This transcript is from Episode 6 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/6
Tom: You're listening to Episode 6.
Announcer: Welcome to the Savvy Event Planner Podcast where insightful tips, strategies, tactics, and case studies can help and inspire you to engage guests and create successful events. And now, here is your host, Tom Crowl.
Tom: Thanks for pressing play and welcome to the podcast. If you're one of our new listeners, thanks for finding us and taking the chance to come here and learn more. If you enjoy today's episode, and maybe even if you don't, please go back through our archives; we've only got five files in the archives, but it's some great content from a Disney facilitator who trains cast mates in how to create the Disney experience; from a memory expert who can help you with your event planning and networking. Just all kinds of interviews that will help you with what you do, which is hopefully planning events or you're wasting your time here.
For those of you who are return listeners, you have no idea how much you mean to me. Your support, your sharing of this podcast on social media, like LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter, has helped us to grow and the fact that you're coming back means so much to me. The comments you're leaving on iTunes, I'm reading and I'm getting private messages and emails, and I'm reading all of those. And I'm taking in everything you say, and I'm working at trying to make this podcast better for you each time. That's what I want to do. I want this to be better for you.
So, keep those messages and keep those shares and all the comments coming because they help out so much. In fact, if you haven't already, we are running a contest right now. Some of our listeners already know this, but we're running a contest for iTunes comments. Just an honest iTunes comment. Don't blow it up if you don't want to enjoy it. I want honest comments because they help me to grow and they help other people understand what this podcast is all about. But you have a chance to win a $50 gift card. Either from Amazon, iTunes or Starbucks and to do that all you have to do is leave an iTunes and then take a screen capture and share it on Twitter. But we'll share that at the end of the podcast, because I know you're here for content and today that's what I want to deliver.
Now, ordinarily at this point in the show I would be talking about the guest that I'm bringing on. But today is different because today it's just me. Some of you have maybe no idea who Tom Crowl even is. If you've gone to the savvyeventpodcast.com website, you may have read a little blurb about me. Maybe some of you clicked the links to see what I do or my history in event planning. But today I want to share that with you and also offer you some great advice that as a corporate entertainer I see happen time and again. Things that planners and event managers don't think about when they're putting talent into their events.
So first of all let me tell you a little bit about me. I grew up loving entertainment. Some of the first things I remember are Senor Wences, the famous Spanish ventriloquist. He was on television, on The Ed Sullivan Show, yeah, I'm that old. And I loved that kind of entertainment. And I also grew up during a huge boom in variety entertainment, the '70s and the '80s. A guy by the name of Mark Wilson was on television with Magic Circus. Then came along Doug Henning, a magician out of Canada who was huge on Broadway and became a major television star back in the '70s. David Copperfield, when he was getting his start, had specials on prime time television.
And of course I grew up with comedy. Steve Martin was a major influence. Robin Williams was a major influence and I started wanting to be a variety entertainer, specifically at that time a magician. And I started playing all types of events and, I mean, I played all types of events and that's what in vaudeville they used to call time on the boards. You had to have experience in front of an audience and the more audiences you had experience with, the better you were getting. And I would do show after show and eventually got to the point where people were paying me to come out and perform. And as I became better I would get agents, I would get different events, and I moved into the corporate market.
And I thought this training was extremely important, because if you don't have the experience working with a bunch of different audiences when you move into the corporate, you're going to have problems because a lot of the corporate events that I do have a wide diverse audience. They have everything from the guy who just got out of college to the senior retiring executive. Sometimes the spouses are there and they have way different jobs. Everything from blue to white collar, just a wide mix. So you need someone with the experience entertaining a lot of different types of audiences in a lot of different type of settings who can draw on that experience to make your event a success. Because entertainment plays a huge part in the memory of an event. A lousy show can kill everything you've done. People will be wondering, “Oh gosh, who in the heck selected this person? They suck,” and we've all seen that. We've been to events where it's like, “Oh Lord, what were they thinking?” And it makes the event planner look bad.
