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A Blast from the Past

The Santa Claus Conservatory is now 3 1/2 years old.

Check this out. From March 24, 2015. It’s the 1st video I posted on this website:

We now have 2,128 members worldwide with the VAST majority being FREE members.

I HUGE THANK YOU to our paid members, Platinum, Gold & Silver for helping to make this resource available.

FREE Members… now is a great time to upgrade. Click Here

Will This ‘Magic Bullet’ Improve EVERY Santa Appearance?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our Santa performances, appearances and personal inter-actions and I believe I may have identified the single most important thing we can do to improve every single interaction we have as Santa.

Is this the ‘secret’ to the “heart connection” between Santa Claus & everyone he interacts with?

See if you agree and please leave your comments below…

Could the magic bullet for improving Santa performance be RAPPORT?


[ra-pawr, -pohr, ruh-]


A close and harmonious relationship in which the people understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.

What is rapport?

In a word rapport is a connection.

Rapport is based on mutual confidence, respect, and acceptance. I believe enhance the magic & Spirit of Santa when we engage every person we interact with in a way that builds this heart to heart connection.

Of course, there’s no one way of establishing rapport. Each child (and adult) is unique and has individual characteristics that influence their ways of interacting.

Learning how to make an initial connection between Santa and the child is obviously important and there’s a bunch of literature demonstrating the importance of rapport for business people.

Dale Carnegie’s best-selling book “How to Make Friends and Influence People” lays out a series of very specific and practical “how to’s” for rapport building that I have used for decades.

Many of these were covered in last week’s training session- “Up Your Santa Game – Rapport

While establishing trust and gaining rapport can seem intuitive, it is not certain. In reflecting on my own experiences, my rapport with children and adults has been established in many different ways. Also, my ability to establish rapport has improved through the years, due, at least in part, to reflection when things have gone well or poorly.

Understanding the components of rapport, examining my experiences, and recognizing the obstacles to rapport helps me in my reflection.


Sensitivity to the comfort level of a child is necessary to establish rapport.

One of the elements of rapport is commonality. When a child is timid or reserved and we are big and boisterous we lose commonality. The technique we want to employ is often referred to as “mirror & matching”, meaning to reflect back the behavior of the other person.

We also want to be sensitive to the language development of the child. I have asked children “What would you like for Christmas?” And “What do you want for Christmas?”

Many times, 4, 5 and even 6-year old children are confused by the word “like” in this context. The may like going swimming, or like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches… but their list for Santa doesn’t have what they would like, it has what they want.

I have found that asking questions can be a great we start establishing rapport.

Nonverbal Cues

In his book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” Charles Darwin wrote in-depth about facial expressions and the way they serve as a universal communication system for people.

Nonverbal cues can give you keys to building and maintaining rapport.

Observing a child’s gait as they walk toward you, are they tentative or excited? Their fine and gross coordination can tip you off to possible disabilities or difficulties. Posture and quality & tone of voice will provide you with information you can use to establish rapport.

The environment is also a contributing factor to the ease with which rapport is built. If Santa is in a big throne sitting on a stage this can be intimidating.

Obstacles to Rapport

One obstacle to gaining rapport with a child is the level of anxiety in the child. This can be an issue with children of all ages, but it’s more common in young children.

Anxiety can reveal itself in many ways, including very subtle ways like frequent use of fillers, such as “ah”, slips of the tongue, repetitions, stuttering, and many others can be interpreted as signs of anxiety.

You can often help relieve the anxiety with expressions of empathy which can combat anxiety and provide the child with comfort in an unfamiliar situation. Acknowledge the child’s feelings without minimizing them.

How to Improve Your Rapport Building Skills

In addition to Gold & Platinum level sessions on this topic, I highly recommend reading or listening to Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. I also recommend Tony Robbins’ book “Unlimited Power”. Joining Toastmasters International is another terrific way to work on build this and many other skills that can help you become an even more extraordinary Santa Claus.

