Six Questions To Ask When Hiring A High Quality Presenter For Your School, Library, Festival or Community Event

By Kevin Strauss, Tales with Tails Story Programs

With school and library budgets tightening and mandates filling ever larger portions of your school day, it is more important than ever to make sure you are hiring high-quality professional presenters. You need to make sure that every dollar you invest in an assembly gives you a good return on your investment. This article gives you eight questions to ask when hiring a speaker or performing professional for your organization.

1. What do others say about this performer?

Word of mouth is the single best method for evaluating a presenter or performer. Ask for references from past clients. If a performer is slow to provide references or cannot provide them, watch out. A good performer has a long list of customers ready to sing his or her praises. Mediocre performers won’t.

2. Is the performer a full-time professional or a part-time performer?

All other things being equal, a full-time performer or presenter will give you a better value for your money than a part-time performer. Why? Because a full-timer depends on his or her performance skills for paying the bills, they can’t afford to give a mediocre performance. Part-timers can always fall back on their ìday jobî for income if they flub a few performances. Does this mean that all part-timers aren’t worth the money? No. But overall, you are better off with a full-timer. What’s more, a full-time performer will probably cost the same or less than a part-timer, since a full-timer has to book a certain number of programs each month. A part-timer can hold out for only the ìbig moneyî gigs, since they have a day job.

3. How long has the performer been in business?

The longer a performer has been in business, the better he or she usually is. There are exceptions to this rule. But experience matters when performing in front of 500 middle school students.

4. What do you really want to get out of a presentation?

In the current environment, performers need to be good marketers if they want to eat. That is why it’s no surprise that dozens of magicians, jugglers and clowns now offer programs on topics like character education and bully prevention. Performers have learned that those programs are where the money is in schools. But saying that you offer a ìbully preventionî program and offering a quality program are two different things. Some performers juggle, perform tricks or tell stories for 40 minutes and then spend five minutes talking about how juggling, magic tricks or stories relate to ìbullyingî or ìcharacter developmentî.

Ask presenters how they present their material. Do they offer an outline or pre- and post-activities for teachers. Ask them the goals and outcomes for the program. A quality performer will be able to explain how his or her program meets those outcomes.

5. What credentials does the performer hold?

Presenters with degrees in education or theater arts often have academic background that makes them better teaching artists and performers. Ask about the training they have received and how it makes them a better presenter.

6. What do other performers that you know say about this performer?

The world of school performers is very small. Most of us know or have at least heard about others in our profession. Storytellers will know other storytellers and some magicians, jugglers and musicians. Email the last good performer who worked with your group and ask about this new performer. Most performers (and all quality performers) won’t badmouth other performers, even if they think the performer has only mediocre skills. But a performer will either praise the performer or remain silent. Decide accordingly.

Good performers are also a great resource to help you find quality performers for your group.

By asking these six questions, you can insure that every performer who visits your school, library or event will inspire and educate your students, staff and visitors.