Tina's Handy Hints

This is a collection of ideas that might help make life easier for you. It is based on observations that you, your colleagues and entertainers have shared with us. PLEASE - ALWAYS READ THE MANUAL, FOLLOW YOUR COMPANY POLICIES, AND TAKE TINA'S HANDY HINTS ONLY AS ADVICE OR SUGGESTIONS. DON’T HURT YOURSELF OR OTHERS OR DAMAGE ANY EQUIPMENT BY FOLLOWING OR NOT FOLLOWING THESE HINTS.

1. How to set up a room for entertainment
2. I’m getting a piano…
3. How to care for a piano
4. Should I buy other instruments?
5. How to get money in your budget for upkeep of equipment.
6. How to get money in your budget for entertainment
7. How to get money in your budget for equipment

1. How to set up a room for entertainment

Some places are ideal, some are not. Movie theatres are perhaps the best. Even they are second to the Roman theatres. But these are best for viewing – not for an intimate experience. Things that spoil an intimate experience are posts in the room; tables that keep people a long way from the entertainer and each other; serving food and drink during a performance; putting people only around the edges of a room; and, worst of all, talking while the entertainer is trying to do what you’ve paid for. Even the better-run facilities make these basic mistakes.

a). Square room. Place entertainment at the centre of the wall at one end, and curve, yes, curve the seating around the entertainer in three or more rows. Many places set up their residents in straight lines, so those at the end of the row need to turn their heads for an hour or more to see the show. Never, ever put people around the edges of a room leaving the centre empty.

b). Round room, or semi-circular. This is the best set-up. Set-up the entertainer and resident just as A above.

c). L-shaped room. If a small audience, treat as if it is a square i.e. just use one of the wings. So you’d put the entertainer in the centre of the wall or at the junction of the two longest walls. Curve the audience seating, or for a small room, just line them up, the residents as in A or B above.

d). is for a corridor – yes, some facilities put people in a corridor for entertainment and they put the entertainer in the middle of the corridor. This means the entertainer is looking at no-one, will always have his back to 50% of the audience if he looks in any direction. It is not intimate or cozy, and can be a calamity in an emergency. Usually, there is a better room available. So don’t set up in a corridor, right?

e). is any of the above with posts obscuring the view. Set up as the nearest room-type above (you can always try to set up the audience in the centre of the room - you don't always have to have the audience near a wall) but do, please try to get a better room for future use. Also, please don't distract the show, especially a sing-a-long, by having giving the residents cake and drinks (so they can’t sing) or talking while the entertainer is trying to do his/her/their job. These interruptions often annoy residents.

2. I’m getting a piano…

a). If you are buying a piano, our entertainers have always been impressed with Yamaha baby grand and uprights. They play well, tune well and keep a lovely tone. Ask a pianist for the best voicing (a choice you can make about the sound – mellow or bright), and the weighting (if the notes are stiff or loose). Many German and Toronto-made pianos are excellent.

b). If you are being given a piano or getting one second-hand, a lot of German-made or Toronto-made pianos are excellent. Again, ask a pianist for an opinion. Cheaper not to accept a bad piano even for free.

c). Never, ever, ever take a Wurlitzer piano. They never tune up well, old or new, and always sound out of tune. If ever you know of a Wurlitzer piano that is tuneable and stays in tune, please, please, please tell us about it and we will happily let the world know. Until then, our opinion is unchanged – we’ll let you know if Wurlitzer argues with us.

3. How to care for a piano

A piano thrives if it is:

a). Played often, preferably for several hours every day of the year.

b). Tuned regularly, two to four times a year (and every time it is moved, so don’t move it)

c). Kept in stable temperature and humidity (so keep it away from outside walls and far away from widows and outside doors).

d). Stationary (Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be…)

e). Cleaned before it gets dirty or sticky

4. Should I buy other instruments?

a). Yes
b). Shakers, eggs (egg-shaped, and filed with, say, sand so they make a noise when shaken), tambourines, play-drums…avoid things that go in the mouth because of the risk of infections – your medical and physiotherapy experts should be able to advise you here), maybe cheap ($10) ukuleles with plastic, or no strings? Dollar stores are usually good for these things. 5. How to get money in your budget for upkeep of equipment.

