How The Experts Manage Talent & Entertainment At Conferences

When your annual convention comes around, booking a top-notch entertainment act is a must. While the rest of your event is filled with great insights into your business and detailed ways to succeed, attendees need to let loose, too.
Great entertainment acts are scientifically proven to make your attendees think your company is the most kickass one on the NASDAQ. Note: I don’t have a source for this very scientific measurement, but it’s very true.
But while getting The Goo Goo Dolls or Lady Gaga to perform at your corporate event sounds awesome, logistically it’s a challenge. You’ll need to contact sourcing departments, book talent, manage all their needs and find lots of compromises between the act and the venue. Daunting? It won’t be after it’s demystified. Here’s everything you need to know about managing talent for your corporate event.

10 Steps To Producing Perfect Entertainment

The key to a successful event featuring a high-profile entertainer is thorough preparation. You’ll need to:
  • Source viable high-profile entertainment options
  • Select entertainment that is really the right fit for your company and brand.
  • Ensure entertainers have everything they need in order to deliver a great performance.
  • Manage party invitees’ expectations, via internal communications
To accomplish these objectives, start with he beginning – identifying your talent.

1. Get the Right Fit in Entertainment for Your Event

It’s exciting to have a celebrity at your event, but determine if the entertainer you have in mind is actually an appropriate fit for your organization and for your event. Think about how the entertainer you have in mind would actually contribute to your goals for the event. This will require some first-hand knowledge about the audience’s demographic.
A grunge band like Bush might not be a great fit for a beauty products retailer, but could make a lot of sense for an auto-repair franchise.
Know your audience and make the best judgement call from there. Start with genres, then work your way into specific acts. You’ll want at least 10 options to start since you never know how many acts will actually be able to make it.

2. Know How to Book High-Profile Entertainment

The typical high stress of planning a large event is multiplied by taking on the process of bringing in high-profile entertainment for the occasion. On the other hand, great entertainment can skyrocket the success of your event.
Still, it can make more sense not to do it if it stretches the budget too thin or overwhelms the preparatory process and capacity to execute plans smoothly.
If you decide to take the plunge and go for quality entertainment, there are specific details that you cannot fail to address. These can help you get the best celebrity entertainment available, save you from losing your opportunity to get good entertainment, and ensure that you can manage all the elements of the entertainment and everything else involved in conducting an overall highly successful event.

3. Be Prepared for On-Site Management Challenges

Planning and executing a large event escalates to an entirely new level of complexity when you add managing a famous talent to the list of challenges. The logistics, security needs, priorities, atmospherics, external variables, budget, and even registration systems become grossly multiplied in critical details demanding timely and effective management. The best way to success is through thorough planning, and working with a well-skilled and coordinated event management team. Having great entertainment draws more attention than a typical company event.
  • Be sure your team has the skills and commitment to succeed with such a big event.
  • Be sure your budget is sufficient for high-profile entertainment at your event.
  • Get a clearly detailed contract.
  • Make sure you and the entertainer’s agent have a true meeting of the minds regarding all specifications on both sides of the agreement.
  • And, prepare obsessively for the entertainment and everything associated with it, and for every other activity and element of the event.

4. Know Your Budget

Leave no expense unaccounted for in your event budget. Then, you can be sure of how much you’re able to budget for entertainment. Don’t rely on Google searches to find accurate information on celebrity entertainers’ fees. You’re not likely to get even remotely correct numbers that way. When you talk to the appropriate person for the actual rate, be aware that the celebrity’s booking fee probably is not the total cost of hiring them for the event. So, if the celebrity you want to feature charges $200,000 for a booking, you’ll also need to budget for entertainment related expenses, like travel, local transportation, lodging, food, equipment, and whatever the entertainer might request as part of their contract rider.

5. Define the Entertainer’s Part in the Event

What kind of high-profile person or people will be the best fit for your conference? Naturally, the more you ask the talent to do, the more their fee and the associated costs will be. Plus managing will be more time-intensive. There are various levels of involvement for which you can hire a celebrity for an event:
  • Walkthrough — If you have a limited budget, you might choose a more affordable option, like a walkthrough, in which the celebrity walks through the event briefly, merely to be seen at it.
  • Appearance — Or, you may choose to book an appearance, in which the celebrity will typically stay at an event for hour or so.
  • Hosting — Booking a hosting costs more than an appearance, because the celebrity will stay throughout the entire event and interact with guests.
  • Performance — If your budget allows, you can book for a performance or for the celebrity to speak to your audience. The celebrity will provide the main entertainment and stay throughout the event.

