I’m honored to have been interviewed by Jonathan Burton for his “The Professional Santa Claus’” podcast.
This was recorded on August 17th, 2018 & released on March 16th, 2019.
You can access the podcast here… http://santaclauspodcast.com/episode-27-california-dreaming-with-santa-and-a-surf-board
Yesterday I drove by a children’s play center and I was reminded of a time Lori & I appeared there as Santa & Mrs. Claus. It was a Christmas party for the women and children of a local Women’s Shelter.
A few blocks away I passed a park with a Rec Center I appeared at for another group of disadvantaged children and their parents. This park was in the neighborhood of the home where I made a “Make-A-Wish” visit.
I drive these streets all of the time, and most times I don’t give much thought to these places. Yesterday for some reason was different. It’s difficult to figure out why we think what we think and when we think it.
During the 7 years that I was a volunteer Santa here in Southern Oregon, I made memories I’ll never forget.
I had never heard the phrase “passion projects” at that time, but that’s exactly what portraying Santa Claus was for me at that time… a PASSION PROJECT.
Of course, my Passion Project evolved. It turned into what is now referred to as a ‘Side-Hustle’ (a part-time job that you down on the side of your full-time job).
Over time my full-time job (I was a self-employed marketing consultant, coach & service provider) evolved into several “gig-jobs”. I have clients who hire me for in-person Santa appearances. I also get gigs as Santa for TV shows & commercials. I have a gig as a trainer, curator & host at the Santa Claus Conservatory. I still get gigs to provide marketing consulting & services. And of course, I still do volunteer work.
For a time I was thinking that my Passion Project had been replaced by “Gig Jobs” but the more I thought about the more I discovered that just isn’t the case, in fact, it’s the opposite. Gig Jobs have been added to my passion project!
ALL of the things I’m doing excite & inspire me. I do them for my own satisfaction and while I hope other like and benefit from what I do, I do what I do because I enjoy doing them… this is the definition of a Passion Project!
I bring this up as something to consider. Is your Santa portrayal a “Gig Job” or a “Passion Project”?
Of course, the words we use to describe the events of our lives have a huge impact on how we feel about things.
For example, if you say (think) “I’m really nervous about speaking before this big audience at this Tree Lighting ceremony.” You ‘feel’ a certain way.
If, on the other hand, you say (think) “I’m really excited about speaking before this big audience at this Tree Lighting ceremony.” You feel a different way.
You might being thinking; BUT I’M NERVOUS NOT EXCITED!
Maybe that’s true… I don’t know, let’s say t is.
Are you still going to go do the event? My bet is yes.
Your thoughts have any impact on your performance?
Do you think your performance might be better if you were thinking you were excited rather than nervous?
Which state would you find more enjoyable?
The language we use and the questions we ask (think about) have a HUGE impact on our emotions. What if you asked yourself (or told yourself) that I’m 10% excited and 90% nervous.. Or maybe it’s 20% & 80%. 🙂
You get the idea. You can have fun with your thoughts… and my guess is that you will have more fun at your event, and the audience will too.
This is the same idea with your “gig-job”, “side-hustle”, Santa job, etc. Is your Santa portrayal actually a “passion project”?
A little food for thought.
Here’s an excerpt from this wonderful session…
In January I had the great pleasure of attending a session by Santa Michael Wubker Sr, the Inland Empire Chapter President of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas.
Michael’s session was terrific. He shared some wonderful short stories he uses at home parties and other personal appearances… and now he’s providing an even more expanded version of that session for Santas nationally & internationally.
NOW AVAILABLE to members ‘On-Demand‘
FREE Members have access until 4-15-19 after that access will be limited to Bronze – Platinum level members.
ABOUT SANTA MICHAEL
Santa Michael began the portrayal of Santa Claus at 16 years old when asked by his older sister to make a Santa visit to her preschool class. He donned a well-worn suit with a vinyl belt and boot spats, oh yes a pillow for a round belly. Michael learned a valuable lesson that day, the Santa outfit is not near as important as the Santa heart.
61 years later Michael wears a leather belt, leather boots, sleigh bells, Santas magic key he has numerous professional suits and no longer needs the pillow. Michael carries on the Santa heart and his passion is not only to share it with children and families but to also mentor fellow Santas around the world.
In 2013 Michael became a real bearded Santa after watching the documentary, “Becoming Santa“. He used his career background as a business manager, customer care manager, minister, public address announcer, and motivational speaker to create a successful Santa business. Santa Michael Wubker has worked as a Mall Santa, Performing Santa, visited hundreds of families, corporate venues and charities.
