and his special ability is that amazing nose. All my main reindeer have special abilities.
  9. How do you deliver all those presents in one night?
         Another question that could require careful answers. I typically say that I have a time-splicer. I hit the button and time speeds up for me but slows down for you. A bit of that “timey, wimey, wibbly, wobby,” if you know what I mean. Then I show them my time-splicer prop.
  10. Do you know ________, my Elf on the Shelf?
         There are so many Elves on the Shelves! Let’s see, Harvey Pickle-Nose? Oshbuck Trimbletoo?
  11. How do you get down the chimney / get in if there is not a chimney?
         This is when I use my Magic Key. There are some amazing ones available from Toys for Santa. This also an opportunity for me to use the “D-Lite” magic trick, to collect power for my Magic Key.
  12. Will you be able to find me if I moved / am visiting Grandma, etc.?
         Mrs. Claus is very good with her Magic Telescope, and she works with a team of fairies and elves, to give me the latest information. Plus, you could also send us a note if you’re concerned!
         Just a side note: Probably the biggest challenge is when someone asks us to actually show them some magic. My standard response is “I’ll be honest, I have to deliver to 233 million homes. So I try use as little magic as possible until the big night. I want to make sure that you and everybody else gets their presents! Is that okay? And speaking of presents, did you want something special?”

Did this exercise challenge you? Did it lead to more questions and ideas on answers? Excellent! We hope that you will share your answers and discussions with your local community and with all of us at CPW.

And if you are on our mailing list, you’ll be receiving the 25-Question version of this article. Sign up at Newsletters.

Planning for More Studies

If you took one of our workshops this year, please remember your promise—try to get some close up footage of you performing and review it in private.

We still have a few available CPW Workshop slots open for 2019. CPW workshops only run from January to August, and we try to schedule two a month. We still have some openings during the first quarter, so please let us know!

Second, we are very interested in how our training is being used in the field, how it has helped, and what we can do make it even better. Please contact us with your ideas and suggestions. And if you have taken a CPW Workshop and think what we offer is important, please reach out to folks personally to let them know what you think.

Have an Amazing Season!

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

Top Questions to Prepare For

Are you ready for all those questions? (photo by Stephanie Gill Photography)

Ready, Set, Answer!

Getting ready for those Top Questions! (Part 1 of 2)

One of the most wonderful things about being a Christmas Performer happens when we get a chance to do Q&A with our audience, be it one person or big groups. I’ve put together a list of the top 25 questions that folks could ask, and a few tough ones as well. This exercise is very helpful and, if you perform as a DUO, it’s VERY important that both of you are on the same page!

One Caveat—There are so many ways to ask, “What about this question, True?” or say, “I’ve never been asked that, but I have been asked THIS.” It’s all relative, the order isn’t critical, and there are NO perfect answers. But some questions have to be answered carefully. A rookie on a home visit, when asked by kids, “Santa, where are your Reindeer?” may answer, “Outside, of course!” And then they have to deal with pandemonium when the kids go diving for the door or windows. Consider your answers with a mindset of how your words will be received. And PLEASE, post your funniest, strangest, hardest questions in the comments and how you responded. Share the Wealth!

The Question and Answer Exercise

Read through the questions list and jot down anything that springs to mind while you ask yourself these questions. Know that every answer can lead to even more questions. Write down a few of those, too.

Set up an audio recorder or, better yet, a video recorder. Have someone sit down and ask you these questions as if they were a variety of people (someone young, old, jaded, true believer, etc.). You don’t have to get through them all in one sitting. Try a few during a car trip or while on a walk.

Your goal is to answer the questions in Character, not too glibly, and in a matter-of-fact sincere manner. After you finish, go back and watch the video or listen to the recording. See which answers could be more efficient. Then exchange roles with your practice partner. It can be a lot of fun!

Key Tip: You can reframe or flip a question back on the person in a friendly way. “What do you think?” is a great way to get someone invested in a conversation.