So, how do you find out what would be a good type of entertainment for an event. Now sure, you may have an idea in mind, but I find that one of the best ways to find out what type of entertainment your guests are going to want to enjoy is to do a survey. And there's an online survey company called SurveyMonkey and I'll have the link to this in the show notes. You can create a survey and send it out to your guests, if you know what they're going to be. So if your company of event planner, you can create a survey about the different types of food and the different types of entertainment and maybe a couple of other different things. Themes or different ideas and just make it short, something they can go click, click, click and be done. But it gives you feedback on what your audience wants.
Now, if you're dealing with a private client who's hosting an event, you might want to guide them into talking to their guests to see what kind of things they enjoy. I mean what are their hobbies, what kind of TV programs do they like or what kind of movies do they like, what do they have in common? These are things that are going to help your host, if you're the event planner for a private individual or a private company. They're going to help them to determine what the best entertainment is. And once you have a direction, you've then got to break down that direction.
For example, let's say your people said, “Yeah, we want a comedian, we want to laugh.” What type of comedian? You've got stand-ups comedians. You've got imposters who come out and pose as somebody from the company and things get worse and worse or perhaps they're an expert speaker on a subject and the speech just dissolves into just huge laughter, because they can't believe this stuff is coming out of somebody's mouth. There are prop comics, think along the lines of Carrot Top. Ventriloquists, we are considered prop comics but a ventriloquist actually seems to be a comedy duo act, if they're a good ventriloquist. You've got jugglers, you've got magicians, you've got musical comedy like dueling pianos, and that's just under the heading of comedian.
There's all different types of music. So you think is it going to be atmosphere music, background; is it going to be classical, is it going to be rock. Are we talking about a DJ or are we talking about a band. A lot of different options are under any one of these headings, and it's going to be up to you to figure out which one is going to work for your guests. And you also have to take a look at the venue. If you have a low ceiling in your venue, a juggler is not going to be a good option. They throw things up in the air and if there's not enough air, they can't do anything. And I've seen this happen where a juggler has gone into an event, we're performing together on the same bill, and they can't do their unicycle routine, because they'd be hitting their head on the ceiling. And they don't know how they are going to do their nine ball juggling routine because there's not enough height to get all the balls in the air. And their show has to change and that affects the entertainment value of it.
If you have a small space an illusionist is not going to be a good option. An illusionist has a lot of large illusions, boxes in the business and you can't do boxes if you don't have room for the equipment. When you start researching your entertainment, Google is going to be your friend. You can type in the type of entertainment you're looking for and you'll get a ton of options. Now, you could go to an entertainment agency and if you've got a great relationship with an entertainment agency, then that's wonderful. But you have to be aware that not all entertainment agencies are the same. Some of them are really there for you and some of them are really there for the payday. And I know this because I've worked with a large number of entertainment agencies.
And if you're working with a reputable agency, they're not going to mind putting you in touch directly with the act. They've got to be able to trust their acts. And it's funny because some agencies don't trust their acts not try to go around them and cut out their commission or steal their client. But if the agency is good, the agency has faith in their acts, there are not worried about that undercutting, and they are the kind of agencies that you want to work with, because you do want to talk with your entertainer before you hire them. So trust in communication is extremely important.
There are also listing sites on the Internet. A listing site is something like GigMasters or GigSalad. They look to the buyer like an entertainment agency but they're not. They are charging entertainers a fee to be listed on their sites. It's kind of like a big bulletin board of acts. And when you go and look for an act and submit, they'll submit to the act that you want, but chances are they're also going to submit to 10 or 20 other entertainers who are then going to inundate your mailbox or call you on the phone and try to sell you their act.
So be aware that while it's great to get ideas from some of these listing sites, they are an option but they may not be the best way to go. And of course you can always Google an entertainer and find their website. And some entertainers will direct you to an agent and some of them will work with you directly. And as you're looking at the entertainer's site, you have to use a little commonsense and ask yourself some questions. Does this entertainer look like they would perform at the type of event we're hosting?