Some of his clients include the San Manuel Tribal Community, Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Cerebral Palsy Movement, In-n-Out Burger, BassPro, DreamWorks Santa Experience. Santa Michael has also been the in-store and tv commercial advertisement for PetsMart during the past three Christmas seasons. Santa Michael has been featured twice in MEL men’s magazine. Santa Michael serves the Santa community as the current President of the FORBS Inland Empire Santas in Southern California.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen several Facebook posts about Santas competing with one another… Santas lowballing to get gigs, etc. The topic even came up during our sessions The Santa Claus Conservatory his week and again yesterday in a phone call with a Santa in the mid-west.
Here’s my take on it…
Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal said, “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition.”
ESCAPE THE COMPETITION…
I see competition as a double-edged sword. It causes us Santas to “raise our game” and that’s definitely a good thing… but if you fail to escape the competition you can find that competition sucks the fun and money out of portraying Santa.
The reason? If you don’t escape the competition you can find yourself in an ongoing battle of who can slightly out-do the other for cheaper and cheaper rates. It’s a race to the bottom for all parties involved.
Instead of trying to compete with other Santas, it’s better to escape the competition by doing something completely novel or to focus on a tightly defined niche.
Once you’ve established yourself as particular kind of Santa, a singing Santa, magician, storyteller, ‘Smart Santa’, etc. you can set your own terms — rather than reactively responding to the competition, you escape it.
I call this becoming ‘sought-after’.
When customers, or potential customers, want YOU… not just ‘a Santa’… but YOU SPECIFICALLY, that’s when things change. At that point, you are not competing with anyone.
Of course, many people will not hire you, many people will not want a ‘singing Santa’, or a ‘storyteller’, etc. that’s OK. And of course, there will be people who won’t want to pay a premium fee. That’s OK too.
I’m OK with not being the right Santa for everybody… What I want is to be the perfect Santa for some people, people who are looking for exactly what I love to deliver as Santa.
How about you? Can you distinguish yourself from other Santas in your area? Can you build a customer base who want exactly what YOU provide?
I believe that by developing a unique skill set, or persona, and implementing a little marketing you can stop competing with other Santas… and you can become sought after.
By doing that you can escape the competition and you can define success for yourself based on own own unique values and you can opt-out of the race for the bottom.
What do you think? Does this make sense to you or is it utter nonsense? LEAVE YOUR COMMENT BELOW
About 30 years ago, LONG before I ever portrayed Santa Claus, I began the study of microexpressions. At that time I was on a mission to become more comfortable with public speaking. I was a member of Toastmasters International, taking classes and attending many different training sessions on becoming a better communicator. During that time I was introduced to the research on microexpressions.
I AM NOT endorsing any of these websites or anything they may offer. I’m ONLY providing links to them to help familiarize you with microexpressions if you are not already familiar with them. You can learn more about microexpressions here- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Microexpression & here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGhOuA3rr1k & here https://www.scienceofpeople.com/microexpressions/
The basic idea is pretty simple, it’s this. We (all people) subconsciously have micro reactions in our facial muscles that express our emotions… these true emotional indicators are present, (ever so briefly) even when we consciously are expressing other emotions or simply acting in ways that are more polite or more socially acceptable.
There are 2 ways that an awareness of these microexpressions can help us become even better at portraying Santa (as well as in all of our communications).
The 1st is in our ability to better ‘read’ a child, or parent, we are engaging with as Santa.
The 2nd is in our ability to better express the emotions we want to express as Santa. This can help us create better photos & videos.
GET A BETTER ‘READ’…
Of course, some children are very easy to read… especially the younger ones who are terrified or thrilled to see Santa. One comes running with open arms and the other is drug kicking & screaming or they just don’t get near Santa at all… easy enough.
Where we are helped by being familiar with microexpressions is not so much on the extremes as in the middle. The child who is hesitant but curious. When we can recognize that little spark of curiosity, or wonder, or surprise, we have something to build on.
By understanding how to interpret microexpressions and then by paying close attention to the eyes, lips, brow, nose & cheeks we can get a ‘read’ on what the child (or adult) is feeling.
Here’s an example, many times when I’ve determined the child is afraid but also curious I’ve suggested that the child just stands to the side for a few minutes and I’ll talk with him in a few minutes.
I’ve also had times when a parent looked concerned because their child was crying or very reluctant to visit with me. In times like this, I’ve often said something to put the parent at ease. I might say something like, “Oh, my goodness… you’re full grown. I remember when you were your daughter’s age. You have always been so nice. I’m glad to see you again, please tell me, who is this?”
