The event industry is likely the first industry that a budding magician or illusionist will find work in. Unless born into an entertainer’s family, it is unlikely that your first show experiences will come from theatre shows, cruises or casino showrooms. Probably, your first one hundred shows will come from events. For 80% of the professional and semi-professional magicians in the world, all of their work is from special events of all kinds.
Just like any working professional, I have worked every event imaginable, in the best and worst of conditions. At this point in my career, most off my event work is for high end corporate& special events where I present an event illusion show.
The Purpose of Events
As an event entertainer, the first thing you must be well aware of and understand is that when you are booked to perform at an event, your sole purpose is to entertain and add value to the event.
The event is not being held because of you and the event does not revolve around your show. You are there to support the event program by performing the highest quality show for the guests and making the overall event experience memorable for the guests. Even if your show is the highlight of the event, you have to be conscious of the fact that you are not the (sole) reason why guests are attending the event. Naturally, this does not apply for celebrity entertainers whom an event might be organized especially for.
Besides your show, most event programs will be full of different activities ranging from formalities like speeches, award presentations, video presentations and lucky draws to special items like other entertainers, performances by the company staff or games by the show host.
If you are performing for a corporate launch celebration dinner, the focus is on the successful launch of the company and the interaction of the new corporate team. If you are performing for a wedding banquet, the focus is on the union of the bride and groom. If you are performing for a family event, the focus is on creating activity and an event for families to spend time together and bond.
The implications of the above are that for event performances, you will not always get your preferred performing conditions or the ‘star’ treatment that you might expect if performing your own show in a theatre.
If you are one entertainer of several, you will have to share the stage and backstage with other entertainers. Technical resources (for e.g. lighting arrangements, staging configurations etc.) will also be shared and maximized to cater to the general needs of all the different entertainment performances.
Specific staging such as stage position, backdrop design, props and banquet seating arrangement will generally be given priority over your preferred setting.
At times, you will have to be your own ‘problem-solver’ as the client may not have time (or desire) to tend to your every need as he/ she has a dozen things to attend to.
Performing Conditions for the Event Magician
Presenting a magic show at an event is vastly different from staging a show in a theatre or casino showroom. Each event offers different challenges to the Event Magician due to the dynamic and fluid nature of the event environment.
Performing conditions for the Event Magician are generally less than ideal. In fact, if you can present a good magic show consistently for events, you would have no problem staging shows for theater, cruises or showrooms. There are much more limitations in staging a show in an event setting than an entertainment or performance venue, since the latter is designed to accommodate shows & performances.
Event venues cover any establishment that opens up their place for private bookings. In most cases, the venue will be closed to the public if a private booking is made. Event venues include hotels, convention halls, clubs, pubs, restaurants, tourist attractions, museums, art galleries and boats. As mentioned most events are not centered and designed around your magic show.
The exception is, of course, if you are a highly celebrated magician who has been invited to perform for an event. In which case, to a certain extent, the entire event will be crafted to your performance needs. If your typical performance booking is of the nature just described, most of the material in this section will not apply to you.
Depending on the scale of the event you are booked for, typical performing conditions for the Event Magician can include:
- Limited Stage Size
- Limited Backstage Area
- Small Set-Up Area
- Varying Degrees of Technical Support
- Little Control Over the Position & Distance of the Audience
- Difficult Access to the Performance Area from the Loading Bay
As an event entertainer, you are also expected to set-up and clear off stage as quickly as possible. As mentioned before, your show will seldom be the only activity in the event program. The event organizers will want the program to run as smoothly as possible with as little disruption and ‘dead-time’.
The key to staging a successful event magic show is to be as self contained and professional as possible. The other is to ensure that you have a clear and comprehensive technical rider (list of technical requirements) that are met by the client or event organizer.
The Event Audience
In a theatre show, paid admission or not, the audience is expecting to be entertained and is in the mood to be entertained. They would also be aware of the starring performer(s), even if they do not know anything about him/ her.
For an event audience, as far as they are concerned, they are there to attend an event, either at will or obligation. The entertainment is generally incidental and the audience would likely not know who you are unless you are a name act. If you are doing a public show in a shopping mall, you will not even have a ready audience and will have to stop, draw and hold ‘traffic’ for your show.
For corporate events, the demographics of the audience can also be tremendously varied. In a large corporation, you can have a mix of production-level workers with a few tables of top executives. For international events, you may have an audience comprising of 20 nationalities with a significant percentage not being able to speak or understand English well.
For family events, you will have a mix of kids and adults. Skill and experience as an entertainer will be necessary to effectively entertain across the age group.
The nature of event audiences is that your show has to be designed to continually capture and retain the interest of the audience, more so than a theatre show audience.
Your show and material must be designed with the event audience in mind. If you are a general events performer, your show must be able to adapt to any audience or you must have different acts that cater to different audiences.
If you are an event magician or illusionist, you might want to check out my two-volume “The Event Magician” book available at magic shops worldwide or direct from me here.
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