May 19, 2015
It's not exactly news to everyone that the internet is full of people posturing themselves as "professionals" and even "experts." So many of us that search out virtually anything on the web are often easily influenced by how things appear on the surface. We want to quickly find what it is we are looking for and get on with life.
There are many who have perfected the art of making a good show online and convincing you to click all of the right buttons. This is true of everything from dating websites to career building sites to entertainers.
When it comes to planning a corporate event, regardless of it's size, event planners cannot afford to risk putting their event in the hands of well-meaning amateurs who happen to be good at building a nice website or social media presence. Entertainment is often a huge and important part of any event, and when it goes south it usually takes everyone with it--and with devastating consequences.
So how can you really KNOW you are hiring a professional entertainer (such as a magician or mentalist) that is right for the event? One that will get the job done, help the event be a huge success, and make you look good?
Event planners can greatly cut down their risk of booking disasters and swing the odds in their favor by following some simple guidelines when searching for entertainment. While this is by no means a conclusive list, the following are some key things to seriously consider during your search that will help you find a professional entertainer that is a good fit for your event.
A Simple List
Make a simple list of the different and basic things that make up your event--such as the number of people, their ages and backgrounds, the overall agenda of the event, etc.
If you are having after-dinner entertainment and your audience is primarily corporate shareholders who are over 50 years old, then look for entertainment that caters to, or has good experience with, this type of crowd. If you are needing a corporate performer for a tradeshow for a product launch or perhaps a fundraising event, look for someone with solid and real proof of performing specifically at such events. If you are needing after-dinner entertainment for an event held in a hotel banquet facility, look for people who have obvious proof of doing this very thing with a large degree of success.
In general, look for entertainers who have real experience in the very specific type of event AND demographic for which you are needing entertainment.
NOTE: Be aware that entertainment that appeals to YOU, individually, as an event planner, may not necessarily be the best choice for your event! If you have any doubts about an entertainer you've selected then get a second or third opinion BEFORE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT.
If you have never heard of the person, but for the most part they seem to be a legitimate and good fit, then they will make their former clients known and you should be able to contact them for real references.
NEWS FLASH--just because they throw up a bunch of company logos and names on their website is no real indication that they have actually ever secured that company as a client!
"Whaaaat?" you might say. In my experience, I've seen too many so-called professional performers take the "fake it 'til you make it" idea too far. Magicians and mentalists in particular are horrible about doing this. An example of this is performing some tricks for their Army buddies on a military base at their unit, and then put on their website and promotional materials that their client is the "U.S. Army." While it isn't necessarily a lie, it isn't the whole truth either, and hiring such an entertainer under such circumstances could prove devastating for your event because performing a few tricks for buddies is one thing, and being able to do an excellent show for 100 corporate clients at an after-dinner event is quite another.
A good, qualified professional will also have numerous excellent Google reviews from verified clients, as well as good reviews on social media platforms such as Facebook. Corporate magicians and mentalists will also likely have client recommendations on LinkedIn.
If they claim to have performed for a company that is noteworthy, ask for the person they directly worked with and their contact information. If they don't provide this or it seems like they've misrepresented themselves in some way, then it is likely you have an imposter on your hands. While they may, in fact, be a decent performer, it is an issue of INTEGRITY. If they deliberately misrepresent and justify themselves in this capacity, everything else about them should naturally be called into question.
In such cases, you would do well to save yourself a potential headache and choose another performer.
This is the age of video, and any entertainer worth their salt will have video proof of their abilities, client testimonials, etc.
That does not mean fancy edited sizzle reels with flashy card moves, cool graphics, or their latest coin trick, but real footage of them entertaining real, paying crowds of people--not people on the streets jumping and hollering and running off like they do on David Blaine television specials. While that makes for fun video viewing, Facebook posts, and such like, it is absolutely no indication that the person is a fit for your event.
While looking at their demo reels, pay close attention to what you are seeing and don't just be taken in by the tricks and reactions.
Does all of the footage appear to be from the exact same performance? Is there any awkward edits in the video, like something has been left out?
Also look for real, credible video testimonials of clients. This is actually a far better gauge of the quality of entertainment than a nicely edited sizzle reel.
The odd thing is that there are many qualified professional magicians and mentalists out there who don't necessarily have fancy, high-production cost video reels. The main reason is that getting good, quality video of performances at live events can be very difficult for even the most professional of performers due to lighting problems, venue limitations, privacy issues and a host of other factors.
Lots of real clients--or people who have personally witnessed a performance and are saying lots of good things about a performer should be taken much more seriously than someone who has an slick, highly edited sizzle reel or video taken from only one or two shows that they may have performed, or that was taken somewhere in a photography studio.
While this isn't always a perfect indication of things, look for video footage or proof of them in the media--television appearances, morning talk shows, news stories, radio interviews, newspaper articles, etc. Good media coverage is, if nothing else, at least somewhat a stamp of legitimacy. Generally, if the person has been able to garner media attention on different occasions, even locally, it is likely that they can be trusted to bring good entertainment to your event and add a little bit of "celebrity" status to their appearance that may be a good draw for attendees. However, even with this it is still necessary to make sure that the style and type of entertainment that they provide is suited specifically for the same type and demographic of event as yours.
They Will Ask For A Deposit / Retainer as Well As Provide a Performance Contract
A true professional knows their business, their competition, and their market value. Most deposits vary between 20-50% of the total fees. In some cases, certain corporate entertainers will require full payment up front. This is not so strange as almost anything you order online these days requires payment up front prior to having goods delivered.
It is the same way with good entertainment. This allows the performer to make their travel arrangements and accomodations immediately, cash flow their business, and expedite the booking process by eliminating the need for you to make multiple payments, create and track multiple invoices, remember to bring the final check to the event, etc.
Someone with a laissez-faire attitude towards the financial aspects of the business may have the same attitude toward the event when it comes to the performance. They should be professional enough to have a contract of terms and conditions for their performance, as well as a rider that outlines the necessary things that you, as an event planner and organizer, will need to provide for them in order for them to deliver a good show for your event.
They Won't Be Cheap and Neither Should You!
As a general rule, avoid choosing the cheapest or lowest-priced magician, mentalist, or other entertainer that you find. The adage "you get what you pay for" is especially true when it comes to entertainment.
How much does a quality, professional magician or mentalist cost for most events?
If the entertainer is happy and getting their required fee, then you are much more likely to have an excellent show. When you pay more you can demand more. If you have a tight budget then make it known; a professional will usually work with you but in some cases just flat out refuse to work for the amount you specify. A professional will also have a money-back guarantee. While that won't do you much good if the performer bombs or fails to deliver, at least you have a legal recourse to recoup any fees paid when the event is over. Make sure to get everything in writing and hold them to it.
As an event planner it is easy to get so caught up and overwhelmed in all of the details of planning some events, but it is a fact that certain key aspects of the event demand way more attention than others. Entertainment is one such aspect, particularly if it is featured entertainment. Pay extra special attention to the various aspects of the entertainment options that are presented to you and don't just go with those that give you an instant, quick and satisfying impression. Don't just go after the ones who show up at the top of search engine results, especially the paid advertisements. Go further down the page, check page two or three, call around, search the links, watch the videos, make several phone calls, send emails, etc. Get a good feel of what it is going to be like to do business with them overall and don't just look at the "WOW" factor.
When you've found someone that fits the above criteria to a great degree, it is a pretty good indication that you've found a professional entertainer that is perfect for your next event.
It is then best to complete your booking with them as soon as possible while their dates are still available!