Just how do serious performers break into the private corporate special events market? Corporate entertainment expert Doug Matthews explains
Many performers who are either classically trained or accustomed to working in theatres and large venues have never been exposed to the world of private corporate special events. Indeed, much of the general public considers special events to be nothing more than simple parties. Here are some numbers to prove them wrong. The UK events sector contributed GBP39.1bn (€53.8bn) to the economy in 2013, is forecast to grow to GBP48.4bn by 20201 2. Well over 50 per cent of this total is represented by private corporate events. In North America, the numbers are much higher.
What are special events? Special events do include simple parties but they also encompass public expositions, trade shows, sporting events, festivals, parades, carnivals, and most importantly private events such as meetings, conferences, award shows, incentive travel, corporate dinners, product launches, and fundraisers. It is these last private – mostly corporate – events about which little is known and which go unnoticed by the general public and many performers.
For over 19 years I produced thousands of such events, most incorporating some form of unique entertainment. As an example, in 1986, our company put on a show for a private corporate event in Montréal, Canada with an unknown circus troupe that was just starting out. Their name was Cirque du Soleil. Here’s another example. In the mid-1990s I was called to a friend’s recording studio to listen to a young singer. He had an unbelievable voice so I hired him for some private events. His very first event was a fundraiser, which he did for free. Now he is one of the most recognised names in music, I’m talking here about Michael Bublé. These performers, like many other celebrities, still work in private events, but for much more than we paid them back then. They understand what it takes to perform in this milieu.
Private events present opportunities for performers to hone their craft by creating condensed versions of longer or larger performances, combining performance genres, uniquely staging their performances, and utilising cutting-edge, appealing costuming. These events can also create exposure for the performers to audiences and even entire demographic segments who would never see them in traditional settings such as theatres.
How do performers access this market? The best way is to find the people who plan the events. This can be done by either joining some of the key advocacy organisations for event planners or by attending and participating in the major event industry conferences. Showcasing at such conferences can be a great way to fast track one’s acceptability within the industry.