Hey Dave – One of the guys I work with was telling me how he does these after hours networking things where people (mostly young adults) from all different businesses hand out business cards to each other, and get to know each other and see if they can make a bridge to possibly do business in the future. He told me they have entertainers there (mostly DJ’s). I want to go to this thing when I get my DVD, and try to plan for booking Christmas parties and other parties these places might have. Any advice on what you would be looking for if someone came to you looking to get booked for your company/event? Would it be tacky to carry around my promo stuff like my bio and resume with me? Or should I offer to send that to them at a later date? – DB
Hey DB – Why am I having a hard time thinking of anyone in this crazy business who isn’t tacky at least once in awhile? You can put on a suit and be a complete professional to represent yourself, but sometimes you need to have a little “edge” to make your presence known if you want to get ahead.
I’m not talking about being too pushy, but hopefully you get the idea. If not, here’s what I mean…
Good promoting can lead to good sales. There are a lot of salespeople that get business by being total professionals with a good “sales pitch” and promotional material. Then again, there are times when a door is starting to close in their face and they just can’t help it… call it instinct, training, experience or determination… but they just can’t stop themselves from sticking their foot in the door and making one last sales pitch.
Yeah, that term has a way of coming up when talking about certain sales techniques. But if you want the business and have a product (in our case we’re talking about your comedy act or speaker presentation) that deserves to be considered, you have to find ways to let the buyer know. If you don’t, you can bet someone else will.
Okay, first things first. What would I be looking for if it was my job to book someone (a comedian or speaker) for a company event? I’ve said this numerous times in past FAQs And Answers, but will use the opportunity for a quick reminder…
When I was booking corporate (business) shows we always looked for G-rated material. Okay, PG at the max – and that only depended on the type of company and what the boss or event planner requested. But honestly, those were few and far between. Everyone else was too worried about someone – anyone, including the boss and employees – being offended during a company event.
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The comedians I used the most knew how to entertain these audiences with their regular topics (the material they were also doing in the comedy clubs), but could keep it squeaky clean for corporate events. In other words, the laughs didn’t depend on dropping an F-Bomb, graphic sex jokes, or bathroom humor. The guy at work who stands around the coffee machine telling jokes and the company prude could both be entertained at the same time.
Can you do that? If you want to be player in the corporate comedy or speaking biz, it’s a requirement. That’s the first concern and there’s no getting around it.
Now that we’ve made that perfectly clear, I’ll stick my foot in the door and continue his conversation…
The after hours business card meetings sound very promising. Your goal is to connect with any event planners and people from the Human Resource Departments. From experience, other than the boss, these are the people that are usually in charge of the company events, or at least have some say in how it will all work. Of course anyone can put in a recommendation if they have an event or party coming up, so don’t be tacky and avoid anyone who might not appear to be important enough to give you a job. They might just be the break room jokester or office prude the CEO is concerned with keeping entertained and not offended.
Is it tacky to carry your promo material with you?
Not if you’re professional about it. In fact, I recommend you always be prepared to make a sales pitch if the opportunity arises. That’s why every professional still carries business cards. You never know when or where you’ll make your next valuable connection.
But again, being professional is the key. And it’s different in the business world than in the entertainment business world – and I’ll give you an example.
When I was at The Improv in New York and Hollywood, there were always a lot of showcases (auditions) for television shows. And not just for The Tonight Show, Letterman or An Evening at the Improv. Quite often they were for sitcoms or movies and with these types of showcases, if the casting person was looking for a certain “type,” all the auditioning performers would fit that “type.”
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For example, you might have ten comedians auditioning for a specific role. If they were looking for a male – there would be ten men auditioning. Female – ten women. The showcase would be booked around the casting call for a specific type.
But not every comic that fit the desired type could be on the showcase.
There were only x-amount of spots to be seen over x-amount of time. So usually there were lots of comedians that didn’t get the opportunity to audition. But quite often the professional comedians in NYC and LA had their promotional material with them – or close enough (in their car) so they could have it within a matter of minutes if there would be a chance to network. And a lot of times if they weren’t on a showcase but thought they should’ve been given the opportunity, they’d hang around the club until the casting person was leaving and ask if they would accept it as a submission.
What’s the worse that can happen? Being told NO? You’ve already been told that when you weren’t asked to be part of the showcase.
So is it as tacky as a salesman sticking his foot in a closing door? Yeah, but like a final sales pitch for a good product, sometimes it works. There’s an example of this from comedian-actor Reggie McFadden in my book How To Be A Working Comic.
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The idea is not to waste an opportunity.
But remember, the business you’re talking about networking for – bookings in the corporate market – is different than the entertainment business I was just talking about. It would definitely be tacky to carry around full promotional packages at one of these business card-trading events. But you mentioned having a DVD, which is your calling card (in addition to your business card) and good way to be seen.
Most promotion today is done online. When you personally hand someone your business card with your website and contact information, there’s always a chance they’ll go online and tune in. But if you’re looking for an edge (the foot in the door) you might consider also carrying a compact version of your promo material to these events.
Let’s face it, a DVD sitting on someone’s desk is a bigger reminder to watch your set than a business card in a wallet. And here’s something else. I’m still handed CDs by comics and musicians, because they know it’s easy to listen to in the car immediately after I leave a show. In your case, it would be a business card networking event.
You already have a DVD and even a techno “duh” like myself knows it’s easy make a CD (for car listening) on a computer. I suggest making one or two of each and have them in your pocket at these networking events.
But make them for business purposes, rather than the copies you might sell after a show to adoring fans. On the cover have your headshot, name, website and contact info. Inside as an insert, or as the back cover have a short bio and your best credits. I’d also repeat your contact info, especially if you’re using an insert, since it could end up being separated from the DVD case. Always make it easy for a potential client or talent booker to contact you.
Anyone you give this to can slip it into a coat pocket or purse with the business cards they’ve already collected at the networking event.
And don’t forget your business cards. That’s the simplest business tool for networking and promoting. But if there’s also a way to get an edge on the competition by giving the extra effort (foot in the door), then go for it. If you don’t, someone else will.
Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.
For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com
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