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Topic: Advice on dinner shows
Message: Posted by: Jonathan (Sep 1, 2010 12:31AM)
I've always avoided them, because I hate them. But, as I get more and more into the corporate market it's becoming unavoidable.

- I don't like the distraction of food, things on the table, servers, dishes clanging, service staff, etc.

- The audience is too spread out and far from the stage. That makes some of my routines very difficult (where things have to be passed out to the audience and collected) and/or very time consuming during the show. And it makes it much harder to keep their attention because they are so far away.

- There is a crash after people have eaten that results in a sluggish audience. The dynamic is much different than theater seating.

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How do you confront/avoid these problems? Have the audience move from the tables to theater seating after the meal? That doesn't solve the after-dinner crash problem. Have the entertainment before the dinner? Suggest that they don't have a meal provided, but maybe snack food at the back afterward? Obviously, I wouldn't go on until the food is all taken away and the service staff is out of the room...but, that means the audience will have crashed by the time I go on.

And how on earth do you pass things out, collect them, etc. if they are around tables?
Message: Posted by: Aaron E (Sep 1, 2010 01:08AM)
Jonathan,

I have done many corporate events/dinner parties. You need to do more strolling effects. You need to get intimate with the audience. I usually only do 1 or 2 "stage" presentations at an event like this. Do something big when you start (this gives the audience an idea about what you are about). I then finish the night with something big (you leave on a high note). I usually take a break while people are eating. When the audience is done eating and they are relaxed....they are fattened up for you to really get intimate with them. Go out and sit with them, talk with them, do effects that are mellow and not much work for the spectators. It may be a great time for readings and such. Do name, design and number duplications and add readings in with them. I also notice people gather in groups. I love this! gives me a chance to do some smaller stage effects for each group.

Sorry if this is to long. Hope I gave you something to use.

Cozmo D
Message: Posted by: Jonathan (Sep 1, 2010 07:11AM)
Thanks for your thoughts, Cozmo. I have an hour stage show that I've worked really hard on and I much prefer that to close-up strolling effects. MUCH more powerful and effective than any close-up stuff I can find, and it fits more my personality and character (plays to my strengths).

Good advice, though!
Message: Posted by: Mentalist Sam (Sep 1, 2010 07:28AM)
I don't even know where to start with a response to this.

Magicians and mentalists have been doing these shows for decades. I can tell you that you're never going to get a corporate client to not serve dinner. They are not going to clear the tables so you can have theater style seating. In fact the more outrageous demands you make, the less work you will find.

Yes, an audience of a hundred or two hundred or more is spread apart by those big pesky round tables.

If the audience is "sluggish", then that's a problem created by the performer, not the dinner. Do you know how many people go out to dinner first before attending a Broadway play? Or even a movie?

So here is my, probably, rude advice. If all of these things are bothering you, food on the table, wait staff, etc. then either find another line of work, get over it or create an act that fits the demands of the situation. Because they are not going to change the situation to fit your issues.

The only change that I will occasionally make is that if there is a big dance floor separating the stage and the audience, I will not perform on the stage and work on the dance floor, even if that means I'm almost surrounded.

I've arrived at shows where there wasn't enough space to perform because the room was too small and there were too many tables, so I did work literally surrounded in the middle of the room.

Lots of experience will teach you what to do, but these are issues you are going to have to adapt to.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan (Sep 1, 2010 08:28AM)
[quote]
On 2010-09-01 08:28, Mentalist Sam wrote:
Do you know how many people go out to dinner first before attending a Broadway play? Or even a movie?
[/quote]

Excellent point on this.

As far as the food on the table and wait staff, I've heard multiple successful magicians/mentalists advise insisting on the food being cleared and the service workers out of the room before the show starts. And if the room situation (no stage, not enough space, etc) is not as per the agreement, I will not perform. That should all be taken care of earlier.

There is a difference between a primadonna, "demanding" performer, and one who is an "expert" and works with the event planner to avoid the common pitfalls of entertainment planning. Know what I mean?

The biggest problem I have is with the tables. How do you pass out and collect things quickly when people are spread out all over the place?
Message: Posted by: Aaron E (Sep 1, 2010 09:42AM)
Maybe the corporate venue is not for you. Sounds like you want to do a Q&A act? You made need to work hard on a corporate venue act. You have worked hard on a stage show...go get a stage show venue.

Be like water my friend. Pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup...be like water.

Coz
Message: Posted by: Mike Ince (Sep 1, 2010 10:12AM)
I always tell the client up front that I will not perform while the guests are eating. They need to savor the expensive food that's been provided to them, without distraction. Then they can fully enjoy my show after dinner, without distraction. I'm pretty sure I got that from David Ben's book, Tricks.

"Could we at least start the show during dessert?" Same reply. I want them to enjoy their dessert (and my show is too interactive for eating).

The waitstaff can clear the tables before or after your show. Be sure to work that out with them ahead of time.

Be sure there isn't going to be a dance floor between you and the tables. If there is, try to fill the floor with seats so parts of the audience can get closer to the action.

