A guide to bring LIVE ENTERTAINMENT back on your campus
Imagine this – it’s December 31, 2019 around 11:48 PM. You’re at a party with your best friends. You look to one of them, raise a glass and shout “2020 is going to be OUR year!” You were wrong. 2020 and now 2021 have been anything but “our” years. Three months later, a global pandemic would sweep across the United States, tragically claiming the lives of many Americans. We were ordered to shut everything down and we did. College seniors cleaned out their dorm rooms, packed up their caps and gowns (which were not returnable) and told their diplomas would be mailed to them. Four years of hard work – or six if you weren’t a good student, like myself – thrown out the window. They will never get the chance to walk across the stage, shake the president of the university’s hand and accept the massive amount of student loan debt they accrued (with interest) with a smile. The quarantine and social distancing were set to last a few months, and everyone would be able to return to campus in the fall to lead as close to a normal life as possible for the class of 2024. Now it’s 2021 and the spring semester is still far from that dream.
I’m writing this blog from an outsider’s perspective, with a lot of experience speaking to college students, looking in. For the past 6 years I have been a comedian, game show host, talent show emcee, bingo caller and whatever else a school has asked me to do to make their campus events successful. During my time, I’ve met some of the most amazing students and advisors and I’m beyond grateful that I have been given this opportunity to pursue my passion, which is making people laugh. My “job” is entertaining students and giving them a break from the stressful environment of writing papers, cramming for exams and preparing for real world. I am fortunate and wake up every day looking forward to my next gig. Until 2020, things were going well. I was hopping from college town to college town, performing at over 75 colleges a year. Anywhere from massive universities that I idolized and cheered for to small schools that I wasn’t even sure existed, but my agents assured me they did. I love every single thing about it. If I could make an impact on one student, I was happy. If I could turn one bad day for a student into a smile, I was winning! This is my purpose on Earth and I am so glad I found it. In March 2020, my career came to a SCREECHNG halt. With every college campus shut down, every show on my calendar disappeared and I was left thinking when will I ever return to the stage? Many shows transitioned to virtual programming, which was not only fun for me but seemed to be very successful for the schools.
Fast forward to today and many schools are still booking my virtual programs (THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS), but when will things get “back to normal”? Some states have already lifted many restrictions allowing staff, students and guests to be on campus. I am hopeful that the transition back to in-person programming is very near for more areas and booking live events such as comedy, music, game shows or even lectures, is just around the corner. The best part of in-person programming, you as their directors have the ability to provide a safe space for them to enjoy the show – you have control over where the students sit, how they view the experience, how much they socially distance themselves from their classmates and how far away the performer is from the audience. We can even help provide the video platform to make the event hybrid for people who can’t attend in person. Still under indoor restrictions? We can do this outside! Get some food trucks and a sound system and I’ll make people laugh.
I was fortunate enough to do a handful of live shows during the past year and they were very well received as a break from the new normal. Here’s what schools did well and more suggestions on how you can return to live entertainment!
5 Steps to Offer Live Events During a Pandemic:
1.Make Students RSVP For The Event! Seating will have to be limited to allow for social distancing, which is fine. So send out your activities via email, text, make posters, etc. then make students sign up prior to the event to ensure that crowd sizes meet your states requirements. PLUS – this makes students feel obligated to show up since their spot is already reserved.
2. Wear PPE and be SMART! When you’re on campus to attend an event WEAR A MASK! Yes, you can laugh, enjoy music, get excited about a game show or lecture while wearing a mask. I promise! Also… BE SMART. We’re battling an invisible enemy here. If you’re feeling sick or have a temp stay in your dorm (or designated area). No show is worth your life or the life of your classmates.
3.Do multiple shorter events to accommodate more people. Artists are more than happy to do 2, 30 minute sets so that we can bring more students in to enjoy the show! Heck, if it means hearing live laughter again – I’m sure many artists, myself included, would be happy to do multiple full length shows to accommodate all the needs for your campus!
4.Use non-traditional event spaces. During this time, we need to get creative not only with how we hold events but also WHERE we hold events! Outdoor options are great alternatives for social distancing and still getting people to enjoy your event. With theaters being heavily regulated by states for events, non-traditional spaces like gyms, lobbies, classrooms, etc. make great alternatives where shows can happen safely and effectively!
5. Live stream the shows! With the artists permission – set up a camera/computer in the back of the auditorium or event space to live stream the show for students that cannot physically attend. Or set up a separate viewing space (like a movie theater on campus) where students can social distance but still watch the show in a group setting, so they still get that human connection.
We can do this! We NEED to do this. College is as much of a social experience as it is an educational one. If we follow these guidelines, campus events can return and provide a little bit of normal in an abnormal situation. Keep your students engaged and SAFE with on campus programming. Who knows – maybe a little laughter or music might keep someone from partying, contracting the virus and spreading it rapidly throughout campus. Your next live event could save lives.
MORE ABOUT DERRICK KNOPSNYDER:
Being a young comedian, Derrick uses his boyish charm and quick wit to connect with audiences all over, but it’s his awkwardness that keeps them laughing all through the night, making him a fan favorite wherever he takes the stage. In 2010, Derrick started out with a dream of being a stand up comic, and four short years later he was living that dream. Since then he has had great success in the comedy industry, including winning The Stand Up To Cancer Comedy Competition in Huntington WV, and was most recently named a finalist at the Cleveland Comedy Festival. Find out more about Derrick here.
For more info on these programs and more contact your Neon Entertainment agent at [email protected] or 800-993-NEON (6366)!