There’s a knack in learning when and how to release your helpers to confirm their role as heroes and to give the routine a satisfying sense of completion.
Dismiss volunteers promptly
Don’t keep them hanging around once they have completed their role onstage. This can make them feel uncomfortable and they can end up pulling focus from what you are doing. If you find a pattern of helpers trying to escape too early, then you may need to consider how well you are keeping them engaged throughout the routine. They should not be in any doubt when it’s time to go back to the audience. With younger children you might need to explain more clearly that they can now “return to their seat.”
It is better, theatrically, to finish the presentation alone on stage. So, if your finale requires assistance, execute it in two phases — the first to thank your volunteers and release them; and the second to close the presentation by yourself and to accept the applause of the audience.
Organise public applause
It is essential to thank every volunteer after they have helped you. Most presenters do this through orchestrating, and contributing to, a round of applause for them. After all, they’ve become heroes and have assisted in creating some of the most memorable parts of the presentation. This makes the volunteer feel good, allows the audience to show their appreciation, and demonstrates your gratitude and warmth towards them. Everyone wins.
Develop a range of ways of cueing this applause rather than just parroting out the same phrase each time. Try to personalise it in terms of what they did or what happened in the routine. An old showbiz technique to cue clapping is to announce that, “I’m sure the audience will go wild with applause as Zoe [achieves goal]” just before the climax of the routine.
After the first few times, you should have trained the crowd sufficiently that you only need to thank the helper verbally, for the audience to begin to clap for them. Monitor the applause to ensure that it does not get progressively shorter and quieter during the presentation. This is unfair to later assistants.
Consider giving private thanks
Some educators will share a short personal word of gratitude with selected volunteers as the audience are applauding. They reserve this treatment for golden volunteers or people who have struggled with the task. Sometimes this technique is used by experienced presenters to affect how the group perceives them. They know the audience can see them doing this and by targeting helpers who were particularly vulnerable or likeable, they can grow their own likeability and trust significantly.
Cut your losses, if necessary
Occasionally, despite your careful selection procedure, a volunteer can behave completely differently on stage than you expected. If they become shy, or even freeze, you can decide if bringing up someone else to work with them would help.
If, however, they try to take over, don’t be afraid to thank them and let them return to the audience. You don’t have much time as a presenter to adjust their behaviour and you shouldn’t sacrifice the entire routine for the sake of a difficult volunteer. At this point, you can then find another helper or complete the routine without assistance. You don’t have to make a big deal of this change or even verbally acknowledge it, you just carry on with the presentation.