Planning a corporate event can feel like a battle. There are schedules and multiple timelines to deal with, keeping track of marketing to attendee's, managing vendors, booking venue and entertainment and a whole host of other variables that are in constant flux. I've been working as a corporate magician and mentalist for over 10 years and in that time, I've met a lot of event planners, both independent and on staff.
While some of them are battle ready soldiers who have a handle on every aspect of the event, I've noticed some blindspots, especially where it comes to hiring the right corporate entertainment. I wanted to put down my thoughts on this, and it is my hope that I can help add some support to those in the trenches.
So, in list format, because it's easiest for me to write and to digest, here are, in no particular order, the things you should know, consider or be aware of when hiring entertainment for your company party.
This is very often overlooked but a very important part of choosing the right entertainment for your event.
An agency who has insurance for all of their entertainment is common, but if you decide to book an entertainer on their own, or through a destination management company (most dmc's require their vendors carry insurance) you need to make sure they carry performers insurance.
Insurance signifies that the particular entertainer you're talking to is professional, detail oriented, has experience in the industry and cares about their clients.
Besides being a good indicator of a professional and experienced entertainer, it is also required by some venues. A lot of hotels, and even some private venues require entertainers to have insurance. This protects them, this protects you. Most specialty insurance brokers start with plans of 1 million and max out at 3 million dollars worth of insurance.
If it can be helped, you need to start looking for and contacting entertainers at a minimum of 3 months before the event, and in the case of a corporate holiday party, maybe up to a year or more in advance. Good entertainers are busy. They book up months or years in advance. During the holidays every year, I get dozens and dozens of calls asking me if I'm available for ABC company's holiday party and more often than not, I'm already booked. Worse than that, I can't even recommend anyone else because they're all booked too. All entertainers know that two Saturday's before Christmas is the busiest day of the year. If you are planning on having your holiday party then, no matter when you're reading this, you should already be calling entertainers.
I worked with a large company this past holiday season, and they had a cool idea. They booked myself and the venue for the middle of January and had their holiday party then. Holiday premiums for the venue were gone and I had the availability. It worked out great for everyone.
3. Do they have a clean show?
I have horror story upon horror story about this topic. It generally goes something like this:
ABC Company hires an entertainer they found online, the magician, comedian, singer, juggler or whoever it is in this situation says something on stage, or in passing while mingling with guests that is racist, rude, politically divisive, or otherwise off color and offends a company executive or company client. That entertainer obviously won't be hired again, but you may be out of a job.
Make absolutely sure that your entertainer works for corporate clients and has a clean show.
3. Show Requirements
This is deeply linked to your choice of venue, or your choice of entertainer. Some services require very specific staging, lighting, sound or space requirements. Some corporate magicians for instance need a full stage with wings on either side, curtains, stair access on the sides of the stage, correct lighting, sound, stairs for the stage, audience placement and the list goes on. Your venue may not be able to support this large of a show. You also have entertainers that work with fire (most magicians have moved away from this because of new pyrotechnic laws) like jugglers, poi spinners and fire breathers. It is vitally important that you check with your venue and see what they allow. This is a ask permission not forgiveness scenario. If you're violating laws or their insurance coverage for the building, they will shut down the event and kick everyone out.
When choosing an entertainer, take a look at the services they offer, if you don't know, ask. Then have an idea in mind of what you might like them to do. Professional entertainers have done hundreds of shows and know what works and what doesn't, they know their shows inside and out and will ask a lot of questions about the venue, how many people, how long the event is and related questions to fully understand what you're going for and offer their recommendations.
A common issue that pops up in my own work is placing a dance floor between the stage and the audience. In my circles, we refer to this as the "dance floor of death" because it kills the energy and efficacy of the show. Two years ago I was working with a client who had forgot to communicate to the hotel that the dance floor needed to be placed after the show. When I arrived at the venue early, I saw that it was already set up, so I made sure to have the dance floor removed and all the tables moved up toward the stage. Some entertainers would have left if it and blamed the hotel for a bad show afterwards but instead of doing that, we fixed it. It was a great show.
4. How are they helping you?
So entertainment is awesome, it's a universal truth since the birth of man, we get bored. We've come up with some really creative ways to entertain ourselves and there have always been entertainers. Sometimes you just need a fun activity to keep everyone having a good time. But have you ever considered that there might be other things an "entertainer" can do to actually help you reach event goals? Things like boosting information retention during a sales meeting, or improving how many purchase orders you get at a product launch? What about deeply connecting your company to your employees and their families in a meaningful way? What about increasing traffic and qualified leads at your tradeshow booth? Or increasing attendance to your events, year over year?
I've been working as a corporate magician and mentalist for over 10 years and coming from a business background has given me a lot of insight into how to help companies connect to their employee's, clients, potential clients and even their community in a fun, positive, memorable but more importantly than that, meaningful way. There are too many forms that this takes for me to put it into a blog post, but if you're interested in how I can help you look like a rockstar and boost your company event to the next level, get in touch. I'm at your service.
About the Author:
Alan Paoletti is the owner of APMagic, a corporate events company based in Plano, Texas.
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