1. Don't try to squeeze three separate (completely different) shows into one day, with stage rehearsals for each of the three shows ALSO on that day.
We did it. We did survive. And honestly it was doable, but just a little bit too stressful for the team. By the third one we were so tired. We certainly squeezed a lot of value out of that venue booking though!
2. Parents are easy to please. And... it's often the EASIER things on our end that have the biggest VALUE for the parents. Whilst most studio owners are stressing about props, lighting effects, no mistakes, don't-touch-the-curtains etc. the PARENTS really just want to know the following...
- Does my child look happy?
- Have they actually learned something?
- Can I see them on stage?
- Are they being made to feel special?
- Is this a positive stress-free experience for my child (and for me?)
And most of them are also probably thinking...
- How much longer does this go for?
3. When a parent volunteers to help at the concert, they are going to get as much joy, satisfaction and fulfilment from being part of the team as your students do. It's counter-intuitive, but when a parent volunteer is "doing you a favour" by helping look after some students or fold programs, or play usher, this doesn't make the experience an unpleasant one for them - it actually makes them feel useful and helpful, gives them some purpose, connects them to the group mission, provides an opportunity for them to get to know other parents (everyone likes makes friends, no matter how old you are), and as a bonus - it gives them insight, understanding and empathy for the scale of the event and appreciation of the hard work that goes into it.
4. The opportunity that our concerts provide us for effective, efficient and direct communication with our entire customer base, selling and promoting new classes and products, reinforcing brand identity and values etc. is unparalleled anywhere else in our business model. I'm not saying that our concerts should become a shameless festival of propaganda, but it's such a rare experience for any business to be able to have all of their customers in one room at the same time and have their undivided attention. I guess it's risky too, because it's make or break - but it's certainly more of a positive than a negative.
5. The thank you speech is important, not only what we say, but the energy and sincerity with which we say it. For many of your clients, this may be the only time they really get to see us. They're likely usually dealing with office staff, or dropping their kids at the door. How we present in this rare annual siting is perhaps more impactful than we realise.
Little tip/idea from me: I love being on the microphone so I'll have it with me in the tech booth throughout the show. Whenever there's a hold because of a quick change gone wrong, a technical issue or just 15 seconds to fill whilst the tiny tots are being brought onto the stage, I'll usually take the opportunity to fill the awkward silence with some funny commentary, or begin to work through my thank you list. I'll thank the costume team in one gap, the teachers in another gap, the parent helpers in another... so by the time the show is finished, I've pretty much said my thank you's. And when I am saying them throughout the concert as a voice-over on the mic, it's not met with a "yeah ok, but can you please hurry up so we can get out of here" energy from the crowd - because I'm just filling in time. Also, it's an opportunity to point out the amazingness of some things. eg. "Wow everyone, haven't the costumes this year just been amazing! Let's hear a big cheer for all of our incredible costumes." (Audience cheers and it helps keep the energy in the room up). "Please join me in giving a round of applause to Suzy our costume manager and all the brilliant parent volunteers who helped sew, iron, adjust, organise etc." (Another applause) "Now please put your hands together for our Junior Tap performing Friend Like Me". (Another applause).
6. Concerts [should] make good money.
And they come and the perfect time for us to enjoy the security of knowing that Christmas and our January rent is going to be covered. If your concert isn't making money, then either your venue is too expensive or your tickets are too cheap... or both.
7. A meeting before hand for all of our staff and volunteers is crucial, and plenty of instructions and communication about expectations. If ever there was a day where our team is MOST IMPORTANT it is concert day. I like to go into concert day with the strangely calming knowledge that if I died a tragic death halfway through the concert, it could continue flawlessly without me. (Not that I'm anticipating that to actually happen, surely they'd mourn me for a moment). It gives me peace of mind though, knowing that everything is prepared, my team know what they're doing, and that it's not resting on my shoulders. I actually think that's the only way I know how to get through concert day without stressing myself to insanity. A perfect concert day is one where I'm superfluous.
8. Make sure your enrolments for the following year are open and ready so that you can leverage the positive energy and excitement of concert day. I don't know about you, but my customers (and students) are most happy in the 24 hours after concert every year. It's the short window of happy appreciation and overwhelming love-fest for all things dance. This is the ideal time for them to be encouraged to enrol for the following year. They're more likely to do it now than in January when the concert love potion has worn off. And they're more likely to be convinced to take on more classes.
9. The magic 15 minutes. My favourite part of concert day is that quick 15 minutes after the final curtain, when all the students are on a high, everyones running around giving each other hugs and chattering about how good it was, the parents are full of compliments and kind words of congratulations and everyone feels like a superhero who just saved the universe. No matter how much packing up there is to do, I always take this 15 minutes as my reward. I love it. This is the best part of concert day. And from a business perspective it's also beneficial to be seen out there in the foyer for the venue congratulating your students, taking photos (preferably in front of a branded media wall...lol) and mingling with the parents.
I love a good compliment, they're my fuel and my addiction, but I also know enough to know to deflect them back to the kids on concert day. Even if a compliment is specifically directed to me, my responses tend to cycle between...
"Thank you, the kids did great!"
"Thank you, I'm so proud of how well they did"
"Thank you, it was a big team effort today"
I'm not a very physically touchy person generally, and being a male teacher I think I'm perhaps hyper-aware of it. But my students joke about concert day, it's the one day a year Ben gives hugs.