“With a special appearance by…” These magical words can make any business seminar feel like a rock concert. Snagging a high-profile public figure for a trade show or convention could give you celebrity status among fellow event and conference planners.
From musical performances at CES to TV actor panelists at Comic Con to meet and greets with adult film stars at AVN, calling in the big guns to attract a crowd is as paramount as the main event itself. After all, paid celebrity endorsements are good marketing ploys for both your event and the celebrity themselves.
It all boils down to the details to pull off a successful celebrity appearance at your next annual meeting, sales meeting, grand opening, conference or other corporate event. Plan well, and you’ll make it onto the A-list of MICE professionals, even adding prestige and potential profits to any future bookings.
Careful preparation will go a long way towards making both client and celebrity happy, not to mention boost your own career. Keep in mind that this is also a job for the artist or athlete, that every little thing can and will be under public scrutiny, and that you only get one shot to do it right.
What happens in the background will determine how well that photo op or autograph session will go. Follow this general guideline when planning your next celebrity meet and greet. Although this is not a comprehensive list, it does provide a good starting point for organizing the grand affair.
Negotiating contract details is when you can secure rights to public relations and marketing materials and where you can squeeze out the most future value from the celebrity appearance. It’s also the time to discuss finer details like who bears the cost for what.
Obviously, this is a big one. It’s just as costly for a celebrity to show up as it is for you to hire him or her. Think designer clothes, hair and makeup artist, limo transportation, security detail and the like. Time is money for celebrities too, so be sure the rate comes with a clause for a refund or ability to reschedule should your star guest be a no-show.
A big-name celebrity comes with bodyguards in tow. Typically, the event organizer pays for the protection provided by security personnel. Discuss a flat rate to be included with the appearance fee. A contract that asks for a base security fee plus expenses can quickly add up and eat away any profits you made.
Accommodations need to be arranged for an easily accessible, private green room or dressing room where the celeb can get ready, change clothes or rest before, in between and after the appearance. Celebrities will typically include a rider for food and drink requirements in the contract that can be easily stocked by the hotel or event venue if arranged beforehand.
One thing not to forget in all this planning is your marketing goals. Paid celebrity appearances are intended to bring star power and big bucks to your trade show or convention. While performing artists or athletes may stipulate that their own logo be shown in the background, you can still ask for a photo or other endorsement with your own logo, product, CEO or other promotion opportunities so long as it’s clearly stated and agreed upon by both parties.
Once the ink has dried on the contract, it’s time to make it be known. Letting attendees and fans know what to expect is the ultimate marketing for the celebrity appearance and also helps guide the flow of the event. This is also a good opportunity to share general do’s and don’ts for meeting the special guest. Printing rack cards as information cards or booklets as event programs detailing meet and greet hours and location will drum up excitement. Let attendees know if there’s a fee; if there’s a time limit; if they can use personal cameras or if a professional photographer will be on hand; how many photos are allotted; if the celebrity will sign personal items or only pre-designated products sold at the event, etc.
For limited engagements, bookmarks can be customized as event tickets or VIP passes for better crowd control and to raise the exclusivity of the meet and greet. These can be included in the event registration packet or picked up on-site if in-person verification is needed.
- Fun fact: Celebrity backstage demands are as wild as you’d imagine. Some riders ask for dressing rooms to be set at an exact temperature at all times, others request video games or an assortment of children’s cereal, while others still want professional chefs to create original dishes named after their songs. The sky’s the limit when your name appears on the marquee.
Proper execution is everything. The coveted event sometimes happens in a quick 30 minutes, so it should be flawless. Set the stage with any outside vendors; banners or step-and-repeat backdrop if needed; and all the necessary print products so that red carpet moment is nothing but flashing lights.
Before the day approaches, conduct a thorough sound check to be sure the event day goes off without a hitch. Hotels, convention halls and event venues might provide an in-house sound system complete with microphones and speakers, but bringing in your own trusted A/V company could save you from screeching mic feedback or sound cutting off in the middle of a speech. Attendees want to see and hear anything and everything the celeb has to say, especially if it involves a product endorsement.
Same as with the A/V team, hiring your own professional photographer and/or videographer to document the day secures future marketing materials and, more importantly, gives you full control over quality and distribution of any media assets. Fans who use their cell phones for selfies might take up too much time perfecting the photo, post blurry or unflattering photos of the celebrity, or otherwise abuse the opportunity. With an event photographer, you can get picture-perfect, high-resolution images every time; multiple viewpoints; add a logo or watermark; ask for touch-ups and other photo editing, etc. Collaborate with the photographer to design branded business cards with both logos and an online portal where attendees can download and share event photos on social media.
For autograph sessions prepare printed pieces for the celebrity to sign. Selling these mementos could help keep things running on schedule rather than having fans fumbling with personal items and causing security issues. It is also a huge moneymaker that can offset the cost of the celebrity appearance. Keepsake postcards or posters in satin matte finishes are ideal for signing with a permanent ink marker and avoiding smudges.
Hiring a publicist or social media specialist is a must when planning a celebrity meet and greet. Speak with the celebrity and his or her agent about acceptable hashtags that your PR team and attendees can use to create buzz while branding the event. Discuss what is acceptable to post across all major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like. For extra special guest appearances or recurring guests, consider creating a unique event page or fan page to maximize publicity and drive fans wild.
- Fun fact: Convention appearance fees can go from $5,000 to millions per event. The going rate for autographs and photos depends on whether the celebrity is an A-lister and on any maximum amounts set by the convention, ranging from a modest $50 to a few hundred per souvenir. Another side note, musician appearance fees could cost more than solo celebrities like movie stars or TV actors.
Your job is not over once the event has ended. Following up with both the celeb and fan base can build a foundation for even more revenue-generating opportunities down the road. Now’s the time to solidify those relationships with a personal touch.
Thank You Note
Sending a handwritten thank you notecard to the artist or athlete for taking the time to appear at your trade show or convention will be well appreciated. It never hurts to send your note with a bouquet of flowers or some free product either. Do the same with any vendors or venues you’ve worked with, especially if you want to be in their good graces when you book other events.
Compile all your memories and event photos in a commemorative photo book to gift to event sponsors or sell to attendees. Soft cover, saddle-stitched booklets work well for this purpose, offering you multiple sizes and finishes, and a flexible product that can be placed in the mail.
- Fun fact: If you want to go big with your celebrity thank you gift, shop for Oscar-worthy luxury items like statement jewelry, luxury beauty products or high-end candles and home decor. In lieu of that, a personal shopper to the stars says a thoughtful, handcrafted gift custom tailored to the recipient can be just as impressive as an exorbitant price tag.
Planning for a celebrity meet and greet may seem like a massive undertaking, but is worth marketing gold. Your trade show or convention will be a huge hit among industry professionals and adoring fans of the celebrity you billed to headline the event. Consider every aspect from start to finish, such as catering and printing needs, then reap the rewards!
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