Creative Problem Solving at the Gig!

One of the holiday parties I did this month was a HUGE event with 1,600 people. One thing the event planner didn’t give me was any sort of credentials to get in and out of the building once the event started. I honestly didn’t think about it until after my roving set and I was going to move that gear and clothes to my car to make packing out after the show quicker.

Luckily the green room was for all the “vendors” and I happened to be chatting with someone from the security company. I asked if the security at the parking lot door would let me back in and he said no. His suggestion was to call the event planner and ask for a lanyard. With the event underway and an event this large (it took up two floors of the convention center!) they last thing I want to do is bug the event planner for a lanyard/badge. They’re probably dealing with a lot of problems, like catering issues or whatever.

Here’s the solution I came up with. I learned that the security company was all retired cops and they all knew each other. I took a picture with the guy I was chatting with and got his name and number.

event security

When I tired to get back into the building I was stopped by security how pressed me about me not having a lanyard with a badge. I showed them the picture and told them to call Jeff and he’d vouch for me. As soon as they saw the picture, they let me in!

Sure, asking the event planner for a badge is 100% reasonable. However I try to be easy to work with and minor problems myself. That’s a big secret to success in entertainment, be easy to work!


Visual Obstacles

A couple of days I wrote about the podium struggle at a gig, but that’s not the only challenge at the gig. After I had set up, the event planner filled the front of the stage with prizes.

corporate holiday party

These were to be raffled off after my show. These create a huge visual distraction and barrier between the audience and me. Also, I was standing when I took the picture, so if you were sitting, you’d be looking up at them and they obscure more of performing area.

Not being able to see the whole performer does make a difference. Bob Fitch once told me “Acting is in the feet“, and while I’m not exactly acting, seeing as much of me helps. This is also why you want to try to avoid doing a low show. If you were sitting on stage left, anything I did that was below my belly button wouldn’t be seen.

You can read a post about removing stage monitors I wrote a while ago here.

During the opening of my show, I do something at events like this that no one thinks of. I ask the audience to turn their chairs so they are facing the stage. You’d think that would be instinct if your chair wasn’t facing the presenter, but hardly anyone does that until you mention it. While there’s that minute of shifting chairs, I looked at someone whose view was blocked and asked if they could see. I pretended to hear them say they couldn’t and I told them I’d fix it and started setting prizes on the floor.

Also I have verbal bits I do while people are moving chairs, so the show has started and was able to do them while moving the prizes.

Ultimately you need to know what you need for the show to work and for it to succeed and do your best to create those conditions. There’s nothing worse than a bad show that’s due to conditions that aren’t your fault.

PS the show went great!

Podium Struggles

Holiday parties are a wild west of show set ups. Many times you have some who isn’t an event planner running things and it’s their first time running an event. I did an event last week where I came in and got set up on the stage.

corporate magic show

My first challenge was to get the ballroom staff to move the podium off the stage. As you can see from the picture above, I was unsuccessful. I asked if they requested the podium and was told “no, but everyone wants one“. I told them I can’t do the the with the podium in the middle of the stage. They said they could move it. I told them, “great, so you’ll have staff ready to move it when I’m introduced?” They told me that they didn’t have someone to do that, so I then explained that I can’t start until it’s moved, and the show has a firm end time, so any time hunting down staff cuts into the show and the value the client gets.
That led to the compromise of putting it on the corner of the stage.

In case you’re wondering, no one used the podium.

Why didn’t I move it?

Simple, it’s not mine. I don’t want people moving my gear, and I extend that same courtesy to equipment that’s not mine. Also there is someone on staff whose job it is to move the podium and sometimes there are union issues where I’m 100% not supposed to move it.

This is a case where I can see a potential headache for my show and speedbump for the event. Sure, moving a podium isn’t a huge deal…if there’s someone to move it. When I presented why simply finding staff to move it which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but actually is potentially a big deal.

I guess the moral of the story is explaining why after the initial NO answer can help them see the problem.


Magic Show Set List

Every show that I do, I write out a set list. This helps me with packing, set up and general planning, like not having similar effects back to back in the show.

Here’s a recent set list for a 60 min corporate holiday show:

I also have notes as to who to thank during the show. By the end of the show, I’ll probably won’t remember the names of anyone helping me out without a note.

I’m always amazed when I work with people that don’t use set lists. But those are usually people who don’t really have a set show and just go up and “wing it” every time. Personally I know my show, but the are many different configurations of the show, I’m not always doing 60 mins for adults, the show length and audience make up changes.


Catch a Show…

As I’ve gotten older and deeper into my career, I’m learning to take more days off…more days when I could be earning a lot of money. A friend of mine who is a magician invited me to his company’s Christmas party and there was a magician there. It was James Donahue, who I know from the social media, and I’ve made a prop for him in the past, but never met in person.

James Donahue - magician

It was great to see him work for actual people.

Something I always say is that if you want to really work an industry you need to be a consumer of that industry. What I mean by that is it really helps if you can see what your show looks like form the attendee’s perspective.

Every now and then, taking a night off and seeing someone else do what you would normally be paid to do is a great chance to learn a lot!