12 Common Questions (or Sets of Questions)

  1. Are you really Santa Claus / Mrs. Claus / an Elf?
  2. Am I on the Naughty or Nice List?
  3. What is your / their favorite cookie?
  4. Where are the reindeer? Can I see them?
  5. How do the reindeer fly? How many do you have?
  6. What do reindeer like to eat? Do they like cookies or carrots? Who is your favorite reindeer?
  7. Does Mrs. Claus or the Elves have their own Reindeer/Sleigh?
  8. Why does Rudolph’s nose glow?
  9. How do you deliver all those presents in one night?
  10. Do you know ________, my Elf on the Shelf?
  11. How do you get down the chimney / get in if there is not a chimney?
  12. Will you be able to find me if I moved / am visiting Grandma, etc.?

Did this exercise challenge you? Did it lead to more questions and ideas on answers? Excellent! Stay tuned for next week and we’ll look at some versions of answers.

And if you are on our mailing list, you’ll be receiving the 25-Question version of this article. Sign up at Newsletters.

Looking At Next Year

First, a shout out to all the groups that invited us to teach throughout 2018! NORPAC (WA), OKC Santas, AZ Santas, PalmTree Santas (FL), ISC Denver, and FORBS Reunion in Southern CA—thank you so very much! Please let us know how our training has helped you and your community, plus what you would like to see included in future programs.

Second, we have an exciting year lined up for 2019. Currently, it looks like CPW workshops will be happening in Georgia, Arizona, Minnesota, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Colorado, Florida, and possibly California. Dates and times are each being finalized with the various groups. Some of these workshops will be the Performing Fundamentals, and some will be the Advanced Workshops.

We are waiting to hear back from other groups. We have a few available slots left. If your community is ready for a fun, unique workshop, tailored to your community that focuses only on Christmas Performing, now is the time to contact us! Your group can actually raise money hosting a CPW workshop! Contact us at

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

Time to Practice, Practice, Practice!

Just a nudge to our CPW friends. Tick-tick-tick… A wonderfully long season will be soon upon us. It’s time to Practice, Practice, Practice!

The goal is not to make you perfect. The goal is to help you be rock solid when things go wrong or conditions are challenging. Having your material nailed will reduce your stress and help you have a more relaxed performance.

Here are some Performer Questions to help get you going.

  1. Have you been practicing your “Kringles” and your facial expressions?
  2. Have you been practicing your vocal exercises?
  3. Do you have “A visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) committed to memory? Have you tried singing it? Have you worked on your physical presentation?
  4. Have you been working with someone else on things like your character backstory and “top 25” questions?
  5. Do you have new songs and stories to present this season? Have you been practicing them?
  6. Have you worked on your ability to break down a performance scenario for its segments and flow?
  7. How good is your Reindeer Macarena?
  8. How good is your Call and Response?
  9. Have you practiced your Entrance and Exit (both Solo and Duo)?
  10. Have you practiced your “Count-Down Out?”
  11. How good is your Photo Mojo, both in front of and behind the camera?
  12. Have you practiced your Santa “Jedi” Techniques?

You have? Wonderful! You are going to rock it this season!

If you don’t know some of the terms mentioned here, ask your group to invite Christmas Performer Workshops to join you in 2019 for a great workshop! And remember, if you have been to a CPW Workshop and if you have questions, feel free to contact us.

Now get out there and practice. Bring your Unique Magic and have FUN! Hugs and Big Thanks! – True and Cat

It’s time to Practice, Practice, Practice!

The Art of the Incoming Call: (Part 2 of 3) Phone Scripts and Roleplaying for Fun and Profit

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

Phone Scripts and Roleplaying

When you first get that phone call for a possible gig, you should know some things about the caller and their expectations.

  1. There is a very good chance the person you are talking to has never booked a Christmas Performer before. They don’t know what to expect.
  2. Every potential client has criteria for their event. How much will this cost? How risky is this, that the client will get a good performance? Will this be a fun and rewarding experience? Will this be a lot of work? Are there any good photos or reviews of this performer?
  3. Typically, they really just want to have fun.

If we do this right, we address all of these, and do it with style.

