Charlie The Juggling Clown
Creating Happy Memories that Last a Lifetime
The Power of Thank You
by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson
There is a lot written and discussed about clown character in terms of developing your clownís fantasy personality. There is another definition of clown character that is even more important to your success as an entertainer. Your clown character is the integrity you display as a clown. Remembering to say "Thank You" is a part of that type of clown character.
At the very least, a thank you for something youíve been sent in the mail is confirmation that you have received it. Iíve sent things to people, and not heard anything back. I didnít know if it had arrived. In some cases, it was lost in the mail, and they were upset because they thought I hadnít sent it. Most often though, they had received it and forgotten to reply. A quick thank you note puts the sender at ease.
Sending a thank you note is considered part of maintaining good customer relations. Many businesses do it routinely. After each show, I send a thank you to my contact person. If I book the show myself, it goes to somebody in that family or organization. If I worked through an agency, I send it to the person who booked the show for me. If I booked the show as a result of a referral, I also send a thank you to the person who referred me. I know some clowns who send a generic thank you. One boasts that the thank you is in the mail the day before the event. I wait until afterwards and try to comment on something specific that happened at the show. I find that personal touch is important in building a relationship that can lead to repeat bookings.
I have special thank you notes with a drawing of my clown character tipping his hat in appreciation. Since I am also an artist, I drew my own, but you can have somebody else do the drawing for you. Angel Contreras is an outstanding artist with a flair for doing clown subjects. If you don't want to invest in customized cards, Angel sells thank you cards with clowns on them that are very well designed.
Sometimes I will send a quick thank you by email, especially if I have worked for a booking agent and want to report on what happened at the event. I usually follow that up with a thank you card sent through the mail. I believe the extra effort increases the effectiveness,
How can you thank your customers? What type of card would you use? How can you personalize it to demonstrate your interest in your that particular customer?
Saying thank you is a type of praise, and can be a powerful motivator. There was a dramatic increase in the number and variety of articles submitted to Clowning Around magazine during my two terms as World Clown Association Education Director. One of the tools I used to encourage that was thank you notes. Each month I would send a thank you to everybody who had their first article published in the magazine. Then I selected one of the regular contributors and wrote them a note thanking them for their long-term commitment to the magazine and organization. I knew from my own experience and discussions with other writers that written feedback to an article is rare. It is easy to wonder if anybody is reading what you write. I heard from some of the writers how much it meant to them to be sent an acknowledgement of their work. I know it means a lot to me when somebody responds to an article I have written and thanks me for doing it.
Are educational articles important to you? Is there a type of article you would like to see more often? Is there an author whose writing proves particularly beneficial to you? You can encourage them to write more of the articles you like by sending them a thank you. Who should you write to this month?
I was a childrenís teacher with Bible Study Fellowship for a year. One of the techniques I learned there was the use of saying thank you in positive discipline. We would explain the type of behavior we expected in our classroom, and then we would watch for the opportunity to thank children who were acting that way. When you reprimanded somebody for doing something unacceptable, they often return to that behavior. It is their method of getting attention. When meeting our expectations was recognized as the quickest way to gain attention, it was amazing how quick the kids were to adopt and maintain that behavior. The application for entertainment is to explain at the beginning of your show that you will need some help during the show and you will pick people who are seated, smiling, and raising their hand. Then when it is time to pick a volunteer, you select somebody who has been doing that, and say, "you have been seated the entire time, and Iíve noticed your beautiful smile. Thank you for being such a good audience member. Would you like to join me on stage to help with this next trick?"
How would you like audiences at your shows to act? How can you communicate that to them? How can you find the opportunity to thank those who do what you expect?
I was part of an alley (local clown club) in Southern California that was experiencing decreased event participation. In each monthís newsletter, the president scolded people for letting the club down by not supporting the activities. People resented being treated that way, and participation continued to plummet until by the end of the year only two of the sixty members were active. When new officers took over, they decided to use a positive approach. Each newsletter expressed thanks to those who had participated during the previous month, related some of the fun things that had occurred, and invited others to join the enjoyment. The meetings included an "atta boy" game. A timer would be set for a period ranging from five to ten minutes. Then members could nominate somebody for the Funny Bone award in recognition of something good they had done. To make a nomination, you had to deposit ten cents in a clown bank. When the bell went off, the last person to have been nominated won the award. At the next meeting, they got to wear a dog chew toy bone on a necklace. It was a fun way to raise a little money and acknowledge memberís contributions. By the end of the year, average participation at events had reached 30 and attendance at meetings averaged 50.
