The “them” I am referring to are corporate audiences. Corporate after-dinner shows are generally thrust upon their audiences, with little or no warning.
You might recognize the week’s title as a paraphrasing of a famous line Malvolio spoke in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night – “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. If you have been lucky enough to have a career where you audience has first heard about your show, then bought tickets and showed up at the theater in a state of readiness, you have been blessed indeed. The overwhelming majority of us working pros have quite a different situation to deal with.
We perform as un-advertised guests and must insinuate ourselves into the gathering. These people have come for a dinner and maybe some awards or recognitions. They have not come expecting a show. To complicate things, they are usually sitting at round tables. That means that a third of your audience has to make the decision to tun their chairs to face this show that has been foisted upon them. It’s no wonder that they are confused and sometimes a little put off. They have come for a dinner, and now they have to watch a show?!?
Because of this situation, performers have developed techniques for transforming these dinner guests into an audience; like a non-verbal musical opener or a flashy effect to start the show off. However, the best tip for grabbing the audience’s attention and interest that I can offer, is to get the highest ranking person at the party, (CEO, General Manager, etc.), to introduce you. The group will usually quiet down when this exec is speaking, and his introduction acts as an invitation from the company for the performer to take the stage and entertain. I always bring a short intro that hits some high points in my bio. I print it in a large, easy -to-read font, and I make sure to meet the exec beforehand, and ask if he has any questions or problems with the intro. I also have printed across the top on the page, “Please give Bo a 5-minute warning before introducing him” and include my cell#. This can save you from an embarrassing situation. (One that n I have been in before, and never wish to repeat!)
It’s all you, from there! You have got to take this exhausted bunch of trade show attendees and transform them into audience - one that is watching, reacting and enjoying the show as a unified group. It’s a challenge, but we’re up for it!