Three Handy Phone Tips

  • The sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is the sound of their own name
  • An insightful question can make all the difference: People will almost always answer a question
  • Visualize yourself sitting down to coffee with the person

You can improve your phone performance by preparing some simple items in advance.

  • Have a contact sheet or form to fill out as you are on the call
  • Have a phone script that you’ve practiced a few times
  • Have all the other supporting items like your current schedule, rates, contracts, photos, and a map easily accessible

What is a Phone Script?

When you take a lot of calls, you end up asking the same questions and answering the same questions. To make certain you are consistent, write up a phone script. It’s really handy, especially since calls come in at all times and you could be distracted.

Here are some important dialogue points to your phone script. You can adapt them as needed, but consider trying to hit nearly all these points if possible.

  1. Thank them sincerely for calling you.
  2. After they confirm you are a Christmas Performer, immediately ask them for their contact information, “In case you get cut off.” Ask them how they found you.
  3. Establish the date and time they need first. If you already have a confirmed commitment, you can graciously decline the opportunity. You don’t want to waste their time or yours. Then you can request an email with the event specifics, so that you can forward the lead to another qualified performer.
  4. If you are able to consider the event, start with a leading question, “How is your Fall going?” Show an interest in them.
  5. Ask about the planned events for this gig, “So, (name of person), what sort of fun are you planning?”
  6. Be enthusiastic, “That sounds wonderful!” as you take notes.
  7. Tell them about yourself and what you can offer. Describe how your skills fit into their plans.
  8. Ask them first what their budget is. Often times they will balk, that’s fine. You can switch topics slightly to get more information. How many people will be there? How long would they need YOU for? Then ask again about the budget. If they don’t have a number, quote them yours.
  9. If they don’t fall over, then you walk them through the process. “Okay, (name of person), this sounds wonderful. Here’s how I usually do events with my other clients. Let’s make certain I have your contact information correct first. Next, I will send you a contract. You confirm all the terms and details, sign the contract, and return it to me (by mail or scanned and sent by email). You’ll pay the retainer, half the fee up front, which guarantees the date on my calendar.” Adjust the script for your typical terms of an event.
  10. As you conclude the phone call, use their name one more time as you assure them what a wonderful event this will be, how much you are looking forward to working with them, and how soon they can expect to see the contract. Finish the call with a chuckle.
  11. When you hang up the phone, the most important step begins. Transfer those details to your computer, calendar, file folders, schedule, or other tracking system. Finish the contract for this client with the appropriate dates, times, specifics, and names. If you promised to email or send the contract, complete the task.

How to Roleplay and Practice

Using Roleplay to act out the scenes of this interaction can help you iron out your own phone performance. Have your checklists, maps, schedules, and method to take notes. If possible, make a video recording of your practice. This helps you make the interaction sound natural. Recordings help you find repetition so that you can improve your efficiency. Enlist a friend to help you practice. If you’re lucky, they might have experience with sales calls or event bookings.

Start with easy phone calls. Your friend is a client on the phone, they already love the idea of having a Christmas Performer, and they really want to book you. Your schedule is open and the price is agreeable to everyone. Experiment with different kinds of events such as home visits, community parades, photo sittings in a studio, a large tree lighting event, Chair time in a large venue, an appearance at a corporate party, or visiting an elder care facility. Have your practice partner focus on different details such as the money or budget for the event, what time of day the gig will be held, or how long they want you.

Listen to or watch the recordings. Identify the points that went smoothly and you succeeded. Consider the improvements you’d like to focus on. Did you repeat things? Were you prepared to answer their questions? Did you fill in all the event details you needed on your own notes?

Remember to maintain a gentle, jolly, warm, and friendly demeanor. Keep things friendly and efficient, professional and focused. If you can, station a mirror at your desk with a note that reminds you to “Smile!” while on the phone.

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy, right? Being an independent performer is a lot of work!

Practicing for the Challenges

Remember that it is okay to turn down a gig or not land a booking. Know when to walk away. Try to end the call on a positive note, but remember it’s not about you personally, it’s a business interaction.

