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  The Language of Performance
Funworld
Michael Getlan

Language determines how we think. That's why specific words work in conveying certain meanings and not others and why we always need to be conscious of what we say. Just ask an Eskimo about snow and you will see real confusion. That's because Eskimos have 17 different words that describe the phenomenon that we (non-Eskimos) causally call snow (unless you are an Eskimo - this could get confusing - but, of course, that is the point!).

It is why writers (at least most of us) agonize over which word to use where. And it is why it is important for a businessperson to be precise in the use of words when operating his or her business in terms of training and general operational terminology. How a procedure is described, refereed to and generally talked about goes a long way toward how that procedure is thought about and executed.

Understanding Performance

Any operation that occurs in front of a guest's scrutiny, in a visual or auditory mode, is a performance, in the sense of a live stage, television or radio performance. And any performance in front of a guest or customer has in common with other performances that hard to catch, moment in time aspect; one that you can only prepare for with practice.

The truth is that in that moment there are no replays, no second chances and no opportunity to get out from under that guest's scrutiny without committing to some result; that everything rides on the responses that are made in front of the guest. In this sense, performing in front of a guest is most like improvisational theater, where preparation is extensive, present information is minimal and timing is everything!

That is why many companies, including many large and small in the amusement business, have adopted terms that revolve around performance and the business behind it. These terms convey meanings that are shaded with performance nuances; re-enforcing the performance metaphor and creating an underlying background in front of which all other business actions take place.

The first most common usage is that which refers to the staff itself. The term "cast" is often used, which sets up the whole idea that the day's work is really a "performance". This performance is "played" out in front of an "audience" of guests. Cast members come to play in "costumes" (as opposed to uniforms) and first learn their "scripts" (operational procedures) in "rehearsal" (training sessions).

Training

Rehearsals are a great time to re-enforce this use of language. Many times this terminology can be extended even further. Cast members receive their "direction" (instructions) while they rehearse their scripts. Remember that no one even reaches the rehearsal stage unless they pass the "audition" (interview).

Rehearsal is the time to learn that certain actions can be performed when a cast member is in costume and "on stage" (in front of or under observation of a guest). And other actions can only be performed when out of costume and "off stage" (out of view of a guest). It is the time to learn that cast members shouldn't think that they are going to work; rather, they should feel that they are "coming to perform".

It is also a time to acknowledge those cast members that work "back stage" (out of view of the guests for all of or most of their time). These include office cast, maintenance cast and executive cast members, although some of these roles will expose have some time in front of the guest. Everyone has a hand in creating the total "production" (the totality of your operation).

Sometimes this language can effect a profound change on cast members, especially new ones. Frequently ordinary employees are reluctant to practice their new skills and want to rush through training. But with this different way of thinking, often cast members accept the need for increased training.

We have a culture that respects and holds up actors and their profession. Good performances on television and in the movies lead to Emmys and Oscars and the big paychecks that stars receive. Everyone understands that stage actors regard rehearsal as the path to perfecting their craft and to creating excellent performances.

Although we will not be awarding multi-million dollar contracts so quickly, it doesn't take much to set up the understanding that following the steps laid out in rehearsal will result in performance rewards and increasing pay scales. And of course, the cast members who can think on their feet while on stage and perform with "heart" (sincerity) will earn the most.

Executing Performance

Because that is, of course, the main objective. To be able to fully staff your facility with cast members who are willing and able to give themselves fully into the role of (any job at your site) and create an in the moment, sincere performance that will satisfy your guest in any situation, good or bad.

And most managers and owners understand and would be willing to undertake the increased time and cost that it takes to achieve this result. Only most do not know how. So take the time to explore this concept, take a chance and step out on your own "stage" (your own facility) and dream like your favorite director might, and imagine in your mind how and what your production should look like. And then go out and do it!

   

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