On the face of it,mingling at parties dispensing canapés or cocktails doesn't seem to be a particularly strenuous way of making a living.Yet this notion takes a battering once you appreciate that the party circuit is led by a steely, determined group of organisers.
Their clients,under pressure to deliver in a cut-throat corporate world, expect the same pursuit of perfection for their parties.It is not enough for promotional staff to just look the part and know where the toilets are - they must act as ambassadors for the event.
This is echoed by Dr Party managing director Danielle Nay."Greet your guests with charm and a big smile; staff are the face of your brand and the beginning of your party," advises Nay.
"It's all about interaction and using smart,attractive human beings who are briefed to communicate key messages and/or brand positioning, make guests feel comfortable and looked after and provide human décor."
The market is polarised between agencies specialising in formal waiting staff to those offering circus-type performers. Event compatibility is therefore crucial and successful sourcing comes from choosing the right staff from the right agency. "Make sure you are specific about the type of models that will best match the style of the event and the audience," says staffing agency Frogette founder Nathalie Gensac."Use an agency specialising in high-calibre hospitality and one that understands what level of professionalism is required." Gensac's comments hold true for any type of party. "The 'meet-and-greet' is crucial; get this on the button and the rest is a piece of cake," she insists."But get it wrong and from then on it's going to be an uphill struggle. You've opened the doors not to a night of magic but to a plain ordinary experience."
Podium-dancing dwarves and Martinisquirting "naughty nurses" are all in a night's work in the hyperactive world of Dr Party. A division ofTen Alps Communications, which was founded by Bob Geldof, the company has staged all manner of parties for private and corporate clients including Microsoft, O2, Playstation and L'Oréal.
"A lot of our clients are repeat clients and know they can trust our performers to behave well and entertain the staff," says Dr Party founder and MD Danielle Nay.
TV music channel Music Choice's party featured characters such as a nightie-clad Mrs Merton lookalike - actress Suzy Paterno - Cuban Brother Mike Keat as Virtual Greeter and model Solaris holding court in a bath (right)."All were thoroughly briefed and able to give intelligent responses to questions about the channel, its various sub-channels, the positioning and the advertisers," says Nay.
Costs are dependent on the event but range from £150 to £400 per performer.
Contact Danielle Nay 0870 900 0414
From the fields of Glastonbury to the grandeur ofBuckingham Palace, Continental Drifts' performers encompass human statues and fully choreographed fire acts alike. Names like Bolli Darling, who metamorphose into swans clad in handmade silk and crystal costumes, or Lucyfire, whose versatility sees her performing fire acts and singing, have stirred up many an event.
"Fire performers are popular," says Continental's booker Anna Cohen."And Bolli Darling's white swan theme looked beautiful for there-opening of the Hungerford Bridge."
A launch for oil giant BP was also executed in Continental's quirky style. "Street theatre company Natural Theatre were in BP's colours while Urban Strawberry used petrol pumps as instruments," recalls Cohen."The feedback we received was great."In this crowded market impact is everything.™We stand out because of the striking images of the performers in our brochure and because of our reputation," says Cohen.Costs range from £300 to £600 per performer.
ContactAnna Cohen (020) 8509 3353
"We provide high-end hospitality staff and models for parties and fashion shows,ºsays Nathalie Gensac, founder of Frogette. Gensac, herself a former model,adds the proviso that her models must be bubbly but intelligent". "A lot of the staff are models that I worked with and whom we know make a good match for the event," she says."They need to be able to mingle and be articulate, especially if they are meeters and greeters."
Frogette sent staff in white catsuits to a celebrity party after the premiere of James Bond film Die Another Day, while a Carrie lookalike clad in black fit the bill for an event themed around The Matrix Reloaded.
"Getting the right staff to host your awards ceremony is not something to be taken lightly,"warns Gensac."A good host team will always look the part and elevate the glamorous or sassy theme to your event.It's simply old-fashioned people-to-people contact, what used to be called good etiquette. They will be proactive in assisting your
event organisers to make sure the whole event runs like clockwork.And they will make all your guests feel like VIPs and well cared for."
Contact Nathalie Gensac (020) 8731 7832
The Wizards Network
Hemel Hempstead-based The Wizards Network offers party organisers a bewildering array of staff,from circus performers to kinesiologists, who specialise in assessing a person's wellbeing by monitoring how their muscles are working.
"Staff are either freelance or we use people who run companies in their own right,"says director Olly Matthews. "It's a co-operative market and if we can't supply particular staff right away then we will speak to other agencies such as Missing Link Productions, who specialise in circus performers and have a database that can be found on their website www.circusperfomers.com."
The nature of the event dictates the choice of staff and The Wizards Network aims to match performers to the theme.The company was recently asked to service a party for the Hilton hotel chain.™They had a Mars party with a space theme so we sent along performers in white costumes with ultraviolet lightsticks twisted into their hair, with an android look so that you couldn't see their faces," recalls Matthews."In contrast,staff also attended a massive black-tie party at New Billingsgate Market with Jools Holland. "The cost ofperformers can vary from £50 to £5,000 depending on their skills and how quickly they are needed.
Contact Olly Matthews 07813 293659
At Your Service
When Charlie Smith was made redundant from his job as a City headhunter during the post-80s cull,out went his company BMW and in came his waiter's uniform. "I had a mortgage to pay," he explains. It's probably safe to assume that this is now paid off as his company, At YourService,looks for a New York base to add to its London and Oxford offices.
"In 1992 our company changed the quality and level of service that guests received,"insists Smith. "Briefing is thorough; we spend a lot of time talking about the standards expected by the client and dictated by the event. Getting that first drink to guests is crucial.The art is to get them to relax - once people are relaxed they're like putty in your hands."
At Your Service has so far worked at a range of parties from events at royal palaces to film premiere after-show parties. "A certain decorum is needed to serve Prince Philip," says Smith, "while for the Kill Bill 2 premiere our staff knew that what Uma Thurman did at the party was her business and not theirs.The common theme throughout is that service has to be seamless and discreet."
Contact Charlie Smith (020) 7610 8610