a). You got the money for the equipment. Great. You got the equipment. Great. Now, look after it. So what needs doing?
b). The areas to think about are: Security of the equipment, transport of the equipment, care of the outer casing of the equipment, care of the inner workings of the equipment. Let’s look at a few examples:

PIANO – tune it, clean it, lock it away
• Security: if it is for residents to play, leave it open. If it is only for accomplished pianists, lock it. Keep the key in reception with a big tag, like the bathroom key.
• Transport: Don’t move the piano. It will go out of tune faster
• Care of the Outer Casing: Don’t put anything on it except a dust cover – a nice table cloth will do. Dust with a swiffer or slightly damp cloth monthly. Keep away from outside walls, changes in heat and humidity (so don’t put it in the lobby, next to the kitchen or near a heater…
• And please remember to clean the keyboard: a damp cloth with a bit of soap will loosen the sticky fingers and the spilt coffee, leave for a minute then take off with a dry cloth. Dry paper towels can scratch plastic, varnish, ebony and ivory even if you don’t see it.
• Care of the Inner Workings: get it tuned every time the season changes – at least twice a year (fall and spring) and preferably every 3 months. A piano tuner might be wiling to do a deal if you and a few other facilities go into a long-term contract for this; just make sure it includes fixing the mechanical workings of the piano e.g. keys, pedals and lids. (See our website links for piano tuners who are willing to do this.)

KEYBOARD - clean it, lock it away, maybe a trolley for transport
• Security: please, lock it away in a designated closet, preferable on a shelf or, if free-standing, where it won’t get knocked or hidden by other equipment. Keep the key on a big tag (like the washroom key) at reception.
• Transport: on wheels is the easiest, so a small platform or wheel attachment is fine, provided you also raise the stool so you don’t contort the entertainer.
• Care of the Outer Casing: Put a cover over it to avoid knocks and scrapes – a towel or table-cloth will do: no need for an expensive cover. Clean like a piano.
• Care of the Inner Workings: don’t bump it around – usually there’s nothing to fix or maintain here.

MICROPHONE – put a windsock on it, lock it away
• Security: lock it away
• Transport: gently, like a baby
• Care of the Outer Casing: keep in protective case that it came in.
• Care of the Inner Workings: Put a foam windsock over the mic. This keeps dust and spray out of the innards. Available from most musical equipment shops for a few dollars – get 10 and throw the used one away each year or after every outbreak.

MICROPHONE CABLE – don’t coil it tightly, lock it away
• Security: lock it away with your other sound gear.
• Transport: let it flop – don’t put anything on it. Don’t use it to tie anything.
• Care of the Outer Casing: Don’t wind it tightly. Buy 4inch Velcro straps to hold the coied cable in place so it doesn’t tangle up. If it gets tangled, untangle it without puilling or stretching it.
• Care of the Inner Workings: just looks after the outer casing and the innards will look after themselves.

MICROPHONE STAND – lock it away
• Security: lock it away with the microphone, or leave it in the microphone stand
• Transport: fold it up or leave it ‘stand-up-able,’ whichever suits the carrier, but be careful not to trip over the legs or his someone or something with it – it is steel and it hurts!
• Care of the Outer Casing: Don’t over-tighten anything. Clean with damp, soapy cloth or paper towel the dry off so it doesn’t rust
• Care of the Inner Workings: don’t take it a part – springs could fly out of the more expensive stands.

MICROPHONE CLIP – buy several. Lock them away
• Security: either keep it with the microphone or keep it on the microphone stand. These are cheap, so have several in stock – best kind are the ‘clothes-peg’ type because they accommodate any size of regular microphone and they don’t get jammed.
• Transport: either keep it with the microphone or keep it on the microphone stand.
• Care of the Outer Casing: clean with damp, soapy towel and dry off. Don’t bump or twist it, it could break or hurt someone (including the twister).
• Care of the Inner Workings: this is a spring – don’t over-open and it should be fine. The inner thread, where it attaches to your steel microphone stand, is plastic, so thread it on gently and do not twist the thread or you’ll ruin the clip.

