Event Planners Guide

When planning your event start with a budget, many start backward by calling caterers, entertainers and halls to get prices, then submit these for approval, having to start all over when the approved budget does not cover the expenses. If we get our budget approved first, then we can proceed booking the vendors that qualify within our budget.

Knowing our event budget we can divide it into thirds 1) Facility 2) Food 3) Entertainment

Facility covers the location itself, linens and decorations Food covers food, beverages and wait staff. Entertainment covers everything else including lighting, sound, performers.

I am going to stick to what I know (entertainment) for the better part of this book. But lets touch briefly on where to start.

In my opinion we should start with the facility as this will play a big role in our other two main decisions. We certainly don’t want to serve chicken cordon blue and champagne in Joe’s Ice house nor are going to put on an elaborate illusion show in a room that does not have ample space to move. So book your facility, then if there is any money left over in our facility budget we move it into our food category. Now contract your food vendors and move any left over monies into your entertainment category.

Entertainment

Now we can can begin the process of filling in our event with entertainment , decorations and activities.

First we must choose our entertainment as this might influence our theme and therefore our decorations and other activities.

I’ve seen many do this in reverse, choosing a theme then trying to get entertainers to adjust their acts to match the theme. This is much harder and you will often settle for a less talented entertainer because he will cater to your theme. With so much riding on your entertainment, do we really want to settle there. Most polished acts have been performed the exact same way for years. To ask the performer to adapt is like asking a great artist to add more pink to his portrait to match the drapes.

So consider choosing the best act you can afford and then adapt a theme that will work with his/her act.

What kind of entertainment should I book?

When hiring entertainment step one should be to consider what your trying to achieve with the entertainment.

Most companies want to encourage mingling, conversation and team building, another goal might be to have attendees stick around until the end of the event. Encouraging employee participation and to show management appreciation are also common goals for many company functions.

Now that we have our focus, we can eliminate particular forms of entertainment that don’t meet our goals

Bands

Many companies I’ve worked with have had bands as the main focus. The problem with a band is:

1) The elaborate set up and break down can take hours, time has to be coordinated for sound checks and load in and out.

2) A typical band has at least four members plus a sound engineer. Every member needs to be compensated, driving prices up.

3) If you are trying to encourage employee mingling and team building, a band tends to make it hard to communicate, if you have to yell to be heard, it is very difficult to build relationships.

4) Because of varying musical taste it is difficult to satisfy everyone. Some will love the music some will just tune it out or leave when they get bored.

If a band is just going to supply back ground atmosphere we can save a lot of money by just using a DJ.

Dj’s have a lot wider range of music to meet all taste. A good DJ also can act as an MC for the evening. But we still have not met our goals of encouraging attendee participation and conversation. We also have not provided a good reason to stick around as a DJ does not usually have a crescendo to the evening giving attendees something to look forward to.

Awards

Another frequently used tactic is the employee awards or prizes. The problem is this:

Unless every employee receives a prize, we have established a winner and loser scenario. Who wants to remember the great holiday party were you went home a loser.

Most people also weigh the odds of winning and determine they don’t have much of a chance and therefore elect to sneak out early.

And once again we have not met our goals of encouraging discussion or mingling.

Comedians

What about a comedian? Here we come into the problem of what is comedy to one might be offensive to another. Comedians ether excel or bomb. We have all gone to a comedy club and groaned our way through an act. Do we really want to chance a bomb or worse offending our attendees?

If we do choose to go with a comedian, we definitely do not want to go cheap here. When choosing a comedian I suggest you insist on seeing live performance videos and viewing them with a group or committee, to establish over all appeal.

Magic

Now lets consider the art of Magic for our main event. Magic as an art and entertainment is engaging, entertaining and stimulates conversation. Magic does offer a big bang to the end of an event. Most magical acts also include audience participation.

A well trained corporate magician can also convey management appreciation to the attendees. We seem to meet most of our criteria here.

Now magic breaks down into 3 main categories.

1) Illusionist

2) Close up

3) Stand up

Let us look at these and find the most appropriate for our event.

The illusionist will once again have a lot of stage requirements as well as a big load in and out, which will require a lot of management.

There will be lighting and stage management details that will have to be considered, as most illusions can only be viewed from certain angles.

Unless your up to the task of working with your illusionist to meet all the technical requirements this is probably not the act for you.