What would you like to encourage members of your group to do? How can you motivate them by expressing thanks to those who do that? How can you have fun while expressing thanks?
Alley members expect their officers to thank them. A thank you from somebody who is not an officer sometimes means more, especially if it comes at an unexpected time. One year, I sent a Valentineís card to each of the women in my alley. Each card contained a note thanking them for something they had been doing for the club. When we did a parade, one of the ladies always parked her car near the end of route and had a jug of water and cups in the trunk. She told me she appreciated my note because nobody had ever thanked her for providing drinks and she was thinking about discontinuing the practice. To be fair to the others, they did say thank you as she handed them a cup, but since it seemed like an automatic response, she didnít remember that.
Being an officer in an organization is often a discouraging task. It seems like the only time you hear from somebody is when they have a complaint. It is a common practice to give officers a thank you gift at the end of their term, but often by then, it is too late. They have burned out. It is common for somebody to drop out of an organization soon after serving as president. Another seemingly thankless job is that of convention chairman. A note of appreciation and encouragement can sometimes make a big difference in how they perceive and approach their job. If you want officers who do a good job for you, you can help them do that by providing them with emotional support.
Who has been making positive contributions to your alley or organization? How can you encourage them to continue? What unexpected way can you use to express your thanks?
One season when I was working at Raging Waters, the secretary in the Operations Office was supposed to announce the times of my shows using the public address system. She had many other duties, and kept forgetting to make the announcements. I could tell she resented it when somebody called to remind her. One day, she remembered without being reminded, so after my show I called to thank her. She remembered to do it again the next day, so I made another thank you call. After that I didnít call her each day, but the next time I was in the office I mentioned how much I appreciated her taking time from all her other demands to make the announcements. I told her I could tell it really made a difference in attendance at my shows. (That was true.) She told me that when there were many different demands at the same time she got depressed and frustrated because it seemed that nobody appreciated anything she did. She felt that the only things they noticed were what she hadnít been able to do. She said it meant a lot to her that I took the time to let her know I appreciated her efforts. She didnít miss making my announcements during the rest of the season. At the end of the season, I sent her a written thank you note, and sent a copy to her supervisor. The next year she was promoted, and because of the relationship I had developed with her, she helped smooth out some potentially difficult situations. When people feel appreciated, they are more willing to expend extra effort.
After each of my shows, I try to go around and personally thank every person who had played some part in it, whether it was running the sound or setting up the chairs. The show is not about me, and many people contribute to it. I believe establishing a good working relationship with them is important. I have a BA in Technical Theater, and was on many technical crews (make up, costumes, lighting, props, and sets) in college. I observed that some performers treated the technical crews as slaves who had to cater to their demands. Those performers did get what they demanded, but nothing else. Other performers treated the technical crews as assistants working together to create a good performance, and expressed their appreciation for anything that was done. I noticed that crew members tended to go out of their way to give those performers extra assistance.
As a clown, I am an easily identifiable member of a group. I believe that each time I perform I represent all clowns. Sometimes I am the first clown the people at that venue have worked with. Their attitude towards clowns could depend upon their experience with me. If I can create a good working relationship with technical people, and let them know I appreciate the service they provided me, the next clown they encounter may get improved service. So, even if I donít expect to return to a venue, I still want to create a good impression.
It is not just the technical crew that contributes to your success. Kenny Ahern has a performance style based on audience interaction. He uses a lot of audience volunteers in his performances. They contribute to the success of his shows. At the end, he expresses his thanks to them by having them stand and be applauded. It always strikes me as an especially strong moment in his shows.
Who contributes to the success of your performances? What kind of a relationship do you have with them? How can you let them know you appreciate their contribution?
Saying thank you must be sincere. Otherwise, it comes across as manipulation, which people resent. However, when done creatively from your heart it can make a big difference in your relationships with those who contribute to your success as a clown.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article,
Originally published in the July/ August 2002 issue of The New Calliope
Copyright 2002 by Bruce "Charlie" Johnson. All rights reserved.
Updated March 2009