6.7 Key ideas about making your volunteers heroes

  • Using volunteers is one of the most popular elements of interactive presentations in informal education. This tool, however, is a double-edged sword, as it also carries risks.


  • The audience believe the way you treat their representative on stage is how you also feel about each of them.  So, whilst bonding well with your helper immediately connects you to all of the crowd, mistreating them in any way will destroy that connection just as quickly.


  • You must be seen to choose help fairly across every demographic you can imagine. You can use a combination of public and private criteria to guide your selection towards volunteers who are expressive, co-operative and capable; and, ideally, who are likeable, relate well to you and give you just enough attitude to play off.


  • Individual spectators are continually sending you lots of clues about how good a volunteer they might make.  You need to learn how to notice and remember these signals at the same time as delivering your presentation.


  • With reluctant groups, convince yourself that the first person you ask to help will comply without dissent. Your voice and body need to communicate absolute confidence, without showing any tension or doubt.


  • Welcome your volunteers onstage warmly as if they are guests to your professional home. The quicker you can get them to relax, the more expressive, authentic and watchable they will become.


  • Ask for their name when they arrive onstage and use it naturally throughout the routine. This helps to put them at their ease, demonstrates your friendliness and gives you more precise control. Be careful to pronounce their name correctly.


  • Always protect the physical and emotional safety of your volunteers. They can feel nervous and vulnerable in this unfamiliar setting. This makes them more likely to be clumsy or to make mistakes; and it also makes them acutely sensitive to any negative audience reactions.


  • Your role is to make your volunteer a hero in the improvised double act you are doing with them. Give them room to shine. Encourage them to contribute. Nurture how they express their personality. Ensure that they succeed at any activities you ask them to do.


  • Work hard to hone your instructions so that they are as clear, yet as concise, as possible. It’s hard for you to truly appreciate how confusing a task may seem to a volunteer in the spotlight.


  • Children love when you place adults they care about in apparent jeopardy as a volunteer. The risk to the teacher or parent can be to their physical being, their property or their dignity. No matter how bad the developing situation may look, however, it is essential that the adult trusts that you are not going to actually harm or humiliate them.


  • Train the audience to applaud every volunteer equally as they return to their seat.  Join in this applause in a sincere way. This makes everyone feel good and shows your appreciation for how much they have added to the presentation.


Hook Your Audience (volume 1) Copyright © 2021 by HOOK training limited. All Rights Reserved.

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