By engaging with the adult it takes the pressure off of the child. It also provides an opportunity for the child to access us and the relationship we have with the adult… the child is getting a ‘read’ on us.
You may well have done these things too… at some level recognizing microexpressions is intuitive for most of us but the more deliberate we become at looking for & recognizing microexpressions the more effectively we can use them to improve our Santa portrayal.
Emotions are tricky and the better we can become at recognizing them EARLY the better position we’re in to nip any negative emotions in the bud before they taint the whole Santa experience.
BETTER EXPRESS OUR SANTA CLAUS CHARACTERISTICS
By being knowledgeable of, and conscious about, our expressions, micro and otherwise, we can improve our photos & videos.
Here’s an EXCELLENT EXERCISE for you. In front of a mirror, or better yet in front of a webcam that’s video recording, start with a solemn or regular face and slowly smile with your eyes. Keep your lips and everything else the same. Using ONLY YOUR EYES smile. Practice this… if at all possible video record yourself doing this and watch and re-watch the video.
Do the same thing using ONLY your lips.
The idea with these exercises is to become aware of when the very slightest indications that you are happy, or in our case, JOLLY become visible. Understanding how to subtly convey your jolly demeanor allows you a wider range of Santa-like expressions… it can also help you change your ‘set-point’ or your ‘resting Santa face’, so even when you are not ‘on’ you still look Santa-like.
It’s amazing how instinctual it is for us to ‘read’ these body language clues. My granddaughter is only 11 months old and she’s been able to ‘read’ emotions from both looks & vocal tones for a while now.
When she’s doing something she questions, like reaching for something on an end table, she will often look over to me and see my reaction. I can give her a ‘no’ nod with an unhappy look and she gets it… the same with a ‘yes’ nod and a smile.
I’m certain that increasing my consciousness of these non-verbal clues has helped me become a better Santa Claus portrayal artist.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please leave your comments below and/or join the discussion in our Facebook Group.
Just last week I had a person who works with a large number of Santas tell me that in his office they often talk about how rude and ‘un-Santa-like’ many Santas are.
I’m not talking about when Santas are performing… although that can be an issue too. In fact, on jobs, both at malls and private parties, I’ve had clients mention that their prior Santa was grumpy, not jolly… or a jerk.
The person last week was NOT talking about Santas in character… he was talking about the men who portray Santa when they’re just ‘being themselves’. He and his co-workers were shocked by the incongruence, and he didn’t say it, but I suspect they were a bit disappointed as well.
Like me, you’ve probably seen this grumpy side of Santa portrayers in Facebook groups or heard about it from your clients.
Of course, I know we’re all adults, and none of us are perfect… and I have no problem with people being rude or communicating like jerks if that’s the way they want to communicate… to each his own.
My concern is there are Santas out there who have no idea they are being perceived as ‘not Santa-like’.
Are YOU being perceived as grumpy, or even a jerk, and NOT EVEN KNOWING IT?
We all fall into habits of all sorts… including our vocabulary and patterns of communication.
You’ve seen people who talk too loud, use tones and inflections that are too aggressive, use language that’s off-putting, rude or even offensive. When the person is ‘over the top’ it’s very obvious to everyone… including the person talking.
It’s when it’s NOT ‘over the top’ that I think it can be the most harmful… and you’re likely not even aware of it. You’re just “being yourself.”
In verbal communications, our pace, tone, and volume add emotion to our words… and these things are INTERPRETED by our listeners. In other words when we’re talking to a small group, say 2 or 3 people, each of them can walk away with a different understanding and feeling about what we said.
To communicate more effectively we must gauge our communications to our audience. We already do this all the time when we’re portraying Santa. As Santa, we recognize children who are a bit frightened, shy or perhaps on the autism spectrum… and we adjust our communications accordingly. We lower our volume and use a softer more inviting tone. We slow our pace. We customize our communications to the needs of this particular individual.
As it turns out, customizing our communications for adults is a good idea too.
In person with adults, we don’t usually get the obvious visual cues that we get from a bashful 4-year-old. This is where being acutely aware is helpful. Watching and listening for very subtle signals can benefit us immensely. In person we can see micro facial expressions, tensing, loosening, a hint of a smile or creasing of the brow.
Over the phone, we can listen for a change in tone, or pace, or a pregnant pause prior to a response. These are all signs that we may want to modify the way we’re communicating in order to be more effective and considerate of the person we are communicating with.
In writing it’s all about the words and sentence structure. In fact, it was written words that prompted the conversation I started this post with… the person who works with Santas. It was after reading a message from a Santa that he brought up the topic of grumpy and ‘not very Santa-like’ Santas.