You should be elevated, if at all possible. If you're in a hotel, they can set up modular stage risers for you. Strongly suggest that the stage be place at one of the short ends of the room, instead of the middle of a long wall (something hotels and dining halls usually do for live bands). You don't want the stage in the middle of the room, with tables beside or behind you. You want the audience in front of you.

Use a wireless lavalier microphone, if possible, with a handheld backup microphone.

I'm sure I learned several of these ideas from Ken Weber's book, Maximum Entertainment. I can't recommend it enough.
Message: Posted by: Mentalist Sam (Sep 1, 2010 10:24AM)
[quote]
On 2010-09-01 09:28, Jonathan wrote:

As far as the food on the table and wait staff, I've heard multiple successful magicians/mentalists advise insisting on the food being cleared and the service workers out of the room before the show starts. And if the room situation (no stage, not enough space, etc) is not as per the agreement, I will not perform. That should all be taken care of earlier.

There is a difference between a primadonna, "demanding" performer, and one who is an "expert" and works with the event planner to avoid the common pitfalls of entertainment planning. Know what I mean?
[/quote]

I'm sure that's true, that there are successful magicians/mentalists that do this. However you're not one of them. I'm not saying your show isn't wonderful, but it's obvious, just by this post that you lack experience in this area. And that brings up the next point, which is you are also not the "expert" who works with event planners, as you stated above.

To imply you're an expert would suggest that you have many years of experience with these shows. What you're trying to do is suggest you are an expert in order to make a common situation less awkward for you.

It really comes down to a simple course of action and that is until you have achieved a reputation as a successful entertainer, you need to adapt to the situation, not the situation adapting to you.

I typically will start performing at the end of desert. With a large audience, not everyone is going to get served at the same time, so when desert is just about over, the host will typically make some remarks, I will get introduced and start the show. You may have 10 minutes of wait staff clearing tables. So what. What do you do about an open bar that is in the same room? Tell people they can't get refills of their drink during your show? Tell the bartender to be quiet when putting ice in the glasses?

Another factor to consider, and you would know this if you had more experience, is time can be a factor and yours isn't the only presentation. There are going to be speeches made, awards given out, raffles, a band or DJ after the show. Why hold everything up for 20 minutes because the magician can't be distracted?

Unless you're famous or at the upper end of the corporate market, it's rare that you're going to find ideal performing conditions. You have to start with an act that is flexible to these situations and then your attitude to make the best of what you've been given. I've dropped routines from my show early on because I couldn't make them work given circumstances like this. Ultimately it's just something you have to figure out by trial and error.
Message: Posted by: mdspark (Sep 1, 2010 12:09PM)
If the audience is too large and spread out for passing out and collecting things...simply don't do those type of routines...wrong venue for it. The point of adapting has already been made.

There are plenty of very strong mentalism effects that do not require passing out and collecting. Put your best presentation skills forward and if the audience is "too large and spread out" that you loose them or they are interested in other things like the bar..dont let that shake you. Focus on the audience members that are enjoying the show. You cant fix everything. And everything will not be perfect. Choose appropriate routines for the venue. Stage the performance area best you can under the circumstances with the available resources (getting close enough to the audience, microphone, etc...) and give the best professional presentation possible.

that's all anyone can do.
Message: Posted by: David Alexander (Sep 1, 2010 08:05PM)
Good advice from Mentalist Sam. Sounds like the voice of experience.
Message: Posted by: Dick Christian (Sep 2, 2010 08:16AM)
[quote]
On 2010-09-01 21:05, David Alexander wrote:
Good advice from Mentalist Sam. Sounds like the voice of experience.
[/quote]

Right on! The performer's job is to represent himself and his client in the best possible light by providing the greatest possible entertainment value to those in attendance. The experienced performer knows what is required to achieve that objective and what will prevent it from being met and will -- politely and respectfully -- insist on those essential criteria and decline the opportunity to perform in situations when he knows the goal cannot be achieved. If a client imposes requirements that I will lead to disaster and disappointment, I will willingly pass up the job because I would rather that they be disappointed with someone else because it increases the likelihood that they will come back to me the next time.
Message: Posted by: david12345 (Sep 2, 2010 08:46PM)
Another promotion for Ken Weber's book,unfortunately for me I read it after my first dinner show at a Gala. Definitely consider each routine - what works and kills one type of audience can have a less than desired effect on another.
Good luck to you,
Message: Posted by: Mentalist Sam (Sep 2, 2010 09:44PM)
David,

It's all trial and error. Ken Weber wrote a fine book, but it has never had any impact on my performances.

You wrote:

"what works and kills one type of audience can have a less than desired effect on another."

I read that all the time and I don't get it. I have my act and it works for all audiences. I never change my material based on the audience. Young, old. Corporate, private. High school, university. They all get the same act.

Maybe it's because I've been working my routines for so long, they just work for everyone. I can customize several of my routines for special client requests, but it's the same routine, just with a different theme.