When you’re ready for the Advanced Challenge level, you need to work some magic to manage the expectations of the challenging callers. Your practice partner can have fun with these scenarios. Have fun ensuring that you still get all the specifics on the call.

  • Mr. Money: He tells you almost nothing about the gig. He wants to know if you are available on multiple dates, for x time, and needs a price quote right now. He’ll tell you he’s talking to five other performers, and they are all cheaper.
  • Mrs. Confusion: She’s not really sure what she wants, this all seems nice, she’s doing this for someone else, and she will need approval for Everything. She’ll get back to you soon.
  • Miss D’Bono: She’s super excited to talk to you about this really amazing gig, but it’s for a non-profit, and there will be celebrities… Can you do it for free?
  • Ms. Highroller: It’s a terribly expensive event, and she wants the World’s Best Santa, in Gold. Oh, and there will be NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) you will need to sign.
  • Miss Inginformation: She’s not going to tell you about Elsa, the Bounce House, the Band, the Barbecue, the Candy Cart, or the Petting Zoo. There are special needs clients, another 300 kids there, and a margarita bar for the parents.
  • Mr. Switcherroo: He really wants you for this totally awesome gig, you fly in on a helicopter on this one gig. But then you do 14-hour days in a tent, with no support, for the other two days.
  • Ms. Musthaveyou: She loves you and insists on calling repeatedly to book you. There will be 100 entitled kids and five monster bags of presents at the top of a suicide hill driveway in the dark, with utter chaos at the bottom.
  • Ms. Booker: It’s a big sports team. It’s at a coliseum. They will forget to tell you how to get in, and you will run into a thousand people standing in line. And it will take months to get paid.

Each of these potential clients COULD be really good gigs. It’s up to you to get the information, manage their expectations, and if you decide to pitch some quotes then you must get your details down in print.

Well practiced, prepared, and ready to take that next call and bring the magic!

Stay tuned for Part 3 of 3: “Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize: How to Get the Calls and Tune Your Pitch for Success”

The Most Interactive and FUN Training You Will Ever Take!

You know it’s not the suit and it’s not the toys: It’s the magic within that makes the season astonishing. With customized training for the Performer Within, Christmas Performer Workshops (CPW) brings the AWESOME to you and your local group. And with thoughtful training, you can bring that magic from within to every appearance you make.

How are we different? Your group hires CPW to conduct programs to help your membership. We work with you to create a unique training event, and your group can even make extra money doing it. Every CPW workshop is uniquely tailored for each group we teach. Students complete a survey before and after each program. CPW tailors the core instructional material for the key focus points of the workshop participants.

Insightful and Interactive. Our classes are fun, high energy, and interactive. We address ideas and issues in our community, in ways to leave your community inspired!

Reserve a Weekend for Your CPW Class in 2019!

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)

I Didn’t Go to Santa School and I Turned Out Just Fine

The Pros and Cons of Christmas Performer Training

By Santa True (Robert Seutter)

While it may seem that there will certainly be some bias in writing this article (because everyone knows that I have launched a Training School for Christmas Performers), there is still strong merit in tackling these tough topics that are often discussed in our communities. Many people evaluate the pros and cons of attending workshops and classes that are designed for Christmas performers, often also known as “Santa Schools.” I will do my best to discuss these issues in as unbiased a manner as I can, although remember that “your mileage may vary.” I’ll be using “Santa” as short hand for all Christmas Performers—Mrs. Claus, Elves, and all other characters.

Two Points of View

On the face of it, there seem to be two primary points of view for the topic of Santa schools and workshops.


“I don’t attend Santa schools. You either have it naturally or you don’t. Just be yourself and learn from experience. The kids will love you because you are natural and spontaneous. I’m a REAL Santa because I have Christmas Spirit. It’s about what’s inside you and you don’t really need a school, because experience will teach you. Also, I don’t need someone to teach me how to say, ‘Ho-Ho-Ho,’ or how to read ‘The Night Before Christmas.’ The schools are for people who have free time, extra money, and want to hang out with other Santas. I get plenty of good gigs and people love me.”