What do you think, is the ability to establish rapport the magic bullet for all Santa performances?

Please leave your thoughts below…

Take Your Santa VISIT Skills to the Next Level

What can you do to improve our Santa portrayal this season?

See if this holds true for you…

I became a Santa Claus portrayal artist because I loved how I felt, and how I made others feel when I appeared as Santa.

My decision to portray Santa was based on an emotional connection & response. Does that make sense to you?

In my ongoing quest to improve my Santa portrayal, I discovered the importance of COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

“UP YOUR SANTA COMMUNICATIONS GAME” Gold & Platinum members login to register.

Very rarely do I ‘perform’ as Santa Claus. I don’t do stage shows. I don’t do magic or twist balloons.

At perhaps 30 to 50% of my visits I tell stories (very short 3 to 5 minutes stories), I read a book and/or sing some Christmas songs… none of these things do I do as a ‘performer’ I do them more as a grandfather, pretty much how I would do them with my own family.

Does that make sense?

Here’s an approximate breakdown of my in-person appearances:

  • I’ll work a few days in malls
  • I’ll do 30-40 home parties
  • I’ll do 30-40 company parties
  • I’ll do a few of Tree Lightings & parades (and visits with children after)
  • I’ll make appearances at a few schools & churches
  • I’ll do a few ‘Breakfast with Santa’ events
  • I’ll do some in-studio & on-location photo shoots with families
  • I’ll do some ‘sneak-a-peeks’ and Christmas morning visits

My COMMUNICATION SKILLS will be used in 100% of these appearances.

Join this session to learn skills & techniques “Up Your Santa Communications Game”. You will learn tips to help establish rapport, increase engagement, interpret non-verbal communication, listening, wit, improv, and more.

This is a GOLD & PLATINUM Member session. Login & Go to your Hub Page to register.

Free Santa Claus School

This training session for Santas & Mrs. Clauses covers specific things you can do to:

  • Have more fun
  • Have greater impact
  • Increase your income


Attendance at the live session is limited to 100. All Santas & Mrs. Clauses who register will also receive a link to watch the video replay of the free Santa Claus school training session.

This free session is sponsored by the Gold & Platinum members of The Santa Claus Conservatory.

Getting That Elusive ‘Perfect Picture’ with Santa

In 2011, after 7 seasons of being a “volunteer Santa”, I decided to try my hand at being a professional “paid” Santa.

Santa Tim Connaghan hired me for my first 3 real professional Santa jobs. The first 2 were in Medford, Oregon doing ‘photo work’ at the local Walmart & Sears portrait studios.

In my 7 seasons, I had posed for thousands of photos… but these were all FREE photos. The photographer and I were volunteers and there was no cost for the photos. This was the first time people were actually going to PAY to have photos taken with me. 

I’ve been blessed with a nice smile that I’ve received compliments on since grade school, and as a professional speaker and with a long career a sales & marketing I was accustomed to smiling and projecting a nice image. I also received many, hundreds, of compliments about my earlier Santa photos… but still, now people were going to be paying for studio portraits with Santa… I felt I needed to up my game

During my years as portraying Santa I had modified the traditional say “CHEESE” when having a photo taken to the more seasonal, say “Candy Cane”, which was fun and actually worked pretty well, but in the preparation material I received from Tim I was given a new tip.

Instead of saying and having the children say the traditional “cheese” Tim suggested using the word “Yeah!” (yeah – ye(ə) exclamation & noun. Nonstandard spelling of yes.)

As it turns out when we say “Yeah!” our mouth naturally forms a smile shape. Try it.  Say  Yeahaaa!

It’s a great tip… it does help get better photos!

That got me thinking about what else I could do to improve the photos.

I started practicing my smile. I made a greater effort to keep my mustache groomed up and off my upper lip. I ‘tested’ dozens of hand & head positions until I found “looks” that I liked.

