Website Design for Corporate Entertainment

You should have read the similarly titled chapters in the Sections about Close Up Magic at parties, as well as Children’s parties. Both of these Lessons will already have given you a good idea about website design; especially when coupled with the following Section focused on marketing and promotion.

It is fair to say that whilst you would want to keep the style of your of children’s party branding different from performing close-up magic at weddings and parties; you don’t really need to have such a demarcation between private parties and corporate events.

In both of these styles of performing you are performing close-up magic, and perhaps offering a cabaret show as an extra. You will be performing similar tricks, performing for adults and dressed the same way. In fact, many people will expect that a magician they see working at a wedding will also work at corporate events and office Christmas parties. (Actively promoting this cross-over is encouraged to generate future bookings).

Therefore many close-up magicians will have just one website, though different pages on the site for the differing client bases. Someone looking for a magician to entertain at their wedding will want to see images of previously wowed wedding guests. A corporate booker will be impressed seeing a list of blue chip companies who have booked your services.

They will realise that you perform at both – a Christmas party organiser would be surprised to find a magician only worked one month of the year! However, pictures of performing at children’s parties could be detrimental and therefore justifies having two websites.

But why have a separate website for corporate bookings if it isn’t needed? Well, if there is an area that you want to break into then having a website dedicated to that area will be much more effective.

From a Search Engine Optimisation point of view then search engines will look on a site more favourably if it looks like it is focussed on a specific area.

From the user point of view, they are going to see that if a website is dedicated to that type of performance then the magician must be somewhat of an expert in that area; and therefore a better bet than a magician who can provide that service as an extra.

The financial implications of setting up a website is nowadays negligible, and mainly comes down to the time to create the relevant content. Of course, the two websites can link to each other, so that a user can see that you are able to offer additional services.

Let’s assume that close-up magic at weddings and parties makes the majority of your bookings, you may wish to set up dedicated websites for the following markets:

  • Corporate cabaret shows,
  • Trade shows and exhibitions,
  • Presenting and product launches,
  • Compering and event hosting,
  • Speaking and motivation,
  • Teaching magic,
  • Consultancy work,
  • Event services and providing other performers.

Unless the brand or style of service you are offering is very different from your close-up packages then you can probably get away with similar branding, but perhaps varying the style or colours to add some differentiation. These style changes will be more to make it appealing to the corporate booker, not artistic.

For example, your close-up magic website may have a darker feel to it (with a black background, and black and white photographs which gives a more atmospheric feel to the site. However, a corporate booker looking for a magician to help promote their company at a coming trade show may prefer a lighter website, perhaps incorporate shades of blue and light grey.

As mentioned the exception would be is if the act you offering to the corporate market has a style different from the close-up magic style you also offer. These differences could include:

  • Your cabaret is a double-act with another magician,
  • Your cabaret is an illusion show,
  • Your cabaret is a certain style of magic (such mind-reading),
  • You perform your cabaret in character,
  • Your performance style and tricks at a trade show would be customised.

This also compounds the reason why having a separate website is a requirement, as it again could lead to confusion on behalf of the booker. Yes, most should realise the difference; but it may cast doubt in the mind of the booker and encourage them to seek a specialist. Is it worth risking losing a potentially lucrative client for the sake of saving a small amount on not setting up a dedicated website?

A corporate booker’s mind-set will likely be different to that of a bride organising the entertainment for their wedding.

It is also worth bearing in mind that a private booker is spending their own money, whereas the corporate booker is spending the company’s money. The private booker want’s value for their money, a company booking you for a trade shows wants a return on their investment.

By tailoring two different websites to appeal to these two differing buying styles will give the viewer a better feeling of connection. Bear in mind that a separate website will also require separate marketing and promotion.

It would also pay to get separate promotional material (brochures and business cards) for the two websites. When you meet someone who is interested in your services you can give them the relevant details that immediately shows that you are the expert in that field, and looking at the website immediately backs that up.

Everyone prefers to use the expert – so make it obvious that you’re the expert!

Corporate Repeat Bookings and Recommendations

Firstly it would be wise to re-read the Lesson of the same name in the preceding Section about close-up magic at private parties and events. Like with performing, marketing for private parties gives a good foundation to build on when it comes to promoting yourself to the corporate audience.

Marketing to Corporate Clients

Similarly to the Marketing Lessons in the previous Sections, I will again refer you to the upcoming Section which is all about Marketing and Sales. And again, I suggest that you read this Lesson now, and return to it again for more specific advice regarding promoting yourself to the corporate audience.

