10 Critical Things To Know When Hiring An Entertainer
by Mike Bishop
Your organization entrusted you to entertain them. They said “hire somebody here’s your budget” ...now what? You made a few phone calls, maybe got a recommendation, waded through more information than you ever imagined and yet you still had no idea who to pick. Soon everyone sounded alike and your deadline was drawing near.
How Could Entertainment Be So Stressful?

Some Of The Past Problems Included:

In short, nobody told you that entertainment was a major challenge in the past and now it’s your turn to "run the gauntlet".
So, what do you do? Who do you get? Whose advice is good advice? What will be the best entertainment for your group?

The following “10 Critical Things” are a list of questions and potential pitfalls. Use them to make a better decision and get a better night's sleep.

#1. Is The Entertainment Appropriate For Your Group?
If you’re hiring a comedy entertainer and the audience is a family audience the content must be cleaner than an all adult audience. Ask the performer for assurance regarding his content. A few references might also be in order.

#2. Can The Entertainer Handle Your Venue?
Performers encounter a variety of challenges which can ruin their show if they are unprepared. Is your event...

    An Outdoor Show:
        Who has the PA equipment for a show where there may be no power?
    A Banquet:
        Visibility issues at banquets can destroy some types of entertainment. Does your performer know how to handle these issues?
    Primarily A Senior Citizens' Audience:
        Sound quality and content issues are a concern.
    Outdoor Fair Festival:
        Can the performer handle wind?
    Multiple Shows:
        Graciously following another performer can be daunting. Has your entertainer ever done this before?
    The Audience Is Just Kids:
        Entertaining children is a specific challenge.

The only way to know if the entertainer can handle the specific challenges for your venue is to ask him. Try an open ended question like "have you ever done an event like this? ... are there any specific concerns I need to deal with?"  If you have already anticipated some of these challenges you should hear the performer mention a few of them as he talks with you.

#3. Is The Performance Area Information Complete?
This is especially important if the performer is travelling by air...
Sound, light and technical information must be complete and questions probably should be answered by a technician.

#4. Have You Told The Performer Everything He/she Needs To Know?
There is a classic method of negotiating in which the negotiators tell the least possible information in hopes of getting a better price. Don’t ever do this with entertainment! Most often heard complaints about entertainers revolve around content issues. This happens a lot:

The buyer says; “The show is for the kids, there will only be 30 in the audience.” This statement implies only 30 and only kids .

Actually there are 120 people and they are all watching as the performer starts his show with “hi boys and girls what color is this ball?". The adults are immediately bored and begin talking among themselves. The kids are distracted by the talking adults and begin to misbehave. The adults can't get to their misbehaving kids without creating a scene. The kids figure this out and their behavior becomes akin to a WWF fighting ring. You have not purchased entertainment ...NO ONE IS BEING ENTERTAINED! you have wasted your money on mayhem and in a case like this IT'S YOUR FAULT!!!

Tell the performer the truth and if you can't afford him at least you'll know a little more than before.

#5. Can The Performer Get To The Show?
Does he need a passport?  Are his driving directions detailed and accurate? If you are handling his air transportation have you planned enough time for ground transportation and delays? Any pro who flies will put the responsibility of payment in his contract. Make sure you're covered.

#6. Have You Accomodated The Performer Per His Requests?
Vocalists who request a non-smoking hotel room may be allergic to cigarettes. A suite may be requested because
equipment may have to be assembled in a large open area. Many performers will request a certain type of snack to avoid blood sugar peaks. It’s best to discuss a request that may seem silly, .....don't ignore it.

#7. Are You Allowed To Record The Show?
The event is yours but the performance is the result of years of work by the performer. Legally it is his property and as such you do not have the right to record it in any form unless you have specific permission in advance. Performers have been known to stop their performance until the video camera was put away. If this is a point of critical concern ask ahead of time.

#8. Can The Entertainer Handle Special Requests?
If you have certain duties you’d like the performer to help you with, you need to know if it is possible for him to do them.

There was this case of a magician who was asked a last minute request which would have delayed the actual performance of the regular show by 30 minutes. The doves had already been loaded into their respective places. If the magician had honored the request 10 trained doves would have died. The committee chairman was really put-out and threatened not to pay the performer ...but seriously, what would you have done?

Inform the performer of special circumstances and ask him before he quotes his price or you may have to buy some doves.

#9. Is The Performer A “Repeated Format”?
Many times a group will get, say a magician, to work for them. The magi will wow the group and the following year the comittee will say “that magic show was great.. let’s get another magician”.
There are 2 things wrong with this logic:

    1- It wasn’t the magic show that was great, it was the magician. Hiring another magician is no guarantee that the show will be received             as well as it was last year.

    2- You are now repeating your format. Your group has members who don’t particularly care for magic. They may opt not to come to this             year’s event viewing it as a “cookie cutter of last year”

It is not always logical to change-up performances but it is a good idea to consider issues like these far enough in advance that changes can be made.

#10. Does The Performer Engage Your Audience?
There is a difference between “performing” and “entertaining”. All entertainers perform but not all performers entertain. You will probably feel a sense of comfort when you talk with your prospective entertainer. His ability to engage the audience will usually be reflected in his telephone demeanor.

Many times a reference will indicate that “the audience loved him”. This indicates a feeling on the part of the overall body that they were entertained.

Special Bonus
6 ways to tell if a professional performer is really a professional....
    He Is Willing to travel.
    His Promotional materials are readily available.
    His complete technical requirements information is readily available.
    He uses a contract.
    His experience and training reflect a desire to perform at higher levels.
    He refuses to work for you if he cannot meet your needs.

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