Santa Suit? Check. Boots? Check. Belt buckle? Check. Belly full of jelly? Check.
It is getting close to the holidays and for the last year or so, friends and family have been telling you that your resemblance to Santa Claus is uncanny. So this year you think to yourself “I can be Santa” and you buy an affordable suit, some black boots and a hat.
If this is your first year playing Santa, it is not as easy as it seems and takes a little planning and organization on your part to be a successful Santa. Before you run out that door and perform your first Santa gig you should ask yourself some very important questions?
- Do I have the patience to deal with children? (Infants to teens)
- Better yet, do I have the patience to deal with their parents? (acting like infants or teens)
- How are my Customer Service skills?
- How do I cope with high stress situations?
- Can I afford the time? (getting ready, drive to/from performance)
- Do I have the stamina to keep up the performance for the length of the gig?
- Will my family support me?
- Am I in good health?
Let’s review each of these items in length.
DO I HAVE THE PATIENCE TO DEAL WITH CHILDREN?
Let’s face it, Santa is a children’s celebrity. At every home, corporate party, or mall gig there will be an abundance of children present. All these children want “their” time to talk to Santa about how they have been and share their holiday wish list. Children will rush and crowd you. Santa will need to have a calmness about him and be able to get the children to work “with him” and not “against him”. Creating ways to make a game of lining up and appointing one of the older children as the “lead helper” or “honorary elf” may be a benefit to you. Award that child with a special gift. A small token of appreciation such as a certificate stating honorary elf or a necklace with one of Santa’s reindeer bells, it does not have to be expensive. This helper will keep your stress level in check and everyone will respond to Santa’s positive interaction with the children and guests.
DO YOU HAVE THE PATIENCE TO DEAL WITH THE PARENTS?
Children can be a handful because they cannot contain the sheer excitement they have, however, the parents have a whole different set of circumstances that have put them at the edge of being rational. With the planning of the perfect event, verifying Santa’s arrival, invitations, decorations, shopping, re-verifying Santa’s arrival, food preparation, gift buying, gift wrapping, re-verifying Santa’s arrival again, making secret entrance arrangements for Santa, a parent will drive themselves crazy. The parents are now stressed, tired, and want Santa to be the biggest and best gift their children have ever had. Every parent has a “vision” of how this is going to be performed. Santa needs to make sure there has been sufficient communication and understanding between himself and the parent so that this will go as planned.
The worst phone calls for an agent or Santa to get are the calls that describe Santa as: grumpy, cranky, speaking harshly, un-friendly. Much of these Santa reactions are due to overbooking, over working, and lack of planning and communication with the party planner/parent.
HOW ARE MY CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS?
Some of this was briefly mentioned in the last section and having clear communication and planning. Santa is in the “Customer Service” business. Your product is “Santa”. The main goal is to provide the best possible service and experience for your client. Everyone is Santa’s client, whether it is the agent, employer, children, parents, photographers, party planner, etc. If you are wearing a Santa suit and are approached by any person – that person expects to see a jolly, happy, Santa. Customer service begins with the initial phone call to make the reservation, to the numerous confirmation calls from the client and to the client, the planning/instruction of the event, the performance at the event, invoicing, and the follow-up evaluation call. (Many of these tasks are done through an agent. This will follow in future segments of this article). This sometimes includes the refunding of an unsatisfied customer. If the internal “office” part of this job is not something that you are comfortable doing, consider hiring someone to do this for you.
HOW DO YOU COPE WITH HIGH STRESS SITUATIONS?
As discussed in the second section of this article, Santa will be surrounded by children and adults all fighting for Santa’s attention. It is natural to tense up or get the feeling you want to run! Are you the type of person who will physically tense up? Will your smile vanish? Will you become short tempered and unpleasant? Children and clients will respond to your body and facial language. Or are you more likely to asses the situation, pick out a few volunteers and make the best out of the situation. Not all parties or events are stressful particularly the events that Santa has communicated and suggested to the client beforehand the most efficient way to run a smooth event.
CAN I AFFORD THE TIME?
Being Santa takes a great deal of effort and time. Some time has already been put forth in scheduling, confirming, collecting and now you need to make sure there is enough time before and after each job to prep yourself to be Santa (make-up, hair, beard trimming, whitening, fluffing, dressing, etc). Most Santa’s take about 1 hour before an event to get ready. Depending on where you live then there is traffic, weather, transportation issues, and sometimes all of these are a factor. There is nothing worse than a Santa who calls at the last minute to get directions and is running late. It is always best to plan for some extra travel time. It is better to arrive early and hide out around the corner for 10 minutes than to be late.
DO I HAVE THE STAMINA TO KEEP UP THE PERFORMANCE FOR THE LENGTH OF THE GIG?
It takes planning with your client to pre-determine breaks and lunches for gigs that are more than one hour. Make sure you are going to have the high energy needed for the duration of the gig. If this is a multi-hour event make sure you have planned and agreed with the customer to have a 15 minute break every two hours and a 30 minute meal break every 4-5 hours. These breaks need to be AWAY from children and any potential persons who will want you to perform as Santa. Make good use of this quiet time and RELAX. It is very disappointing when Santa is not jolly and full of energy.
WILL MY FAMILY SUPPORT ME?
Make sure you have the support of family when deciding to become a Santa. A spouse or family member who is willing to drive you to the performance sites is a valuable asset. This time to relax is a great relief when traveling to multiple jobs in one day. It can be difficult to drive in full costume. Make sure your family will understand the hours you are performing as Santa are mostly evening and weekends with the exception of mall jobs. A mall job could mean being gone for a six week period. You will be much happier with the full support of your family.
AM I IN GOOD HEALTH?
Health will play an important factor in being a Santa. How much are you able to lift? The average child is 20-50 lbs. Constant lifting up to your knee can cause lower back pain. (Assistance with this task is important). How are your knees? Children and adults sitting in your lap for photos will put wear and tear on the knees. Long hours in a Santa chair at the mall can cause UTI’s (urinary track infections). Do you tire easily? The healthier Santa is the more enjoyable the job will be.
And finally – HAVE FUN! Santa is a magical memory children will share and hold onto for the rest of their lives. These children will grow up and share these memories with their children and grand children. It is not uncommon for a Santa to be a part of a family for multiple generations.
So getting back to our check list…….
Santa suit? Check. Boots? Check. Seeing that joyful sparkle in a child’s eyes? Priceless……
If you should have any questions and or comments on this article please contact Lesley@santanewsjournal.com