As a professional entertainer with over 20 years of experience entertaining at prestigious events in which my audiences have included Movie Stars, Celebrities, U.S. Presidents, Politicians, International Royalty, and the Social Elite, I have had the opportunity to see what makes some of these “high end” events successful and others flop, and I would like to share this information with you.
First let me say that it interests me to see how much time money and effort is spent on arranging the food, the centerpieces, and the location and how secondary the choice of entertainment seems to be. Let me state something important right now: THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN AFFECT THE SUCCESS OF YOUR PARTY, DINNER, CONVENTION, EVENT, OR YOUR PERSONAL REPUTATION AS THE ENTERTAINMENT YOU CHOOSE — so please make your choices carefully!
To put it simply: Good entertainment will be remembered long after the food is gone. (Don’t believe me? When was the last time you heard someone rave about a steak they had at an event three weeks ago?) For this reason, entertainment buying can be a daunting task. So just how do you find the right entertainment to make your event successful?
I will not go into detail about hiring bands or DJs — although many of the tips I will recommend here will apply to these entertainers as well. Generally, bands and DJs are considered “dance and background” entertainment and although important, they will not affect the outcome of your event as much as a professional act or solo entertainer can. People can still have fun with an “adequate” Band or DJ.
As long as they play appropriate and pleasant music at the right times, it will not seriously affect the outcome of the event. On the other hand, an “entertainer” who presents consistent and successful shows can literally have your audience laughing, cheering, beaming with compliments, and talking about your event WEEKS LATER and that is what I want to guide you to find. So let’s discuss how to find the best entertainer for your event.
There are two ways to find entertainment: One is to contact a reputable entertainment agency. The other is to hire an entertainer independently. You will find both entertainers and agents in the same way — either by recommendation, yellow page advertising, entertainment directories, internet sites, or by direct contact. Choosing to use an agent or hiring an act directly can be done with equal success if approached properly.
I have worked with entertainment agencies for many years and have nothing but praise for the reputable ones. A reputable agent has a list or “roster” of suitable entertainers. If you do not know what kind of entertainer you would like, a reputable agent can help direct you to the right performer. Be warned though that the agent will limit his suggestions to the roster of entertainers he or she represents — which may or may not include the best or most appropriate entertainers.
Because the agent handles more than one performer, he will only have a “rough idea” of what each entertainer can do and because of the vast number of entertainers he represents, it is not uncommon for him to unintentionally misrepresent what the act is capable of doing.
If you select the right entertainment agency, an agency you can trust or have worked with successfully in the past, you will be able to choose from a variety of different types of entertainers who will be suitable for your event.
If you know or have at least an idea of what type of entertainment you want, hiring a solo entertainer or an act (consisting of more than one performer) can be advantageous. Being able to speak with the performer directly, he can tell you much more specific information about his act than an agent can.
He can recommend specific routines for your particular audience and can let you know from experience wherein your evening his entertainment would best fit. The entertainer can work closely with you to tailor the show to fit your particular event.
Please be aware though that as a rule, if you saw a performer entertain at a previous event where he was contracted through an agent and you wish to hire him or her for your event, ethically, he must go through that agency unless he has agreed with that agent otherwise.
Whether you choose to go through an entertainment agency or through the act directly, ask to receive a COMPLETE PROMOTIONAL PACKET or at the very least a brochure. This should include any or all of 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, a variety of newspaper reviews of their act and testimonials from past clients.
Look at all of these carefully, but be skeptical — there are always acts and agents who lack integrity, and it is not uncommon in this business for them to list prestigious places the act has supposedly entertained when in truth they haven’t. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to question them about the places they say they have worked — make sure they can back it up!
The most important item to ask for is a VIDEOTAPE of the act. This is where the act literally “speaks for itself”. When you review the tape, watch it as if you yourself were in the audience, and be sure to watch it more than once. If you are on a committee, watch it with others and discuss it. When viewing the tape, listen not only to the act but to the audience’s response.
Be wary of tapes that are performed in a studio without an audience and of tapes that only show tiny “snippets” of the act assembled with slick editing. Seeing a series of clips containing only one punchline each is not as effective or important as watching a five-minute routine with a laugh every 10 seconds!
