My daughter, a junior in high school, was recently in charge of her high school’s homecoming parade, a big deal in the town. She did a great job of reaching out to the community, creating the lineup, and disseminating the plan–with zero help from Ol’ Dad.
The night before, I asked a couple of questions about the big event to include if she was going to have a rehearsal. She said there wasn’t going to be a rehearsal because everyone was in school and there wouldn’t be time between school and the parade. WHOAH! There has never been a plan which wasn’t made better by a rehearsal and oftentimes, the rehearsal is what makes the plan work. I shared with her some of my experiences from the Army where rehearsals are an intrinsic part of any plan.
Rehearsals come in many forms, but there is always time to have one of some sort. Actually, there’s never time to not have one! Full dress rehearsals are ideal, but there are seldom resources (usually time, but also money or space) available to do that. That being said, let’s talk through some quick options and the basic steps for any rehearsal.
One of my favorites is called a rock drill. You make a mock-up of the area and move the pieces. The name comes from making a sand table (a literal recreation of the landscape on a much smaller scale) and moving the rocks (vehicles or units) across it. You can do the something similar with a table top and Post-Its.
Here are the basic steps necessary for a rehearsal:
- Reconnaissance – This should be part of any planning process, whether it’s for a presentation or a parade. Recon comes in many forms, but Google Earth provides an alternative to walking the actual ground. Almost any map is better than none. The recon findings should be shared as part of briefing your plan.
- Brief the plan – You have to tell people what’s going to happen and what is expected of them. It is best to brief the plan and then give them some time to digest and come back with questions for clarification. Even if you don’t have time to do that . . .
- Make the participants back brief – you told them the plan; now make them tell you how they’re going to execute it. In this instance, there were cars, bands, and floats coming from different parking lots. There were people in charge of each parking lot and I suggested to my daughter she have each person describe their actions in time order.
My daughter had done a really good job of preparing. She’d shared the plan with everyone, appointed deputies for each parking lot, and briefed them. She just needed a rehearsal.
She may start by saying, “Okay, it is now 5 p.m. Parking Lot A, what are you doing?” That person responds with “I’m lining up the floats and cars according to this diagram (shows the diagram) and making sure that the police are prepared to stop traffic.”
She then turns to Parking Lot B rep and asks, “Okay, it’s not 5:35 and the first three entries have exited Parking Lot A, what are you doing?” That rep should respond with, “I’m watching for the cheerleaders. When I see them, I know I tell the City Council float to start moving.”
And so on. Again, doing this the day before is better because it gives people time to adjust their own plans and actions, but even if you do it at 4:30 (30 minutes before), it would be better than none at all. The more detail that can be drawn out (usually by asking questions like, ‘how are you telling the floats to move-yelling, cell phone, hand-and-arm signals?’), the better, but it’s always subject to time restraints.
I’m proud to say the parade was flawless in execution and I credit the beautiful high school junior in charge. At least that’s how it looked to her Dad!