Your Entertainment Needs
If this is your first endeavor into the task of fulfilling the entertainment booking needs - don't worry. This guide can help you understand some of the basic steps. For the seasoned pros out there, there may be some information here that you hadn't considered before. So, relax and enjoy!
1. The Planning Stages
The first step in planning the entertainment for your party is to decide on as many of the specific details of the party as possible. This includes date, time, location, approximate number invited, approximate number expected to attend, if there will be other entertainers, etc. These are the kinds of questions that will be asked of you when first speaking with the potential entertainer.
Hiring an entertainer should not be a nightmarish struggle. It should be something that requires very little effort on your part, and yet yields potentially the greatest amount of guest enjoyment.
2. Type of Entertainment
What type of event are you planning? Is this a corporate event (such as a trade show, or banquet)? Or is it a get-together with friends, or your child's birthday party?
Regardless of the event, your entertainer is representing you at the party. This can be a great opportunity to show off without lifting a finger! People go to social functions and parties for lots of reasons - mingling, networking, food and beverage, and being entertained.
Walk-around, strolling, or table-hopping entertainment can be effective in situations where many people are mingling who don't know each other very well, or where the situation is just warming up or when the ice needs to be broken.
Larger platform or stage shows are great for after-dinner entertainment or after the speakers/award ceremonies. Such performances also work well as the main draw, itself.
For private parties, such as small celebrations or simple get-togethers where almost everyone knows each other - walk-around, platform, or a special setting where guests can receive readings / interpretations about themselves or life may be desired as a way to present the guests with something different to talk about.
Who is your audience and what is the theme for the function? Depending on who the audience is and the theme you have chosen, some entertainment may be a better fit than others. (For example: if you were hosting a party with a circus theme, then clowns and carnival games would be suitable. If, on the other hand, you were hosting a sit-down dinner for friends and business associates, then the aforementioned would be out of place).
3. Choosing the Entertainment
Who are you going to call? Before you go reaching for those yellow pages and calling one number after another, let's narrow this down a bit.
You could reach for the yellow pages, magazines or your local newspaper's classified section - but in this age of technology, it's much easier to search the world wide web (after all, that is how you found this page). The web can present much more in-depth information than a simple ad can present and might even give you a chance to get to know how the performer thinks about his/her craft and audiences.
Party planners, entertainment bureaus and agencies can be found in most cities. A good thing about using agencies is that they specialize in hiring entertainment and will almost always be able to find you an entertainer for your event. Someone will definitely show up and everything should run very smoothly and professionally. The down side to using agencies is that many party-planning bureaus will send you just a "generic entertainer" who may be good, but will not always be top-quality.
There are, of course, exceptions, as some agents allow you to book a performer by name or provide you with information about the performer whom you might select. For better or worse, these agents will normally have a higher fee than others for this service. Generally speaking, an entertainer will cost you more if you go through an agency than if you book them directly. Just be aware that entertainers and agents work on a first-come, first-serve basis. So, if you know what you want, it would do you well to inquire as to the availability as soon as possible. Note: some people book entertainers several months and even up to a year or more in advance of the event. However, inquiries made at least one month before the date of the event should still present a decent list of entertainers from which a selection can be made.
In this business, experience is the key. A knowledgeable performer and / or agency will listen to your needs, wants, and desires and be honest about what they can and are unable to do for you in regards to what you desire. The down side to direct booking is that there can be a bit of a questionable feeling if the person is really professional. This should not be a major concern for you since most professional entertainers are just as (if not more) professional than many party planners. There is, of course, a small risk of running into an unprofessional or inexperienced entertainer, but the information he/she presents about him/herself, what information they ask from you in relation to the event and the feeling you get when you speak to them, or their staff, can often squelch any concerns.
4. The Initial Phone-Call
Typically, when you speak to an entertainer or agent for the first time in regards to bookings, they are probably going to ask you what kind of entertainment you are looking for, as well as the date and time of the event. They may ask you how many people will be there and how long of a timeframe you need to fill.
