Hosting a Signing Time Event

Bringing Signing Time To Our Home Town

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Hosting A Signing Time Event But Were Afraid To Ask

by Robert & Kei Malone from Charlemont, MA

May 2008

A few years ago, before Signing Time was on TV, we were given the unique opportunity to host a Signing Time community event. This, we learned, was not an undertaking for the meek. Here is what we did learn:

1. Focus on a vision – a vision that encompasses the theme and program for such an event.

Our vision was to include our community. For school involvement, while still in the planning stages, you’ll have to work with your local school committee, administration and staff to get things moving. Permission slips and photography releases have to be sent home for the children’s parents to sign.

Our local elementary school children learned to sing and sign different songs from Signing Time. The Speech Therapist from our local Early Intervention program came in on her free time to teach signs to the students and the teachers watched the Signing Time DVDs to help teach the signs also. Right before the event, Rachel was able to visit the classrooms to rehearse with the children before the school assembly where the children performed with her in front of family members.

We planned two presentations: one by Dr. Marilyn Daniels about how American Sign Language (ASL) can assist literacy in hearing children and the other was Rachel Coleman telling her family’s story, how Signing Time came to be, and some lessons on how easy it is to learn ASL. We held a play date for everyone in the community, culminating with an impromptu performance of new songs by Rachel.

We also held an evening performance and the school children that had been practicing with Rachel performed with Rachel on the stage, signing and singing in front of friends, family and the community.

2. Consider the time and location in which the event is to be held.

* When looking at a venue, consider the parking and accessibility needs of your intended audience.
* Make sure you have a place large enough to hold everyone according to local by-laws.
* Plan for alternate locations if part of your event is planned for an outside venue, in case of inclement weather.

We originally planned the play date portion of our event to be outside. To be on the safe side, our contingency plan was to hold it inside the school’s gymnasium. We also took into consideration the time it would take to set up the alternate plan, so when it was necessary to use, everything flowed smoothly.

If you charge an admission fee to the event or events, be reasonable in your assumption about what people are willing to pay. Consider no fee for a child under a certain age, especially if they will be sitting on a parent’s lap. If you are planning multiple events (educational presentation and performance), offer a package price.

3. Expect the unexpected.

We planned for a play date backup in case of rain. The printing company we’d chosen for some presentation materials hit a snag. Luckily, we had just purchased a color laser printer so we were able to have everything ready in time, but it meant a long night, printing, punching holes, collating and assembling binders.

4. Be sure to assign a cost value for each component of the event.

No event comes without expenses. In order for Rachel and the Signing Time crew to come for a performance, presentation or event, there are certain appearance and travel fees that are required, and that you as a host must cover. There are also advertising, printing, location use fees, traffic control personnel, refreshments for intermission, janitorial clean up, etc. that must also be planned depending on what is needed at the event.

In order to offset personal costs for an event, begin fundraising early in the planning stages, once a commitment is made. It is better to have excess funding and expand your original event program than to be short of funding and be forced to cancel parts of the event to fit a reduced budget.

Our suggestion for fund raising is to go and visit your local banks, credit unions, and insurance institutions to help sponsor your event. You can also approach civic service organizations such as your local Lions Club, Down syndrome associations, Autism Awareness groups and The Arc. We were able to secure funding through some of these groups in exchange for a certain number of seating for the presentations and performance.

5. Be prepared to write letters, make phone calls, and most importantly make personal, face-to-face appeals for help.

* When meeting with potential donors, be positive and upbeat, and paint the picture of your vision.
* It’s much easier for someone to catch the vision of your project when you are face-to-face rather than on the phone.
* Be bold about asking for what you need. If you are sheepish in your appeal it will be likely they will give you less than you ask for.
* Lay out the whole plan and tell them what very important part their sponsorship will play in the success of the event.
* Create additional opportunities for your potential donor or sponsor to shine. Remember that everyone wants a return on their investment.
* Be sure to give a conclusion, and an end result for your event – an attainable goal that can be felt in the community.

6. Recruit volunteers.

As part of the event, you can also ask for volunteers after their pledge of support. You will need help before, during, and after in order to have an organized, safe event.

Do not be surprised if some of the volunteers would prefer to be in the audience during the actual event. Some of our volunteers were willing to sell tickets before the event, or to help place posters advertising the event, but wanted to enjoy the performance with their family. Many of the Lions Club members volunteered at the performance and helped clean up afterwards.

We hope these few suggestions will be helpful for those who might have the opportunity to sponsor a Signing Time event. Whether your venture is for a small group or a whole city, we wish you success in incorporating Signing Time into your home and community. Good Luck!!

P.S. We also learned we can fit more than 50 Signing Time fans in our house! Be prepared for a lot of fun after your hard work is done!

Editor’s Note: Since our appearance on public television in 2006, all public events have been in partnership or sponsored by large organizations or corporations. To help fund future Foundation activities, we now charge appearance and travel fees. Appearances are limited. However, if you have strong interest and commitment in making something like this happen in your community, please feel free to contact us at info@signingtime.com.