I’m constantly trying to improve my show. I literally examine every tiny detail, from the script to wardrobe to props…name it, I’ve checked it. I’ve been known to change one word in routines I’ve been doing for five years and see drastic improvements. I see it very simply as, my show should always be evolving if I’m learning new things. In other words…stay away from lazy!
However, besides the show, I’m also trying to improve the atmosphere. I feel that as not only a magician, but as an entertainer, it’s my job to take my experience over the years, and convey to my clients what I’ve seen work best in certain circumstances. A major area is banquets. In fact, a majority of special events I perform for every year is banquets. After performing at numerous banquets for corporations, charities and organizations over the last 15 years, I’ve seen what works for the entertainment portion and…I’m really not going to sugarcoat this…it is the textbook opposite from what I see most event planners doing. Now, that’s the bad news. The good news is, 95% of any potential problems can be solved in three simple steps.
If you’re having an entertainer at your next banquet, unless they specifically request otherwise, do these three things and enjoy the overwhelming difference.
1. Keep the entertainment early.
Most event planners will tell you that the entertainment should be the close of the night. Without a doubt, that seems logical, but there’s a question we have to get an answer to first. How long is the event? If the banquet is two hours (or three with a cocktail hour at the beginning), the entertainment being the close of the evening is a great idea. However, if your event is three or more hours, and people are seated for a large majority of the time, then having the entertainment as a closer is a less than ideal option.
A banquet is typically supposed to be a fun occasion, but when people are sitting for three hours, they start to lose some of their enthusiasm. This isn’t because the evening’s activities are dull. It’s simply because people get tired of sitting for long periods of time.
Most banquets usually have these elements: dinner, awards/recognition, raffles, entertainment/speaker. All of these elements are fine. However, the energy level of the crowd needs to be maintained to get your money’s worth out of the entertainer. Think about it, if you’re tired, even your favorite show on TV isn’t always enjoyable. So, if you’re paying money for an entertainer, why give them a less than enthused crowd? A great way to keep the energy up at a banquet of three hours or more is to have the entertainment right after the meal. This keeps people engaged and having fun, it’s a fun break in the other activities, and the evening can be closed with recognition and awards.
2. Keep your audience closer…
My show is extremely interactive. If people are sitting at tables, I want them as close to the stage as they can possibly be. If my closest audience member is 20-30 feet away, then it’s going to be extremely hard to interact with them. If the closest audience member is less than 5 feet from the stage, my job is going to be extremely easy.
Here’s one more piece of advice on this. Not only do I like the audience to be as close as possible to me, I like them to be as close as possible to each other. Instead of tables being 12-15 feet apart, make them 7-10. The tighter the group, the more energy in the room and the better the show.
3. No food during the show!
This is the make or break of most banquets. I have heard from magicians who make 5 figures for a banquet show and one in Europe who makes 6 figures per show and all of them say the same thing: dinner is either finished before the show or is being served afterwards, otherwise, they will not take the job.
Why is this so critical? Why are the top professionals making this their make or break for taking a banquet show? If you’re booking an entertainer, and in this case a magician, then any interaction is going to require focus from the audience. If people have a meal in front of them, half of their focus on the entertainer is automatically gone. What makes it harder is the simple fact that eating creates noise (silverware touching the plates, glasses clinking, and sometime, a waitstaff walking around and asking people questions). The average best case scenario when having the entertainment during dinner is the first three rows of tables will be engaged. Everyone further back is fighting to hear over the noise from the tables between themselves and the stage. Also, if people are sitting at round tables, take into account that 40% of the people will have their backs to the stage while they’re eating.
If you take one tip away from this article, this is the one. Am I saying that the entertainment portion will not be a success if it’s held during dinner? Not exactly, but I am saying that your chances of the entertainment being a huge success are much greater if the entertainment is separate from the dinner. Just think of any dinner theater that you’ve attended. Why do you think they keep the dinner separate from the show? They want the audience to focus on what’s important. If you’re pressed for time, make it a shorter show and maybe even try to cut a few minutes out of the dinner. Just don’t make the mistake of combining the two.
A great way to keep energy levels up and people in a good mood is to have upbeat music during dinner/before the performance. Now, I need to qualify what I consider to be upbeat music, or better yet, what I consider not to be upbeat. I love jazz and classical music…no joke, two of my favorites…but they’re not upbeat! Light rock, pop, anything with a beat that the people can tap their feet to and clean lyrics that they can lip-sync to. Believe me, it’ll put attendees in a great mood!
In closing let me ask you to look over these few tips and realize that nothing I’ve told you here is difficult. There’s nothing like spending little time and effort for such a big reward!