Angie Ahrens, CMP, is well-versed in all aspects of booking celebrities for events. As director of meetings and events at Collinson Media & Events, she has brought in a wide range of speakers including Anderson Cooper, Jeff Foxworthy, Peyton Manning, John Legend, Bernice King and Magic Johnson to name a few. Here she offers up some tricks of the trade she’s picked up along the way:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Before they are on-site, while on-site and after the event, convey your needs and expectations to your celebrity speaker or performer. Of course, sometimes you may say one thing, but something else happens on stage. That’s when communicating your thoughts to the agency afterward comes in handy, because the next time a planner comes along, they can get honest feedback from the agency about that celebrity.
2. Don’t be afraid of the contract. You put together a contract with promises and clauses for a reason. Don’t hesitate to remind the agent of the 30-minute meet-and-greet promise if they are trying to bail 15 minutes into it. And when time is up on their side of the agreement, be respectful of that too.
3. Work closely with the handler. Many times, celebrity speakers (like Jeff Foxworthy who spoke at Rejuvenate Marketplace) travel with a team so they don’t have to handle the details themselves. It’s important for planners to form a relationship with their staff. It makes those few hours go much easier. And if they don’t travel with someone, you have a good speaker on your hands.
4. Clarify the rider. You’ve heard the rumors: Some speakers have seemingly outlandish requests (green M&M’s, anyone?). But sometimes those needs don’t fit for a particular time of day or are completely out of date. They may not even know what they are asking for anymore, so be sure to clarify the rider and requests as you approach the show date.
5. Be laid-back. A celebrity is probably used to crowds, but wants a safe space even though your attendees all want a photo. Create that safe space for them by keeping them posted on timing and ensuring they are comfortable. They appreciate it more than you know.
Angie Ahrens, CMP, oversees the logistics and programming of all CME events including the annual Rejuvenate Marketplace.