If you're looking at a magician who is showing themselves out on a fair grounds, are they going to be right for a black tie dinner if they got bunch of kids in the audience there? One of these things is not like the other. If you're doing a small picnic for a family, let's say you're planning an event for a family reunion. They got entertainment budget of a few hundred dollars, are you going to be bringing in a Fortune 500 comedian who travels internationally to do shows? The budget is not going to be there. So you want to ask yourself these questions before you waste your time by reaching out to that entertainer.
Now, on the entertainment side. One of the first things that I'm usually asked is how much do you charge? And as an event planner, I can understand budget. You need to see is that entertainer going to be in your budget. But there's a more important question that a lot of people overlook. And that is are you going to be right for my event? Are you going to be right for my event? Because the price doesn't matter if the act is not right for your event. And a lot of times you'll talk to entertainers and they'll start into this, “Oh, I do this and I do that and then I'm gonna do this and we're gonna bring somebody out of the audience and do this.” And they're talking about what they do, but really the conversation should be about what you need.
The entertainer should ask questions about your audience. Learn about them, what's going on before me? What's going on after me? What is the feeling that the audience needs to get from this performance? So it's not so much about what the performer does but what your event needs to be a success. And an entertainer who is focused on that is the type of entertainer you want. If they're talking about them, avoid them. Just avoid them right out, because they don't understand the corporate entertainment business. And they don't understand the event entertainment business.
Any event is about the guests and about what the host wants the guests to experience. So they need to know this, they need to ask these questions and that's why it's so important when you start talking to an entertainer. First question is not how much do you charge? The first question is would you be right for my event? And then the entertainer is going to ask you, “Let's find out more.” And it's a little conversation and it's not a sales tool, it's just there to be a consultation to see if there's a fit.
Once the conversation takes place, if the entertainer instantly spouts out a price, they're thinking way ahead. Because literally when someone talks to me about an event, I go back and I consider everything they say and then I put together a quote. And a lot of the acts that I know in the business do exactly the same. And the quote has to include everything. You don't want to be surprised with outside expenses. So they're going to tell you this will also includes air are or if it's rolled into the price, and I try to do that. When I go out I try to roll everything into one fee. That way the event planner isn't responsible for it. You're not going to be surprised with, “Oh my gosh, the plane ticket went up surprisingly”, or “There was an extra luggage charge that I wasn't counting on,” or “The plane was missed and they had to do another flight which cost a lot more.”
Those are things that some entertainers will roll into their price and other entertainers will bill, so you need to know this. You also have to think about their tech rider. Now, if an entertainer is flying in, they're going to probably provide you with tech rider. They're not going to be bringing in their own sound or their own lighting and these are important to the success of the show. You see, if the performer doesn't have the right tools, they're going to look bad. If the sound is bad and the audience can't hear the comedian or the singer, it's not going to be, “Oh, wow, that sound is really bad”. It's going to be, “Oh, they're not very good.” If they're not seen, they're kept in the dark, there's no focus on the entertainment and that means that the appeal was less to the audience. And it's not going to be, “Oh well, there wasn't enough lighting” or “The setup was wrong”. It's, “Oh, they weren't very good.”
And any time the act looks bad, it reflects on you as the event planner. Why did you hire this who's no good? They may kill in another setting, but if they don't have the proper equipment and the proper framing to kill in your setting, it's going to make them look bad and that by turn is going to make you look bad. So you need to go over this. You need to look at what they need to have a successful show. And if you can't afford the tech rider, if you talk to your in- house venue or you talk to your AV company and you can't afford things that are on the tech rider, talk with the act, see if there's a way around it or another possibility, but if you can't afford it, don't hire that act. Because why would you want to set them up for failure and set yourself up for failure as well?
So, as you go through the proposal that they provide you, do they cover all the bases and are their additional expenses or tech? Look at those, look at your budget and if you've got it there then you're solid. Another thing you need to keep in mind is you need to present your act so that it is a feature of your evening. I've been to events where they set up a very small stage. No skirting at all, and they just set up a stand on one side with the speaker on top of it. It looks like something you'd see out in the middle of a field. And it's right in front of the fireplace, over in the corner of the room, and this is where our act is going to be. And people look over there and they go, “What the heck is that? They got all these nice decorations around them and then here is bare bone stage.”
