Here are 7 tips to get the best out of your performer
How to get the best of our your performer at a company, school or any event
Post by Gus Davis, former Game Show Host and former VP of To Go Events INC.
You know that Adele song that goes, “Hello from the other side!”? Well, that lyric hit me hard after this last tour season. I kept finding myself wishing I could let some of my clients see the backstage view of the work that goes into putting on a successful event for them. Not so much the rough side of show business, but more to point out some knowledge from the other side so I could do my best work for them. I then realized that these tips are valuable to anyone who puts on events, so with that here are my top 7 “Tips from the other side!” to get the best performance out of your entertainer.
Read the contract and rider.
I can not stress this enough. If you have gone through the trouble and expense to hire an entertainer and they have gone through the trouble and time to send you the information you need to know in writing, go over it with a highlighter in hand and make sure you can fully accommodate the items that they sent. 70% of the time I arrive at a venue to perform my show, I am met with stage conditions or tech conditions that need to be addressed before I can even begin setting up my equipment. All of these conditions are addressed in specifics in the paperwork that was sent prior to the event. On the flip side, events that I show up to that have been set up exactly as outlined in my tech rider allow me to quickly and joyfully start the setup process without any stress or confrontation. In many cases, my load-in and setup is the first time I am meeting my client face to face. When the setup conditions are easy and I have all I need, I can focus on starting our relationship off with positive exchanges rather than looking like I am coming in confrontationally.
Plan for parking.
Every show and every venue is on someone else’s home turf. The more that can be done by the event planner to lessen the guesswork of the performers and speed them to the actual task they are there to provide, the better your event will be. I have literally spent 2 hours of a scheduled 3 hour setup time being forced to look for parking. I have literally left my vehicle in a no-parking zone with my hazard lights on and a note for police to “please do not tow my vehicle” so I could go and make an event happen. Once, at a downtown hotel and conference center, I used all of the money I had budgeted for food to pay for their “no in and out parking” via valet service. My point is that if you can keep these kinds of stresses out of the picture, then you will get a performance by someone who is focused on the show at hand and not one by an entertainer who is worried in the back of their mind that their car is being towed.
Provide food and water.
Your performer is a human. They have traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles to make sure your group is taken care of to the best of their ability. For a 7 pm show, my day can easily start at 3 a.m. Many times, for corporate clients, the show time is 7 pm but doors or cocktail hour is at 4 pm. This means I need to load in 3 hours before doors. It also means that I am in the venue for 10 hours straight. Every time clients come to me with meal and snack options and some bottles of water it is actually very meaningful. It says to me that they recognize me as part of their team which in turn helps me give them my best show.
Provide a place for the performer to change clothes.
This is another one of those aspects of a show that most people planning an event overlook. Ideally, the event is taking place at a venue that the hotel is attached to so the performer can change in the comfort and privacy of their own room. Some venues have a designated green room which is always appreciated. If neither of these is the case, however, you will earn many extra points with your performer if you have designated a room with a mirror for them to change in. I have had to change in public bathrooms after laying down paper towels on the gross floor. I have changed in closets and behind drapes. I can write a whole how-to book on what I have learned about shaving with automatic faucets. Once I even changed into a suit and tie while lying underneath the stage. I could see the shoes and ankles of everyone present as I wriggled into my vest and buckled my cufflinks. My point is that for me to give you my best, I want to look my best. This comes with being able to change and freshen up appropriately so I can walk out on stage and be the image that you wanted your clients to see. If you want your performer to look like a superstar (and you do), then make sure your team doesn’t see them changing in the public bathroom. FYI, I really HATE changing in a public bathroom. Like a lot. Moving on!
I think it is always appropriate for the event planner to walk the load in route at least once before the performer arrives. Our show is well over 1,500 lbs. of equipment that needs to be transported from our vehicle to your stage. I am often amazed by how creative we have to be to just get into some venues. If a load-in is going to be particularly difficult, then knowing that ahead of time is an important piece of information for the performer to have. Loading in can take me anywhere from 15 minutes on an easy load in that is direct from the vehicle to the stage, to 6 hours when the loading dock is full and we have to wait our turn, then go up an active freight elevator with stinky garbage from the kitchen, then have a plastic mat laid out so our wheels on our cart does not mess up the carpet, then push the carts ½ a mile to the venue by way of crossing the roof access and going down another elevator. This all really happened to me at the XXXXXXX Hotel in XXXXXX XXxas (hotel name redacted). Luckily, we were loading in the day before or we would have not been able to make the show. Unluckily, we didn’t get to eat all day and when our client checked in on us, we were not at our showmanship best. My overall point is that the more your performer can focus on your show and nothing else, the better your show will be.
During your event, it is easy to get caught up in the awards, the speeches, the dinner, the bar, etc. Our show is usually the closing activity for events and as such what usually happens is that at some point in time after dinner, we are introduced without a heads up that we are about to begin. Ideally, I like to get a quick check-in from the event coordinator that me and my crew are all set, dressed, and good to go on lights and sound about 5 minutes before we go on stage. This allows me and my crew to prep ourselves for a smooth opening and be waiting in the wings instead of rushing around backstage and looking flustered or there being an awkward pause before the show starts as we button up jackets and turn on mics. A text or a quick heads-up allows for a warm start instead of a rushed one.
Trust your performer.
I totally get it. Your job, your reputation, and your pride are on the line in a very public way. I truly understand clients who want to have their hands in every aspect of the show and reshape it to fit the fun picture that they have in their heads. That being said, you have done the hard work in selecting a performer. You have vetted that entertainer and made sure they are a good fit for you. The next and most terrifying step is to trust them to give you a great performance. If you have selected them as your entertainer, then chances are they have done hundreds or even thousands of performances exactly like yours. They have worked hard to make their show as perfect for you as possible through trial and error. This is a BIG night for you that only happens once or twice a year. However, this is a Thursday at the office for the entertainer. My biggest piece of advice to get the best out of your performer is the hardest for many event planners. TRUST your performer. Tell them the goals and the concerns you have that are specific to your clientele and then let them loose to make you and your audience proud. At To Go Events, Inc., we are an open book. If you want to call our last 10 clients and ask how we did for them, then we will happily provide you with that info. For our shows, we are not surprised when we do a great show. We have worked hard to be able to provide an entertaining show that over-delivers and hits all the points that will make the person who brought us in look like a rock star. HOWEVER, when a client changes the formula or doesn’t listen to our suggestions as to how to make the show work for their crowd, we are now doing a show that is off script or that we have already done and found we have a better way to do it that will make your show the best it can be. This is not to say we won’t bend over backward to accommodate all of your needs, but it is just to say that the client that shows trust in us to be the professionals and the entertainers they hired are never disappointed. The clients who want to reinvent the wheel and throw something new up on stage have often come back to us saying they wished they had listened to us and our suggestions.
I want to hear from you! Did you find any of these tips enlightening? Did I hit on any points you hadn’t considered? Do you do something special to make a show work even better that you would like to share?