Mentoring Guidelines

Mentoring Guidelines

The purpose of this guide is:

  1. To assist conference producers in creating a mentoring program that will provide a positive experience for both mentors and new colleagues;

  2. To guide mentors in helping their new colleagues;

  3. To help new colleagues take advantage of the mentoring program.

The goal of a mentoring program is to foster the very first relationship for a new colleague, the relationship that will help them learn to navigate their first conference experience, and to continue on post-conference.

This guide is written in three parts, one each for conference producers, mentors, and new colleagues. Each part is broken up into Pre-Conference, At the Conference, and Post-Conference.

For Conference Producers

The purpose of this guide is to assist conference producers in creating a mentoring program that will provide a positive experience for mentors, new colleagues and those showcasing for the first time. The goal of a mentoring program is to foster the very first relationship for a new colleague, improve the quality of independent and juried showcases, and to give assistance to those who may have attended a conference before, but feel they would benefit from a mentoring experience. It is the relationship that will help them learn to navigate their first conference experience, and hopefully it will continue on post-conference.


  1. Connect Mentor and New Colleague as soon as they are registered, the sooner the better! The new colleague doesn’t know what they don’t know, so having more conversations in advance of the conference will help them to be prepared come conference time. They should have at least 30 days before the conference to begin talking.

  2. Mix it up! When making these matches, and especially if mentors have more than one New Colleague, mix it up with agents and presenters. This promotes more questions and will give New Colleagues a head start in meeting the folks they are there to meet.

  3. Provide New Colleague with the For New Colleagues information and General Guidelines for New Colleagues as soon as they register. This will help them prepare to ask questions of their Mentors and get them started off on the right foot.

  4. Provide Mentor with the For Mentors information as soon as they register. This will help prepare them as they guide their New Colleague. These guides should be thorough and include specific information on what to prepare and how.

In general, the sooner you can connect the Mentor with the New Colleague, the better. The sooner they connect, the deeper the connection can potentially become, leading to lasting post-conference relationships. 

At the Conference

  1. Schedule a session for Mentors and conference staff, the planning committee, and the mentoring committee. Plan a meeting for all Mentors and appropriate conference staff to go over plans for the orientation session. This session should be immediately prior to the orientation and should outline the plan and the goals for the orientation. Fifteen to 30 minutes should be plenty of time. The session should cover the following:

    • Introductions of conference staff, conference planning committee, mentoring program planners, etc.

    • Have experienced mentors offer suggestions of items to talk about with New Colleagues, share "war stories", and relate their first-time experiences and what they now get out of mentoring.

    • Conference staff should go over all materials that are to be handed out to New Colleagues as main points of discussion for the orientation, being sure to explain all of the conference materials, going over new session types or conference events that would be important for New Colleagues to attend, etc.

  2. The New Colleague Orientation.

    • There should be a large chart on an easel at the entrance to the room listing Mentors, New Colleagues and assigned tables.

    • Round tables, each numbered, should be set for all participants. Mentors and New Colleagues should be seated together.

    • A set of conference materials, NAPAMA Ethical Guidelines, and other materials relevant to the conference should be at the tables, along with a list of social sessions (receptions, parties, dine-arounds, etc.)

    • Most of the session should be dedicated to talk at the tables.

    • Mentors should all be introduced and asked to stand up so that New Colleagues can see the whole body of volunteers. They should know that any Mentor is available for questions from any New Colleague. (Mentors are identified by a Mentor ribbon on their name badge.)

    • It is recommended that a representative from NAPAMA introduce the NAPAMA Ethical Guidelines. These should be discussed generally, then addressed specifically at the individual tables.

    • Most of the time for this session should be dedicated to Mentors talking with their New Colleagues.

    • Please note: It is NOT recommended that you plan a tour of the exhibit hall during this session. It takes too much time away from information sharing. Set up a time for Mentors to gather with New Colleagues on an individual basis to tour the exhibit hall before its opening.