The first thing you have to consider when you're putting entertainment into a venue is where are they going to be successful? What is the best way to lay out the room so that people will be able to see your entertainment? If they can't see the entertainment, they can't enjoy the entertainment. And I tell you this because I flew into an event in California. I had sent an entire room layout, I got there everything was set up completely wrong. The first thing they did was they put the stage against a wall. Now, ordinarily, that would be fine except on either side they had tables up against the same wall. So these tables could not see the stage. They just couldn't see it. So there's no way they are going to enjoy the show. And what happens if something is going on and you can't be part of it? You lose interest.
So I knew that during the show, conversations would start and those conversations would be a low rumble behind what I was doing. And then other people who were trying to watch the show would hear this low rumble and they'd start, “What's going on over there? What's this noise?” Which means that their attention then got distracted and that pulled them out of the performance and the audience would slowly be lost. People wouldn't be paying attention. If they're not paying attention, I'm not going to pay attention, it must not be any good and that would reflect on the event planner and I said no. These need to be changed. They had a dance floor right in front of the stage.
Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with somebody across a parking lot? It doesn't work. You might yell back and forth a little bit but you can't hear, there's no connection. When you go into a comedy club, the tables are close to the stage. They do that because they want to build that connection, and if you have a speaker or you have a variety artist or a comedian, you need that close proximity of the audience. So setting up a dance floor right in front of the stage is a very bad idea. And I cover this in my layouts when I send the client my tech rider. I give them room layouts, suggested room layouts, and they're basic room layouts so they fit into almost any situation. But even if you're in a different situation, they give you the idea and the suggestions that you need to keep the audience close.
So in the event that they were going to have a band after my performance, which they were, then it's easy enough to put some chairs out on that dance floor and bring people over which they could've done. They could've put chairs out there and brought the people on those side tables that couldn't see over to sit down and watch the show. And so I suggested that to the event planner. I said, “It's in the tech rider, in the show rider that I gave you and you were supposed to present the venue” and they said, “Well, we can't. They won't come over there to sit”, and said, “Why not? I can go over and invite them myself.” “Well, they're going to be eating during your show.” No, no, no, never ever, ever use a speaker or a comedian while people are eating. That is the biggest no-no in the world. That's a train wreck waiting to happen. Because what happens when you're eating? It's a social period. People aren't going to be paying attention. And if you're having a comedian, people are not going to laugh when there's food in their mouth. They just don't do it and so the comedian is going to die on stage.
And I had warned this event planner what would happen and the event planner was like, “No, we've done this before. We've done this before, we had a magician one year it went fine”. Comedy and magic are two different things. A magician may be a comedy magician but he still got a visual element to his show. But for a comedian if you're not getting laughs, you're out there dying. And I've done hundreds of events every year, and I can tell you that that doesn't work. Trust your entertainer when you bring them in, they've done this. And even if you've done it a couple of times and it's worked, maybe what they suggest to you will work even better.
So the first thing, make your staging stand out. Add some pipe and drape. Make it look good. Not necessarily balloons, some people like to do that; balloons can cut off angles, especially if you put them toward the front of the stage, but decorate your stage up. It doesn't add that much more to your budget and it makes it look like something important is going to happen there. Also maybe a sign, your company logo. Some companies have gobos the lights with the cut out plates that have a cutout in them off your logo and it shines the logo onto the curtain. So they are great, they're not that expensive.
My wife uses some and if you didn't listen to my interview with my wife, Deirdre, she is an event planner for her company and that's episode 1 of the Savvy Event Podcast. So just go to savvyeventpodcast.com/episode1 and you can listen to that interview. Make it look like something exciting is going to happen there and then you got to consider replacement of your entertainment during you evening. A lot of event planners feel like the entertainment should be the last that happens. While that, if you're using music for dancing, is a good idea. It's not always a good idea for different types of entertainment and it's not always good for every event.
