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Hudson & Saleeby - America's keyboard and vocal entertainment duo
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Hudson & Saleeby - Make your musical entertainment a hit!
Chris and Doug on stage with an audience

Meeting Planners:

Musical Entertainment
Make it a hit!

As published in Convention South and Midwest Meetings
Written by Chris Hudson and Doug Saleeby

Other Articles by H&S:


Entertainment can play a big role in the success of your events. You want the attendees to get involved, have a memorable time, and enjoy each other's company. Functions with a cocktail/dinner/party type of format require musicians to be flexible and to change their approach as the event progresses.

How do you choose the right entertainment for your group? How do you do all you can to insure a positive interaction between your attendees and your entertainment? Who are the people in your group who will most likely enjoy and welcome that interaction? Why do entertainers have "riders" that make demands?

These questions can be answered by simply doing a little homework and being in close communication with your entertainers.

How do you choose the right entertainment for your group? It is best to begin your search for entertainment a year before the event, or as soon as your venue and event dates are solid. Most of the better entertainment acts book at least four months to a year ahead in their schedule. When it comes to choosing and working with the musical entertainment for your events, the key words to remember are quality, reliability, and flexibility. Your events will usually need music that fits into one of three categories: background, show, or cocktail/dinner/party entertainment. When choosing your entertainment, request a video. Contact some of the other clients they have entertained in the past to make sure you understand what you are getting and that it will satisfy your particular needs. Make your needs known. Many musical acts can alter their presentation to satisfy your needs. Make sure you get a contract in writing and that you understand your entertainer's staging requirements.

Many functions call for a hybrid of these categories. In these cases, it may be best for the music to start out as background while the attendees socialize and find their seats in the ballroom or other venue. The musical ambience created at this time can make a big difference in the feel of the entire event. Then, as the function progresses, a more show or entertainment style of music may be more appropriate with sensitivity to appropriately changing volume. Later in the event, music geared more toward dancing may be a great way to round out the occasion. This formula can prove to be a big winner at many of your functions. Don't be afraid to communicate with the entertainers throughout the function if you have special requests about audience recognition, event programs, volume, or other concerns.

How do you do all you can to insure a positive interaction between your attendees and your entertainment and speakers? At the beginning of a function, background music can be the perfect touch while everyone is getting comfortable with each other and the room. Just because it's background music, doesn't mean it can't be fun, light, and happy. When everyone starts to make it to his or her seat, it is a good time for the musicians to incorporate more entertainment with some audience acknowledgement. This can also be a good time for any opening announcements from an official. Using the bandstand for these announcements can be a good solution, but you may want to consider using the house sound system instead of the band's PA system for these announcements. Usually, the house system reaches the far portions of the ballroom or other venue with better clarity.

When the food starts being served, the attendees may be more in the mood for some light entertainment, which sets the flavor of audience acknowledgement from the entertainers. People like to be acknowledged in a positive way and they also enjoy seeing other people being acknowledged, especially officers, VIP's, dignitaries, bosses, and special guests. This can be a delicate issue, as some people prefer not to have attention drawn to them. The important thing is for the entertainers to be sensitive to this and use it in a fun way, which in turn will translate into fun for everyone. This all has to happen with the end result of a positive reaction from the VIP's as well as the other attendees. Find out which of the "bosses" have special favorite songs and see if your entertainers can help you make the event more special by including those songs in their show. Be sure to give them any such songs in advance to give them time to find and rehearse the tunes. Close communication between you, the planner, and the entertainer will assure success.

Who are the people in your group who will most likely enjoy and welcome that interaction? One way to make this happen is to give the entertainers a list of some extroverted people that would be fun to "pick on". The individuals who you think would enjoy playing along will help get the crowd involved. Perhaps there are some singers in the audience, birthdays, other special occasions, or you may have special song requests for a variety of reasons. The audience loves to get involved, both passively and actively. Using hula-hoops, line dancing, prizes/give-aways, drawings (real or fake), and trivia questions are just a few ideas that work to create a "fun" and memorable event. Most entertainers will welcome this kind of involvement and information as it only makes their job easier and it is a sure winner with the audience.

Why do entertainers have "riders" that make demands? Many of the "rider" issues are technical such as stage and power requirements, rehearsal and setup needs, or other technical expectations. Some of the other "demands" such as refreshments or lodging are based on the fact that the entertainers do not know the area and usually do not have time to "scout-out" the area for the things they need. Insist on getting hotel confirmation numbers to insure there will be no problems at check-in. Make sure your entertainers know where to unload equipment. Give them an on-site contact person's name, and make sure you both know how to contact one another in the event of a problem. If you feel a requirement stated in the rider is inappropriate, don't be afraid to question it. Perhaps you could leverage some of these requirements to enhance your negotiating position.

In managing an event, your tasks as the planner cover a very wide range. Communicating your vision ahead of time to your entertainers, as well as during the event, will insure that your vision is realized in a positive way. Making the right choices ahead of time will make your job a lot easier, and the decisions you make about your entertainment are as important as any in this area. Don't be afraid to ask questions and speak your mind. This is your event!

Chris Hudson and Doug Saleeby are the performers in Hudson & Saleeby, America's Keyboard and Vocal duo. We make our living performing for conventions and other special events.

Working with the many meeting planners and agents in our career, we have seen how hard you work to put your events together and we appreciate all you have done to include us in your functions. The purpose of this article is to address some of the issues important to you and to keep the communication lines open between us on improving our service to you.

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Hudson & Saleeby is a quality keyboard and vocal duo, the highest quality sophisticated dueling piano show in America, the upmarket and refined dueling piano concept with a focus on quality vocals, a classy presentation, a popular repertoire with a friendly, spontaneous, and entertaining presentation.

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