Decisions around event entertainment are more deliberate now, with attention paid to quality and meaningful interactions
Although companies are more price sensitive to event entertainment post-lockdown, planners find that in general, budgets can be worked around to meet expectations.
Instead, other important factors have come to the fore in the selection of event entertainment – community tie-back, a large dose of interaction, and the ultimate goal of the business gathering.
Budgets have tightened in the current environment, forcing clients to carefully consider their event entertainment selection.
Christo Alexander, general manager (Asia) of SongDivision, has seen more requests with tighter budgets and unrealistic expectations. His company uses the science of music and the art of engagement to engage people and create teams.
But he is relieved that the pendulum has also swung the other way.
“Apathy would be a good word to describe entertainment in the corporate realm before Covid, because event planners thought they could just get a good band to entertain and if needed, they would add a show-stopper element,” said Alexander.
“But now, I feel everything’s been stepped up a level and event planners are thinking more deeply about what entertainment can bring to their corporate events,” he continued.
Global Travel’s head of events, Timothy Teo, too, finds that the right choice of entertainment with a “strong link or message” can be justified, even if budgets are constrained. For instance, general meetings are observed to favour a “big opening number such as an upbeat dance performance” to energise the crowd.
Teo added that there are “always budget-friendly alternatives” for every type of entertainment, but cautioned that showmanship and professionalism may be compromised.
Community tie-back and interactive entertainment
Stakeholders say clients feel that having at least one piece of local entertainment is pivotal to the success of the event.
Alexis Lhoyer, co-founder & chief business officer of Chab Events, has observed that providing access to “meaningful, authentic experiences relevant to the destination” is even more important these days.
He relayed an example of how a recent incentive trip in Bali organised by Chab Events saw 500 guests interacting with underprivileged children from various schools and orphanages around the island to craft angklungs, an Indonesian musical instrument consisting of four bamboo tubes suspended in a bamboo frame.
“After guests had built their instruments, everyone came together to create a 15-minute performance, under the guidance of a local singer. The instruments were then donated to the local schools. It was a magical moment of interaction, and all guests loved the authentic experience,” Lhoyer shared.
Similarly, Teo observed: “Incentive trips usually seek to discover the culture of the country, and entertainment that is unique to the destination, and/or has a strong cultural tie-back are much preferred.”
Michelle Sargent, director, Australia & New Zealand, CWT Meetings & Events agrees, saying that clients seek out local entertainment “to feel a connection to the destination they are visiting”.
She pointed out: “One of our clients who organised an event in Fiji chose to support local non-profit organisations such as women’s groups and local choirs to entertain guests at the welcome functions.”
Experiential entertainment is another consideration these days.
SongDivision’s work with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), for example, saw them host six onboarding events for new recruits last year as part of PwC’s introduction to their corporate culture. Called the UN-Conference, these were deemed so successful there are plans for a repeat with four events from July 2023.
“At these events with PwC, we went really deep with the organising committee, organising morning raves, doing sonic acupuncture, music-led meditation and the gala band. The music was spread out and was the main thread that held these conferences together,” said Alexander, who added that clients and their guests have gone beyond wanting to just watch a show.
Sargent concurred: “Experiential music agencies like Rock And Roll Team Building and SongDivision are proving very popular for both teambuilding activities and entertainment. No matter the type of event or age group, music seems to be the one component that can help groups connect instantly.”
She shared examples of how a recent group travelling to Nashville decided to conduct a songwriting challenge for their guests at the Johnny Cash Museum. Meanwhile in Australia, the Bangarra Dance Theatre group is a popular choice for welcome events, as indigenous dancers provide guests with a feel for the destination and its cultural past.
Over in South-east Asia, Sargent observed that entertainment takes a more dynamic approach with water drummers and traditional fire twirling displays.
The Big Picture
To ensure that the corporate message is conveyed clearly, event planners first need to understand the goals of the client and their events.
“Too often, event companies are briefed on the entertainment portion, but miss the big picture. By understanding the bigger picture, (event planners like us) can push our creativity to craft our themes, and design entertainment and décor that will support and enhance those goals,” opined Lhoyer.
SongDivision’s Alexander also noted that company videos are becoming almost cinematic entertainment pieces, using music to create emotional connections to corporate messaging.
More companies in Asia are also getting staff to perform for each other, so as to foster a sense of belonging which eventually retains talents.
Having a selection of music with lyrics that tie in with the messages and paired with video content can also help enhance an attendee’s experience at any corporate event.
Teo elaborated: “For example, a theme like Beyond Boundaries could offer a visual experience of the vast wonders of the world through open fields, a fjord, the great oceans, up through the cosmos, and so on. These images, with the right selection of music, will play with the audience’s emotions and get that message across subtly and subliminally.”
Further emphasising the power of music, Sargent said: “Having your guests leave with a song that is associated with the event is a wonderful way to ensure the memories of the event would live on. – Additional reporting by Adelaine Ng