“I take my craft seriously, and I want to get as much training as possible. I have even taken the same course, more than once. The potential for making mistakes is pretty high. I want to excel in my craft and get really good gigs. There is so much to learn and, honestly, I can’t see how anyone who wants to do well in this craft would NOT want to get some training, especially if they want to be called a Professional.”

Evaluating These Two Positions

The truth is rarely black and white (or red and green, in our case). There are some valid points to BOTH perspectives. However, as a community and profession, we need to look at some history and factors to get clarity.

Let’s talk history. People have been dressing up as Christmas characters for hundreds of years. If we just look at the tradition linking Santa Claus with retail sales in the U.S. (forgetting about home visits, parades, or theater), that tracks back to 1890 with James Edgar. That’s around 128 years of people suiting up for gigs. And we can be pretty sure that the vast majority of all those Santas probably had little or no schooling. Most of the time, they were lucky to have mentors to help them in their craft. Essentially, we have an art form that is unlike many others in that you CAN step into the role and, with some luck, do okay just navigating by the seat of your fuzzy pants!

What that also means is that more than half our ranks are self-trained. Most of the performers who are in the Santa Claus Hall of Fame and who are teaching learned by the seat of their pants (or had prior experience from other art-forms, like clowning, etc.). They self-taught themselves. And as a group, they have left us an amazing legacy and tradition. Yay Team!

However, our art form is evolving and, as it does, the need for more knowledge and standards grew. It is still growing and maturing. Now we have schools, conferences, and conventions, and many other workshop opportunities.

The Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School started back in 1937. That’s 81 years of classes! Tim Connaghan’s School 4 Santa’s (aka, International University of Santa Claus) has been going for 16 years and has over 4,000 graduates. That is a lot of students, plus LOTS of time and money invested.

That may seem like a lot, but let’s put that in perspective.

Let’s say there are 10,000 working Santa performers doing some sort of paid or donated gigs across America, every year. When compared to the US Population of 325 million people, that’s a drop in the bucket! (Just one Santa per 32K+ people!)

Let’s estimate that all the Schools combined (whether fixed, roving, online, conferences, or conventions) train 4,000 people a year. Many of those participants are attending more than one training a year, and others may take just one course and never take another one. This could easily leave an estimated 5,000+ people nation-wide who have never taken a professional Christmas performer training course of any type.

Now consider that your average performing career as Santa spans roughly 700 days, give or take. And your ability to practice your craft in front of your chosen audience out of season is iffy, at best. When the Season starts, you are ON. There is an old saying in Hollywood: “You are only as good as your last gig.” All of us want to maximize our ability to make Christmas Magic and increase the quality and earning potential of our gigs. How do we do that?

Let’s Get Rid of Some Assumptions (right off the top)

  • “I am not an Actor: I am a Real Santa, motivated by Christmas Spirit.”
    The truth is that yes, motivation does matter. Being genuine and sincere can really help a performance. BUT, a professional performer who does not believe in Santa or the “ideals of Christmas” can still do a great job, and the audience will be none the wiser. (For example, Tim Allen was pretty done with playing Santa by movie two.) And having Christmas Spirit does not guarantee having actual performing chops (projection, etc.)
  • “I am a Trained Performer, and I have invested a ton of time and money into my craft.”
    This will likely make you a better performer. But without any peer review or feedback, you really don’t know.
  • “Because I took school X, I am going to be better than performer Y, because KNOWLEDGE.”
    Odds are better, yes. But sometimes folks come into our art-form with skills from previous lives, and some have natural talent or looks that carry the day.

The upshot is that neither the “pro schooling” nor “no schooling” camps have a lock on the truth. Having Christmas Spirit, experience, or a ton of training does NOT a guarantee that you will be a fantastic Christmas Performer. And there are host of other factors that are involved, such as resources, mentors, and more.

At the end of it all, the most important thing is your personal motivation and willingness to hone your craft.

So Why Invest in Training?

If it’s possible to be an awesome Christmas performer without the schools, why take the time and spend the money? Here are five really great reasons to get trained and to keep training.

