Virtual Victory! Keys to Hiring Virtual Comedians, Virtual Entertainers, Virtual Magicians, and Virtual Keynote Speakers
“Zoom fatigue” is real. But be of good cheer. Humor helps. Laughter can make your virtual meeting fun for everyone. Here are some strategies to help you incorporate a virtual comedian into your online meeting to create a super-successful digital experience.
Let these 10 P’s be your guide to tapping into the magic power of humor at your next online meeting. These are road-tested suggestions for how your group can laugh together while you can enjoy a virtual event planner’s dream: Virtual Victory.
#1: Know the PURPOSE
What do you want your online attendees to experience?
What is your goal for this digital event? How will you insert the virtual entertainer or speaker into your program? Think about the right mix for your meeting. Do you want it to be 50% comedy and 50% content? Are you giving your group a time of training, or do you intend to simply provide a fun time of camaraderie? If your meeting is an online “hangout” then a virtual comedian who is all-fun might be ideal. But you have options.
First things first. Do you have a theme for your meeting? If you want to unpack that topic, consider hiring a virtual keynote speaker who can bring solid takeaways and make the whole message fun at the same time. Ask yourself, “What is the feeling I want to leave my virtual participants with? One of the secrets to utilizing humor is to tap into the element of surprise. Here’s an example: If you are planning a virtual sales meeting, consider hiring a virtual entertainer to share “Top 10 Mistakes Salespeople Make” via a funny sketch or speech. Your team will be laughing and learning at the same time. When you identify your core purpose for your meeting, you will have a better sense of the right type of performer for your online gathering.
#2: Use a solid PLATFORM
Which platform will work best for your virtual meeting?
This is important. Your virtual comedian will likely be clever. But don’t try to get clever when it comes to hosting your meeting. Use a virtual platform that all of your people know/recognize. It should a user-friendly platform or streaming service. This might be: Zoom, YouTube, Facebook Live, WebEx or a smaller boutique platform service like LeaderPass.com
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more of your people will understand how to accept an invitation to a Zoom meeting and will understand how to participate. But don’t assume that everybody in your organization is familiar with virtual meetings. Before you can entertain them with your special guest speaker, clean comedian, magician, or inspirational speaker, you must educate them. Let them know what platform you will be meeting on and offer assistance if they are new to the world of virtual gatherings.
#3: PREVIEW your comedian
Have you watched a sample clip of this virtual entertainer or speaker?
Simply put: Make sure you take a look before you book. Is this virtual comedian a good fit for your group? Will she connect with your culture? Will he make you and your organization look good? Is this performer funny? Comedy is a subjective thing. One person’s punch line is another person’s bad pun. Your goal here is not to be a comedy critic, but a good screener. Here’s the main thing: Is this a likable virtual entertainer? You want to ensure that the entertainment value is coming through the screen. So, watch his/her virtual demo video—and make sure it is indeed a virtual demo not a clip from a comedy club or theatre in front of a live audience. You want to establish that this funny man or woman aligns with your company AND can connect with your crowd via a virtual event.
#4: POSITIVE humor
Will everyone in your audience enjoy this performer?
Make sure the fun at your virtual event is appealing (and non-offensive) to all of your guests. Avoid funny speakers or entertainers who rely on profanity, politics, or put-downs. Work with an entertainer who will lift your people up with laughter. If you make the mistake of hiring a raunchy (or racially insensitive) comedian, you will regret it and many in your group will feel offended. Hire a comedian who will bring your people together. More than ever, your people want to laugh together. This doesn’t mean you can’t work with a clean comedian who knows who to rib and (lightly) roast some of your VIPs. Just make sure that the entertainment is appropriate for everyone in your virtual room. Here’s a bonus tip: If you find a comedian who says, “I can cut the raunchy stuff out”, run! Clean Comedians prove that humor doesn’t have to be filthy to be funny.
Comedy isn’t easy. And it’s especially challenging in a virtual setting. Why? There are two challenges: First, it’s hard for a virtual entertainer to read his/her audience via a screen. It may be difficult for them to know if their humor is hitting home? Secondly, if your entertainer cannot see or hear your guests laughing they may panic and try to force laughter by going “blue” with their humor. The last thing you want to see happen is for a stand-up comedian, comic-magician, or funny speaker to offend your guests with inappropriate comedy. Make sure you hire a humor expert who knows how to get big laughs without getting dirty or embarrassing your organization.
#5: Hire a PRO
Does this virtual comedian have experience performing for an online audience?
There are two types of experience that matter when it comes to incorporating humor into your online event. And these factors are in order of importance: 1. The experience of your attendees is what matters most. 2. The experience (i.e. track record), of your guest entertainer or speaker is also vital. Warning: Never use your group as “guinea pigs” for a performer. There’s too much at stake. You want to create a memorable time for your participants. To do this, make sure you work with a comedian who has already done dozens of virtual events.
Refuse to work with an amateur entertainer. And never ever ask one of your coworkers to put on a show. Just because Tom is funny to other accountants in your company, doesn’t mean his humor will translate for your entire group or online. Comedy isn’t easy. Getting laughs is even more challenging in a digital medium—because comedians thrive on audience reactions—so make sure you hire an experienced professional who knows how to entertain and engage all of your virtual attendees.
