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Hiring a Performer vs a Show

Ever since early vaudeville days when variety entertainment was thrust into the mainstream spotlight, there has been a crucial debate on what criteria to meet when choosing who to hire. When choosing a variety entertainer such as a magician, comedian, and/or hypnotist, you are hiring someone that will need to be capable of grabbing and holding the full attention of your guests while demonstrating skill… which can be done by many performers. I would debate that you need to hire more than just a great performer or someone with great skill: anyone can learn magic or hypnosis, many people are funny, and videos/resumes can be very misleading to the final product you are hoping for. So, you end up with many performers in a crowded market getting paid and doing decent work but not producing great shows that end with the standing ovations and raving reviews you were hoping for. I want to tell you how to make sure you are hiring not only a good performer, but someone that will put on a carefully curated and spectacular show. First let’s look at the definition of these two concepts: performances vs shows.

Performance/per’formense/noun: the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function

Show/Sho/ Noun:  a spectacle or display, typically an impressive one.

So, by definition and from my personal experience, I can tell you that a performer is best for that alone – to accomplish the goal of having x task performed. You can hire any competent magician/hypnotist and get a decent performance… However, there can be so much more if you know what to look for.

I am always surprised when people are finally delivered a genuinely great show. A great show is something that goes beyond just the performance. It is a well thought out and calculated experience to control the emotions and attention of your guests. A well-produced show will have been thought out carefully as to when your guest will laugh, when they will think, when they will be shocked, and when they will be emotional. Moreover, it dictates the best order of these emotions in union and expectation of what art is being showcased. A great show explores the comedic technique with how to best deliver laughter in ways that do not seem dull or repetitive, but also natural in the context of the show. It considers the quality of props, tools, and equipment. It values aesthetics, delivery, and skill equally.  It considers atmosphere, bias, connotations, connections, social awareness, and “show value”… in this context A show is what ends in a standing ovation, with all of your guests being thrilled on the entertainment you chose. It is the difference between what the performer thinks they are doing and what the showman knows in full detail what they are doing.

To put it simply: a good performance is the first sentence to the book of a great show, and many performers both professional and amateur have not finished the book.

But how do you tell which one you are hiring?

When looking for an entertainer and needing to decide if they are going to perform or put on a show, you can simply look at their website/etc. and how they respond. Someone that understands the concept of a show realizes one simple fact in event entertainment: the show starts when you first read their name. No matter if it is a business card or website, you can always tell by the quality and effort that is put into whatever that initial presence is. The quality of the pamphlet, the email, the contract, and/or the website. Do they share a unified goal? A unified theme? Is it well designed? Does it look like a large amount of thought was put into it? If the story and atmosphere they will create at your event is fully thought out, it will transfer to ALL aspects of what they do because they strive for quality and that is contagious. For a true “showman” this is always done purposely.

When you visit my website, I have already started on my goal of making sure my clients understand that in my line of work, I strive for quality and spectacle above all else. In hypnosis, we would call this the “pre-induction” – embedding indirectly into someone’s mind the action soon to be taken before it happens. So, for the few entertainers that think like me, my initial presence is quite literally a pre-induction to what is to come – a fully thought out and unique show. So if an entertainer has a great video but that quality doesn’t transfer into their website, reviews, booking process, etc. then you can bet you will find the same thought put into the “show” you booked them for. The tricks, acts, or comedy will be great, but they will sacrifice show structure, equipment, atmosphere/etc., or vice versa.

I encourage you to hire someone that values a good show. No matter if it’s five minutes or two hours, virtual or in person, or any combination of factors. An amazing show includes a great performance… a great performance does not include an amazing show.

-Victor Le’Yon

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