Since learning this tip from Tim, and becoming more aware of other ‘smile words’ & poses 8 years ago, I’ve had the unique privilege of being in many photoshoots, some with world-class photographers taking photos for print ads, shooting videos & commercials and these “techniques” have served me really well.

I’ve also found that practice REALLY helped me improve. (Imagine that.)   🙂

By taking selfies and videos on my phone and webcam and then really giving them a critical examination, and showing them to others and getting their opinions, I have found many little things that have improved both my appearance and the appearance of my photo partners.

If you’re a Gold or Platinum member now is an excellent time to review the session on working with professional photographers and photo studios with Santas Cliff Snider, Marty Jorgenson & Patrick Faulds.

Working with photographers and photo studios is a great way to have even more fun, and earn more money, portraying Santa.

How Get Powerful Reviews/Testimonials for Your Santa Business

The words of happy customers can bring about amazing increases in ‘conversion rates’.

This is a slightly ‘re-purposed’ post from my website- https://encore-entrepreneur-learning-center.com it’s more business-oriented than many of my posts but it’s also very applicable to our Santa businesses.

Think about the last time you were looking to hire a contractor or some type of professional for a service. Or, say, the last time you were about to purchase an expensive item.

Who did you consult with before making your decision? Did you ask a friend or colleague for recommendations? Did you consult a consumer report about the expensive item’s performance?

Just like you and I, most people would. You see, word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there. Buyers want to confirm that they’re making the right decision by hearing about positive experiences from other buyers and friends.

As a business owner, you can use testimonials or reviews to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. Reviews will help alleviate concerns in the hiring process. Potential customers weighing their purchase decisions will have more confidence knowing that someone else has had a positive experience or seen the promised results.

A strong review program will you help you get more and better bookings. Sound good?

In this little mini E-Class we will cover:

  • How reviews boost conversions
  • How asking for reviews can boost repeat business
  • Types of reviews
  • How to get reviews for your Santa business
  • What makes reviews ‘good’ or credible

The presence of reviews in your marketing materials and on your website will increase your conversion rate (the percentage of potential customers those who actually book you).

Your conversion rate is directly related to your ability to build immediate trust with prospective clients. When you use reviews some of this work is already done for you.

Reviews tell prospective customers about the opinions and experiences of other buyers, which builds trust, establishes credibility and reduces perceived purchase risk.

  • Trust: People have an inherent skepticism towards marketing material and it takes time to build trust and rapport with prospective buyers. Reviews build trust because they come from third party, unbiased sources.
  • Credibility: Reviews show that you have been in business for a while and that you have a base of happy customers. This sends a positive message about the quality of your products or services.
  • Perceived Purchase Risk: Another person has hired you, and been satisfied or pleased with the results, so the risk involved in the purchase seems lessened.

The process of gathering reviews naturally encourages repeat and referral business.

Clients who give reviews generally stay loyal to your product or service and will tell their friends and family about it.

Happy customers will be returning customers. However, when a customer shares an opinion or an experience and attaches their name to it, there is an added sense of loyalty created. They’ve publicly declared that they’re a supporter of the product or service in question and will back up that decision if questioned.

When you ask a customer for a review, you’re also asking them to contribute to the growth of your business. Customers who feel they are helping you out will feel a sense of both pride and loyalty to your product or service.

Reviews are also great indicators of word of mouth marketing. If a customer has taken the time to tell you about their positive experience or commit it to writing, they’ve also shared it with their friends. This verbal chain of reviews acts as an informal referral strategy and will boost your referral business

There are 3 different types of reviews you could potentially use to market your Santa business:

  1. Customer: Of course, the strongest and most believable reviews will be one from a satisfied customer. When you use good customer reviews, you should expect to see strong spikes in qualified leads and sales.
  2. Expert Organization: A relevant and credible group or association in your area can offer strong reviews that will carry weight with prospective buyers. The chamber of commerce, a trade organization or a not-for-profit are some examples.
  3. Press: The media’s opinion can also act as a strong review. A reporter’s positive review of your service is an unbiased opinion, so it is likely to be trusted by prospective clients. (I’ve shown you how to use the press to get free publicity in our Gold Member sessions).