For example, I do a lot of awards dinners for companies, and I'll go in and they say, “Okay, we're going to have dinner and then we're going to present the awards and our CEO is going to talk for a little while or our president is going to talk for a little while, and then we're going to have the entertainment. We've done it that way for years.” Have you ever noticed that people slowly disappear during the evening? It's because they have a lot to do. There's a lot of things going on in your life. You've got to literally decide that you're going to make time for this podcast. You might be thinking, “Oh, I've got to get to work; I'll listen to this later.” With an event people start thinking, “I've been at work all day, I've got a baby sitter at home, it's getting late, I don't need to see this entertainment. I can go.” And people will slowly start disappearing and that ruins the cohesion of your event. It ruins the successful climax of your event. How do you keep those people around?
There's a couple of great opportunities. First of all I usually recommend to the event planners that you put the entertainment on following dinner, immediately following dinner. You have dinner, as people are finishing up you can make a quick announcement. “If you need to use the restroom or you need to smoke please go do that and get back, because we're getting ready to start in a couple minutes.” That's give people a chance to take a quick break after dinner and then you have the entertainment. And the entertainment livens up the room. People are feeling good, they're energized and that will carry the momentum over to your awards program and to the speeches by your CEO or president. If they go first and your CEO or your president starts talking on and on and on, which happens with speakers sometimes, especially if they're not professional speakers, they lose track of time. They lose track of is the audience really interested in what I'm saying? And you might be thinking, “Tom, I'm thinking that right now.” But when speaker's drone on, then it makes the evening longer and there's more a chance that you're going to lose that cohesion at the end. If your audience disappears, it makes you look bad.
Let's say your boss wants to get his stuff out of the way first, and we don't want to do the awards after the entertainment. Is there another way we can do this? Sure. I've been to events where they hold dessert and if dinner is good, people are going to hang around for dessert. Those are a couple of tips. Either put your entertainment on immediately following dinner which livens up the room or, perhaps if you have to, hold the dessert 'til the end. If you insist on putting your entertainment following the awards, make sure it's a smooth transition. I've been to events where we need to move a podium off the stage. It has to be moved off the stage because they insist on it being center stage, although the podium could be to one side for a smoother transition, but the boss feels like it needs to be center stage.
And the venue management and staff always seem to miss the cues as to when that has to go off. Now, if you've got a great venue and you really stress it, it will happen pretty quickly. But it can happen where there's a lag. And I mention this because I flew in New Mexico to do an event and I told them, “Put the entertainment on immediately following your dinner.” These people have been in meetings all day long. They've been listening to the minutia of government coding and they're tired. And it's the last day of your conference and if you put the entertainment on first, they'll stay for your other things. And they said, “No, we always do it this way and our speaker is excellent, and he moves things long and he gets everybody laughing.” I said, “Fine. Just make sure it smoothly flows into my show.”
As soon as he makes the last award, have him come over to a different microphone, the audience will follow him, they can move off the podium and we'll start the show right away. That way your group is in their good mood from him and we'll keep things flowing. But that didn't communicate, because when the host got done giving away the last award, he said, “Now, we are going to take 10 minute break before we have the entertainment.” And I'm over on the side shaking my head. And what happened? A room of 500 people was like a mad exodus and by the time the CEO came out to introduce me, there were only 50 people left in the room. And they were scattered throughout the room having conversation. They weren't uptight like we talked about for the comedy club setting. Comedy club, I'm basically talking across a swimming pool or a parking lot and I told you how that works out.
And the CEO went out on stage and he said, “Okay, can I get your attention please? I need your attention. We're going to have the entertainment, so you guys come down here and sit down,stop talking.” And people weren't paying attention to him. And so he said, “Okay well, here you go. Here's your entertainment.” And I walked out on stage and for 45 minutes I felt like I was dying. Now, I did make connections with different people in the audience, but out of a room of 500 people where we should have a cohesive group, 50 people and only a few of them paying attention. And that is not a good investment of your entertainment budget. The event planner left. The event planner saw what was happening and was so embarrassed, because I warned them and they realized, “Oh gosh, he was right.” If you're paying a professional entertainer, they do this stuff so listen to what they say.