6. Contact The Entertainer’s Representative

After you determine your entertainment budget, and decide which celebrities you want to approach to attend your event, next it’s time to reach out to their agents, manager, or other authorized representative. The agent is responsible for finding work for the entertainer (like screen or stage roles, live performance gigs, endorsement deals, etc.). The agent also negotiates contract terms and handles other business activities, and they’re paid a percentage of what their clients make. They receive many booking requests for their clients. You’ll increase your likelihood of success in obtaining the booking you want, if you can:
  • Help the agent clearly visualize the great event you have in mind.
  • Provide thorough details of the event, and explain exactly what you would like to have their client do at the event.
  • Have all the specifics they need ready, before you approach the agent.
First, email the agent with a succinct request. Then, send a follow-up email. Handling this initial communications process professionally can make the difference between succeeding in booking the act and getting no response at all from the agent.

7. Undertake the Negotiating Process

Be prepared to negotiate the talent’s booking fee. Being too aggressive can result in the entertainer deciding not to work with you. On the other hand, a delicately handled negotiation for a fee and package of requirements you can afford can pay off big in cost savings. There are typical ways to improve your negotiating position. Don’t make your best offer first. Instead, initially offer about 10 to 15 percent less than your budget for the entertainer’s fee. That will give you some room to negotiate. Be willing to let the booking go and move on to another entertainer, if necessary. The contract should include things like security reviews, venue walkthroughs, rehearsal dates and times, security reviews, technology requirements, and as much other information as possible.
  • Contract Inclusions — Have your own checklist of things you need to make sure get included in the contract, such as travel and ground transportation, security, schedule, lodging, logistical, and other requirements.
  • Rider Inclusions — Ask for the “rider”, which is an addendum to the contract that lists additional provisions not included in the contract. The rider may include requirement regarding staging, hair and makeup, lodging, food and beverage, green room items, etc..
Don’t assume anything. Make sure you and the celebrity’s agent both have a clear understanding of all needs, agreements, expectations, and costs, to help ensure that everything runs smoothly and everyone is happy throughout the event, and that your guests have one of those epic company event experiences.

8. After You Have Signed the Contract with Talent…

To ensure that your entertainer’s brand doesn’t inadvertently compete with yours, in advance, send them your company’s key taglines and an explanation of your objectives. Ask them for their advice on how they can help ensure that the two brands are not taking anything away from one another and how they can support your brand’s message. A celebrity may permit you to use their image in your marketing, to help build excitement and increase your attendance.
  • Photos and Videos Marketing the Event — It’s usually permissible to utilize photos and certain other marketing materials and social media posts, but you need to ask for explicit permission and parameters in advance.
  • Photos and Videos During the Event — You can also ask for permission to shoot photos and video of the entertainer during the event, although those activities are usually not allowed, due to entertainers’ brand protection policies.

9. Manage the Needs of the Entertainer

Prioritize the essentials for getting the celebrity to your venue and through the event safely, comfortably, happily, and on time. In order to achieve a successful event with a great performance by a high-profile talent, you need to ensure professional care for celebrity talent:
  • Security — Details of security for the celebrity may or may not be spelled out in the contract rider. They may bring their own, or you may need to contract for their security. Assign a staff member to usher the entertainer and their security detail through the venue smoothly, via a secure and expeditious route away from the general public. If your celebrity is a government official, and Secret Service is involved, they’ll instruct you on their requirements for space review, access controls, sight lines, etc..
  • Travel and Ground Transportation — Managing transportation for a celebrity and his or her professional entourage is a sizeable project of its own. A charter flight may be necessary, with private pick-up of the talent and their team. Escort to lodgings, check-ins, equipment transport, transfer, safety and security and other special needs may be involved.
  • Lodging — Advertising that a famous entertainer will be at your event can impact registration processes. Registration as well as lodging reservations are often more efficiently managed as a separate project, to share all facets of housing and event information with the celebrity’s representative and ensure that all the entertainer’s and his or her team’s housing requirements are met.
  • Meet and Greet — If you do a meet-and-greet, you may need to set up a “step and repeat” space, with a backdrop for photographs of the celebrity, along a pathway to manage flow of that activity.

10. Organize Everything, and Coordinate with Everyone

A busy, famous entertainer may not be able to make time to prepare prior to your event date. So, work with their representative. Agree on a time to meet at the venue, if possible, to review the basics. On the event day, be sure to take a few minutes when the entertainer arrives, to coordinate with them and provide information they must know, including:
  • Their routes to, and from stage
  • Stage direction
  • Performance time allotment
  • Event theme
  • Talking points
  • Cameras and angles
  • Lighting and angles
  • Audio equipment
  • Their technical point of contact
  • Backup plan in case of tech failure
  • MC and cues
  • Company brand and logo
  • Company history (nutshell version)
  • Their event point of contact
Typically, celebrities are very comfortable on a stage, but err on the side of treating the situation as if they are new to it. Know their profile, compliment their work, offer suggestions for working in the space provided (if they ask), and check to be sure all their needs and stated requirements are met.

For Help with Your Corporate Event Planning & Entertainment

We can help you with your company’s annual conference or convention, or other large internal event. If you need help managing entertainment for your conference or convention, contact us today!