  1. You don’t know what you don’t know.
    And what you don’t know can, and will, hurt you. Part of most training schools includes “Best Practices,” that insider knowledge of what NOT to do. Why do you want to make certain that both of your white gloves are seen in every photo? What do you need to watch out for in contracts, or hair bleaching, or getting your suit cleaned, or insurance, or back ground checks? What seems like a simple mistake could cost you a lot of time, money, or jobs.
  2. Increased Capability.
    Most of the schools offer training on a variety of gigs. While it is possible you can resource this information yourself, there is a pretty good chance it’s going to take you a while. Let’s say you have done ALL of the following: Home visits, mall gigs, parades, tree lightings, hospital visits, commercials, corporate gigs, strolling, and photo modeling. Would you have insights to share? Some tips to help someone who has not done those gigs? Schooling gives you additional resources so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. When a different type of gig comes your way, you are prepared and ready for the opportunity.
  3. It saves you time.
    Time is the one commodity we cannot buy more of. Let’s look at two lists—one from a business-based school and one from a performance-based school. It could take you DECADES to accumulate all the knowledge being taught in these schools by yourself.
  • Sample Topics in the Business-based schooling: The origins of Santa, the basics of Santa, Santa goes to Work, Seating and Photo Set ups, Posing for Photos, Training your Helpers, Talking with Children, Dealing with Non-believers, Honing your Image (grooming, bleaching, styling, different types of wardrobe, props, gloves, dressing), Working for a mall or photo company, Working for agencies or private parties, How to set up your Santa business, marketing, care and maintenance, Performing and entertaining, Other services (chairs, reindeer, etc.) Business cards, contracts, checklists, and multiple handouts for customers (how to have a good home visit, etc.)
  • Sample Topics in the Performance-based schooling: Call and Response, Philosophy and Objectives, the Future of the Field, Current Issues, Unique Xmas Performer problems, Vocals, Public speaking, Singing, Storytelling, Story-Reading, Physicality and Movement, Character Work, Back Story, Character Creation, Improv Concepts and Practice, Breathing exercises, Understanding Space and Movement, Stage Movement, Character Movement, Blocking Exercises, Dual Performing, Breaking Down a Scene, Key Gestures and Phrases, Entrances and Exits, Building Expressive-ness, Marathon Performing, Supporting Women, Your Storytelling Tool box, Xmas History
  1. Networking and developing Peer relationships.
    When you go to the schools or workshops, you meet other performers. Often times, you meet folks you did not know who were actually in your area! Meeting and supporting your fellow performers can pay huge dividends. The conversations and relationships you develop can be a great resource and establish your support network for when things go sideways.
  2. Industry Knowledge.
    Most of us don’t have the time to follow everything that is going on in the Christmas Performer field. And we all know that things can change very quickly. Mergers happen, bad actors show up, there are new trends always developing. We live in the age of social media. The 40+ professional Christmas instructors out there today have to be plugged in so they can give up-to-date information to their attendees. Since they see a lot of people in the industry, they may be aware of sea-changes that many individuals are not yet noticing. Likewise, they might have tips on where to find good gigs and also give advice on the latest problems and which gigs to avoid.

Some Objections to Training and Responses to Them

What are some of the reasons NOT to attend a Santa school?

  1. That’s valuable time and money that can be used elsewhere.
    Yes, but a couple of tips learned in a school or workshop could save you a lot of money. Since most schools are in the $300 or so range for a weekend of workshops, the math is on the side of the school. If you make more money after you do the school, then the course paid for itself. Investing in yourself is always the best investment you can make. The simple truth is that no matter how expensive the suit is, the magic comes from the performer inside.
  2. My particular gig is very stable, and I am unlikely to need to change.
    Most of us are older folks. We already know that things in life can change on a dime. When we have a bigger bag of tricks, that advantage means you have more gig options—a very wise precaution.
  3. I have no idea if School XYZ is any good, and I’ve been doing just fine so far.
    One rule of thumb: Ask folks who have attended that school or taken that workshop whether they would take the class again. If they would return, that’s a great endorsement. And then ask yourself what you are looking for. Every school has its own strong points. What do you want to develop?
  4. I have my own particular way of doing things, and I want to protect my gig and content.
    While it is true that there are some people who are less than respectful of boundaries and creative content, there are a great many folks who are wonderfully generous with their time and resources. If you talk to most Christmas Performers, you will probably hear that excellence has a way of rising to the top.
  5. I’ve met some of the other Christmas Performers, and they are not my cup of tea.
    We are a zany bunch (ahem). There are some folks who get their personal validation from being Santa 24/7. There are also some old Grumpa-Grumps. However, taking the time to truly meet and get to know some of fellow performers has been tremendously rewarding to me personally. I have made some great friendships. I think you might find the same.

