Be Extraordinary

Over the past year, I have covered the top event blunders that can make an event go awry.  This week we come to number 25. Mediocre entertainment is worse than bad entertainment.  At least with bad entertainment guests will have something to talk about.  Seriously, you want stellar entertainment.  Nothing but a home run will do. The truth about most events is that a year from now most people won’t remember the decorations, the food or the venue.  All of this will disappear like a phantom just weeks after the event.  The entertainment, however, will make or break just about any event.

If you bore your guests with a monotone speaker or make them sit through a bad comedian the potential of a successful event is lost. Instead, it becomes one more long, drawn out, and hard-to-sit-through ordeal. In contrast, an excellent entertainer or speaker who can engage your guests, make them laugh, and create a fun atmosphere will be remembered for years to come.

So hire a great entertainer.  Such a person will ask questions to get an idea of what you are planning so they can adjust their performance to best fit your event.  There is a huge difference between seeing a generic show and seeing a show that has been specifically tailored to your event.  The more details you provide an Entertainer, the easier it is for him or her to create long-lasting memories.  Here are seven simple steps to ensure great entertainment at your event . . .

Decide On The Type Of Entertainment.  The type of event you are planning will also dictate what type of program to consider.  If you are planning a sales meeting, you will obviously be looking for a different type of program than if you are planning your child’s birthday party.  You must consider who your guests are and what they will find entertaining.  Who is going to attend, and what Entertainer fits that event?

Your Entertainer is representing you at the party.  Therefore, you have an excellent opportunity to show off without lifting a finger!  The person you choose should be professional and have experience that gives you confidence in them.  You will know about an Entertainer or speaker’s level of experience by their resume, testimonials, references, and letters of recommendation.  As you interview Entertainers, consider what their past clients have said about them.  You should be looking for comments like this, “He delivered far beyond what we expected of him” or “best show ever.”

Choose The Right Program.  In today’s world, the Internet is a powerful tool to help you find almost everything you are looking for.  All savvy, business-minded, professional Entertainers and speakers have websites.  A well-designed website allows your future Entertainer to list their specialties, describe exactly what they do and how they do it, as well as post video clips, photos, letters of recommendation, etc.  A good website is the ultimate brochure for Entertainers to inform potential clients on who they are.

You should be able to see enough from an Entertainer’s website to get a really good idea of whether he or she will be able to do the job for you or not.  The best Entertainers specialize in specific areas such as children’s entertainment, family events, corporate entertainment and speaking, etc.  Their websites should be clear regarding their personal expertise, types of program they offer, and who they are appropriate for.  Be sure to evaluate whether or not the Entertainer you are considering specializes in entertaining groups like yours.

Keep in mind the event you are planning.  Make sure your Entertainer has testimonials on their website from Event Planners like you who have planned similar events. When a client takes the time to express how well a program was received, it speaks volumes to the Entertainer’s professionalism.

As a side note, there are really fine amateur and part-time Entertainers and speakers who don’t maintain a website. The biggest problem with selecting someone without a website is that it’s a total shot in the dark. There’s no way to know if you are going to get top-notch entertainment or if you’re going to make a huge mistake.

Make Contact. There are several ways to make contact with your prospective Entertainer or speaker. The easiest is just to pick up the phone and call the Entertainer’s office.  Making contact with your prospective Entertainer with a phone call is an excellent way to get to know them.  By actually speaking with your prospective Entertainer you can learn things that you may not be able to tell through other contact methods.  A conversation allows you to hear the person’s voice, including their inflection and level of friendliness, and it allows you to get an impression about how appropriate this person is for your event.  A phone conversation also allows your prospective Entertainer to ask you specific questions that they need answered in order to quote a fee, check availability, and be sure that they are right fit for your event.

Another option is to send an Entertainer an email.  Email is a great way to make first contact with your prospective Entertainer.  If you choose to make contact through email, try to give as many details about the event as possible. Include your phone number and a window of time when you will be available to talk so that the Entertainer can call you back and ask additional questions he or she may have.

