Dear Musician: That lady with the leather binder and the focused look in her eyes is the meeting planner. She’s responsible for this chic corporate gig you scored. She flew in from Boston and brought her company’s management team and a bevy of its most important clients. A good part of her company’s success, and her own reputation, rides on the success of this event. Do you want to stand in her way, or make her life easier?
Do you even know how to corporate?
She hired you to play music and you know how to music, but do you know how to act in front of business people? As you set up at the Four Seasons or the Royal Palms, you notice a big difference between them and your steady gig at the Neon Nightclub. No one smoking. Far more conservative clothing choices. Fewer shots.
Yes, it’s a different world, but you got this. Your meeting planner has confidence in you. That’s why she hired you. Help her out by following these simple rules:
Dress the part
Maybe your planner told you to wear ripped jeans and an AC/DC concert T-shirt. Maybe she asked you to dress like Esteban.
Or to look like Steve Aoki.
If so, ignore the following. But if not, be clean, be pressed, and be professional. Be groomed. No one cares about hygiene if you’re playing at Coachella, but they do if you’re at nice Scottsdale resort. Your dress code should be closer to a job interview than a clubbing getup.
When it doubt, wear black from head to toe. They tend to like that!
You already know how to play, that’s why the meeting planner hired you. But are you going to spend hours on your soundcheck, blasting the courtyard with Metallica riffs? Are you going to pull in late to the loading dock? Are you going to forget a mic stand and have to go around begging AV to let you use one of theirs?
No, of course not! You’re going to practice until you can set up quickly. Because there’s a decent chance the banquet captain’s going to tell you to set up in one corner, and then the planner will arrive and make you move. You’re going to get there way earlier than you need to. Because if the planner is prowling the space and you’re not there yet, it’s going to stress her out.
Don’t stress out your planner!
You’re going to double check your equipment to make sure you bring everything required for your performance. Because you know that if you forget something, AV is going to charge the planner an arm and a leg for their assistance. And you’ll lose time setting up.
Your planner’s binder is full of itineraries and maps and costs and schedules, but, as the saying goes, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Real life plays mischief with the best-laid plans. For some real life examples from my experience:
- Power in your chosen space is on some kind of timer and no one can figure out how to get it to work. You now have to move your whole setup to the other side of the courtyard.
- A haboob (what they call dust storms in Phoenix nowadays) descends upon the location and you have to break down your equipment and move inside.
- It rains. Yes, only 20 times per year, but you can bet it happens on the day of an event.
- The CEO decides he doesn’t like the main act and wants your duo to stay the whole night.
One of the most important skills for a corporate entertainer is to flow with the event. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Make the planner’s life easier, and she’ll be happy.
This is important, yet also a bit dangerous. You’re competent, well-dressed, and flexible, but guess what? Your meeting planner is still nervous. This is a $100,000 event: the stakes are high. The planner’s boss is looking over her shoulder. She wants everyone to have a good time, and there are lots of moving parts. She’s thinking about liquor costs and heads-in-beds and liability. Don’t make her have to think about you.
Act like you know what you’re doing.
Answer her questions clearly and confidently. Don’t be wishy-washy. You’re the expert in your domain. Your planner is relying on that.
Why is this dangerous? Well, there’s a fine line between being the solution and overstepping your bounds. Never forget that ultimately, the meeting planner is your boss and you must respond to her requirements. If she tells you to turn it down, don’t argue, just do it. If she wants you to play more upbeat tunes, make it happen.
Above all, be cool
It sums it up, doesn’t it? Your job is to make your meeting planner’s life easy. You do this by being good at your job, confident, and by focusing on making the event a success, not on your personal needs as a musician. This is a corporate event, not a concert. Realize that you’re just one of many important components. Make sure you’re a dependable, low-maintenance team player, and your planner will be happy, and you’ll get more gigs.
Feedback? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
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