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Audiences, please: Show is for your enjoyment

By Thelma Domenici
For the Journal
          Dear Thelma: I am the parent of a daughter who is a member of a dance group. Their stated goal is "to help children develop discipline, a standard of excellence and a belief in themselves that will carry over in all aspects of their lives" through dance.
        Last year they performed at a large evening fundraising event held in a hotel ballroom. Unfortunately, during their performance, the audience never stopped talking or eating and was very loud. The students, ranging in age from 10 to 16, were quite disappointed by the rude reception. The sad irony didn't escape them that they were exemplifying the very discipline through their performance that the adults and wealthy donors in the audience were lacking through their inattention.
        Would you mind giving some advice about how best to deal with such a situation if we encounter it again?
        A: You can't force a rude audience to pay attention to you, but there may be some steps you can take to improve the response of a group gathered not specifically to see you. I'd suggest you tailor your performance so that it is of highest interest to the group, lasts an appropriate amount of time, and can be seen by everyone in the audience.
        At a large ballroom event, that may mean performing shorter routines than you would at a recital, and positioning dancers throughout the room. Check your music beforehand for volume level and that it is properly cued.
        When it's time to perform, ask the master or mistress of ceremonies to get the audience's full attention and properly introduce your group before you begin.
        You also should prepare your dancers for the situation into which they are sashaying. Explain that their performance is to a large group in the middle of dinner. Even if they feel they don't have the group's rapt attention, they should still focus on doing their very best and presenting a professional performance.
        The people not paying attention to the entertainment are being rude to not show appreciation for the individuals who've worked to create a happy or memorable evening. Each member of the audience should do his or her best to focus on the entertainment provided. If they can't bring themselves to focus, they should at least be quiet.
        If as a member of the audience you truly can't end your conversation to focus for several minutes on the entertainers, then you should leave the table before the performance begins and have your conversation in the foyer.
        Dear Thelma: I was wondering if you know of proper etiquette regarding individuals who attend funeral or memorial services and then blog or YouTube about it without notifying or contacting family members. What do you think about that type of action or behavior?
        A: The etiquette here does not rest upon the use of technology, but upon how it is used. Technology is as mannerly as its users make it.
        Publication accurately describes what blogs and YouTube do. Publication of something as intense and emotional as the painful loss of a family's loved one should be done with care and forethought. Such publication without consulting or informing the family of the person who has died does show a lack of respect and it should be avoided.
        I'd like to stress that blogs and YouTube are not to blame. This kind of technology is so easy to use and is an effective way to reach so many very efficiently. The key is to learn to use it with respect and always with the receiver of the message in mind.
        Warm-hearted technology and good manners never go out of style.
        Have a question about etiquette? You can ask it at www.askthelma.com. Thelma Domenici is CEO of Thelma Domenici & Associates, offering corporate coaching and contemporary social skills development programs to all ages.

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