My 2nd & 3rd Santa appearances were parades followed by Tree Lighting ceremonies.
Thankfully the mistake happened at the second event… making sure I didn’t repeat it the following evening.
It was 14 years ago but I remember it vividly. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. I had attended the parade many times before. I knew thousands of people were already filling the plaza and lining the streets just I had done with my family many times in the past.
This year I was wearing a Santa suit standing ready to take my place in the back of the decorated truck that would carry me down the parade route.
When the parade ended I would be lead up to the balcony of a local restaurant where I would countdown from 10 to 1 for the “Grand Illumination”… but wait… the event organizer made her way over to me saying. “Santa, when you get to the balcony please thank our sponsors… here I made a list for you.”
Understand, I was a trained professional speaker. I had spoken to large groups before (my largest was about 1,800 people) but this was many thousands of people and I wasn’t being me, I was portraying Santa Claus. I didn’t want to just get up there and read a boring list… I wanted to express sincere thanks, just as imagined Santa would.
MY MISTAKE WAS THIS- I Didn’t Ask Ahead of Time if There Was Anything They Wanted Me to Say to the Crowd
I think I pulled it off OK but it would have been SO MUCH more comfortable if I had been given the list of who to thank and practiced my speech a few dozen times prior to the big moment.
In the years following, I was sure to ask if there were any changes in who I was to thank and I expanded my speech just a bit over the years… adding magic to the event that people still mention to me 10 years later.
So my advice is to ALWAYS ask your event organizer what they would like you to say, who you will be appearing with and importantly, are there any announcements about what the crowd should do next after the Lightning, perhaps meet you for photos, or enjoy other entertainment.
These large Community Events are a wonderful way to kick-off the Christmas season. I love them… and while I’m always flexible at these types of events it’s nice to have most of the big details worked out ahead of time.