Adapting Your Repertoire for Corporate Events

Unless you are forced to create a brand new show (because of a repeat booking, or need a second show for cruise ship work) I recommend adapting and adjusting the existing material you already perform, rather than creating brand new shows and routines for one-off or rare types of shows.

In fact, it’s even possible to have routines where the whole presentation can look like it’s tailored to that event, but in reality you have actually added some smaller customisations to your standard act. This method of being able to offer customisation has many advantages:

  • You can increase your fee by offering customisation as an upsell,
  • Your show can fit with the theme of the event,
  • You don’t need to learn new tricks,
  • You don’t need to write and learn a new script,
  • The presentation is already worked in,
  • Changes are quick and easy to implement.

The disadvantage is this does require some creative thinking, and it can’t always be applied to all of your repertoire.

Television and Consultancy

When you first think about magicians performing on television your mind will immediately jump to the big “names”. In the UK magicians may remember the likes of Paul Daniels (and before him David Nixon) who had big television shows on a prime channel at a prime time – and those in the States will think of the likes of David Copperfield and other big-name magicians who would have TV specials. Again, these would be on a prime-time mainstream network.

Although these “big budget” series and specials are now over twenty years old it’s where our minds take us when we think of being a “TV magician”.

This started changing when David Blaine took at small film-crew onto the streets of New York with him, and when Channel 4 commissioned Derren Brown to turn his “Mind Control” specials into a series. These formats took the magic from the stage and studio and out into the streets; where magic was viewed close-up, impromptu and the reaction of the passing spectators was just as important at the trick itself.

This format is also cheaper, easier and quicker to produce; and therefore instead of being made for the mass-market prime-time audience, it could be produced by smaller production companies and shown on non-prime satellite and cable channels.

Following the success even more magicians stripped even more gloss and varnish away to create a much more raw genre of magic. Nowadays some magicians make their living from having their own shows on YouTube, and the production has gone from a full film-crew down to a friend or two with a camcorder or good quality smart phone to film their tricks.

Whether this is still being a “television magician” is debatable, but the reason I’ve included in this section is because it is still performing magic in front of a camera with the view to it being watched by the general public on a screen in their homes.

How people consume television programmes is changing too. Whereas when television magic shows started you needed to be in to watch it when it was broadcast, many people now watch their favourite programmes on streaming services.

There are also many magicians who have been discovered by talent agents who have seen their YouTube videos, and now fronting more mainstream television shows.

All this not only applies to the talent in front of the camera. There are also many magicians who act as consultants who develop and devise new material for the on-screen talent. A six part television series (or even a short “weekly trick” YouTube channel) will get through material very quickly. In order to stand out a show wants fresh material that the audience won’t have seen elsewhere, and will want creative magicians to create this material.

For example, much of David Blaine’s close-up magic in his first TV special was from his existing working repertoire, the credits of his later specials list dozens of consultants. This ensures that his viewers will be seeing material they haven’t seen elsewhere, and this is essential in magic as the reveal should be a surprise.

Therefore, if you are creative magician who likes to come up with methods, techniques and original presentations then this is also a chapter you will find useful.

It is unlikely that you will make a fortune being a television magician. Apart from the handful that are at the very pinnacle, it is more likely you will find that the television exposure will result in a higher public profile; this means more enquiries, more bookings and for a bigger fee. If you have a stage show you will be able to play bigger theatres to bigger audiences who will pay more to see you. This will all be arranged through a production company who will be taking the financial risk.

Let’s rewind back to “traditional” television, and look at ways to break into this industry directly.

Compèring and Hosting Events

Compèring is an additional service you can provide once you are established as a cabaret magician and have a wide variety of effects and comfortable on stage; often having to think on your feet. You’ll effectively be hosting an event, warming up the audience and introducing acts.

How long you are onstage for can vary, and though you may be told you have to compère for three minutes there could be problems backstage which means you must keep the audience entertained until the next act is ready. All of this will be done from “in front the curtain”, so you will need to be able to work from your pockets, but still entertain a whole theatre of people.

It highly recommended that if you go down this route you also take lessons in performing stand-up comedy and how to interact with the audience in a fashion you may not be so used to with a prop driven magic show.

However, being able to offer your services as compère should broaden the type of bookings you can be booked for. It is also a possible upsell to a client who is looking to book your cabaret show as a finale to an evening of entertainment. That way you start the evening, introduce the acts and finish the show.

By the time you are in the position to start adding this to your package options you will be established and no doubt worked at events with compères, and seen how they get the most out of the audience and introduce each act. Chances are many of these compères won’t be magicians but likely stand-up comedians, and therefore you’ll have a broader skill-set then them.