Thanks again and please share this article and link!

May your season be amazing and full of wonders — Santa True, Ms. Cat (“Mrs. Santa True”), and all the folks at CPW.


You Put the Heart in the Christmas Art

So far this year, we’ve had two totally fun and fantastic workshops: Performing Fundamentals (with the fine folks in OKC) and Advanced Character and Storytelling (with great folks of NorPac in WA). We had rave reviews at both. Please ask them!

Upcoming still in 2018

  • Phoenix AZ, Arizona Santas: Performing Skills Workshop, July 20-22, 2018
  • Tarpon Springs FL, PalmTree Santas: Performing Skills Workshop, August 4-5, 2018

Sadly, we had to cancel the Jacksonville FL event July 28-29, 2018.

We are already reserving dates for events in 2019, and would really love to have CPW visit your area. Your group can come out ahead economically by booking CPW to train your members! We offer a Performing Fundamentals Workshop, AND an Advanced Workshop focusing on Storytelling, Character Work and Back-story!

Don’t forget to check out our site for additional Articles.

On behalf of CPW, True, Cat, and all our friends, thank you very much.

It is our belief that the future of our Art as Christmas Performers depends on investing in ourselves and in each other as Performers and Entertainers: Putting the Heart in the Christmas Art. CPW is about helping you make the magic happen! Contact today!

Amazing set behind me created by Bob Bulick

Planning for 2018 Season

As you know, Christmas Performer seasons are cyclical, some shorter or longer. This 2018 season is a doozy (and 2019 will be very short). This season has Thanksgiving on Thursday the 22nd of November.


  • 1 – November Sat. 24th, Sun. 25th
  • 2 – December Sat. 1st, Sun. 2nd
  • 3 – December Sat. 8th, Sun. 9th
  • 4 – December Sat. 15th, Sun. 16th
  • 5 – December Sat. 22nd, Sun. 23rd

Five Weekends! Christmas Eve is on Mon. 24th. We are looking at a 33-day Season at a minimum.

What does this mean?

For people who focus on Performing, this can mean Home visits, Corporate parties, Tree Lightings, and so much more. This is the season TO BRING IT.

You will need lots of content. You will need to shine consistently. You will want your strong open to lead to a fantastic finish. Now is the time to invest in Performance Training.

Christmas Performer Workshops is the ONLY school that SPECIALIZES in helping you create content, in perfecting your performance chops, and in training for marathon performing. If you belong to a group of Christmas Performers who have already taken basic training programs, isn’t it the time to raise it to the next level?

Book a CPW Workshop for your group now and make more Magic! (And get better gigs and pay.)

Contact CPW today. For the price of an affordable workshop, you can improve your entire season!

Workshop Feedback and Input

Greetings folks, and a quick question or three.

  1. This last season, was there anything Performance related that you wish you had worked more on? (Vocals, Storytelling, etc.?)
  2. Was there anything performance related that surprised you that CPW has not addressed specifically enough? No specifics on Hula hoop?
  3. There are a LOT of schools out there. CPW starts where they leave off. If you were going to describe what we teach to a Santa who has never been, what would you say?

Any feedback is much appreciated. And you can always PM us if you have questions we can help with.

Feel free to share our FB page and our website. Please drop me a line at

(photo by Clare Foster)

(Elf by Fairy Princess Lolly aka Ammie Hague)

1 2