I have been professional entertainer for over 10 years. I have learned from experience some of the things that make an event run well and some things to avoid. I would like to share some of this information with you to help you choose the correct entertainment for your event.
First I am continually amazed at how much time, money and effort is put into selecting the menu, caterer, colors, arrangement of the centerpieces, location, and how secondary the choice of entertainment is. Here is an unvarnished truth. NOTHING AFFECTS THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PARTY, RECEPTION, DINNER OR EVENT MORE THAN THE ENTERTAINMENT YOU CHOOSE. – So do so carefully. To put it another way, no matter how much you spend on the food, venue, or decorations they soon be forgotten. But the entertainment will be remembered for a very long time. If you do not believe me, when was the last time you heard someone rave about the meal they had at an event three weeks later. Therefore, you need to choose your entertainment carefully. Your reputation depends on it.
I will not be discussing hiring a band or DJ in any detail here; however, much of this can apply to them as well. Generally speaking bands and DJ are what are considered “background” entertainment. While these are important they will not have nearly the impact on your event that a professional act can have. In fact, as long as they play appropriate music that people like at the right times a simply “adequate” band or DJ and still allow everyone to have fun. However, an “entertainer”, who provides a successful show can literally have people laughing, and talking about the outstanding event WEEKS LATER.
One of the first things you need to ask for when contacting a performer is a promo or promotional packet or at the very least a brochure. A promo packet will contain the following: a photo (or photos), a biography, a list of credentials including places he or she has performed, a list of clients he or she has successfully entertained, reviews of their act and testimonials from past clients.
Review the material carefully, it is not uncommon in this business to list prestigious places the act has supposedly entertained when in truth they have not. If there is any doubt ask questions. Make sure they are being truthful with you.
The most important item is a video or demo reel of the act. This may be provided on DVD but it is becoming more and more common to provide you a link to a website. This allows the performer to get the information to you more quickly and it also allows you and several others to review it independently.
When you review the demo reel, watch it as if you were in the audience. Listen not only to the performance but also to the audience. Are they having a good time? Would you be having a good time if you were there? Be wary of video that is shot in a studio without an audience.
Because your time is valuable, it is not uncommon for a demo reel to be edited for time. This is to give you as much of a feel for the show as possible in a short period of time. But at least should be able to have at least one good routine.
I would recommend staying away from acts that contain “blue” or “risque” material. The audience on the demo reel may be laughing, and you might even think that it is funny, but an act with that type of material is bound to offend someone. As a result, it can reflect poorly on you as well as your company or organization.
Once you have identified an entertainer or act you would like to book for your event, you need to sign a contract with them AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The best acts book their yearly calendar quickly. I can not tell you how many times I hear, “How soon do you need to know?” The answer for me and every other act in demand is a soon as you know. Often I have had a date open and then when they call back that date has been booked. Remember, you are hiring the best — others will be looking for the best as well!
The cost of an entertainer varies. It is primarily related to the demand for the performer. And the best performers are in demand. As a rule, the best performers will be more expensive — as it should be. Many have made the mistake of hiring two inexpensive poorer acts instead of one quality act. Trying to make of for quality with quantity. Two poor acts will never compare to one great act. The money you spent on the two poorer acts is simply wasted.
When you call a performer you will often be asked what is your budget. The reason is simply If you budget will not fit their price, they can do one of two things let you know right up front they are not a good fit. And they may be able to offer alternatives. The other option is if you are in the ball park their might be able to be make some adjustments to their show to fit within your budget. But you should not expect major swings in the price. Each performer knows what they are worth and in order to maintain a good reputation in the industry they have to maintain consistent pricing. To charge you less for your event than they charged their last group is simply a poor business practice.
Once you have a contract with the entertainer make sure they provide you with a list of what they will need for a good performance, this is generally in the form of a tech rider to the contract. It will be a list of things they need to make their show runs smoothly. This will include things like a dressing area, stage size needed, microphone or sound requirements, the time they will need in order to set up for the show, etc. Getting this list of requirements early will save you from any last minute surprises like “not knowing that the act required a CD player”, or that “the audience should not have been seated at the sides of the performer”. The tech rider tells you what is needed to make the program run smoothly. If you cannot meet one or more of these requirements, let the performer know as soon as possible. It may not be a deal killer they may be able to simply adjust the show to account for the changes.
Once you have met the requirements in the tech sheet, you can relax and rest assured that the show will run smoothly.
Here are a three checklists to aid you through the process.
Before contacting an entertainer:
___ 1. Location of the event
___ 2. Number of people attending the event.
___ 3. Performance area available (dance floor, stage, etc.)
___ 4. Availability of Sound system and Lighting
___ 5. Any other entertainment
___ 6. Performance to start time
___ 7. Other activities (e.g. award presentations or speeches)
Things to find out:
___ 1. Number of years in business
___ 2. Experience
___ 3. Professional credentials, e.g. awards, and recognitions
___ 4. Availability
___ A. Promotional packet
___ B. Demo reel
___ C. Testimonials from previous clients
___ 1. Send performer directions to the event
___ 2. Send performer program and event information with the returned contract.
___ 3. Ask for copy of “Performance Requirements” or tech rider. Ensure you give copy to those handling the technical aspects of the show (lighting and sound people, hotel AV department, etc.)
___ 4. Call a week or two prior to event to go over last minute details. If the entertainer know these it may effect the show they approach the show — especially things like an addition of an “awards presentation”, a “speech by the company President” etc.
JD Stewart is a professional entertainer who performs around the United States. With over 10 years of professional experience, he provides comedy magical entertainment tailored to the needs of his corporate clientele. He resides outside Austin, Texas and can be reached at (512) 468-0011.