Using Google Forms to Confirm Participation among Newcomers in the Arts

One of my goals in sharing these posts with you is to offer suggestions based on my own experience making art with newcomers, so you can avoid some of the mistakes I have made. I had a small success this week that you might find useful!

For those who don’t know, I am the founder and one of the co-directors of the Halifax Newcomer Choir, a singing group for immigrants, refugees, etc. (“newcomers”) and locals (people already from Halifax, or Nova Scotia, or Canada). We meet once a week, for two hours to sing, practice English, and build community.

Success! You're on the list.

Choir operates on a very casual, drop-in, commitment-free basis. I never know who will come week to week, and when we perform (casually) I never really know who is going to come, and certainly not how many will show up. We’ve had a performance with six singers, and another where we topped 25. It’s always a bit of a mystery.

When we returned from our Christmas holidays, I announced that we would have two upcoming performance opportunities: One in February, and one in April. I put the details for both performances on the whiteboard, and many singers took photos of the information. I also sent it out via email. In the past, I would have left it at that, and whoever came would be a surprise.

However, because of the nature of these two performances, I wanted some assurances that it wasn’t going to be me performing solo. So on a whim, I made a Google Form to try to solicit some responses from the singers. I phrased it in the email to them that I needed help to plan for the events.

The form had three questions:

  1. Your name, and the name of anyone else in your house who will sing
  2. February 12 [then a drop down menu]: I will sing/I will not sing
  3. April 30: [then a drop down menu]: I will sing/I will not sing

All three fields were required, and the drop down option meant singers could only choose one option. (I had initially offered a tick-box option, but somehow it allowed singers to choose both “I will sing” and “I will not sing” which did not help my planning, so I revised it).

In just 48 hours, I have received more than 15 responses, and have been able to confirm that we will have more than enough singers for the two events.

Interested in learning more about choral events in Canada? Check out this United Church Music conference

The moral of this story:

  • Ask people to help you.
  • Make a form that you can make changes to when you make a mistake (Google Forms is great for this)
  • Make the form easy to read, and very short
  • Getting people to commit to something makes them more likely to come than just telling them about it
  • Even people with very limited amounts of English can complete a simple form with common English words. Because it is digital, they could also put the text in a translation app if they needed help, making the likelihood that they will complete the form quite high.

This was so successful, that I plan to use it again when we are attending some other events together in the future.

How else could I use a Google Form with newcomers?

  • poll them on what type of music to perform
  • ask if they would like to attend a particular event/which event they would choose
  • find out if they find choir/art/dance too easy, too hard, or just right
  • get their registration and contact information easily
  • find out if anyone needs any other forms of support in a confidential way
  • ask if they will participate next semester/next year

How have you used Google Forms with newcomers? Have you had any success? Share in the comments!

Want to work with Rachel directly? If you have a not for profit arts organization, you can sign up today for a monthly membership (only $100 a month!). You’ll get unlimited phone calls/emails with Rachel, document review for graded language, and regular tips and webinars. Email info@orchardviewcoaching to register.

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