Because entertainers and agents know that your time is valuable, it is common for a promotional videotape to not contain a “full show”. It may consist of select routines which may or may not be shortened. This is acceptable, but you should be able to see some “meaty” routines with little or no editing so that you get a true feel for the act. Be critical — remember, the success of your evening is depending on it!
I would not recommend considering acts that contain “blue” or “risque” material. Although the audience on the tape might be laughing, and although you might even think that it’s funny, hiring an act with questionable material is bound to offend someone, and it can easily backfire on you and reflect badly on you, your company, or organization.
Once you have found the entertainment you desire, you should sign a CONTRACT with them as soon as possible. The best acts will book their yearly calendars quickly — especially for dates around prime times of the year like the Holiday Season — so don’t delay! Asking the act or agent to merely “hold” a particular date is not enough — without a signed contract they are not obligated to your engagement and are free to accept a “sure thing” should it come along. Remember, you are hiring the best — others will be looking for the best as well!
The cost of an entertainer varies according to the quality, experience, and notoriety of the performer. As a rule, the best performers will be more expensive — as it should be. Don’t make the mistake of hiring two inexpensive acts of lesser quality instead of one expensive act. Two adequate acts will never compare to one great act, and the money you spent on two acts of lesser quality will have been wasted. This is simply an issue of quality, not quantity.
If for some reason the act is beyond your budget, be truthful and open to the act or agent and let them know what your budget is. They might be able to make concessions or suggest ways of saving you money — perhaps presenting only a 20-minute show instead of a 30-minute show, or perhaps presenting an alternative act instead of the one they had originally planned.
Other than small concessions though, don’t expect them to reduce their price considerably. They know what they are worth and to maintain their reputation in the industry, they must maintain a consistent market price. To charge your group less than they charged their last group is simply bad business.
Once the act is contracted, make sure the entertainer or agent provides you with a list of PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS — things that the act needs to make the show run smoothly. This may include things like a dressing area, the size of the stage or dance floor they will require to present the act properly, microphone or sound requirements, the time they will need in advance to set up the show, etc. Having this list of requirements in advance will save you from last-minute surprises like “not knowing that the act required a cassette tape player”, or that “the audience should not have been seated at the sides of the performer”. This list tells you what is needed to make the activities run smoothly. If you cannot meet one or more of these requirements, let the act or agent know as soon as possible so they can adjust the show accordingly.
Once the show requirements are provided, you can be assured that the show will run smoothly, and you can relax knowing that you have the best professional entertainer in the right environment which will make your event an event to remember!
Things you need to know in advance before contacting an entertainer or agency:
___ 1. The location of the event___
2. The number of people you expect to attend the event.___
3. What performance area will be available at the location? (dance floor, stage, etc.) ___
4. Does the location provide a sound system and or lighting?___
5. Do you plan to have other entertainment at the event?___
6. What time would you like the performance to start?___
7. Are you planning to have award presentations or speeches?
Things to find out when speaking with a prospective entertainer or agency:
___ 1. How many years has the agency or entertainer been in business?___
2. What kind of experience does the entertainer have?___
3. What professional credentials or awards have the entertainer won?___
4. Is the entertainer available for your engagement?___
5. Ask to receive for your review:___ A. A complete promotional packet of the entertainer___ B. A promotional videotape___ C. Testimonials from previous clients
When reviewing an entertainer on tape, consider:
1. How polished and professional is the performer?
2. How does the act look (consider the dress of the performer and the props he or she is using) 3. Does the audience on the tape sound like they are being entertained?
3. If you were in that audience seeing that show, would you be entertained?
4. Does the entertainer’s style compliment your company or company’s ideas?
5. Is the tape complete enough to give you an idea of the act? (You don’t want to see short “snippets” of the act)
Things to do once the entertainer has been selected:
___ 1. Send the performer directions to the event along with any program or event information along with the returned contract.
___ 2. Ask to receive a copy of any “Performance Requirements” and pass a copy of them along to the people handling the technical aspects of the show (lighting and sound people, hotel AV department, etc.)
___ 3. A final call a week or two before the event to go over last-minute details is always helpful and appreciated — especially when last-minute changes have been made (like the addition of an “awards presentation”, a “speech by the company President” etc.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Award-winning Comedian Magician Harry Maurer is an entertainer of US Presidents, Celebrities, and International Royalty and he would like to do the same for you!