Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Creating Valuable Entertainment in Today's Market

In a world where events are no longer held for the sake of "having an event" and event planners are under increasing pressure to justify any and all budget expenditures, it is only fair to ask "what is the value of entertainment to today's events?" The answer is a resounding - IT DEPENDS!

Entertainment as an industry is far too diverse to be painted with such a wide brush, and like any other service or commodity, the value of particular items rise and fall to meet the demands of their audience. In order to answer the question, it might be helpful to break down the answer to the question in the different categories of entertainment.

The definition of value is "the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something." As an entertainment producer for the special events industry for over 30 years, I've always felt that there are four value propositions that an entertainer of any kind can bring to an event.

1. Generate Your Own Audience:  The most valuable entertainers are performers that are capable of drawing guests to an event. Examples of these kind of entertainers would include headline entertainment (Maroon 5, The Rolling Stones, the Dave Matthews Band), or popular stage shows (Cirque du Soleil or Blue Man Group), or cultural stars (the winner of America's Got Talent or  someone like the US Airways pilot that successfully landed the jet in the Hudson River.)

2. Be Memorable: Remember the first time you saw waiters that began singing in the audience, or the first time you saw a woman dressed in a gown that held champagne glasses, or the first time you saw an aerialist hanging suspended from a huge inflatable balloon? These entertainers justify their value by creating a buzz that continues well after the event.

3. Focus Attention: Much has been written about the shortening of audience attention spans. However, successful event professionals overcome that obstacle by creating short moments requesting the audience's attention, and in the process, getting the audience to turn their heads in the direction predetermined by the planner. This is especially true at the beginning of business meetings and during award ceremonies, where an audience may be engaged in conversation and the planners wants everyone focused on the stage. Entertainers that have honed their presentation into 4-6 minutes of high impact shows continue to demonstrate value in the market.

4. Interact with the Audience: Entertainers who interact with their audiences have a much greater value than static performers. The old standbys like caricaturists, fortune tellers, and strolling magicians continue to find steady work, while a new generation of interactive entertainment includes I-Pad caricaturists and hi-tech photo booths that allow you to post your photos directly to a social media outlet.

In addition, Andrea Michaels reminded me of a further consideration. "When I coined the word edutainment," she said, "it was because I believe that every educational experience can also be entertaining. Edutainment is entertainment that educates in a way that an educator cannot. If you look at the definition of entertainment, it means far more than a song and dance group. It can also mean creating emotional connections. For instance, some of the experiences Paul created for The Special Event openings take obstacles and challenges and make them meaningful (while being humorous). This also creates 'connection' from performer to audience and then from one audience member to another, creating a sense of community. The very best speakers are truly 'entertainers' while they give information because they make themselves into performers and not just talking heads. Whatever it takes to get the information across, or the brand experienced in an unforgettable way is NOT dispensable."

Endangered Entertainment

There are plenty of examples of entertainment that do not fit these value propositions, and these are the acts that are in danger of becoming extinct. For example, the ubiquitous three-to-four piece  jazz group for cocktails and dinner (that can be easily replaced by an I-pod) or a run-of-the-mill variety dance band that only knows 80 songs (easily replaced by DJs that can offer 7,000 songs) are types of entertainers having trouble finding work in today's market.

So if the question is "does entertainment have value in today's event market?" the answer is now more than ever! Of course, that assumes that event planners identify the "value" they are looking for, and that they put the entertainment in the best possible opportunity to succeed. But that's another conversation.

Paul Creighton is Executive Vice President of T. Skorman Productions, Inc. based in Orlando, Florida. He has worked for the past 35 years in the entertainment business, both on-stage and in front of the stage. To learn more about T. Skorman Productions, visit You may reach Paul via

Learn more about Andrea Michaels and Extraordinary Events at
Check out Andrea's book, Reflections of a Successful Wallflower, by visiting 

You may reach Andrea via

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Perfect Your Sales Pitch and Win New Customers - Stop "Shoulding"

I read the article below with interest recently and asked Jill Harrington if I could share it with EE's readers. This is great advice. Take it to heart. -Andrea

 -By Jill Harrington
The other day my office phone rang and I didn't recognize the number. I decided to pick up ... and no surprise ... It was a seller fishing for new business. Joe was brimming with enthusiasm at the prospect of having landed a live one.