  3. Don’t leave them hangin’! Creating opportunities for Mentors and New Colleagues to reconnect during the conference is a very important element of the overall success of the mentoring program. Schedule a get-together sometime about halfway through the conference. It need not be a dedicated session, but should create an area for Mentors and New Colleagues to meet at an existing party, reception, breakfast or other social gathering. This gives New Colleagues a chance to check in with Mentors, share stories, and ask questions about their experiences. Be sure to have several Mentors assigned to be available during this time.


The goal of the program is, of course, to help the New Colleagues begin some of their first new relationships. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your Mentors and New Colleagues stay connected after the conference. Several weeks after the conference, send out a letter with guidelines for them to reconnect and see how conference follow-up is going.

Written by Laura Hartmann, President, LVanHart Artist Productions

For Mentors

Reasons to Be a Mentor

  1. Remember your first conference: It didn’t make a lot of sense, did it?

  2. It provides a soft landing for New Colleagues, helping them to feel like part of a collegial community and to be more successful.

  3. It feels great to help people out.

  4. The best way to get better at what you do is to teach it.

  5. It strengthens our field to bring in the New Colleagues and get them up to speed more quickly.

  6. The relationships that we develop with our New Colleagues can often last for years and can lead to unexpected collaborations


  1. Sign up to be a Mentor when you register for the conference.

  2. Watch for New Colleague assignments from the conference. If you haven’t heard anything a month before the conference, get in touch to make sure that they assign you at least one New Colleague. Usually the conferences are good about matching up Mentors with New Colleagues, but mistakes do happen. If you’ve only been assigned one New Colleague and you feel like you can handle more, volunteer to take another one or two. Many New Colleagues register late for the conferences, so you can be there to help out some of these stragglers.

  3. Reach out to your New Colleagues right away by phone or email, first to let them know that you’re there for them, and second to help them prepare for the conference. Very often they don’t realize how much preparation is necessary for a successful conference experience. In all cases, you can help New Colleagues focus on their overall goals for the conference, whether it’s booking dates for their series, catching up on the latest immigration and tax laws, seeing some new dance works, or meeting some phone colleagues in person. A good focus will help them prepare in advance, and the advance planning is critical to a successful conference.

  4. Depending on whether your New Colleagues are presenters, agents, artists or managers, here are some tips you can share with them:

    • Presenters: Help them focus on what they’re interested in booking or exploring. Help them figure out which artists and agencies to approach. Help them sort through and prioritize the various showcase options. Suggest ways to network with other presenters to get ideas, do block booking, and learn tricks of the trade. Tell them how to use available exhibitor directories before getting to the conference, and how to arrange meetings with agents.

    • Agents, Managers & Artists: Talk about the value of advance contact and scheduling meetings with presenters. Explain exhibit hall etiquette and discuss booth setup. Talk about all of the ways to make use of both structured time and social time to build relationships that lead to business. Talk about any specific marketing opportunities that may be available at the conference, such as Speed Leads, pitch sessions, etc., as well as how to sign up in advance for these opportunities. Stress the long-term nature of the relationships in this business, encourage patience, and temper any short-term expectations. Point out presenter directories and other information available to help sort and prioritize which presenters to approach. Also talk about protocol for artists looking to find representation, and strategies for approaching agencies.

    • Showcases: Discuss strategies for getting presenters to attend, for structuring successful showcase performances, and being clear on overall goals for showcasing. Talk about handout materials to have available at the showcase and the booth, and advance mailings. For private showcases, discuss pros and cons of providing food and drink, contracting with sound and lighting companies, and other showcase production issues. Lay the groundwork for turning showcases into bookings.

    • Everyone: Encourage your New Colleague to attend the New Colleague session on the first day of the conference, along with any other sessions especially appropriate to New Colleagues. In fact, encourage them to attend everything they can, and meet everyone they can. Encourage them to keep in touch with you before the conference as questions come up.