Attend comedy clubs and comedy nights. Whether comedians on the bill are professional, amateur or it is an open-mike night there will always be a compère to host the evening. Watch how they interact with the audience. They’ll do some of their own material, then segue into introducing the next act; and do it in a way that gets the audience excited.

Once the act has finished the host will come back to the stage and praise the the act, do some themselves before building the audience up and introducing the next act.

A good host will be fun and entertaining, but will ensure the acts are the centre of the attention, not themselves.

Offering to compère and headline a whole evening of entertainment before you and your act is ready will not only be a negative affect on you and the audience, but will also be a dis-service to the other entertainers. If your lack of professionalism has an impact on their show then it won’t take long for word to spread; and not only will the original booker not want to book you, but those entertainers will no doubt report back to others in the industry to avoid using you for future events.

If your magic performance style is more illusion based you may not be so comfortable with the more fluid nature of compèring, if that’s the case then stick to your strengths. For those that relish the interaction, experienced and able to think on their feet when stood in front of an audience; it is a very good skill to promote to clients and it can make a dramatic increase to your earnings for the event.

Cruise Ships

I’m going to say right away that this Lesson has not been written with first hand experience, however the information has come through interviews and conversations with a variety of magicians who are professional cruise ship performers and make the majority of their income from cruise ship entertainment. And for some it is a very nice and comfortable income and way of life.

Performing on cruise ships is a personal goal of mine and I spoke to these magicians during 2018, formulated my action plan in 2019 with objective of building the shows and marketing material, then actively promote myself and start working on cruise ships in 2020. Unfortunately the Corona Virus put that on hold, and I’m sure the long term implications on the cruise industry will be felt for years to come. However, entertainment will be crucial part of cruise holidays.

The reason I had such a drawn out plan spreading a few years is because it become very apparent that getting work on cruise ships can come down to luck. However, like a poker player, the odds of your success can be improved by folding the rubbish hands and waiting until you are dealt a good one. That means you want to ensure that your act is worked in and ready to go immediately – your first performance on your very first cruise must be top quality.

If your show isn’t up to the desired quality from the very first cruise you won’t get a second chance – I’ve even heard of performers who were booked to perform two shows on a cruise, and following a poor first show they were told to disembark at the next port and another entertainer filled the slot.

The supply of magicians wanting to work on cruise ships is greater than the number of cruise ships needing magical acts; and agents will prefer to work with acts they already know and have demonstrated their show works well on cruise ships. You may consider your show to be better than another magician’s who is already working on cruise ships – but the agent doesn’t know that. Sometimes an agent would prefer to supply good magicians, rather than take a risk recommending one that might be great.

Most magicians who work on cruise ships (and also those than did, but failed to deliver) tend to say that they got their first cruise booking through “luck”. A common story is an act that was booked to perform had to pull out last minute due to illness, and because of the last minute nature none of the established acts on their books aren’t available. The agent is then forced to use a magician they haven’t used before. The magician gets a call, is available, grabs their box of tricks, throws some clothes in a suitcase and is boarding the ship within a few days of the call.

If you are serious about getting on cruises you don’t want to contact agents until your are sure your acts are ready. If you there’s a chance (admittedly slim) you’ll get a call asking if you are available if a couple of days as they’ve just had their contracted entertainer pull out. If you say “no” because your act isn’t ready you won’t be asked again, if you say “yes” and the shows aren’t ready then not only will that agent black-list you, but it’s likely that the cruise line will make a note of your name to ensure you don’t perform with them again through another agent.

But like the poker analogy earlier, you can make your own luck to improve your odds of success. Build and develop an act, and then a second. Work in those routines at small events (perhaps offering to do a short 10 minute cabaret for free at the end of a close-up booking), and work them in even more by taking more cabaret bookings at corporate events and even theatre shows. Choose tricks that will work well on cruise ships, and explore the possibilities of adding music and multi-media to the shows.

Ensure that the material for these shows would also fit into the luggage limits you’ll be constrained by. (I went as far as buying a set of suitcases and now have my cabaret shows packed in them – it seems extreme but if I had a phone call today to ask for emergency cover I know I could jump in the car, drive to the airport to fly out to a cruise ship knowing that I have worked in suitable material).

Once you are sure you can fulfill the criteria required of an act then you can start marketing it. You’ll need to be regularly reminding agents of who you are, but not enough to annoy them. When they get the performer drop out you’ll want to be a name they are already familiar with, and with your promo material near the top of the pile of all the other acts (not just magicians) wanting to break the cruise ship market.

You’ll want to be in the right place at the right time, so improve that by researching where the “right place” is, and making yourself ready for the “right time”.