Close-up on the other hand is extremely easy to book. Close-up magicians have very little technical requirements. The magician strolls among your guest’s making introductions and showing his skills close- up. This form of entertainment does stimulate conversation and encourages interaction among your attendees.

But close-up does fall short on delivering the impact bang at the end of the evening, which would encourage your employees to stay until the end of the event.

Stand up magic on the other hand meets all of our goals. Comedy stand up magic delivers the wow factor that you are looking for with out all the technical hassles of larger acts.

A qualified corporate comedy magician has a very small load in and out and can usually work in the most demanding of environments.

With comedy stand up we have all the fun of a comedian backed up with the mystery of magic, so we are in a sense hitting your guests with two acts for the price of one.

Comedy magic is audience driven, encouraging audience interaction. A talented corporate entertainer knows how to turn a large group of individuals into an audience, getting your attendees to work together for the success of the act.

The comedy stand up magician can also act as your ambassador to the audience, delivering a message of appreciation.

Here we have met all our goals. Lets check them off.

Encourage mingling and conversation: In the many years I have been providing corporate entertainment, I have watched as people left the show. Typically attendees gather into small groups to discussed what they have just witnessed, guessing how tricks were accomplished or remarking on so and so who helped the magician on stage. If you look at my web-site you will see quotes from business owners who state that this discussion went on for weeks or months after the show.

Having attendees stick around until the end of the event:. Having a stage show production encourages employees to at least stick around long enough to evaluate the act. Once drawn in the promise of a grand finale’ often is enough to encourage attendance to the end.

Encouraging employee participation:

As stated earlier comedy magic is audience driven and highly inter- active.

Show management appreciation:

The fact that management showed the fore thought and to hire a quality act, where the audience can sit back and relax, laughing at themselves and the world as seen through the eyes of their comedy entertainer says a lot. They have not been forced to sit through endless speeches and give aways that left them feeling unappreciated while other were lifted up and taunted before them. The entertainer also delivers a message of kind hearted appreciation from the management team.

The Comedy Hypnosis Show

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One more show to consider, and that is the comedy hypnosis show. Once again this meet all our goals. The comedy hypnosis show is highly interactive using sometimes as many as 25 to 30 volunteers on stage.

If you are looking to create that big stage, Vegas act appeal but don’t want all the hassle that usually goes with such a show, the comedy hypnosis show is for you.

This type of entertainment usually has the largest draw and appeal for audiences. All the mystique of a grand illusionist, a full stage full of action and the uncertainty of what is going to happen next, keeps the audience engaged.

The Comedy Hypnosis show is also very versatile, as it can be performed with nothing more than a microphone and 15 chairs.

Hypnosis shows are very appealing and create a lot of buzz before and after the show. Everyone is wondering who is going to get hypnotized and what is going to happen when they do. This satisfies our goal of holding the attention of our attendees till the end and creating conversation.

The comedy hypnotist also conveys management appreciation in several ways. First and foremost by showing the appreciation and value of individual personalities. Second, most corporate acts leave the audience with a positive and uplifting subconscious awareness that has the added benefit of increasing productivity.

The comedy hypnosis show also is a highly effective ego booster to employees, showing them how to increase their productivity, working relationships and skills all in an entertaining show.

I don’t understand why more companies don’t seize the opportunity to procure this type of entertainment with all its added benefits. This really should be the no brainer.

A full stage show Little to no hassle Using your own employees Comedy, action and suspense With the added benefits of increased productivity

What the down side? There really is none.

Myths

Now let me clear up some speculation and get rid of a few myths. First of all hypnosis is not an a cult practice or some type of ritualistic mumbo jumbo.

When we are talking about hypnosis we are discussing the very process of the brain that allows us to enjoy a good book. When reading, your imagination takes the words you’ve read and moves you into that new reality to enjoy the adventure within the pages of the book. For the few hours you are reading, it is as if you stepped into the pages of the novel, seeing the adventure played out with the eyes of your subconscious mind.

A good hypnotist like a good story teller just weaves a story that the subconscious mind absorbs its self in, while the rest of us just enjoy watching the story play out on stage.

A qualified corporate hypnotist knows how to set-up the boundaries of behavior so everyone has a good time with out exceeding the limits of good taste.

But what if no one volunteers to get hypnotized? In all the years i’ve been doing corporate hypnosis this has never been a problem. In the pre-talk ( the first 12 minutes of the show) the trained performer creates the desire with in the audience through a precisely edited script that is designed to create anticipation and excitement.

