THE HOTTEST, MOST UNUSUAL ENTERTAINMENT IN THE COUNTRY CAN BE FOUND RIGHT HERE IN TEXAS. Extraordinary entertainers are the solution to humdrum soirees and lackluster socials, but discovering them requires the answer to one little question: Does your client need a keynote speaker, emcee or graffiti artist? This probably doesn’t even seem like a valid query-at least not one you ask yourself often-but it can make you think twice about what your client really needs. And it can lead to some really exciting events.
Four Day Weekend is a Fort Worth-based comedy troupe that performs improvisational comedy on weekends in its own theater in Sundance Square. For corporate events, the troupe will emcee red carpet award show themed banquets or put on team-building events.
The word improv can seem scary to corporate clients, but the guys at Four Day Weekend know how to adapt a performance to fit each corporate culture. As proof, the troupe’s client list ranges from sports teams to airlines.
Four Day Weekend’s performance and emcee activity is generally 90 minutes, with a few minutes of initial performance and the rest is weaved throughout the event. This is the troupe’s unique version of keynoting, while making the people within the corporation the actual stars of the night. While Texas-based, the group performs nationwide.
A WORK OF ART
Erik Wahl paints portraits of famous people such as Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon during each of his themed programs, says Tasha Moffitt, producer of Wahl’s shows. Wahl paints each picture live-within three minutes-and then gives a presentation that includes a video. Themes include innovation, leadership and imagination, among others.
The concept of marrying art with business during Wahl’s presentations is designed to encourage disruptive thinking, along the lines of the old adage "thinking outside of the box." The disruptive thinking begins when you hire Wahl, she adds. He decides which themes are followed and which paintings are created. Not even the CEO of the company knows ahead of time which painting and presentations will be included.
In the past, clients have auctioned Wahl’s paintings for charity or have displayed them in a corporate office. The price of a painting typically depends on the audience. Corporate audiences in the past have raised as much as $20,000. The art garners so much interest largely because, Moffitt says, Wahl doesn’t believe in selling his work. Wahl considers himself a graffiti artist and doesn’t believe only the wealthy should own art.
When not painting on stage, Wahl offers other painting demonstrations through art drops, which means leaving a piece of art at an undisclosed location. Clues are then left on social media, like a modern day (and streamlined) scavenger hunt. He once hid a painting of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Fans of Wahl, even if they didn’t score the painting, still enjoyed the hunt. Wahl is booked for more than 100 speaking engagements per year.
BIG-TIME ENTERTAINMENT FOR LESS
Michael Butler is the director of business development for Spear One, a company that specializes in full-service meetings and events, group incentive travel, sales channel incentive programs and engagement campaigns. He’s mixed budget-sensitive capabilities into large- and small-scale events.
He planned a post trade show celebration at AT&T Stadium in which attendees were given free rein of the stadium to experience self-guided tours. The decadent party had hospitality and cafes, and a drum line, and smoke blew as attendees exited onto the field. He added a punt, pass and kick activity without adding too much to the total event cost. The event took advantage of the venue and theme.
What other unusual, trending entertainment can be found on a budget? "Believe it or not, karaoke is a good idea again [with the right group] and very budget-friendly," says Butler. "Keeps the party going, especially on an incentive travel group trip."
Think about finishing touches that add to the theme for the party, Butler suggests.
"For corporate events, we’ve got one in New York City this summer with a Chinese theme, so we are bringing in a tai chi master to lead the group in a short opening session along with a Dragon Parade" Butler says.
Often, the goal is to create an experience the attendee will remember as a participant instead of as a guest or onlooker. "Experiential engagement is my favorite these days, and we love sharing fresh ideas after understanding a client’s business objective and budget," he says. "The interactive chef-led cooking dinner party is a great way to leverage entertainment with great food and beverage-we’ve used Kent Rathbun in Dallas with his awardwinning restaurants."
When Spear One brings in the Four Day Weekend act, it’s to bring a layer of engagement to a banquet that would normally be much less participatory.
While Butler loves including unusual entertainment in a variety of events, he does offer five tips for other event planners to determine if a corporation is a good fit for an unusual act.
1. Always make sure the entertainment is in line with the client’s business objective of the event.
2. Share testimonials with the client of other companies’ experiences with the entertainment.
3. Introduce the act to the client for personal connection and shared understanding of objectives and deliverables.
4. Take a chance on something extraordinary if steps one through three go well.
5. Be prepared to change direction midstream if the entertainment no longer seems like a fit.
Sometimes an act or speaker just isn’t a match for the corporate culture, but "if it’s a matter of changing the room layout, or convincing an exec that it’s worth the try, then go for it," Butler says. "That’s what separates the memorable and most engaging from the mundane."