How to Book
You’re considering hiring a magician or entertainer for your event. Maybe you’re searching online and haven’t seen the performer(s) in person that you’re interested in. What to do, what to do…
Do your research.
Obviously you know the power of the internet, because you’re reading my blog right now! The web is an incredible resource; simply typing “magician” and the name of your nearest city will bring up websites and ads. (Note: some of the ads will be from performers who are not in your area. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but keep in mind you’ll pay more for a performer coming from another part of the country.)
Remember to take things that you read on the performer’s personal site with a grain of salt. (It’s marketing!) Look to other sources, like critic’s reviews, other blogs, news articles, and more to get the full picture.
Find out exactly what services the performer offers.
The same way that there is more than one type of music, there are different styles of magic and other variety arts also. Personally, I offer strolling, stand-up, and customized magic shows.
Strolling magic is ideal for socials, receptions, and hospitality situations where a formal show would ruin the flow of the event. This is close-up entertainment where I mingle with the guests. The closer you are to magic, the greater the impact. Many people like this style of magic best because everything happens just inches away!
My stand-up magic show is a blend of clean comedy and interactive magic. Audience participation is always an important part of what I do. I’ve won fifteen first-place awards at magic conventions from Calgary to Arizona for my original presentations.
I also offer customized magic for tradeshows, marketing meetings, product roll-outs, and more. Along with my business partner, magician Rick Anderson, we have magically produced keynote speakers, created television ads using magic, and helped Microsoft launch new products.
Sometimes this customization lets me do unusual shows that I never would have dreamed of on my own. For instance, last year I performed my first virtual magic show. I was at a Polycom teleconference studio in Bellevue, Washington and the audience was at an identical studio in San Jose, California! The strongest magic tricks are those that happen in the hands of a spectator. I wanted to create material that would make that possible. My goal was to create routines where the magic happened in THEIR studio, in San Jose, in such a clean way that there would only be one possible explanation: real magic. It was a cool moment when, across the room yet in another part of the country, four people turned over ripped halves of playing cards to reveal a perfect match.
Be sure that your entertainer has experience performing for your type of event.
Sure, there’s a first time for everything, but you don’t want your hired entertainer receiving “on the job training” on your dollar, and at the risk of your event! You’ll have a far better experience going with a performer who has an act honed for your occasion and your environment.
Personally, I’ve been performing magic full-time since 1997 and do over 250 shows each year. During this time I’ve learned a lot of the little “tricks” and details that make all the difference. (Things like bringing a sound system even if the client says they have one, having portable lights for banquet shows just in case the room lighting is dim, etc.)
Ask for recommendations from a recent client who has hired them for a similar event.
If your performer can’t provide at least two people that you can call or e-mail and receive feedback, keep looking. (Be sure that you’re comparing shows/environments that will be similar to yours. A kid’s birthday party is not the same as a company banquet for 150 people.)
You can read reviews about performers online at review sites such as Google, Yahoo, Yelp, LinkedIn, and more. These are places were clients post their unedited comments. Search for your performer on these sites and see what people are saying.
Watch online demo videos.
In our world of technology there is no excuse for not having a demo video! Everyone has a website these days, and performers should have a performance video you can watch. (You can also try searching for their name or business name on YouTube.)
One quick tip: look for more full-length videos as opposed to highly-edited videos. Anyone can look good with a video that consists of a few seconds here and a few seconds there. Seeing more un-edited routines will give you a better sense of the performer’s rapport with the audience and personality.
Once the show is booked, what details should be discussed prior to the event?
Although e-mail is good, I prefer speaking with my client – you? – by phone. It’s easier for me to get more details and find out more about the client’s vision for their event by talking with them. In addition to the basics (who is attending, what ages, venue, etc.), I like to get the big picture.
- What else is happening that day?
- Is there a theme for the event?
- Where should I park?
- Load/unload information
- What is the timing? Is someone else presenting right before me? What happens immediately after me?
- Is there anyone special that you would like involved – or not involved – in the show?
- Is there a stage or platform? Sound system? Lighting?
- Will you have an emcee running the event?
- What entertainment have you had in the past? What did you like or not like?
This may seem like a lot, but the more I know in advance, the better I can plan to but on the best show for you. Unexpected surprises are best when they happen as part of the magic show itself!
Environment has a huge impact on how successful a show is.
It’s an uphill battle if people can’t hear and see the performer. This isn’t just your responsibility, but one that you share with the performer to make sure that the environment is right for their entertainment. I like to control all of the variables I can.
When I’m doing banquet shows, I travel with a compact sound system and portable lights in my car, even if the venue claims they have them. Some sound systems are difficult to plug into, or sound terrible. Low lighting is common in banquet rooms. Portable lights can literally be the difference between night and day!
For a hundred people or more a platform or stage is a real plus. It really helps people at the back of the room see, and I want to insure that everyone can see, hear, and enjoy the show. Again, over the years I’ve learned that it’s these little details that make a big difference.
What kind of gigs do you usually work?
Will you have adults only at your event, or is it family friendly? Find out if your performer works clean and is family-friendly. It takes a special performer to mesmerize a group of skeptical teens. A kidshow professional isn’t necessarily right for a grad party, or a corporate party, or an 80th birthday party for octogenarians and guests. I enjoy performing for a variety of events because it keeps things new and fresh for me. Again, look at the performer’s credentials and resume and feel free to call them up and ask questions.
Ask to speak with someone who booked the performer recently for a show similar to the one you’re planning.
If your performer can’t give you a couple of names and numbers, keep searching. Don’t believe everything you read on a person’s website! Google or Bing your performer and see what you find. Typically review sites, Youtube videos, Facebook postings, blog postings, and photos will come up.
Make sure that what you see and read convinces you that this is the right performer for your event. Above all, remember that you frequently get what you pay for. Look beyond price. If you’re planning a special event and adding entertainment, it’s worth doing this little extra research to make sure you get the right performer.
Ask if you can see the performer live at an upcoming show.
This isn’t always practical or possible, but when it is, it will show you everything you need to know to make your booking decision. Many of my shows are for private parties and organizations and it wouldn’t be appropriate to invite a guest. However, I also perform the occasional theater show or festival that is open to the public. I try and post my calendar of upcoming public shows on my blog and Facebook for fans who want to see a show.
Comments and questions are welcome! Post here, or send e-mail to jeff[at]amazementproductions.com.