AMPLIFIER –lock it away and don’t bump it or drop it
• Security: lock it away. Put you company name and department on it: you can do this with a laundry pen, attaching labels, or attach a luggage tag. Your accountant, security or your IT department will tell you how assets are marked in your company.
• Transport: carry with two hands to avoid putting your back out, or
• Care of the Outer Casing: same suggestions as forthe inner casing.
• Care of the Inner Workings: don’t drop, scratch, expose to dampness, dirt, dust or smoke e.g. outside at a BBQ. Read the manual before you try to clean the casing – switch it off before you disconnect it

6. How to get money in your budget for entertainment

a). Decide who has the purse strings and see the issue from their perspective. Usually the money comes from the Accountant, treasurer or financial controller. Their job is to give the biggest return on investment they can to the shareholders. So to make them part with shareholders money, you have to give the accounts people a reason they can sell to the shareholders to accept your financial argument. After all, why would YOU let anyone else take YOUR money?

b). Shareholders (if you are government , please see j). beloe, or non-profit, please see k). below) will let you use THEIR money if they are going to get something back, like a higher return on their investment in the short term, or something that makes their businesses more valuable. How? Higher occupancy? Who is responsible for higher occupancy? Marketing. So YOU have to think about marketing and management targets. Present you case in their terms. How?

c). Think back. Why provide ANYTHING for residents? If you give them only the minimum shelter, food and care, the company would save a lot of money. So why give a nice, heated/air-conditioned room, good food and something to do? So they’ll stay AND so others will want to move in. More residents equals more income. Management may not hire more staff for one more resident, so each additional resident, up to a point, is almost pure profit. You are part of this solution. You are part of the advertising for your company. If residents are happy, their family knows it and word gets around. This is good, cheap advertising. And you’re doing it.

d). So, the accounts people should have no problem giving you money, right? Unfortunately, you need a measurement to prove your point.

e). Let’s assume you get to put on all the best entertainment (shows, movies, crafts, outings, shopping trips, guest speakers, and so on), the food and housekeeping departments are doing an excellent 5-star job. What will happen next? Chances are investors will want to have more facilities like yours so they can make more profit. And that’s the point – how to reach that point IS the point.

f). So, it’s not about getting unlimited funds, it’s about value for money. Let’s look at what constitutes value for money in entertainment.

g). There are musicians, singers, jugglers, animal acts, dancers, storytellers… and then there are entertainers. Look at it like this – at school you had good teachers and bad teachers – A bad teacher would drone on or assign reading, never explained things, and you hated the lesson – a waste of time; whereas a good teacher made the subject come alive, you wanted to learn, you felt acknowledged and respected by them, might even have wanted to be like them? SO it is with entertainment: if residents can’t wait to see what you have lined up next, it is one of the many reasons they have to LOOK FORWARD to tomorrow (George Burns, on his 90th birthday was asked his secret of longevity. He said “I love what I do, so I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” By the way, he was also asked what he’d like for his 90th birthday – he said “A paternity suit.”)

h). How do you get a good entertainer? We think you talk with Tina at Tina’s talent Agency to mach a variety of entertainers to your events. Or, you could talk to a variety of entertainers – just depends how much time you have, and how you can justify not spending time with your residents by taking time to talk with anyone but Tina… but that’s between you and your boss at appraisal time, eh?

i). How do you measure a good or bad entertainer? Listen to your residents, talk to the family (if the entertainment is good enough, they’ll come and see it too, so they’ll be talking to people outside the facility, word gets around, people will want to join your facility (One of our entertainers – DavidM -was approached after his act recently and the lady said “I was wondering if I should apply to live here. Having seen you perform today, I’m going to apply right now.” Can you marketing people claim a more specific result than that? Talk about return on investment! i.e. the price of one hour of entertainment.)

