Special Events

Entertaining Ideas

Today's world-full of affluent, educated consumers eager for something new-has been described as an experience economy. And a master at provi-ding entertaining experiences is Paul Creighton of entertainment producer T. Skorman Productions, who just picked up Gala Awards at The Special Event 2000 in January for Best Event Entertainment Concept and Execution and Best Theatrical Entertainment Production.

Creighton checks into our Guest Room with tips on making your event entertainment a hit.

Special Events Magazine: How big a role does entertainment play in special events today?

Paul Creighton: When our company started 21 years ago, we had no special event business. Now special events make up 65 percent of our business. And 90 percent of that is corporate business. The budgets just keep getting bigger.

Q: Why is entertainment at corporate special events so important?

A: Because this is an MTV world, fast-paced and visual, companies need to deliver their messages in a way that will impact their audiences. Who better to do it-your vice president of sales or a professional entertainer?

Q: What types of entertainment work best for special events?

A: Music always works because it lays the foundation for people to have a good time. Comedy continues to be popular because audiences want to laugh and feel good.

Magic is a tougher sell now. Close-up sleight of hand is still amazing, but stage shows are harder because once you've seen the Statue of Liberty disappear on a TV show, how exciting is it to see someone appear out of a box?

Q: If event planners see an intriguing performer they might want to hire, how can they tell if the performer will do well in a corporate event setting?

A: The performers have to know how to behave on the property. They must recognize that they are not the main focus of the event. As one of my clients says, "The first time the act thinks that they are the most important thing at my event is the last time I use them."

They must realize that events are not set in stone; they need to be flexible. They can't be surprised if the awards ceremony runs late.

Q: How can an event planner get entertainment that's unique?

A: Many of our creative clients will come up with an idea and say to us, "Here is what I want for an exclusive show-say, a vaudeville cowboy review for a client in Dallas-can you build it for me?" And we build and maintain it for them. We will find the talent, write original material, get costumes, rehearse it.

Remember, your clients are going to ask you for something new and different, and they'll want it in three weeks. The only way you will have it is if you start working on it now.

I try to get planners to think about entertainment earlier in their timeline. Our cycle is getting so much shorter. If you call me a week before the event, you get what's out of the box. If you call me six months before the event, we can do some-thing special.

Q: What other trends are hot?

A: We're always a little behind the trend curve, reacting to what's hot in popular culture.

Latin music is very big. Everyone is asking, "Who do you have that's like Ricky Martin?"

People still tend to think geographically when it comes to their entertainment. Being in Florida, we get called every day for a Jimmy Buffet-type band, so we created the group Volcano Joe and the Hot Lava Band. In California, they want the Beach Boys. In Texas, they still want country and western.

Another big trend is continuous entertainment. If an act goes by the old "45 minutes on, 15 minutes off" routine, the party can die. So more people are asking to keep the entertainment flowing all night. Maybe the band plays continuously, or we insert something during the band breaks. But at no point does it come to a dead halt.

Q: What's coming next?

A: People are overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds around them. TVs are on constantly, almost as background noise. Eventually, there will be a rebellion against that. Sometime soon, people will go back to being quiet. You will start to see events that focus on "talking," events using "peaceful" entertainment and quiet colors. I think we will see this happen in the very near future.

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