When performing for the crew of the Starship Enterprise, do not ask Captain Kirk to be a part of the show. Not only because he’ll try and steal the show by taking off his shirt and then wresting the Gorn Captain, but for other reasons as well. In the world of corporate performing the ranking goes as follows: the CEO is the captain, the conference planning team is the bridge crew, the AV guys are engineering, and I am the crew member with no name, who will soon have the salt sucked out of him by the Salt Vampire from Planet M-113.
Now let me make this very clear – I love CEO’s. I have had many wonderful experiences performing with and for CEO’s, some of them famous, like Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, Tom Bodett, “Mary Kay” Ash, Ebby Halliday, and Bo Pilgrim. And CEO’s hire the presidents, who hire the vice presidents, who hire the managers, who eventually hire me! So, I am cool with CEO’s. However, working as a performer in the corporate world for 30 years has certainly taught me one thing, and it is this – “avoid, if at all possible, using the CEO in your act”. I speak this from experience. CEO’s are a rare and special breed, and a person does not get to command the Starship Enterprise by not knowing how to protect their image and exercise their authority.
One time I was talked by the party planning team into using the CEO of a company as the victim in my “Inspector Clouseau Mystery Show”. The victim doesn’t do much more than enter the room with a bloody shirt and collapse on a chair on stage. However, the victim is the center, the hub, of the mystery. All of the alleged suspects motives revolve around what I have learned about the victim and the suspects relationship to him. Any one of the suspects can back out at the last minute and it wouldn’t really effect the show. But when this CEO decided 10 minutes before the show that he would rather watch the show and not be in it, here’s what I did – nothing. He’s the CEO! I just asked one of the suspects to get the bloody shirt on and prayed that my improvisational skills would get me through the show. They did! In fact, the show went exceptionally well.
Another time I was in Orlando, performing numerous magical and comedic segments at a 2-day corporate conference, and I staked out a spot backstage for all of my magic props, equipment and script. I needed a bathroom break, so during one of the longer videos I took off my headset mic and transmitter pack and placed it on my performance case. When I returned the mic was gone and in its place was a mostly eaten plate of food. The light was pretty dim, back behind the projection screen (that happened to be showing a slide with the CEO’s name to the audience of 1000), so I got out my mini-flashlight and started looking on the floor around case. There it was – my headset mic – snapped in half. Right where the mic boom meets the headset. It was kaput! I asked one of the stage hands if he saw what happened and he told me he saw the CEO standing there for a few minutes before he was introduced. Here’s what I did – nothing. He’s the CEO! And anyway, I had my hands full. I had 7 minutes to figure out how I was going to do the rest of my magic segments with a wired mic on a stand. I figured it out and the audience really enjoyed my offerings
So, If the CEO is supposed to talk for 10 minutes before he introduces you, and he talks for an hour, you know what to do - nothing. It’s all a matter of “power management” when you are a performer in the corporate arena. You have to know when to stand firm and you have to know when to acquiesce. And you have to know when Scotty can give you more power, and when he “cannae”. But, above all, never ever forget “the Captain is the Captain”!