The pressure is on. The year is coming to an end and it’s time to show your employees and/or clients how much you appreciate them and maybe have a little fun in the process. Somehow the annual holiday party has fallen into your lap and you are in charge of planning everything.
Now to hire entertainment for the evening.
Easy enough, it seems. Just look up a band, comedian, Santa, or (right answer) a magician. They’re all the same, right?
Very, very wrong.
As an entertainer, I have heard horror stories about previous parties from event planners and people who ended up having to become a last-minute event planner. Comedians came in with material that was completely inappropriate for the audience. Bands came in to do the Christmas party but ended up singing Fleetwood Mac and not one single Christmas song. Magicians showed up doing kid’s party material for the adults and bored them out of their mind.
When you are planning your company party, there are a few things you need to carefully look at and questions you need to ask as you scope out the potential entertainment for your group.
- What are you wanting to accomplish? There are two types of entertainment: passive and active. A live band would be considered passive entertainment. Folks can enjoy dinner and conversation at their tables while the music plays. Comedy and magic are both forms of active entertainment. That means the audience’s attention and participation can make or break the show. Passive entertainment is good for during a meal, while active entertainment is best for after-dinner. Make sure you hire the right type of entertainment for the time frame you are going for.
- What kind of performing area do you have? Believe it or not, different types of entertainment require different amounts of space. A comedian could probably function in a small space, while a band or magician would require a larger footprint in the room. If you are going to have cramped quarters, it might be wise to consider a comic, a solo singer with guitar or keyboard, or even a strolling magician doing magic from table-to-table.
- What is your budget? Keep in mind talented performers can cost you. It never hurts to ask around for price quotes from entertainers to find those that fit in your budget, but if you are on a really tight budget crunch you might be better off buying door prizes to give away. A $100 entertainer can be found, but you are getting what you pay for. Thoroughly vet them first and get references from previous jobs to make sure they will be able to bring the level of quality you want to the event. And be prepared to pay a little more during the holidays, as demand for entertainment can cause some prices to rise for the season. However, if you are paying top-dollar for entertainment there is nothing wrong with holding them to a top-dollar standard. If they do not meet your expectations, let them know immediately after their part of the event is over.
- What has this performer done in the past? I know kid’s show magicians who market themselves as corporate entertainment during the holidays. Unfortunately, they show up with the exact same illusions and jokes they do for the kids, and many times the adult audience loses interest fast. Find a corporate entertainer who has dealt with your type of audience in the past and has a proven track record of entertaining groups like yours consistently. Ask for references without hesitation. Look for reviews from previous clients. Look at the performer’s social media pages to see what work they’ve been doing. And ask a ton of questions if you need clarification on something. A professional entertainer will get on the phone with you and make sure both of you are clear on exactly what is expected for the event.
- What is the audience going to be? You need to have a clear understanding of who the party is for and what kind of party it will be. Are these multimillion-dollar CEOs who just want to network, or are they casual folks who really want to laugh and have a good time? Are you working with thirty people, or is this a gathering of hundreds? Did you want to impress your audience, or just entertain them…or both? Don’t be afraid to hire entertainment that will make your audience laugh. Nothing brings a group together faster than the common bond found through laughter and enjoyment (but never at the expense of an individual on your team who becomes the source of humiliation for humor).
It’s not impossible to find the right entertainment for your event if you are willing to put in a little time for research and planning. And even if a friend or colleague hired some form of entertainment in the past that didn’t work, don’t necessarily immediately mark it off the list. Just because they hired the wrong band, singer, comedian, or magician for an event doesn’t mean there’s not a good one for you. One bad chef doesn’t turn you off from eating forever…it just means you are a little more discerning when planning your next meal. Don’t let one bad experience with an entertainer in the past cause you to forever shut that door to others in the future.
When you get it right, everyone will be talking about what an incredible job you did putting it all together. Enjoy the holidays!