SOMETIMES THE SIMPLEST statement can sum up an entire industry. When asked about trends in event entertainment, Paul Creighton, executive vice president and senior producer for Orlando, Florida-based T. Skorman Productions, rattles off an array of hot acts, from customized Broadway shows to extreme stunt performances, before getting to the gestalt of the event entertainment business. "People want to have a good time," he says. Indeed, ensuring the good time factor has been Creighton's job for the past 20 years. Recently, Creighton's "good time" talents were seen at the 1999 Gala Awards Ceremony & Celebration, for which he served as producer.
An ex-musician, Creighton began his career like most entertainment producers-onstage, playing keyboard with a traveling show band for six years. Ted Skorman (the "T" in T. Skorman Productions), was the band's manager. In the mid-eighties, Creighton quit the band and joined Skorman, who had been managing bands since 1979. Together, they grew T. Skorman Productions to become the largest nightclub agency in the country. In 1986, Connie Riley, CSEP, a former singer, joined the company and started up its special event entertainment division. Special events, in addition to casino, theme park, cruise ship and recording studio divisions, make up the company, now 25 employees strong.
When he's not busy booking big name acts such as the Doobie Brothers, Manhattan Transfer or Kenny Rogers-the company books 250 to 300 name acts a year-Creighton enjoys traveling (Puerto Rico is a favorite destination) with his wife, Terry, and their two children, Jennifer and Michael. And of course, the many theme parks of Orlando still hold appeal. "This is a great entertainment city," Creighton says. He would know.
CUT THE STATIC "Event entertainment has become more visual. And that's due to the influence of television. The trend is giving the audience more impact in a shorter time span. And it has to be interactive. People want to be involved. You can't just do a static show anymore."
STILL ON THE ROAD "We did shows in 45 cities last year. My goal is to make people aware that we are not just a Florida company; rather, we are everywhere. I want planners to think of me the same way they would an event or lighting designer-that I am part of their team and I can go anywhere the job takes them."
GETTING SHORTED BY THE SHORT-TERM "The biggest challenge in terms of event entertainment is that the [event] business is getting more short-term. And, unfortunately, people tend to put entertainment last, which ends up cutting out the creativity. If we get a call a week before a job, you're going to get what's on the shelf. That's fine, we are set up to do that. But you limit yourself and your client."
PUTTING MUSIC IN THE MESSAGE "Everyone uses entertainment to deliver their message, whether it's through television, film or commercials. But unfortunately, not enough event and meeting planners use it. Too many companies will spend $10,000 to $30,000 on a great, custom-designed opening segment of their meeting. They'll use lasers, pyro, skateboarders-everything. And then, 20 minutes later, their VP of sales comes on and immediately puts the audience to sleep. If they would just incorporate entertainment into their entire message, it would have so much more impact on the audience. People respond to entertainment."