Five things an act should know about corporate audiences

In our latest Beat the Brief blog installment, Adam Sternberg reveals how audiences at corporate events can differ from your traditional crowd.

Do you know how to interact with a corporate events audience?
Do you know how to interact with a corporate events audience?

For performers, one of the biggest differences in working at corporate events is the audience. Those used to public performances may need to readjust to the unique relationship between performer and audience that exists at a corporate gig and perhaps even change their act to better suit the market.

But how does a corporate audience differ from a regular crowd? They’re all people, right? What makes them different from the folks that turn up at a regular circus show/cabaret club/party/gig? Well here are five things for starters.

Best behaviour

Corporate events serve all kinds of functions but whether they’re product launches, awards ceremonies or simple drinks receptions, the event usually gives guests a chance to socialise with colleagues and peers in a less formal setting than they might ordinarily be in.

That being said, the knowledge that one’s employers, colleagues, rivals, arch nemeses et al can make one put one’s guard up. So what’s a performer to do? Help people loosen up or keep things bubbling along professionally? That all depends on the event.

They’re not necessarily watching

A performer might think that years of street performing or pub gigs will have prepared them for an unresponsive audience, but nothing quite matches the often overwhelming apathy that a corporate audience can project. With free bars, bowl food, canapés and plenty of people to schmooze, there’s no shortage of distractions.

More importantly, many guests are seasoned event goers who think they’ve seen everything there is to see when it comes to entertainment and treat a circus act or cabaret show no different than a flower arrangement or an ice sculpture. It’s the performer’s job to snap them out of their events ennui and prove that corporate events can be something special.

They didn’t come here for you

After the last point, you’d think this would be obvious – but performers in the events industry quickly have to learn that no matter how big they are, at a corporate gig they’re part of a much larger, well-oiled machine. Performers that recognise this and work within the confines of the event often do so to spectacular effect. Those that don’t – those that think themselves ‘above’ the event somehow – stick out like a sore thumb to both the organisers and the audience.

They’re possibly not from around here

We do a great deal of work for clients who are entertaining overseas guests and as such, aren’t native English speakers. They could be there as part of an incentive or merely passing through on business but whatever the reason, a performer will often find themselves faced with a crowd of overseas guests who perhaps aren’t steeped in the intricacies of British humour, turns of phrase or even cultural touchstones.

It’s important not to take anything for granted when performing to overseas audiences – something as innocuous as a simple idiom or pop culture reference can fall flat with anyone from outside these isles. This is something we’d generally discuss with an act before the event so at least they’d know not to mention anything untoward or make those sorts of jokes.

Every single person is a potential future client

As a performer, you can never afford to give anything less than 100% at an event (not 110%, we’re not footballers). Not just because you owe it to the people that booked you and the people who worked on the event either. At the risk of sounding like a sixth-form poet, every gig is like a sort of ‘events dandelion’ that carries the seeds of future events and scatters them to the wind once the night is done.

That means if someone sees you at a drinks reception, they might want you for their next corporate dinner and someone there might want you for a garden party. Play your cards right, and a string of good performances can lead to a full calendar till Christmas. Have an off night and you could find yourself writing those 'why do you never call me?' emails that we get so often. We don’t like getting those anymore than you like writing them.

What are your top tips for performing to corporate events audiences? Comment below to let us know what you think.

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