  5. It can’t be stressed enough: Advance preparation will really transform a New Colleague’s experience at the conference. Without advance preparation, many New Colleagues arrive at the opening session and don’t even know what questions to ask. Help them avoid this by taking the time to help them prepare, and do it far enough in advance that the preparation and planning can be meaningful.

At the Conference - New Colleague Orientation Session

  1. Arrive early for the session. There will be a short pre-session just for the Mentors. If you’ve already read through this packet, you’ll be largely prepared, but it’s good to have a short gathering of the Mentors to share any new ideas. If this is the first time that you’re acting as a Mentor, you can learn from the more experienced Mentors. The people who volunteer as Mentors tend to be a generous and gregarious bunch, so it’s fun to be together.

  2. Your main job at this session is to lead a discussion and answer questions from the New Colleagues. Once the opening remarks by the conference staff and any other speakers are finished, try to pull your tablemates in close and focus the conversation so everyone gets some attention.

  3. Start by asking everyone to say their names, where they’re from, and (briefly) what they’re hoping to accomplish at the conference. Keep some notes so you can come back around and address as many of the questions and concerns as possible. Be careful to balance questions and concerns from presenters, artists and agents. Encourage discussion among the New Colleagues and let them answer each other’s questions if appropriate.

  4. Help the New Colleagues sort through all of the various sessions and other activities at the conference, and explain the value of each.

  5. Make a specific point of talking about the fluid nature of relationships and roles within the performing arts field. Artists become agents, presenters become publicists, people change jobs and roles all the time, so a purely social relationship can become a lucrative business relationship overnight. And of course friendships in this field are precious no matter what the business relationship might be. Encourage the New Colleagues to meet everyone.

  6. Discuss the NAPAMA Guidelines for Ethical Behavior.

  7. Make plans with your New Colleagues to meet again a day or two later, even if briefly, or at least plan to check in with each other via cell phone. Questions will often come to mind once the New Colleague gets immersed in the conference.

  8. Arrange for a walk-through of the exhibit hall together before the official opening of the hall. This can be valuable for both exhibitors and presenters. Talk about effective booth design and layout for exhibitors; talk about how best to navigate the hall for presenters.

  9. During the walk-through, help agents, managers and artists with any booth setup questions. Often booth setup can be tweaked at the last minute with the help of an experienced exhibitor.

  10. Talk at least briefly about conference follow-up, touching again on realistic expectations.

At the Rest of the Conference

  1. Do the walk-through of the exhibit hall together.

  2. Follow up at least once with each of your New Colleagues, either by phone or in person. Attend any functions which are set up for New Colleagues to reconnect with Mentors.

  3. Make a point of introducing them to other colleagues in whatever way would be helpful to them. Remember that one of the toughest things about being at a conference for the first time is the feeling of not knowing anyone. You can be a big part of opening some doors for them. This may be most helpful at the opening night reception.


  1. Follow up with your New Colleagues to help them with any post-conference questions. While they ultimately have the responsibility of asking for help, it’s another collegial thing for you to initiate the post-conference follow-up.

Written by Mike Green, Mike Green & Associates.

For New Colleagues

If you are new to the field, a first-time Conference attendee, or a first-time Showcase Producer, join the New Colleague/Mentoring Program, which is geared toward helping you make the most of your first experience at a Conference.


  1. Sign up for the Program when you register for the Conference.

  2. You will be matched with a Mentor who is a veteran in the field and the Conference, so you can ask questions and prepare to make the most of your Conference/Showcasing experience.

  3. Go to the Conference website and read all of the information on the site.

  4. Go over all of the New Colleague/Conference materials sent to you in advance.

  5. Prepare a list of questions/concerns regarding preparing for a Conference, setting up meetings, exhibits and exhibiting, working the exhibit hall, showcase preparation, showcase setup and showcase promotion, or general Conference protocol to discuss with your assigned Mentor.

  6. Your Mentor will contact you before the Conference. Please respond promptly. If you don’t hear from your Mentor, feel free to contact him/her.

