September 15, 2013

Proper etiquette for events - Elizabeth Richards

School is back in session and soon there will be plenty of concerts, plays and other performances to attend.  There are some common guidelines for behavior at events like this, to ensure both enjoyment for those attending and respect for the performers.  Following are some quick tips, with insight from Falmouth resident Dorothea Johnson, who founded The Protocol School of Washington® and is a nationally known etiquette expert.  Johnson’s sixth book, Modern Manners, will be available in late October.
Arrive early 

Showing up at the last minute can make finding an appropriate seat difficult, as well as creating undue stress.  Johnson suggests arriving at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the show.  This allows you to settle in and get ready for the performance to begin, and promotes a calm demeanor, Johnson said.  

Know the guidelines

Most venues have guidelines that are made known to those in attendance, and many also have ushers or attendants who can assist patrons in following those guidelines.  With student performances, Johnson said, it’s up to the school to set and publicize the guidelines.  “People want guidelines.  If there are no guidelines, people will act any old way they please,” she said.  As a patron, knowing the expectations ahead of time allows you to follow the protocol of the event you are attending.  

Keep movement to a minimum 

Moving around during live performances is distracting not only to the performers, but to other audience members.  Arrive early enough to be settled in your seat well before the lights go down.  In many professional venues, said Johnson, intermission is the only time you are allowed to enter or exit.   At school performances, the guidelines may differ, but it’s important to be courteous to other attendees.  Getting up and down several times blocks the view of others, and can be distracting to those on stage.   

Leave electronics home

Although some electronics are now being used for photographs and videotaping, it can be simply too tempting to do other things if the device is there.  The ringing of a cell phone that hasn’t been set to silent disrupts a performance, and having a telephone conversation is a definite faux pas.  Texting, even when the sound is off, is not acceptable, since the light from the device can be distracting to others, said Johnson.  Although phones, tablets and laptops seem to show up everywhere, when attending a performance it is best to leave them at home or in the car.  At the very least, leave them turned off in a pocketbook or bag, and use them only at intermission.  

Quiet, please

When the lights go down, that’s a signal for quiet.  A concert or play is not the place to catch up with a neighbor or friend.  Conversation between audience members is not only disrespectful to the performers, but can be very frustrating for others who are trying to focus on the show.  “The minute that performance starts, that is when the conversation should stop,” said Johnson. 
Teach your children well

Attending school performances often means bringing along younger siblings, who might not sit still well.  Parents should know their child’s capabilities, and plan accordingly.  Johnson suggests explaining to the child what they can expect, and why they must behave a certain way, prior to the event.  “It is better if the child knows what is going to happen,” she said.  After doing so, arrive early enough to secure an appropriate seat.  Johnson suggests an aisle seat in the middle of the theater – not down front, where you have to move through the whole theater or auditorium if the child becomes restless.  

Parents should be aware of how long young children are able to sit, and remove them immediately if they become disruptive, as it isn’t fair to other attendees to be distracted by restless behavior.

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