Here’s how you can start to gather credible reviews for your marketing strategy.

1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing reviews.

Once you get rolling with your reviews acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store reviews, as well as to track which customers you’ve asked and which you’ve received from.

I recommend creating a list of all of your customers and indicating next to each which you have received reviews from, which you have asked for reviews, and which you should plan to ask for reviews.

Then, create a filing system or binder for organizing and managing reviews. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (Home Visits, Company Party, Not-For-Profit, etc.). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an ongoing part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large number of reviews when you’re setting up your system.

2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited reviews.

Create a folder or system for keeping reviews that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great review to use, so include them in your organization system.

You may need to go back into your files, or your inbox, to locate the feedback and reviews you read but hadn’t used or separated. As long as you get permission from your customer, any review – old and new – is potentially a good one.

3. Start by asking your best customers for reviews.

While you may see a nice number of reviews float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your reviews. You will have to ask for them.

Start with a list of your customers and choose the best 10 – 20%. These are your best customers, and a great place to start requesting reviews.

Use the reviews request letter template in the Marketing section of the Gold Member’s only section as a guide for creating your request letter. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.

Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.

4. Make requesting reviews a part of your relationship building process.

Once you’ve “caught up” on your reviews requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing review collecting. These reviews will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”

The most important point here is to ask for a review as soon as possible after your Santa appearance. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort into writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are the happiest and most willing to help immediately after they see you being their Santa Claus.

  • Ask for the review. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write down what their experience was with your business. Stay on top of your reviews gathering and ask as soon as possible.
  • Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details you can follow up and have them send you their letter or review. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment, and it will be more likely that they’ll follow through.
  • Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that review. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter or email. If you’re going to email them in a week or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan is.
  • Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who don’t write their own. Remember the reviews written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. If possible try to have it printed on their letterhead and signed… although nowadays emails are fine too.

5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.

Thank your customer for their reviews, and use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and anywhere else.

Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email (templates are available in the Gold Member’s only section of the site). Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.

You will want to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited reviews. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad, or send a direct mail campaign. You’ll already have permission.

What makes a ‘good’, credible or useable customer review?


Don’t be afraid to use long reviews, they’re more believable than short ones. Too often businesses like to use one-word reviews in quotations because they’re easy to “sprinkle” all over their marketing material. For example, “…amazing!…”, “…couldn’t believe it…can’t wait to see the next one!”, or “hilarious…wonderful!”.

When a review is super short, your readers will suspect that they’ve been edited to sound positive and that the “…” are masking neutral or negative comments. Be sure to give at least a full sentence, if not two or three, to really let the reviews illustrate the message.

We had Santa Ed and Mrs. Claus at our world record attempt for the most snowmen built in an hour. We had 800 employees and 400 kids and Santa and Mrs. Claus were a hit with everyone one of them! They engaged the kids and adults alike! We will not hesitate to use them in the future!

Carol Lynch
Mattel Toys
El Segundo, CA

It’s longer and won’t squeeze in as easily in a brochure or small ad, but it will have a much stronger impact on the target audience.


Get specific, detailed reviews whenever you can. Ask your customers to provide as much color and description about their experience, and speak to any minuscule aspect they may have been impressed by.

Specific reviews are better than vague or typical-sounding reviews. Too often when you receive a review, you skim through it looking for the summary line that paints your business in the best light, like “We were thrilled with our experience.” This leaves questions in the readers’ mind, like “why?”, “when?”, “what was your experience all about?” and “what thrilled you?” If it only says, “Best service in town,” how will the reader’s know what makes it the best service in town?