The following are the breakdown of my various notes from speaking to established cruise ship magicians and form the basis of m own personal plan, and hopefully one day I can return to this Lesson and add my own personal experiences.

Overview of working on cruise ships

  • Establish relationships with agents, not the cruise lines
  • Only need to do the hard work once (once an agent is happy you can deliver a good show they will be happy to use you again)
  • Globally there are about 100 cruise ships at sea at any point in time, ALL will be offering entertainment to their guests this evening – and some will have multiple shows in multiple theatres. That is a lot of cruise ship entertainers performing
  • Biggest demand for cruise entertainment is the summer holiday period, which is also the quietest time for corporate bookings
  • You will be booked as a “guest entertainer” – not as crew. This means you will have passenger status, and use of all guest facilities
  • However, remember you are NOT on holiday, and will need to act provisionally from the moment you board to the moment you disembark
  • Will involve lots of travel as a “Fly On Act”, often flying out to port to meet ships on long cruises (you may only be on board for 3 days of a 14 day cruise)
  • You travel arrangements will be the cheapest for the cruise line, your convenience and travel time is not a consideration of theirs!

Act Requirements

  • Will require two 45 minutes
  • Each needs to have solid entertainment
  • Well rehearsed and structured
  • Be family friendly, even if working an adults only cruise (this means their won’t be children on the cruise, not that swearing and blue material will be allowed!)
  • Act and jokes must not offend or be rude, and be respectful to all passengers
  • Try and make show different to other acts, especially the end so it’s something different that stands out in the audience’s memory
  • Have a strong opener to grab attention immediately, especially in the first show
  • The second show doesn’t have to be as strong as the first show, the audience will already know you and your style by then
  • Whole act, plus your clothes and personal items must fit into:
    • 1 case, maximum weight of 23kg, or
    • 2 cases, maximum weight of 20kg each
    • Cases dimension less than 90x75x45cm
    • Or even better, a case you can take into the cabin to reduce the risk of it getting lost
    • Check these requirements with the airline beforehand – they can (and regularly do!) change
  • Can you use items already on board (such as flipcharts) to reduce luggage? Don’t rely on this if critical to act
  • Need two different performing suits, including dinner jacket for formal nights
  • Will probably do same show twice per evening, so ensure reset is simple, and perhaps consider varying things that are “forced” as guests may stay to watch both performances.
  • May need to perform additional 15/20 routine for variety show
  • Have effects that don’t require specialist props – if your luggage did get lost you can still perform a show (lost luggage is not a good enough reason to cancel the evening’s entertainment for hundreds of paying passengers!)
  • Carry essentials in hand luggage
  • Choose material that can work in small and large rooms, without needing to adjust material/props
  • Can use technology (such as projector & TV screens) to your advantage
  • Take your own camera and connections; and know the settings
  • Put requirements (such as equipment, tables, chairs, flip charts, etc) in a rider that they have at time of booking

How To Get the Bookings

  • Approach cruise entertainment booking agents directly
  • Just website an agent’s website says they CAN book cruise entertainment, doesn’t mean they active DO
  • Research websites, addresses, specialist areas and contact details
  • Different cruise lines use different agents
  • Find the right person to connect with, and get their contact details
  • Don’t worry if agent is not based in your country, it’s a worldwide industry as their ships travel around the world
  • Some agents arrange showcase nights, if asked to attend one:
    • Have a strong 10/12 minute showcase piece
    • Be unique and stand out
    • Personality must shine through
    • A magician is a “speciality act” (ie, not a singer or musical act) and therefore will already stand out, and should command a higher fee
    • Your act must be clean and ensure it appeals to family audience (even though only adults will be in the showcase audience)
    • Follow up afterwards
  • It can take just one contact can get you lots of gigs – so don’t risk or squander an opportunity!
  • Small number of agents dominate the market
  • Lots of competition to get on their books as an actively promoted act
    • Be persistent, it can take months before they even acknowledge you
    • First gig will likely be very short notice (likely due to booked performer having to cancel for some reason)
      • You need to have your act 100% broken in and ready to go, as this call could come at any time (from the day you submit your details)
      • You may need to cancel existing commitments to do it
      • You won’t be in a position to negotiate fees
      • If you say no or delay for any reason:
        • They will simply go to next person on the list until someone else says yes to the offer
        • They will remove you from their list and won’t contact you again should they need cover in the future.

