Booking and Performing At Corporate Events

© 2015 Vinny Ribasjazz_musicians

 The most difficult thing about booking conventions, conferences and other corporate parties is often not the performance itself. It is getting the person in charge of hiring the entertainment to even know that your act exists and is available. Once you reach the right person and get their attention, actually getting the gig can be a very easy sell. This is especially true if the buyer is from out of town, because they don’t know what kinds of acts are available in your town and who they are. Thus, you can easily become both their tour guide and best friend!

Here are some tips on marketing to and booking corporate events.

  • Be proactive and contact companies in your area and ask if they have any upcoming events that will require entertainment. Male it clear that you’d like to know of any events they may have scheduled in the next 2 years for which they will be needing entertainment. Find out who the entertainment buyer will be and when you should call him or her.
  • Whenever possible, be sure to reach the entertainment decision maker directly. Getting through the corporate jigsaw puzzle can be a major challenge. If so, make the receptionist or secretary your best fiend and she/he will help you make the sale! Send her a personal copy of your CD for her own use.
  • Understand that the person hiring the entertainment is usually delegated the responsibility and often doesn’t know a whole lot about the subject. Many times it is a secretary, not a corporate officer who is handed this task. Speak in plain language and refrain from using technical jargon unless it is obvious that they speak the same language. Offer to help them arrange for sound, lighting etc. Become a part of their team.
  • Understand exactly what the company’s needs are. Many events have multiple needs (jazz trio for a cocktail party, dance band for a post-convention dance, mid-day entertainment to keep everyone awake, piano player for the VIP room etc). Every event is different. Explain that you can versatile regarding time because you know that some events can run late. Once you have a clear understanding of their needs, you can explain just how you can fill them.
  • If you’re group is versatile, explain how you can fill various roles. Show your diversification in your press/marketing list and on your website. Be sure to have multiple ‘looks’ – formal, casual, semi-casual, as well as your ‘stage brand’ if you will be a featured performer. Give them a package deal and they will love you forever!
  • Your local Convention and Visitors Authority, Chamber of Commerce and hotels that have meeting space have packets that they send to companies inquiring about conventions or banquets. Advertise in or get listed in as many of these as possible.
  • Your local Convention and Visitors Authority and/or Chamber of Commerce publish a list of upcoming events. Many times they are available online. Most events are booked 1-2 in advance. Obtain (you may have to purchase) this list and contact the companies or organizations on the list. It’s not uncommon for a company to book their entertainment a year or more in advance!
  • Get to know and earn the trust of all of the vendors who may be hired to work corporate events: Build working relationships with each, agreeing to refer each other.
    1. Event and party planners.
    2. Caterers
    3. Other musical acts, both similar and different
    4. Variety artists (clowns, magicians, comedians, ventriloquists etc.)
    5. Party supply shops
    6. Pipe and drape companies
    7. Photographers, videographers
  • You can get to many event planners and vendors by joining your local chapter of Meeting Planners International or the International Live Events Association.
  • Put together a resource list of your trusted photographers, videographers, staging vendors, event planners, caterers etc, and offer it to the corporate buyer in your first conversation with them, whether they book you or not. Send them a copy and also post the list on your website. The people or companies on your list will begin referring you their contacts in return.
  • Offer to book other entertainers to fill other needs and/or time slots that you can’t.
  • Introduce yourself to and leave promotional packages with the banquet planners at every hotel that has meeting space. Corporate parties come in all shapes and sizes.
  • There are booking agents that specialize in private parties such as weddings and corporate events. Get to know them all. If necessary, put on a showcase for them so they can see and hear your act. If you’re playing a corporate event in your area, get permission to invite them to see you live.
  • Have a versatile press kit. If you can fill various roles (variety band, jazz band, solo piano etc.), show them all in the kit. This will help tremendously because the buyer knows that you will be ale to fill several time slots, and will be skilled enough to adapt to the audience.
  • Do your homework on price. Find out what other similar acts are charging. Corporate events usually pay considerably more than nightclub dates. I recommend that you be competitive with your rates, but don’t massively undercut others. You want them to refer you for gigs that they can’t fill, and you want to refer them for dates that you can’t accommodate. This works best if you’re both in the same ballpark price-wise.
  • Nothing will sell you better than recommendations from other corporations you’ve performed for. Be sure to get written recommendations after every gig. This goes a long way towards earning any new buyer’s trust.
  • Remember that some corporate officers can be very dry or bossy – traits that you can, of course, encounter anywhere and with anyone. Also, some corporate events are very stressful. Others are very dry. Be aware that the tone of the event and the people running it may just be representative of the corporate culture, or just a result of occurrences that had nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally. Be as accommodating and friendly as possible. Do your best to lighten their load and brighten their spirits, within the limits of what you were hired to do.
  • Find out ahead of time about the boundaries and limitations that you’re expected to stay within. For example, find out if you can ‘pick on’ one or more of the bosses (tastefully) if that is something you’re skilled at. In some companies that might be completely frowned upon and might even get you fired early. In others, it may be a welcome icebreaker. Some event producers don’t mind if you play overtime because the crowd in having fun, but some might. Get permission before attempting to do anything that is ‘outside of the box’.
  • Book the event again for next year immediately after this event is over. Eventually you will fill your calendar with repeat customers who hold their events annually. If they like you enough, some companies may even fly you to another location to perform.

The bottom line is that playing corporate events requires an intense amount of professionalism both on and off stage, before, during and after the gig!

Here is the biggest tip of them all – Go the extra mile to make the ‘powers that be’ happy, and you’ll do fine. Get the event attendees to request (demand) that you be booked again next year, and you’ve created a lucrative, long-term relationship.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.