Particularly in theme events, establishing the right ambience for the event is one of the first considerations producers have. The ambience can be so much more than static décor or lighting, even if the lighting is automated. Adding other sensory input in the form of live entertainment helps to set a “living” mood. This can be done for any number of reasons, such as providing an atmosphere for easy discussion, for conducting business, or for relaxing. The proper choice of music can accomplish this with perhaps a jazz trio that enables unstrained conversation. As a side note, the importance of establishing and maintaining this relatively “quiet” ambience should not be passed over lightly. At far too many special events, the background noise level is excessively high, caused by poor room acoustics but exacerbated by music that is supposed to be background but is too loud. Producers tend to believe that volume equates to having a good time which in turn equates to a successful event and they could not be farther from the truth. In the majority of corporate events, guests attend because they want to dialogue with long-lost colleagues, and in many such events, to consummate business deals. This cannot be done if talking is uncomfortable. At the other extreme, atmosphere can be high energy. For example, a group of “paparazzi” greeting guests at the event entrance sets a lively ambience (Figure 1). One prime example from my own experience was adding to a beach party ambience by having a surf band enter the party in an authentic “Woodie” complete with honking horn, surfboards, and girls in bikinis.
Figure 1: Example of “Paparazzi” Greeters Helping to Set Ambience (Courtesy Alan Gough, www.visionmasters.net, and Pacific Show Productions, www.pacificshow.ca – Copyright 2006)
Rewarding Performance and for Image Purposes
Frequently, producers are called upon by clients to “just give me something really good”. This would seem to yield the conclusion that not all entertainment needs to have a deep reason. Realistically, there usually is one if the event producer or client is asked the right questions. For example, an incentive client may make just that statement, although the real reason for the entertainment is as a “reward” for top sales people (i.e. meaning motivational content). Likewise, a client may not state a reason but in reality wants to impress his or her clients by providing great entertainment. If budget presents a problem, producers may have to find performers or perhaps a single act, who can deliver an “all-round package” at a reasonable price. Such performers tend to exhibit three key characteristics. First, they are absolutely perfect at their craft (entertainment form) whether it is music, comedy, dance, athletics, or any combination. Second, they incorporate a component of comedy into their act and make it seem natural and spontaneous, not forced. Typically, though, it has been rehearsed, proven, and refined over the course of time. Third, they incorporate a component of audience participation into their act, again making it seem unrehearsed and spontaneous, and again it will have been proven to work over the course of dozens or hundreds of performances. Such acts, in my experience, regularly receive standing ovations and make producers and clients alike look good.
Celebrity performers can also be ideal as “rewards” or as image enhancers. Dianne McGarey, a producer with considerable experience in this area states, “Of all the things I do on a regular basis, celebrity events are my favorites. Over the span of 23 years, I have produced Smoky Robinson, Natalie Cole, Jim Belushi, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Steve Miller Band, The Doobie Brothers, and Kenny Loggins . . . to name just a few. In almost every case, the client who chose these acts did so for the express purpose of creating a company image. They wanted to impress as well as entertain those in attendance whether they were employees, their own key clients, or potential customers.” For clients with good budgets, this is undeniably the best way to gain prestige. Figure 2 shows a celebrity (Jim Belushi) at a private corporate special event.
Figure 2: Celebrity Headliner at a Private Corporate Special Event (Courtesy Axtell Productions International, www.axtellproductions.com )
That's it for the reasons for entertainment. In future posts, I'll look at different types of entertainment and how to work with performers.