Advice for Event Planners & other Talent Bookers

This post is for event planners who book performers for public events such as festivals and trade shows, as well as for other people who, from time to time, need to hire entertainers (bands, solo artists, dancers, jugglers, migicians, stand-up comedians, ventriloquists, etc.) to perform at your corporate/ civic event, place of worship, club or lodge, or family event. As someone who has performed more than 4,500 shows (as a stand-up comedian, comedy magician, emcee, comedy roast writer and presenter, and educational entertainer) for audiences of every age group and demographic you can imagine (I have even entertained at a 100th birthday celebration), I would like to pass on a few bits of wisdom I have acquired during my 29+ years as a professional comedy entertainer.

The first thing you should ask yourself is, “Who is your audience”? What is the age range? I have actually received requests for a stand-up comedian and a close-up magician to perform at a preschool. Wouldn’t a comedy magic, balloon twister, or puppet show be more appropriate for that age group? Always ask yourself, “who is the entertainment really for?”  What are the demographics of your audience? Are they all one gender or mixed, conservative or liberal, blue collar or white collar, drinkers, or non-drinkers, religious or secular people? Do your audience members have any physical limitations (hearing, sight, mobility, attention span)? I recently received a request to perform stand-up comedy at a “retirement community.” Upon arriving at the agreed upon location, I realized it was actually a nursing home for the deaf. Fortunately, I had packed some comedy magic props and some balloons to use later that day. So, I was able to provide a performance that was suitable for the physical limitations of my audience, or it would have been a very long hour for the audience and me.

What type of entertainment would be suitable for your audience group? Ask yourself, “What type of entertainment would be most beneficial for my group and venue?” Example: Don’t book a juggler if you can’t give him/her plenty of floor space and a nice, tall ceiling.  Also, don’t get so hung up on your groups demographics that you forget to think outside the box. I have received numerous calls from event planners who thought I should create a brand new show to fit the product or service produced by the organization.   One event planner went so far as to suggest that I write 90 minutes of stand-up comedy material about grain elevators. Really?! First of all, writing, memorizing, and rehearsing (perfecting timing, facial expressions and voice inflection) that much material requires hundreds of hours.  And no client would pay the fee I would have to charge in order to just break even. Secondly,when would I ever use that material again?   Thirdly,is that really what the audience wants?  Audience members, especially corporate audience members,  don’t  necessarily want to be reminded of their work while they’re being entertained.  They just want to relax and have fun.

In my next post, I will discuss matching the entertainer with your audience.