At the Conference

  1. Plan to attend the New Colleague Orientation Meeting and connect with your Mentor there.

  2. Plan to attend any and all events specifically intended for New Colleagues; e.g., New Colleague mixer or other social events, New Colleague reconnection meeting, etc.

  3. Plan to tour the Exhibit Hall/Marketplace with your Mentor prior to Exhibit Hall/Marketplace opening.

  4. Ask questions of your Mentor or any Mentor and/or Conference staff.

  5. Read and be respectful of the NAPAMA Ethical Guidelines provided to you.

  6. Volunteer if you feel up to it; it's a great way to connect.


  1. Be sure to contact your Mentor and offer thanks.

  2. Follow up with people you met at the Conference.

Written by Robert Baird, BAM! Baird Artists Management.

Conference Guide for New Colleagues

  1. Before the Conference:

    • Visit Conference website schedule and plan your time at the Conference.

    • Connect with your Mentor/New Colleague.

    • Research information on the internet re artists/presenters.

    • Make appointments with presenters/agents with whom you want to connect. Contact information is available via attendee lists from Conference organizers.

  2. Conference Expenses:

    • Factor in meals provided with conference registration.

    • Investigate cost-saving possibilities such as room-sharing, less expensive accommodation, etc.

  3. What to Wear:

    • Business or business-casual attire.

    • Bring something dressy for Opening Night and/or Closing Night parties or for going out.

    • Dress for comfort and in layers - room temperatures vary.

    • Wear comfortable and durable shoes; there will be lots of walking and standing.

  4. Exploring:

    • Check on local events and sights via conference website/internet.

    • Plan to get out and explore the local area (historical sights, markets, museums, galleries, etc.)

  5. Artists/Managers/Agents:

    • Attend Professional Development workshops, seminars, roundtables.

    • Attend social events.

    • Bring artist calendars.

    • Have your "elevator speech" ready, describing what you/your artist does in one minute or less.

    • Take season brochures displayed at the conference - see who they are booking, what seasons look like, etc.

    • Collect business cards.

    • Follow up!

    • Note that live performances are not permitted outside of juried and independent showcases or sponsorship opportunities featuring a performance.

    • Artists may not appear in character except when performing in a showcase or under a sponsorship.

  6. Exhibiting:

    • Set up your booth so that it is welcoming, with the table at rear or side, not a barrier at the front of the booth.

    • Have professional signage.

    • Have press kits, CDs and DVDs to promote you and your artists.

    • Consider using audio-visual equipment (CD player, DVD player, flat-screen TV, all with headsets for sound control).

    • Anything left in quantity in an exhibit booth is fair game and may be taken.

    • Hide or remove valuable equipment when exhibit hall closes.

  7. Promotional Material:

    • Obtain premium-quality promotional materials.

    • Press kits should include a business card, photos, press clippings, tech rider, list of previous engagements, information on master classes, workshops and residency activities.

    • Have brochures or one-sheets to give away.

  8. Presenting Organizations/Venues:

    • Attend consortia meetings.

    • Attend Professional Development workshops, seminars and roundtables.

    • Attend social events.

    • Attend as many juried and independent showcases as you can.

    • Visit as many exhibits as you can.

    • Have information on your venue available: tech specs, light and sound systems, number of seats, marley dance floor, interesting features.

    • Know your presenting budget.

    • Bring season brochures.

    • Bring business cards.

    • Bring booking calendar/schedule for upcoming season.

    • Collect promotional material for artists who interest you.

  9. Procedures at the Conference:

    • Check on parking/load-in for the conference.

    • Check in at conference registration desk to pick up name tag and conference materials.

    • Go through conference materials and get information on event times and locations to plan your conference schedule.

    • Set up booth.

    • Connect with Mentor/New Colleague.

    • Note that live animals, except for service animals, are not allowed.

  10. "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold."

Created with assistance from materials provided by Arts Midwest, Arts Northwest and Western Arts Alliance by NAPAMA members Laura Hartmann, Mike Green and Robert Baird.