His opening hook: "Hi, Jill. I'm sure like most business owners you're always looking for new ways to save money."

Hard to disagree. Although I was immediately wary.

"Okay I'll bite ... sure ... saving money is good. So what are you selling me this morning?

It turns out his company has a credit card that delivers unparalleled cost savings to smaller businesses. He continued on about the importance of saving money until I had to interrupt.

"You know, Joe, I really don't want another credit card."

"Don't you want to save money?"

There it is ... the inevitable "idiot" question. Only Bill Gates or a total moron might say "no" to this.

"Yes, I get that Joe. I just don't want another credit card. I already have two. So I'm good."

His toughest competitor, the status quo, had now entered the conversation.

"Yes but do your current cards save you money?"

And there it ... is the "yeah but" response guaranteed to irritate any buyer with an IQ over 60.

"Yes they do ... I travel a lot, and they rack up points so I actually save on flights and holidays."

"Well you may be interested to know how our card will save you money directly to your business..."

I could imagine the little voice in Joe's brain, his manager prompting him to follow the script, "If she says this ... you say that ..." But he'd followed the script. It wasn't working. I sensed Jo deflating at the other end of the line.

So I brought the call to a merciful close.

"Look, Joe, I'm not sure you're hearing me ... I really don't want another credit card and no promise of savings is going to change my mind. So thanks. I appreciate your call, and I'm now going to hangu up."


Disappointing for Joe ... but save your sympathy for someone else. He made the big mistake of "shoulding" all over a prospective customer. He entered this conversation with the mindset that I "should" want to save money and that any means to achieving this "should" be attractive to me. He figured if he shovelled on a whole bunch of dollar-saving features I "should" be begging for the contract. Wrong!

Joe is not alone. Sellers are piling the "should" on their prospects and clients daily. Let me share a couple of examples from actual conversations with real sales people.

"Customers should see the value in our premium service."
Uh no ... if I fail to see the value in your premium priced offering that suggests one of two things ... It's either not a priority to me, or you failed to position that tremendous service in context of what is important to me now. In other words you "should" do a better job of positioning your value in context of me.

"Customers should understand that a seasoned team will do a far better job than a start up."
And whose perspective are you coming from? Perhaps this customer believes the new hungry kids on the block will work harder or be more innovative in their approach.

"They should be willing to pay more for our creativity."
Says who? You or me? I like creativity, I expect it, and I want it in my solution ... but I may not be prepared to pay a premium for it.

"They should give us more time to ask questions if they want a great proposal from us."
Or maybe you "should" do a better job of providing me a valid reason to spend valuable time answering YOUR questions. Or more importantly perhaps you "should" ask better questions ... questions that serve me and not just you.

You get where I'm going ... as professional sellers we have to get out of our own heads, stop deciding what our clients "should" do, how they "should" think or what they "should" deem important. Because the "should" mindset simply digs you into a hole from which it is almost impossible to climb out.

After I hung up and reflected on my call with Joe, I wondered why I was so adamant that I wanted to stick with the staus quo. And what could Joe have done to turn the call around?

The problem for me was ... Joe was so tied to his perspective of what the customer should do that he put me on the defensive. Had Joe recognized this he might have salvaged the call. If he had put himself in my shoes for a moment and said, "Jill, it sounds like the last thing you want right now is another credit card. So I'll chalk this up as a 'no thanks.' And before I go ... I'd appreciate your input as it will help me understand my market better ... may I ask why you feel so strongly about this?

An empathetic approach that demonstrated he had heard me and that he was seeking my opinion (not my cheque book) would have kept me on the line ... long enough for him to get his answer, to reengage the conversation, and maybe just long enough for me to talk myself into considering a third credit card.

So two questions that beg brutally honest answers:

1. Are you "shoulding" over some of your best clients and prospects?
2. And when do you plan to stop?

Editor's Note

Do you need to engage rather than disengage for your next potential BIG client? Do you feel your sales approach may have become stale? If so, as big fans we at EE recommend you reach out to Jill.

JILL HARRINGTON, sales expert, speaker, trainer and president of salesSHIFT, has contributed to the success of thousands of B2B sales professionals around the world. She provides the uncommon selling sense that will shift the way you think and maximize your influence, impact and income. Jill may be reached directly at