An additional way to make contact with your prospective Entertainer is to fill out a web form that is on his or her website.  A web form will have specific fields such as name, phone number, your address, type of function, venue address, approximate number of guests expected, etc.  The web form is often a preferred method of contact over email because it’s designed to provide the Entertainer with specific information needed in order to quote a fee, check availability, etc.  No matter which method you choose to contact your Entertainer, it shouldn’t be difficult to do so.  His or her office should be easily accessible and respond within twenty-four hours to your phone call, email or web form submission.

So, what should you ask?  You will want to know what time your Entertainer will arrive and how much space he or she is going to need. Be sure to consider whether sound equipment and/or staging will be needed.  If there is something special about your guests that is important for a performer to know – anything from high achievements to physical impairments – be sure to mention this, as well.  The best speakers and Entertainers will find ways to customize their presentations to your group.  As you pose questions to your Entertainer, also be sure you share as much information about your event and your group as possible.  Because every event is unique, the more information you share with your Entertainer, the more they can utilize that information in the planning and implementation of your program.

Consider Prices.  Whether you are planning a private Christmas party for a few guests or a huge banquet dinner, everyone is on some kind of budget.  The general rule of thumb is this: Do not go with the lowest price.  Going with the lowest price is likely a precursor to disappointment.  In the entertainment and speaking fields remember the old adage “you get what you pay for.”  Ultimately, you will find that the most important thing regarding your entertainment won’t be the price tag.  When searching for the best program for your event, what really matters is that it fits.  Don’t think of it in terms of dollars and cents as much as you think of it in terms the best program for your guests.  Above all, you have to feel comfortable knowing that the person you have chosen to entertain your guests is a reflection of you. Ultimately, your goal should be to have each and every one of your guests come up to you after the event and tell you how much they loved it.

Usually a deposit will be required.  The deposit is basically a protective monetary agreement that demonstrates you are indeed serious about hiring a particular Entertainer or speaker for your event.  Once the date has been booked, the Entertainer or speaker cannot offer his or her services to another client for that same date and time.  The deposit guarantees that you will not cancel at the last minute, costing the Entertainer both your event and other potential events he or she didn’t book out of deference to you.

Some Entertainers will ask you prior to the show if there are any particular guests you might suggest who would be good for them to interact with.  They are looking for people who will be comfortable if called upon in front of your other guests.  Have several men and women in mind with a good sense of humor and who might enjoy being part of the audience participation part of the show.

You may also ask your Entertainer about any good photo opportunities they might suggest.  Some programs have funny moments or especially visual moments built in that lend themselves naturally to making a photo.  Making memories in this way by knowing the perfect spot to pause long enough to get a good shot is another way to maximize the fun and success of your entertainment.  The work part is done.

Payment.  Some Entertainers and speakers request that you pay upfront before the performance commences. Others are comfortable accepting payment at the end.  However, it has been my experience that taking care of the fee before is best. Some people and many corporations even choose to pay in full upfront before the actual show date. Too many times I have been witness to an Entertainer’s great performance at an event; and at the conclusion the guests all want to meet him or her and congratulate the Event Planner.  But they are seen sitting at a table, backs to the guests, discussing, writing and signing the check.  It leaves a bad taste when guests realize that this great show they witnessed is just a line item on an expense sheet.  Refer to the Entertainer’s contract.  But if he or she doesn’t specify which is preferred, do whatever is comfortable for you.

Follow-Up.  After a program and before they leave, most Entertainers and speakers make a point of touching base with the person who booked the event in order to thank them.  Also, don’t be surprised if you hear from them again several days after the program to thank you once more and get feedback.  Take this opportunity to share your thoughts.  You may also wish to discuss other possible entertainment or speaking opportunities you have in the future.

The best way to show your appreciation for an excellent program is to pass the Entertainer’s name and contact information along to friends and fellow business associates.  Offering to write a letter of recommendation about your experience with an Entertainer is also a huge compliment.  Letters of recommendation are very powerful tools that Entertainers and speakers rely on for booking other events.  By avoiding these mistakes you will be in a much stronger position to create and deliver your perfect event.

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