Use humor to get corporate gigs – Part 1

Mr. Schwensen – I just completed a comedy workshop and also, I’m reading your book How To Be A Working Comic. I would also like to learn about humorous presentations and keynote opportunities. – Sincerely, EM

Hey EM – First of all, I write these newsletters for a bunch of funny comedians and humorous speakers. We’re not exactly standing up on the top tier of formality in our biz, so “Mr. Schwensen” and “Sincerely” will have to go. Our favorite terms of endearment are…

Well, since I’ve promised to keep this newsletter rated G and PG for our younger readers (and the parents that screen them) I won’t make a list. But next time, “Hey Dave” will work just fine.

Second, thanks for the book plug. Saves me from having to do it myself this week… ha!

“Humorous presentations and keynote opportunities.”

You’re a winner!

If I was a game show host we’d be celebrating right now because you just hit on a big-money topic. It also happens to be one that I don’t think enough comedians are taking advantage of:

Humorous speaking gigs.

Of course, there are comedy and speaking gigs available in the club, college and cruise ship markets, but when you mention presentations and keynotes, my mind races to the corporate market (includes businesses, associations and social organizations) where there are a lot of opportunities for speakers that are humorous.

Corporate events will hire entertainers, such as comedians, musicians and variety acts for special occasions, holiday parties, retirement banquets and in general, when they need entertainment. Usually, that will be one big blow-out show as the entertainment highlight of the conference. The entertainer who scores that spot could be in line for a big payday. But you know what? At many conferences there are keynotes (breakfast, lunch and dinner), training seminars and breakout sessions throughout the day – for as many days as the conference runs.

That’s a lot of spots to fill – with speakers.

Spaces to fill

At corporate functions there are more opportunities for presenters who can inform as well as entertain. And when that info-tainment requirement includes laughter, event planners seem to be more open to hire humorous speakers.

Speakers bureaus (which operate like entertainment agencies) list more humorous speakers on their rosters than entertainers. Why? Because they get more work in the corporate market and that’s how the bureaus stay in business. And if you look into it (Google a few) you’ll find the humorous speakers have at least a few general topics that could fit into various events.

They’re still doing comedy, but it relates to the audience and theme of the event.

Most conference training seminars and keynotes consist of the “hands-on” experienced information attendees need for professional development. That’s the reason to have a conference.

For example:


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If it’s a conference on law enforcement, the training seminars might teach the best way to bust crooks. If it’s about being a grocery store clerk, they’ll learn new techniques in bagging groceries. Since the majority of entertainers won’t have experience in either profession their best chance to book the gig at either conference is if entertainment is needed.

With budget cuts, time restrictions and other factors dictating how business conferences are planned, hiring someone purely for entertainment purposes is usually the first casualty. Sure, CEO’s and event planners want their events to be fun and memorable for the employees and associates, but they also need to serve a purpose.

Usually it involves training and how to do their business better.

So, a big chunk of the budget will be used to bring in the trainers and speakers who do just that. And instead of hiring a high-priced comedian to perform an after dinner show as the highlight entertainer, they might bring in a karaoke machine or local deejay.

Believe me, not only are comics frustrated by that – so are their agents.

But good event planners also know it’s important for conference attendees to have a positive experience. You know what they say about all work and no play… So, entertainment can still be a factor, especially if it relates to the event.

For example:

Even if a comedian or speaker doesn’t have experience or training in a certain profession they can still be booked for a presentation if they have topics pertaining to these services. If we stick with law enforcement and grocery bagging, it’s a good bet there will be training seminars on communications, customer service and team building. Do you have any comedy material or experiences that might even come close to any of those topics?

Then your goal is to customize it for the event.

Now, before you shake your head and think I’m nuts because there’s “no way” you can relate to corporate event themes, chances are you can. I say that because I’ve worked with and watched dozens of talented local and national comedians turn themselves into “corporate humorists” by taking their comedy material and focusing it on their audience and the event.

But you know what? This is turning into one of my longer ramblings, so it might be a good idea to take a break. We’ll “focus” on that topic in two weeks in Part 2. Until then – keep laughing!

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Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!!

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