The strongest reviews share specific information and paint descriptive pictures or tell stories that engage the reader. They mention points about your Santa visits that matter to other prospective customers, as well as describe the problems they were having before they found you. Detail will help the reader relate to or identify with the satisfied customer’s struggles and frustrations that have been solved by hiring you to be their Santa Claus.


Don’t try to edit or “polish” the reviews you receive from customers. Punctuation and grammar errors contribute to the believability of the statements.

Also, be cautious when editing the reviews for brevity or when cropping statements from a letter or long email. Remember that the customer signed off on you using their words verbatim, so make sure you do. Small edits could change the meaning of the sentences, which could upset customers when they see their names in print.


Back up each reviews with a clear, specific description of who said it, and where they’re from. Attributing statements to vague names like “T.M in Oregon” or “Jim F, Small Business Owner” will dramatically reduce the believability of your review. People are naturally skeptical and will be more likely to believe testimonials that don’t attempt to conceal the identity of the author and include more than the first name.

Attribute each quote to a person’s full name, city, state, and (if relevant) their business name and job title. For example, “Christopher Ford, Seattle, WA” or “Tim Wilson, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Owner of Fancy Meat & Deli Ltd.” The more detail, the more chance of a prospective customer recognizing the name or business and trusting the statement.

Location is important. Because you have a local business, prospects may look to see that others in the community have been pleased with your service. If you happen to serve a national or international market, you can use reviews to show your client reach.

If you have a review from an expert (like a doctor or business leader), be sure to include their credentials to make the most of their endorsement of your business.

It may also be helpful to include the company’s website address, especially if your business markets to other businesses. This is also a nice gesture of thanks to the person who gave their review, since it may encourage your customers to visit their site.

Picture proof.

An image of the customer who wrote the reviews will enhance the impact and believability of the words. The statement is enlivened by the image, and thus carries more validity and impact.

Videos & Audio reviews are also highly effective. Consider asking customers if they would contribute their reviews on video or audio recording, and then use that clip on your website.

Ask customers if you can take a picture of them to accompany their words, and take a few simple shots yourself so you have a few to choose from.

If you’re going to go to the effort of collecting reviews, do what you can to make sure that they’re credible ones you can use.

At the end of the day, asking for a review is often like asking your customers for a favor. While you want to make sure their reviews is detailed and specific and all the things that make it credible, there’s a limit to what you can ask for, and that’s okay.

Sometimes you’ll get two-line emails, and other times you’ll get five-page letters. Work with what you can gather, and remember that reviews are always most believable when they’ve been written organically by the customer.

By the way, I’ve been doing this for a while. Here’s a letter I received in 2008 for an event I did in 2007…

A Sneak Peek at a ‘Gold Member’ Session & Website ‘To-Do’s’

A ‘sneak peek’ of snippets from an exclusive Gold Member session. These clips are from ‘Session 4’, the 1st of our 3 sessions on marketing. ENJOY! To become a Gold Member now click here

Santa Website Example: Great Google rankings, responsive design so it’s ‘mobile friendly’ and it’s optimized to convert visitors to inquiries. Check out the video. To learn more about Santa websites click here

My Biggest Parade & Tree Lighting Mistake

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.

Parades, Tree Lightings & TV Session

Learn tips on how to book & perform in parades and Tree Lighting Ceremonies AND how to get on Local TV… 

The 2nd & 3rd Santa appearances of my ‘Santa career’ were Parades & Tree Lighting ceremonies… I LOVED them and I was hooked instantly.

I was also interviewed for local TV news shows for each event… that was fun too!

Now, 15 years later, I’ve appeared at 26 of these types of events and I’ve been on TV many times. Have a greater impact by spreading the Christmas Cheer in big ways always adds joy to my season.

Many Santas have mentioned that they would like to do, or do more of these types of events, so I’ve decided to add a special “Quick Start” session to help you make that happen this season.

This session is a supplement to our regular Gold & Platinum Level sessions…

For more information
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