To increase the likelihood of having our written communications interpreted as being nice, kind, considerate, thoughtful and all of the other traits that we associate as ‘Santa-like’ we can use words and sentence structures that convey or imply a ‘nicer’ tone.
If we write (or say), “I was not happy when I saw that you…” it conveys a message.
If we write (or say), “I was disappointed when I saw that you…” it conveys a different message.
If we write (or say), “I was surprised when I saw that you…” it conveys yet a different message.
“I was not happy when I saw that you charged me twice for the same thing.” VS
“I was surprised when I saw that you charged me twice for the same thing.”
Does one seem nicer or more ‘Santa-like’ than the other?
Of course, we also think with words. When we changed the words we use verbally we often also change the words we use for thinking. This also works in reverse. When we begin to use different (or additional) words in our thinking we tend to use them in our written & verbal communications as well.
Let’s say you use the words mad and angry pretty consistently. Of course, these words are rather intense.
What if you added some words that provided more of an incremental scale. What words convey an emotion that’s less intense than anger? How about upset? Unsettled? Peeved? Disappointed? Hurt? Surprised?
By spending a little time identifying words that are more precise and words that convey different levels of intensity and then using these words as tools we can better adjust our communications just as we would do with that frightened child.
With some thought and practice, we can modify how we communicate, we can change old habits, and we can create a better experience for both the person we are communicating with… and for ourselves.
The fact of the matter is that many of us Santas derive a lot of personal satisfaction from turning what could have been a negative experience for a child and their family into a positive experience. We often credit our sensitivity and our skills with this positive outcome.
My hope is that by applying this same sensitivity and perhaps some new, or dormant, skills we can become more ‘Santa-like’ in ALL of our communications… and even change our thinking so it too is more Santa like all year ‘round.
Last week’s training session on “How to Get the Most out of GigSalad” was another huge success.
Megan Price the Director of Customer Experience for GigSalad provided information that even longtime GigSalad users found VERY HELPFUL… and we all loved the limited time 50% discount on GigSalad membership she provided, especially knowing that we can ‘freeze’ our account.
The ‘on-demand’ version of this session is now available to Bronze- Platinum Members and all other membership levels have access for the duration of your membership… but the discount code for GigSalad expires on 2/13/19
CURRENT GOLD & PLATINUM MEMBERS The registration links for our February, March & April sessions are now available. You will find the link to the registration links on your Hub Page.
The first live session is Wednesday, Feb. 6th. The live sessions are being held on the first 3 Wednesday’s of February, March & April. We start promptly at 5:30PM Pacific Time & sessions typically last about 90minutes. Please register for all of the upcoming sessions as soon as possible.
CONSIDERING GOLD MEMBERSHIP?
Winter enrollment closes Tuesday, February 5th! REGISTER HERE
Here’s what you get…
GOLD & PLATINUM members receive access to our 9 2019 LIVE ‘Core Curriculum’ sessions (and the on-demand versions). Here’s what’s covered:
CLASS 1- How to Set Up Your Santa Business to Maximize Your Fun & Income
CLASS 2- How to Market Your Santa Business for Maximum Fun & Income
CLASS 3- Home Visits- How to Book More & Perform Better
CLASS 1- How to Become an Extraordinary Santa Claus
CLASS 2- How to Use Video Chats to Boost Your Income While Having Fun from Home
CLASS 3- How to Book & Perform Corporate Visits
CLASS 1- How to Get on TV for Fun and Profits
CLASS 2- How to Develop Other Revenue Sources as Santa Claus
CLASS 3- How to Book & Perform Community Events
AND as a GOLD or PLATINUM Member… you also receive access to ALL of the on-demand sessions from 2014 to the present. This is currently 79 SESSIONS!
Platinum members also receive group and individual coaching on how to get paid TV & movie work.
Gold Membership is $247 & Platinum is $397. You can join either level with monthly payments of $50 if you prefer. Pop me an email and let me know you would like the monthly plan & I’ll send you an invoice.
NON-MEMBERS You can become a FREE member now and access:
- Get the Most Out of GigSalad (Available until 2-6-19)
- 18 Tips to Make This Your Best Santa Season EVER!