j). If you are government or non-profit the same basic strategies apply - except that you are not trying to give a return on investment. You are trying to make someone look good (i.e. get the credit) for running a good program. And your budget is part of their program. For exapmle, a politician can be both a hero and a wastrel for giving money to entertainemnt, so please understand from the politcal perspective regarding what is acceptable (or vote-winning) this year and what is not, then phrase your budget application accordingly to your accountant. For example, politocians understand the art of throwing money at a problem to solve it, but it takes a statesman-like perspective to AVOID a problem, and it can be cheaper to have happy residents than disgruntled ones simply because of the extra resources required to deal with problems...makes sense! So, phrase your requests in terms of the program payoffs and hint at the costs you could avoid.
k). Non-Profit organizations DO make a profit, but that is not their goal in life. They often have more of a heart than politically-oriented individuals (which might and might not include politicians) and your job is to look for the sympathetic ears who will support your application for funds to do the right thing for those entrusted to your care. Just find who will listen and get their help phrasing your budget requests in terms of their payoff.
7. How to get money in your budget for equipment

If you understand all the points in “How to get money in your budget for entertainment” this next part should be easy to explain. Step 1 is to define your entertainment space (see “How to set up a room for entertainment”). If you cannot set up the room properly, you may have the wrong room. You can either change rooms or you can’t, and you can either live with the answers you get from your management or you can move on to a more sympathetic company.

Step 2 is to define your entertainment type. For example, you’ll need a big-screen TV to deliver Hollywood movies to a partly-sighted, hearing-impaired audience, but you won’t need it if you only provide mime acts; you’ll need tables for craft projects and pub night, but you won’t need tables for sing-a-long or watching TV.

Step 3 is to define your audience need. For example, how well can they see, hear and process information? If they can’t see an entertainer, you might need a plain backdrop to highlight the entertainer. A white wall does this very well, a curtain, or a window provided there is not bright light coming through it when entertainment is on. If they can’t hear too well (and most people, your staff included, don’t know how to project their voice like a sergeant-major) then you might need a microphone and an amplifier, a stand, cables and speakers (let’s call this a public address system).

Please be aware that there is a very wide choice of equipment so far as a public address system goes. Does your facility have one built in or otherwise? If so, read the manuals – they are available on-line: just look up the name of the amplifier and request it’s manual e.g. Peavy 1234 amplifier manual (where ‘Peavy’ is where you put in the brand-name, ‘1234’ is where you put in the model number, and the last two words tell the search engine what you want. You can also go on the manufacturers web-site.

Most people shout into a microphone. Don’t. The best way to use a microphone is to hold it about a fist-length from your mouth, level with your chin, and talk across the top of it so your breath does not go into the microphone. This stops your wind noise, pops, and keeps your splutter out of the unit.

Volume controls and EQ (treble, bass, mid-range) should be set to unity i.e. mid-point, or zero on some models. If you need more bass, don’t turn the bass up – turn the treble down! Sibilant ‘esses’ mean the treble needs turning down, a ‘muddy sound’ means you’ve got too much reverb for talking, a ‘boom’ means the bass is too high…and so on. Find someone who understands the equipment and get them to train you. Attend a class on the subject – they’re often free at stores who sell the equipment e.g. Long and McQuade.

Step 4 is to determine the equipment that will deliver the entertainment to the eyes and ears of your audience. For a room 10 times the size of your living room, a 50-watt PA will more than suffice. A 200watt system will just deliver a better sound, but if you and your successors don’t know how to operate it, you’re wasting money. A reasonable microphone is a Sure SM57 – if you drop it, it will always work, and it will be the only microphone you ever have to buy. Cheaper ones sound tinny and can easily break. More expensive ones sound great but can still break. A 50-watt keyboard amp with XLR input, line input and CD (input i.e. 3 channels) is probably all you need for most rooms. Portable, robust, and around $300. Lasts only about 50 years so remember to replace it after that!

Step 5 is to assess your risks, concerns and options. Equipment comes with a risk – if it’s heavy, put it on a cart. If it’s portable, lock it away. If it’s locked away, make sure someone can open it when the key-holder is off sick. Find out what makes a microphone feed back (whistle) and avoid doing that. Train your people. Train your boss. Train the marketing people. Train your residents. Appoint someone as a trainer (staff to train staff and residents, residents to train other residents…get the picture?) Manage the risks of theft, damage and personal injury (to backs, toes and ears) and you’ll have a healthier workplace. And everyone will sound better!