As event planners and producers, before we use entertainment in a special event, we need to understand its impact on an audience. In other words, we need to analyze exactly why we are suggesting it to a client.
The reason for any given entertainment concerns the overall message delivered by a performance. It is the “why” question answered. The performance must satisfy the audience and client and deliver the promised results based on the original reason for the entertainment. For special event production purposes, the audience’s interests are usually represented by a single person (e.g. a client or event manager) or a small number of persons (e.g. an organizing committee) during the planning process, and it is this person or these persons who must articulate the reason for the entertainment to the producer. Here, then, are the main reasons we produce entertainment shows for special events.
A powerful reason is the imparting of knowledge to an audience; it may be based entirely on learning or may be a small part of a larger show with multiple goals. Here are some typical examples that have proven successful in my own and my colleagues’ experiences.
- Scripted show. This occurs when entertainment is used with the main goal of providing – or helping to provide – knowledge to the audience. I have done this for a scripted variety show format in which we created a show that told part of the history of Canada through segments that incorporated singing, dancing, comedy, and acting, thus telling the audience in an interesting way about the country’s history. Another way is to partially script a show to augment a corporate presentation and to thereby explain more about the company goals, such as for a sales meeting, or for the explanation of a complicated concept. I have done this through the use of improvisational comedians who performed semi-scripted, humorous problem scenarios for an audience of financial planners who then had to workshop solutions for the scenarios presented. Dianne McGarey, formerly of Atlanta-based Axtell Productions has had considerable experience with this type of show and states, “To do this successfully, it is vital to have a professional scriptwriter who will work closely with you to incorporate all the vital information, and agree (up front) to do “rewrites” as needed. A theatrical director and rehearsal hall for the cast will also be required.”
- Existing act. Knowledge may also be imparted through the inclusion of performers who use education as part of their act, such as cultural dance groups who explain the origins of their dances (e.g. Chinese, Native American, African), storytellers, or handwriting analysts (personal knowledge), among many. My company frequently used a world champion gold panner who would not only teach guests how to gold pan, but would also teach the history of gold panning and gold rushes while they were doing it. Figure 1 depicts a Native American show that imparted knowledge about their culture using song and dance to portray a legend.
Figure 1: Knowledge Imparted through the Enactment of a Native Legend (Courtesy Wayne Chose Photography and Pacific Show Productions, www.pacificshow.ca – Copyright 2006)
Physically Moving People
There is no more impressive method of physically moving crowds than to have them follow highly visual and loud performers. Using a marching band or other “noisy” entertainment to lead people can save considerable time, especially with a large audience, and can be a nice segue from a reception to dinner or between event segments. In my career I have used marching bands, Swiss alpine horns, drum groups, color guards, cowboys on horses, fanfare trumpets, a town crier, stilt walkers, a Chinese lion, Dixieland bands, dancers of various types, clowns, old cars, and more I can’t remember. In almost all cases, guests automatically followed the entertainment without having to be told what to do, thus making my job as a producer a little easier (not to mention negating the need for a costly add-on audio system in a remote location).
Following musical performers or noisy acts is not the only way to move people. Also possible is creative hosting. For example, we once designed an Evening in Paris night for an important client at which we used a dozen male and a dozen female dancers dressed in traditional French attire and all very outgoing. They greeted and cheered guests as they arrived and individually escorted each guest to their table, then appeared later to perform a can-can dance routine after which they went into the room full of seated guests to bring them up to the dance floor (Figure 2). This concept of participative “party starters” has gained tremendous popularity in recent years.
Figure 2: Example of Creative Hosting (Courtesy Alan Gough, www.visionmasters.net, and Pacific Show Productions, www.pacificshow.ca – Copyright 2006)
More reasons for entertainment in my next post.