..The handout for the “18 Tips” session
- My “Engagement Agreement” Word doc
. Generic Engagement Agreement Header
- Sign Language (ASL) Booklet by Santa Thomas McDonald
… ASL session taught be Kat Imhausen
BRONZE MEMBERS ($27 for 12 months): You receive these 9 additional sessions…
- How to Get the Most Out of GigSalad
- Being a ‘Brand Ambassador’ w/ Randy Cook & Using ‘SWOT’ to Improve Your Santa Business w/ Derek Dugan
- The “Santa & Mrs. Claus 2018 Season Debrief” session
- 9 Do’s & Don’ts for Santa & Mrs. Claus
- Being a Mall Santa with Kristi Cooper of WWP
- Storytelling as Santa – Coal Story –Jimmy Hyatt
- Storytelling Session 08-03-17
- 18 Common, Costly & Embarrassing Mistakes Made by Pro Santas & Mrs. Clauses
- 2017 Santa & Mrs. Claus Debrief Session
SILVER MEMBERS ($147 for 12 months): You receive these 16 additional sessions…
- On-Camera with Michelle McCarty-Jessica Kringle
- Maximize Your Income & Impact
- Being More Santa Like All Year Round
- 12 Ways Santas Have Earned More Money
- 18 Common Santa Mistakes Session
- Social Marketing & More with Mark Ramsey
- 9 Do’s & Don’ts for Santa & Mrs. Claus 2017
- Being a Mall Santa: Soup to Nuts with Gordon Bailey
- 7 Ways to Increase Your Income by Thousands of $ This Santa Season
- 18 Common, Costly & Embarrassing Mistakes Made by Pro Santas & Mrs. Clauses
- 101 Questions for Santa (with Answers)
- TAX SESSION with Santa Steve Eastis
- 9 Tips to Earn More Money & Have More Fun in 2016
- Beard Whitening & Care
- Being Mrs. Claus
- Being Santa Claus for Children with Special Needs
If you have any questions give me a call at 424-343-9555 or email me at Santa @ SantaEd dot com
WINTER REGISTRATION CLOSES ON FEBRUARY 5th for Gold & Platinum membership. Core Curriculum sessions start on February 6th.
SPECIAL GUEST- Megan Price.
Megan is the Director of Customer Experience for GigSalad. She’s been with the company for over 6 years, working in the areas of marketing and customer service.
Megan has also organized multiple events that required booking talent, so she has an insight into both sides of the industry. Her passion is helping people make a living doing what they love!
GigSalad & GigMasters have some Santas saying they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread… while others are saying they are a waste of time, money & effort.
In this session, we’ll also learn from the experiences of others Santas. We find out what has worked for them and what hasn’t.
To ACCESS this session become a member at the Bronze level or higher.
This session is designed especially for Santas & Mrs. Clauses who are seriously interested in growing their Santa business.
BEING A BRAND AMBASSADOR – Santa Randy Cook from Seattle will be joining us to talk about some of his experiences being a Brand Ambassador for several companies. Randy will provide you with unique insight into an aspect of portraying Santa Claus that few have ever done… and it can be a ton of fun & VERY lucrative. I will also share about my 2 years as a Brand Ambassador for Hello Santa.
SWOT FOR SANTA – Derek Dugan in Atlanta will explain what a SWOT Analysis is and how your Santa business can benefit from using this proven business tool. Derek will also provide an example of a SWOT Analysis. By the way, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats. I used this business analysis format for many years in my Internet marking business and still use it when I’m consulting/coaching Encore Entrepreneurs.
We will answer questions on both of the above topics and any other marketing related questions that are posed to the panel.
TO ACCESS THIS SESSION ‘ON-DEMAND’ BECOME MEMBER AT THE BRONZE LEVEL OR HIGHER
ABOUT RANDY: Randy Cook is a Santa in the Seattle WA area. He has been a professional artist, a firefighter/EMT, and a teacher. Presently, he works in a public school with students that have had adverse childhood experiences. While working full-time as a teacher this last Santa season he was able to do over 40 appearances. Most all of his appearances are developed by his online marketing from his website. Along with these appearances he has marketed personally to be a Brand Ambassador Santa for a motorcycle company, and for an outdoor clothing company that has been in Seattle since 1897.
ABOUT DEREK: In addition to portraying Santa Derek Dugan is an advertising and marketing coach specializing in developing and expanding brand presence, increasing visibility and driving consumers to purchase and engage in products or services offered through that brand.
Some of the most notable brands Derek has been associated with include, Walt Disney World Design and Development, Walt Disney Resort Design, Sea World, Scholastic Books, The Orlando Magic, Grand Hyatt, Bahama Tourism, Suntrust, United Community Bank, Barclay, SearsCard, American Flat Track Racing, Harley Davidson Motorcycle, and Indian Motorcycle.
This FREE webinar is open to ALL Santas & Mrs. Clauses world-wide. You can register here- https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2206945632810468865
Download this handout to use during the session: 18 Tips Handout 01-19