First, let me remind you that technology is only as good as the information that you provide. If poor information is put into the system, then you will get an inaccurate end result from what ever program you are using. The information that I put into my computer comes from a human factor, my Activities Committee. They are selected by the Resident Board based on their interest. Each month, the committee and I meet and discuss the past entertainers as well as other topics. The committee rates each performer on a scale of 1 - 5 and it is recorded on my calendar. The members know that they are the “ears and eyes of the community” and that this should not just be based on their opinion. Since I will only bring back shows that earn a 4 or a 5, the group is conscientious about the ratings and sometime there is a lot of discussion around the table before a final number is given. As appose to my opinion or the random people who tell me about a show, I feel these ratings are more accurate and suitable information to put into my computer. Each of the performer’s names, date of the show and score is put into a simple WordPerfect table document. (In the future, I will be adding their fee.) I selected this format because I’m most familiar with it, but you might select another that works best for you.
When I am ready to hire an entertainer, I open the document and search through it to find when he or she was with us last and what their rating was. In a Word Perfect document, a quick way to find a certain word is by using Control F and then typing in the search criteria. It will take you to the first occurrence of the word(s) and then you can go to the next. In my search, for the Harmonicats, if they had a 4 or a 5, I would book them. If they did not, then I’d say, “my calendar is full right now” and I don’t try too hard to reconnect with them for a future date. (and YES, caller ID on our phones is a bit of technology that I am thankful for.) Since I only hire a performer once a year, this system works for determining when they were with us last and it makes it easier to keep a handle on that also.
I also use the computer to learn more about the recommendations from my friends and from the persistent “new to the area” performer who wants a job by checking out their websites. Many acts now have sites that list referrals, as well as provide sound clips to hear. I also find information on their sites that help me to promote the show in the community such as photos for the poster I’ll make to promote their show, or verbiage that the Master of Ceremonies uses to introduce the show. If the performer does have a website, I save it under my favorites, in a file that I’ve created called Entertainers. That way, I have it for the future and I can see what’s new on their site when I book them for the future. This is a great help for me.
If a performer does not have a website, most of them use email at this point. I ask them to email me a few things; a contract so they can get paid, a W9 form if they are new to our system, a picture if they have one and any information that they want us to use in publicizing their show. Most of this information is saved on my computer in a file called Entertainers Information. I save it with the act’s name in that folder and I can easily access it in the future.
The key ways that I’ve use technology to assist me are first, to understand the importance of creating a good beginning point with clearly accessible facts (performers name, date, rating), being able to use the internet to learn about the subject and lastly to file the items that you get on your computer (documents, websites, photos, etc) in such a way that you will be able to retrieve them easily. I hope that you can see how technology can be used to make one of the elements of being an Activities director easier and more productive.