Money and Contracts

  • An agent will take a commission (usually 15-20%) for getting you gigs
  • Lower end: $1,500 per contract (singers and non-speciality acts)
  • Higher end: $4,000 per contract (established speciality act on a good paying line)
  • A contract may last a week (more including travel) and require you to perform four shows (two per night on two different nights)
  • Different lines will offer different rates of pay – there no consistent industry standard
  • Fee will be dictated by agent, hard for you to negotiate
  • Agent fee will incur VAT, but you can claim this back if you are VAT registered
  • As a guest entertainer accommodation, food and (soft) drinks will be provided

This Lesson should give you a very good over view of getting work as a cruise ship magician. An experienced performer working regularly as a corporate entertainer shouldn’t have too many problems taking this information and creating their own tailored action plan to develop the opportunities move into the world of cruise ship entertainment.

Theatre Shows and Comedy Clubs

Unless you have already had television exposure or built your own following where you can pack large theatres, it is not that likely you will make much money performing theatre shows or headlining comedy clubs.

In fact, performing one good corporate event per month is likely to earn you more money than scrabbling around touring small theatres and clubs.

So why do magicians (as well as comedians and other entertainers) put on theatre shows or get paid next to nothing – sometimes incurring greater travel expenses than the gig pays – travelling to small shows?

There are a couple of reasons. The first is exposure. The events are open to anyone who buys a ticket. In the audience could be an agent looking for new talent, a TV producer or just someone checking you out because they are interested in booking your for their corporate event.

And though you are promoting the show, you are also indirectly promoting yourself. Those that hear about your shows via your publicity may still visit your website for future shows. Any write-ups and reviews will also be beneficial for your future marketing.

Another reason is it gives a platform to work in material. Taking a lower paid non-headlining slot in a club takes the pressure off. If you have a 20 minute slot you can open and close it with already worked in material; but also include something you are working on, which you wouldn’t want to include in a higher paying corporate booking until it’s completely worked in.

It also is a good way to get footage of your act in different theatres. You should always take the opportunity to set up a camcorder whenever you can – and this may be tricky at a corporate event. Not only should you review the footage each time to constantly be improving your act (it enables you to see it from the audience’s perspective, as well as record any ad-libs or errors that occur), but also gives you footage for promotional showreels for getting corporate bookings. If possible use two cameras, or at least set the camera up in different positions each time.

So you see there a few advantages. See these type of shows as investments; where the benefit isn’t the immediate financial pay, but the longer payoff of a more solid and professionally produced act that you can charge more for, and be more successful when marketing that act for corporate bookings.

Trade Shows and Exhibitions

Let’s start by defining what trade shows and exhibitions are. They are events where a group of suppliers within an industry come together to bring their products and services to the attention of prospective buyers. These can range from events lasting a whole week where hundreds of exhibitors and thousands attendees will travel from all around the world to attend, down to a small function room in a hotel where a handful exhibitors speak to locally based clients.

The words “trade show” and “exhibition” are inter-changable. “Trade show” is derived from the fact that the shows focus on a specific trade, “exhibition” is derived from the fact that suppliers are attending to exhibit their wares. I have found that the term “trade show” is more common in the US, and “exhibition” is used more commonly in the UK.

Trade shows and exhibitions include:

  • Comic-Con (An entertainment based show open to the public)
  • Interplas (A show for the plastics industry trade)
  • Wedding Fair (Local suppliers meeting local brides)

As a magician the type you will want to focus on will be where companies are focusing on exhibiting themselves to suppliers also within the industry. The events which are “public” exhibitions already have products and services that are of interest to the delegates attending. Smaller local exhibitions are too small for the exhibitors to have sufficient budget to justify paying what you can charge.

Cabaret Up-Sells and Add-Ons

So now you have three core package types:

  • Close up magic only,
  • Close up magic with a mini-cabaret show,
  • Full cabaret shows (with close-up magic as an optional add-on “whilst you’re there”)

On top of these performance types, there are other ways you can add to the package; and therefore increase the income you are generating form each booking. Though not exhaustive, ways you can add to the core package options could include:

  • Hiring the use of your PA,
  • Hiring of staging,
  • Hiring of lighting,
  • Create bespoke props, tricks or presentations,
  • Pre-show meetings,
  • Branded magic tricks to be given to attendees.

Initially you may wish to include these in your package as standard, then offer them as extras as you get more established and confident. Even if the client doesn’t book them as add-ons, I strongly recommend taking your own PA and staging with you – it’s much better to use your own in an emergency than compromise the whole show because the equipment provided to you is sub-standard.

Should you not own your own staging, lighting or powerful PA system you can still include it as an add-on, but rent it. Before quoting the cost to the client find out how much it will cost for you to hire.

You may wish to add a premium onto the costs for this as you are going out of your way to hire the equipment. Should it be a lucrative booking you may want to absorb some of the costs yourself help to secure the booking.