#6: PARTICIPATION is key
How will this virtual entertainer engage your people?
The last thing your virtual attendees want is to feel bored. Believe it or not, this can even happen with a comedian. How do you avoid this? The answer is easy: Involve them. Schedule an entertainer who will create moments of interaction with (at least some of) your attendees. Here are types of performers who excel at this: Comedy magicians, comic-jugglers, improv players, funny mentalists, and interactive humorous speakers.
Here is a clip of virtual magician Aaron O’Brien. Notice how he involves his audience in his presentation and how much fun this creates! (LINK to CLIP).
#7: PERSONALIZE the content
Can this comedian customize his/her material for your meeting?
Your audience is silently asking this question: “Why should I pay attention to this?” By booking a virtual entertainer who knows how to personalize his humor for your group, your guest entertainer will be able to delight your people.
Here are some things you can share that will help your virtual speaker or entertainer wow your group. Let them know:
- The key people who will be participating in your meeting.
- Names of fun and willing participants. This can be especially powerful when you have booked a virtual magician or virtual keynote speaker who is crafting performance material geared for your group.
- Special language unique to your group. The more you share the better. Include acronyms, buzz words, company slogans, inside jokes, and catch phrases.
#8: PRE-RECORD vital parts
Need to make sure that your program plays without a hitch?
That old saying is true—if something can go wrong it will. Internet connections fail. Invitation links get lost in a sea of emails. If you want to make super sure that key parts, or all of your program flows perfectly, consider pre-recording the entertainer or speaker and hitting “Play” after you have reviewed the video.
Note: There are ways to capture the “live” feel of a Zoom meeting. Here are some suggestions:
- Spotlight some of your audience members in the recording. This can be done by having your guest entertainer record a funny interview with one or more of your key leaders. (Reminder: Not all comedy has to be a “stand up” set of jokes. Some of the best laughs come via conversation).
- Invite your virtual comedian to riff on the inside jokes, acronyms, buzz words, and funny photos of your team and your unique work culture.
- Have your entertainer get out of his/her home recording studio and “safely” interview some of your VIPs, customers, or vendors.
- Work with an interactive virtual entertainer who can get laughs via audience involvement. Consider booking a comedy game show host, funny virtual magician, or a virtual comedian who knows how to do back-and-forth conversation with his/her comedy.
#9: PROMOTE your event
What are you doing to remind (and incentivize) people to show up for your meeting?
Take a lesson from the old advertising maxim: “Without advertising a terrible thing happens…nothing.” Same is true with promoting your virtual meeting. If you don’t promote it, people won’t show up and enjoy the fun you have in store for them. Notify your audience that a fun time awaits them. Alert them. Invite them. Remind them. Register them. Make sure they show up. It’s always a safe bet to assume that people do not have your meeting on their agenda—unless you get it on their radar.
One of the ways you can effectively promote your virtual meetings is to have them at a regular time each month. The Guilford Merchants Association has a weekly “Laugh and Learn” session with guest speakers, clean comedians, virtual magicians, and more. They provide a wonderful (and fun!), free-of-charge virtual meeting for their members each month. Here’s a link/example: https://mygma.org/GMAMaster/Events/Upcoming_Events/GMAMaster/temp_events.aspx?hkey=35c3ad23-8a8e-4bcf-b005-adcb7982fd71
Make sure your online meeting is mentioned in your e-newsletters, press releases, websites, social media outlets, and more. Heck, you can even go old school and send snail mail invites to spread the word. Did you know that Google—you read that right, Google—uses direct mail to move people toward events and special offerings? You can too.
#10: PLAN ahead!
Have you created a working schedule for your online event?
Mark Twain is one of America’s all-time great humorists. But he knew the importance of planning ahead. Twain once said, “It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Take the time to do the following things long before your virtual meeting:
- Speak with your virtual comedian prior to your digital meeting.
- Confirm that your online platform works and is accessible to all attendees.
- Create a simple “Run Sheet” or working schedule for your meeting. Who is speaking? For how long? How long will the virtual entertainer perform? What time will the program end?
- Design a timetable for promoting your virtual program.
When the program is over, send out a quick follow-up survey or email to your attendees. Ask them what worked and what didn’t. It’s never too early to tweak and improve your online “product” as you begin to plan your next event.
These 10 P’s, if you implement them, will help you enjoy another wonderful thing that starts with the letter “P.” Peace of mind. We are living in a new time that is both challenging and exciting. More events are moving online and will likely remain in the virtual realm. Your people need and want to laugh their way through these difficult days.
You can help your audience have a great time by following these tips when you bring a virtual comedian, virtual magician, virtual keynote speaker, or other virtual presenter into your program. Most of all, give your attendees what they really want—a time of fun and a feeling of togetherness.
Keep Reading: 5 Ways To Effectively Lead Virtual Team Meetings
Adam Christing is the founder of CleanComedians.com. He holds a degree in public speaking and has written 3 humor and personal growth books including Your Life is a Joke: 12 Ways to Go from Ha Ha to AHA! He is also a virtual magician and virtual keynote speaker. Adam’s virtual demo video can be seen here.