The Length and Nature of the beast!

Nick-16r-3 - Version 2One of the questions that potential bookers like to ask you is “How long is your show?” It is a very fair question but not an easy one to always answer correctly. Shows are like suits and can come in any size and just like a suit they are best when they are custom fitted to the individual purchaser.

The obvious first reaction is to enquire how long the buyer was thinking of for the show. However they very often have not thought about this thoroughly and you need to ask a few pertinent questions in order to come up with a suitable running time. For an average after-dinner show it is very common to hear the response, “ Oh, about an hour.”

In my experience when you get this reply it means they really haven’t thought about it much. An hour is a convenient length for Network TV programming but often awkward for a banquet performance.

An hour is also a very sensible unit of time to hire wandering magicians to perform for, and all the performer has to do is let them know his/her minimum time and the hourly fee. Job accomplished. However an hour can be a really long time for an after dinner show. The seating and lighting arrangements can often make an hour seem interminable. Add to that the fact that you are often the final event in a long and busy evening (or day) and you might want to make a pitch for a “less is more” option.

Very often that one-hour show was just a random thought by the booker who just settled on a round number. My personal response to that question is always to say, “45 minutes, but if they are really enjoying it then we can run a little longer.” It is a nicely considered answer and shows adaptability and sensitivity to the environment. Of course you can adapt the basic time to whatever works best for you. It also gives you a little wriggle room.

It is important to find out what the structure and nature of the event is before fine-tuning your details too tightly. If there is going to be an awards Nick-37presentation then you are going to want to do you very best to have your show prior to the awards when you still have a decent shot at holding the audience’s attention. Performing after the awards presentation is not easy and usually a lot less fun. It should be avoided if at all possible.

There is also a trend these days to have entertainment that begins when the meal is served. Hmmm, this is a curious way of performing your show but not necessarily without it’s merits. On the plus side you will probably start on time, get home earlier and the audience will also be less tired for your show. On the negative side you will obviously get less applause and have some problems with audience participation. I have done some shows like this that were a blast and others that were way less so…

Let’s discuss that little phrase I threw into the last paragraph so casually—You Will Probably Start On Time. It is almost inevitable that your banquet show will begin later than anticipated, possibly a LOT later. It can be advisable to prepare your client, in case of a very late start, that shortening the show can make it much more commercial and audience friendly. The sad truth about almost every corporate show is that no one really gives a damn about the entertainment even if they enjoy it. This is a business event.

It never does any harm to let your buyer know that you are aware of how these events are likely to proceed. That is just being business like on your part and shows a nice professional savvy. It is also only correct to make your case and then finish by saying, “Of course, I am happy to do whatever you want…” You can make useful suggestions but they are supplying the check and you are just there to supply the show.

However long you end of performing it is vital to be a professional about sticking to the time frame you have discussed and contracted. That means don’t run long just because they are a good audience, there may be a reason for the schedule they have arranged. Sometimes the opportunity for guests to socialize at the end of the evening is the entire reason for the event. While you may feel you were ‘killing’ the audience and totally justified in running long, maybe you were just killing the moment that the event was staged to create. You really can’t beat the old showbiz axiom about leaving them wanting more.

Visit my online store at As of writing I have exactly 16 of my Lemon Aid effects still available for purchase before the price is raised and they become a custom item. Check out the video on my website—it has been getting raves from purchasers around the world.

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~ by Nick Lewin on October 10, 2014.

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