Even when everything is going smoothly, planning a conference or event can be stressful. And that stress only gets worse when you factor in the process of booking entertainment for your event. Like it or not, booking quality entertainment can make a huge difference - it can turn a forgettable conference or event into a successful one; by the same token, not booking quality entertainment can also make a good event a little less memorable.
Unfortunately, a lot of meeting and event planners tend to overlook some of the details that can be the difference between booking quality entertainment and not booking the best entertainment available – or worse, not booking any entertainment at all. In this article, I’m going to cover one type of entertainment, and that is celebrity entertainment. That is why understanding the booking process is so important; not just the negotiation and contract phases, though those are crucial, but also minor details like ensuring you are booking the right entertainment for the conference or event, and the process of getting your talent involved.
Understand Your Budget
You might think that budgeting is such an obvious part of this process that it would be impossible to overlook it; if that were the case, we wouldn’t be writing about it. Before you take any other steps toward booking entertainment for your conference or event, the first thing you have to do is sit down and figure out the event’s budget. If you don’t, you might find yourself in talks with a big-name celebrity for your event, only to realize that you do not have enough money in your event budget to hire them.
When you are targeting a particular celebrity to serve as entertainment at your conference or event, you might be tempted to try and find out what they cost through Google. Unfortunately, 99 percent of the time, whatever figure you find online didn’t come from the celebrity or their team – more importantly, that figure is almost always wrong. And unless you have unlimited funds to spend on your event, you cannot afford to base your process on incorrect information.
It is also important to remember that a celebrity’s booking fee likely won’t be the all-in cost to hire them for your event. You will also need to take into account all the additional expenses that usually aren’t included in the booking fee, such as travel, hotels, food, transportation to and from the event, any equipment they might need, and anything else the entertainer requests in their contract rider. So, if you have a budget of $250,000, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you can afford a celebrity who charges $250,000 for a booking – that is an easy way to end up going over budget.
Define Their Role
Another key component of booking entertainment for your conference or event is figuring out ahead of time what you want the celebrity to do. The celebrity’s role in your event depends on a few factors: which celebrity you have in mind, the kind of event you are planning, and how much you have to spend on entertainment. All of these factors should be considered when figuring out what you want the entertainment to do at your event.
If you don’t have a huge budget but want to secure a big-name celebrity, you might want to consider an appearance or walkthrough agreement. With a walkthrough agreement, the celebrity will walk through the event and show their face; a celebrity doing an appearance will spend a little time at the event, usually an hour or so. These kinds of bookings are less expensive, which can be great if you have a limited budget; the drawback, though, is that you get less interaction between the celebrity and the guests at your event. If you want more celebrity interaction, you can also consider a hosting agreement; these are a bit more expensive, but for that extra money, the celebrity will spend the whole night at the event as well as mingle with the guests.
If you have enough of a budget, and you want the whole event centered around the entertainment, you can also hire them for a speaking or performance agreement; these agreements mean the celebrity will stay at the event and be the main entertainment for the event. But keep in mind, the more you ask the celebrity to do, the more it will cost you - not just their fees, but in the case of a performance, the additional equipment such as stage and sound equipment, etc. Ultimately, it is up to you to figure out the right balance between giving your guests a great experience and not spending more than you can afford.
Contact Their Representation
Once you have identified the entertainment you want for your conference or event, the next step is to reach out to their agent. When trying to book a celebrity for your event, you likely won’t be making your pitch directly to the celebrity. Instead, you will be reaching out to their agent, and in some cases their manager. For your purposes, let’s assume that the celebrity has an agent; but what does an agent do?
Simply put, an agent is responsible for finding work for their clients. Whether that is film or TV roles, live gigs or endorsement deals, whatever their client’s specialty, agents make sure the people they represent continue to find work. Agents are also responsible for the business end of any jobs their clients get; specifically, negotiating the contract. Finally, agents also get a percentage of every deal their clients make.
In order to improve your odds of success, you need have a clear picture of the event before you reach out to the celebrity’s agent. That includes knowing the exact details of the event, when and where it is taking place. The kind of event you are hosting, and what you want their client to do at your event. Agents are constantly receiving requests from people hoping to book celebrities, especially people who don’t understand the booking process. You can do a lot to set yourself apart from everyone else just by having all the details they will ask for squared away before you reach out.
You will want to contact the agent first by email to start the process. The standard process for emailing a celebrity agent follows a pretty basic format. There are quite a few things to know about dealing with agents, but in the interest of time, the two most important ones are simple: be concise with your request, and know how to follow up. A general rule of thumb is to give it 3-5 days between follow-up emails to make sure the agent has enough time to read and digest your request. This can mean the difference between booking the entertainment you want and not even getting a response.
Know the Negotiation Process
Once you have gotten in touch with a celebrity’s representatives, you should also be willing to negotiate (and know how to effectively negotiate) the booking fee. Just because you have been quoted a particular fee doesn’t mean you should pay it. Being willing to negotiate on their fee can save you a lot of up-front costs. As with any negotiation you have to know when to push and when to ease off. If you don’t, you risk ensuring the entertainer will never consider working with you.
There are a couple of easy ways to give yourself a boost on the negotiation process. Make sure never to make your first offer your best offer – take 10 percent off of the total amount you have available to spend on entertainment and use that as an initial offer. If the agent doesn’t go for it, you can work from there. This gives you some wiggle room. Also, don’t be afraid to walk away. In order to effectively do that, you will need to have some backup options in mind if your first choice doesn’t go through, but showing a willingness to walk away from a negotiation can significantly boost your bargaining power.
So there you have it- all the big things to keep in mind when booking entertainment for your next event. They say that the best way to get good at something is through repetition, and over time you will hone your skills and learn the nuances of the booking process. It will get a little easier each time you do it. And with the tips I provided above, you have everything you need to get started. Happy hunting!
Billy Bones, is the marketing director at Bookingagentinfo.com, which provides event planners with the contact info for the official agents, managers, and publicists of celebrities. He also runs Celebrity Endorsers which helps businesses identify celebrities to work with based on their endorsement history, interests, and charitable contributions.
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