Another way to frame your entertainment is to have a proper introduction and sendoff. I've been to events where I provided an introduction, but the host or the emcee decides that they're going to give their little introduction, and they might read a little bit of that and then they go off onto their own little tangent. And they're trying to be funny sometimes. I actually had one who said, “Hey, we got this comedian this year, and I pray to God he's better than the guy we had last year. Here he is.” That is not a way to create anticipation in your guests. You want to create a respectful anticipation and not having a proper introduction for you act or a proper sendoff, a now, let's give him another big hand type of a thing, that sabotages your efforts and it reduces the value of your entertainment, which hurts you as the event planner.
And finally I want to share some ideas that will get your group excited about the entertainment before the event even happens. If you've got a web page, perhaps your act can provide a personalized video that says, “Hey, my name is whoever and we're providing the entertainment. I'm gonna be at the such and such event. I'm really looking forward to it. Here are some images that you might see that evening.” And they do a quick video that introduces them to your guests. Or maybe an audio that can be sent out in a newsletter or shared on a site.
These kinds of things will make the guests go, “Ooh, really? I'd like to see that.” Are you sharing their photo on your website? In your program? Sometimes people put them up as entrance banners. They'll have a banner, “Tonight's entertainment will be.” And again your act may be able to provide that or they're flying in, it might be something that you need to provide, but today you can get full color banners for next to nothing. In fact I've got a great resource and I'll share that in the show notes on the website. To get to the show notes for today, just go to savvyeventpodcast.com/6. We used to have the episode word in there. It used to be episode 1, episode 2, but now I'm trying to make it even easier on you. So just savyeventpodcast.com/6.
To conclude this today I want you to think that when you treat your entertainer with a bit of reverence in front of your guests, when you treat them like they are going to be a special event, and I'm talking about the vision of treating. I'm sure you want to treat them nice, let's face it. If you have private area for them to relax in before the show, them being relaxed is going to help you. But make your guests think, “Wow, this is really going to be something.” and that's make it easier for your corporate entertainer or your speaker to shine and that shine will transfer onto you.
Those are my tips for helping you to properly plan and frame the entertainment at your event. And if you follow these, you're going to find that your acts are going to have a greater chance of success and your events are going to be that much better. Before I get out of here I want to once again remind you about our contest where you can leave a comment on iTunes, just an honest comment. Give us some feedback. If you like the show, great. Five star reviews are much appreciated. They help us out so much, but if you have any kind of comments. If you have some constructive criticism, don't be afraid to leave that either, but go on over to iTunes, click on comments, leave a comment and before you submit it, do a screen capture. If you aren't sure how to do a screen capture, I put that into the show notes for episode 6 as well. Just go over to savvyeventpodcast.com/6 and there's a link there to screen capture tutorial. Then you can go over to iTunes, click on comments, leave a comment and do that screen capture.
And then go over to Twitter and tweet the photo with the #savvyeventpodcast. That shares the podcast with other people. It helps us with our iTunes ranking and it enters you into the drawing. You have until the end of the day on October 30. On the 31st we're going to pull all those hash tags up. They're all going to be printed out, thrown into a hat, and my wife is going to draw out one name.
And that person is going to win the $50 gift certificate. If you haven't done that yet, please do. I appreciate immensely. If you're a new listener and you enjoyed today's episode, do me another favor, when you're on the show notes, take a moment to leave a comment and let me know how you found us.
I greatly appreciate that or if you have any comments on today's show, please leave those as well. And if you haven't already subscribed, please do because you don't want to miss the next show. My guest is going to be talking about the psychology of media for the events industry. There's going to be a lot of killer info and some really great resources. And so until next time, I'm Tom Crowl. Thanks for listening.
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