This one is for my performer friends out there. I got into a long conversation with Tom, the wonderful man that is responsible for hiring Philo and I for "Soulstice", the annual solstice celebration at the Cleveland museum of art this past weekend. Philo has been performing there 6 years in a row. This was my 2nd year. There is a good reason Tom has hired Philo again and again (and me too)! What I want to share with you, from our deep dive in conversation, has the potential to make you a performer that gets hired again and again as well. Here is the secret:
Maturity is more important than talent. Talent is OF COURSE, important. But most event organizers will tell you that no matter how talented someone is, they will not hire them again if they do not conduct themselves with maturity. In this context maturity is simply having the ability to show up on time, have a good attitude and play well with others. Other helpful traits are; grace under pressure, health and stamina, knowing how to interface with the public in a way that respects the event and an eye for fun and appropriate costuming.
One of the biggest mistakes I have observed, mostly with young and/or new performers, is thinking that because you have amazing talent, that you can act however you want and people will put up with it. Trust me when I say, that is far from the truth. The quicker you get your ego in check and develop your professional skills, the fewer gigs you will lose. Your success as a performance artist is dependent upon your ability to develop and nurture a network of event organizers. Screwing up just one of these connections can cause the whole web to collapse. Next thing you know, you are the next barista at Starbucks with a secret talent.
Here are the top 5 things your MUST do to keep your quality clients. This is not about the art of attracting clients or negotiating price points.. that is a whole other subject... perhaps in another blog ;)
- Be prepared. Research the event you are being hired for. What is the demographic of the guests? What musical acts will you be performing to (or will you need your own music)? How far from the event is your hotel? Will someone be there to pick you up? What is the weather like where you are going? Will there be food or will you need to eat before hand? Knowing the details will help you be prepared for the "behind the scenes' details as well as develop an act and presence that FITS.
- Have good costumes. A good costume (or several) can make or break your presentation as an artist. Make sure they fit well, are conducive to your art (ie, hooping takes specific fits and fabrics) and fit the event. Make sure you try everything on well before the gig so that you have time to pick up anything you may need. Also, always always ALWAYS bring at least one back up costume. You never know what could happen. Zippers break, you find out the party is not as skin friendly as your thought or ????
- Be friendly. This may seem like it goes without saying, but I have seen so many performers come into a gig and not give any of the other performers, crew or organizers the time of day. You may be an introvert, and I know this is harder for you quiet types, but friendliness goes a long way in developing connections and helping to create a fun and positive atmosphere back stage. It is worth the extra effort. If your presence lifts people up and helps relax the vibe of the team, you will be worth your weight in gold to most event organizers. Throw fits or sit sullenly in a corner, and you may not be invited back for the next event, no matter how many backflips you can do or how awesome you are at juggling.
- Don't just be on time, be EARLY. Be early to the airport (aka don't miss your freakin flight), come early to the venue, be early enough for your performance times that you can wait on deck and mentally and physically prepare yourself. Also, this ensures no one has to chase you down and stress out as a result. Know where you need to be and when, and be responsible enough to be there, and with good energy! This one might be one of THE most important qualities to develop of them all.
- Be clear in your communications. Make a list of all the factors you need to provide the best possible performance for your client. Do you need a certain amount of space? Do you need someone to help you schlep your gear? How much prep time do you need? Also, be clear about your cost and any other peripheral costs you expect to be covered or reimbursed for. Travel, per diem, baggage fees, hotel and transportation are common things you can remunerate in addition to your performance fee. Don't assume that they know you expect these things to be covered. It's just as easy for them to expect it is part of your fee. Finally, spend some time creating a standard contract you can alter as you need to between gigs. Less work for you and faster response time for your client ;)
Ok, that's it for now. I hope this has inspired you to not only develop your talent, but your people skills for a fun, prosperous and long lasting performance journey!