Language of Performance
Language determines how we think. That's why specific words
work in conveying certain meanings and not others and why
we always need to be conscious of what we say. Just ask an
Eskimo about snow and you will see real confusion. That's
because Eskimos have 17 different words that describe the
phenomenon that we (non-Eskimos) causally call snow (unless
you are an Eskimo - this could get confusing - but, of course,
that is the point!).
It is why writers (at least most of us) agonize over which
word to use where. And it is why it is important for a businessperson
to be precise in the use of words when operating his or her
business in terms of training and general operational terminology.
How a procedure is described, refereed to and generally talked
about goes a long way toward how that procedure is thought
about and executed.
Any operation that occurs in front of a guest's scrutiny,
in a visual or auditory mode, is a performance, in the sense
of a live stage, television or radio performance. And any
performance in front of a guest or customer has in common
with other performances that hard to catch, moment in time
aspect; one that you can only prepare for with practice.
The truth is that in that moment there are no replays, no
second chances and no opportunity to get out from under that
guest's scrutiny without committing to some result; that everything
rides on the responses that are made in front of the guest.
In this sense, performing in front of a guest is most like
improvisational theater, where preparation is extensive, present
information is minimal and timing is everything!
That is why many companies, including many large and small
in the amusement business, have adopted terms that revolve
around performance and the business behind it. These terms
convey meanings that are shaded with performance nuances;
re-enforcing the performance metaphor and creating an underlying
background in front of which all other business actions take
The first most common usage is that which refers to the
staff itself. The term "cast" is often used, which sets up
the whole idea that the day's work is really a "performance".
This performance is "played" out in front of an "audience"
of guests. Cast members come to play in "costumes" (as opposed
to uniforms) and first learn their "scripts" (operational
procedures) in "rehearsal" (training sessions).
Rehearsals are a great time to re-enforce this use of language.
Many times this terminology can be extended even further.
Cast members receive their "direction" (instructions) while
they rehearse their scripts. Remember that no one even reaches
the rehearsal stage unless they pass the "audition" (interview).
Rehearsal is the time to learn that certain actions can
be performed when a cast member is in costume and "on stage"
(in front of or under observation of a guest). And other actions
can only be performed when out of costume and "off stage"
(out of view of a guest). It is the time to learn that cast
members shouldn't think that they are going to work; rather,
they should feel that they are "coming to perform".
It is also a time to acknowledge those cast members that
work "back stage" (out of view of the guests for all of or
most of their time). These include office cast, maintenance
cast and executive cast members, although some of these roles
will expose have some time in front of the guest. Everyone
has a hand in creating the total "production" (the totality
of your operation).
Sometimes this language can effect a profound change on
cast members, especially new ones. Frequently ordinary employees
are reluctant to practice their new skills and want to rush
through training. But with this different way of thinking,
often cast members accept the need for increased training.
We have a culture that respects and holds up actors and
their profession. Good performances on television and in the
movies lead to Emmys and Oscars and the big paychecks that
stars receive. Everyone understands that stage actors regard
rehearsal as the path to perfecting their craft and to creating
Although we will not be awarding multi-million dollar contracts
so quickly, it doesn't take much to set up the understanding
that following the steps laid out in rehearsal will result
in performance rewards and increasing pay scales. And of course,
the cast members who can think on their feet while on stage
and perform with "heart" (sincerity) will earn the most.
Because that is, of course, the main objective. To be able
to fully staff your facility with cast members who are willing
and able to give themselves fully into the role of (any job
at your site) and create an in the moment, sincere performance
that will satisfy your guest in any situation, good or bad.
And most managers and owners understand and would be willing
to undertake the increased time and cost that it takes to
achieve this result. Only most do not know how. So take the
time to explore this concept, take a chance and step out on
your own "stage" (your own facility) and dream like your favorite
director might, and imagine in your mind how and what your
production should look like. And then go out and do it!