If they are available, don't be surprised if they will ask for other information such as a contact number and mailing information to send out a contract, agreement, or confirmation letter.
So what should you ask? You will want to know what time the performer will arrive and how much space he or she is going to need.
If there is something about your guests that is important for the performer to know (whether it's achievement goals, V.I.P.'s present, language barriers, etc.), be sure to mention it to the performer or agent. As an aside: one thing to be cautious of is that agents don't always pass along all such details to the performer. Good agents do. And if you book the performer directly, they get the information first-hand.
If you want your event to go well, then know your budget and be reasonable when you set it. Also, be cautious of entertainers who offer much and present a quick price without really delving into your needs or those who have a catch-all fee, as your entertainment needs and desires may not be as great as their need to get a quick buck. Remember, "you get what you pay for." After all, the entertainment you hire is a reflection on you.
When considering which entertainer or agent to use, it's good to pay attention to the professionalism in their voice and conversation. They don't have to sound like a corporate business executive, but they should sound like they know what they're doing.
5. Agreements & Confirmations
The performer or agent you select should send you something in writing by mail fairly soon after you have spoken, in order to confirm all the details and price agreed upon.
Depending on the amount of time between the booking and event date, the performer or representing agent should call you to confirm that they will be there. It is just a courtesy call to be sure that their directions and details are correct.
If you don't hear from your entertainer (or agent) and it's the day before the event, you may want to place a quick call on the outside chance that they had the phone number wrong or simply couldn't reach you.
Almost every agent and many performers will need a non-refundable deposit that ends up being some reasonable, but significant, portion of the total cost of the entertainer for your event.
The deposit basically is a protective monetary agreement that assures that you are indeed serious and definite about having this entertainer for your event, and guarantees you that (because we have your money) you will definitely have an entertainer for the time and date you requested. This practice prevents questionable situations where the entertainer may be tempted to take a higher-paying show in place of yours.
7. Day of the Event
The plans have been set, the entertainment booked, the guests invited... you are nervously thinking that something is bound to go wrong, somehow.
Well, don't stress out! If, by chance, something doesn't go the way you had planned, in most cases you're the only one who will even notice. So, relax!
Regarding guests arrival - sometimes the entertainer shows up first, but in other cases you may not want him/her until later into the event. Regardless, make sure that you will be comfortable with where and when the entertainer arrives and sets up. Some performers require that they are not to be watched as they set up, others don't need such privacy and set up relatively quickly. Just make sure you've discussed this with the performer before the day of the event.
There should be nothing here for you to worry about. The only thing you may be asked to do is to introduce the performer (if it is to be a stage or platform show) in which case the performer should already have a note-card, or such, with a brief introduction for you to read.
Once in a while, the performer will ask you, prior to the show, if there are any particular guests he or she should mention or pick as a volunteer during the show. Also, you may wish to ask the performer about good photo opportunities.
Other than that, sit back and enjoy the show like a guest!
Some entertainers and agencies request that you pay up front before the show begins; others are comfortable accepting payment after. If the agency or performer doesn't specify which they prefer, then do whatever is best for you. Some people (and often many corporations) choose to pay in full up front before the actual show date.
Should you tip? Tipping is not required and should never be expected by the performer. The best advice I can give - use your own judgment.
10. The Follow-up
Most times, entertainers will ask you at the end of the evening, "Did everything go OK? Were you satisfied with how things went?" and so forth. Please, be honest! If there was something that you didn't like or thought should have been different, let the entertainer know. Otherwise, it may continue to disappoint or upset other people that he/she entertains.
On the flip side, if there was something exceptionally wonderful that took you by surprise, or you were just plain happy with how things went, mention that, too. Entertainers like to hear feedback (preferably good, but any kind is helpful!)
The best form of showing your appreciation for the entertainer is to pass his name and number along to your friends and fellow business associates.