Normally I receive more volunteers than I can take on stage, which is not a problem because even those who remain in the audience and want to participate get a chance.

But now once again we have an appealing show that builds to a climax, creates a buzz, uses audience interaction and leaves everyone with a great memory of a shared event.

Both of these last two shows we disgust (comedy magic and comedy hypnosis) lend themselves to a lot of great themes making it easy to decorate. So if you are planning on a theme party consider these themes:

For comedy magic: Egyptian Vegas Red Carpet

Black Tie Rat Pack Hollywood

Hypnosis is so versatile because the hypnotist can create so many stage scenarios with his volunteers, But some of my favorites are. Celebrity Red carpet Space themes

Las Vegas Night

Before we delve into themes and decorating too deeply lets look at hiring your main act.

How do I find qualified professionals:

With so much invested in your event we sure don’t want to blow it now with the entertainment. After all it is usually the entertainment that makes an event rememberable. The problem is ,this is were most want to budget shop. Many will decide they want a magician or hypnotist and start calling around to find the best price. The problem is that buying entertainment is not like buying bread.

The best price does not guarantee you the best value. If you want a qualified entertainer who is excited to represent you, be willing to pay a reasonable fee in proportion to your other expenses. If you are investing 10,000 in food and 10,000 in a facility now is not the time to risk all that investment on a $400 entertainer. Trust me, I’ve seen this scenario.

The safest way to get quality entertainment is through a booking agent. Booking agents review hundreds of acts separating the goodfrom the bad. An agent is not going to risk their reputation by sending you a substandard act. The cost will go up a little because you have the agent fee on top of your talents fee, but not as much as you think. Entertainers often lower their fees to agents to make their act more attractive to the agents. It is a lot like buy at a group rate, an agent buys talent at a bulk rate with the promise of more shows.

If your going to try to book your own talent be careful and do your research. Try to get recommendations from trusted friends and peers.Look for quotes and video testimonials.

Don’t be put off by an entertainer who asks a lot of questions before quoting you, this might be the sign of a pro. An ammeter will jump at a chance to get a job, throwing out a low quote, with out having all the information.

Look for someone who seem to be asking all the right questions and don’t be worried if they ask you for your budget. Be honest. This is a reasonable question. I don’t want to waste my time or yours by quoting you a $5000 show, describing all the benefits, only to find out that you only have $1,500. And like wise you don’t want to through out some low number to trick the performer into lowering his prices because all he does is quote you on a smaller show, eliminating some of the extras that might have pushed you event over the top. Honesty and integrity, you have to give it, to get it.

Now once you’ve selected your act, make sure you and the entertainer have some sort of written contract between you, this assures that everyone is on the same page.

The entertainer will provide you with a rider: a list of his requirements. Make sure you look this over. It is in your entertainers best interest to make your show a big success, after all he can’t afford bad press. So, work with your entertainer, after all he / she is a professional having done this at the very least hundreds of times before. Your entertainer knows what precautions to take to ensure a successful event.

Over the years I’ve worked with some of the best event planners and some of the worst. There have been times when you wish you could just pack up your wares and take off, but the show must go on. In the worst of times it was usually because an event planner had bitten off more than they could handle and now on a sinking ship they looked to the entertainment that they have been ignoring to save the day.

If we just start early and go slowly through the process I described in this book, maintaining contact with all our vendors things should flow smoothy.

The Icing

Now that we have our Location, food,beverages and our main act we are free to be creative with our event. Decorating, hiring strolling performers and creating games.

Just remember sometimes its just best to keep it simple. People like simplicity. I have worked some event for huge companies that go all out. Bands, strolling performers, games, casino tables, open bars, endless buffets. The problem is this can all be so over whelming. Its like they are trying to throw the kitchen sink at you.

Some of the best events I‘ve worked have been some the simplest. A cocktail reception and a main show. No one has time to get too drunk, No one over eats and gets sick. You have your mix and mingle but then offer a sit and relax show. Simple . It’s when your guest’s have to much unsupervised time and an unlimited amount of food and drink, that problems can arise.

My advice is keep it simple and enjoy your event. Don’t try to create an amusement park atmosphere, this only stresses you out and adds opportunity for problems to arise .

I hope this small book has been of value to you and I would appreciate any input you might have. Please feel free to contact me at: info@Robert-Berry.com

Thank you

Robert Berry