Corporate event entertainment ideas pricing

It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. And yet, there’s no way around it.

I’m talking about the price conversation.

This will likely be different from any other blog post you’ve ever seen from a corporate event entertainment vendor in Los Angeles, Orange County, SoCal or anywhere, really. Why? Because price is not something which is flatly discussed; it’s implied, it’s suggested, but never really put directly out there right from the start, not even by me.

So, let’s change that.

I’d like to have an open and frank discussion about how much corporate entertainment costs. There is a lot of confusion out there. I think many people who, like, you, are seeking holiday party entertainers, team building activities, after dinner entertainment, company trivia parties like TrivWorks produces and so on simply don’t know how much these types of services cost, and just how much of your limited budgets should be spent on it.

Hopefully, this post will help shed some light on that.

I’d like to kick this off with a brief story. Earlier this week, I received an inquiry from a prospective client in Canada. I don’t get many requests for gigs from our neighbor to the North, however it does happen. She was looking to entertain 120 employees with a 2-hour corporate trivia night in an offsite venue, as part of her company holiday party. She stated in her inquiry that her budget was $2,500 or so – definitely on the low end for an event of that size, duration and location, but not out of the question. I decided to call her up.

We spoke enthusiastically for about ten minutes about her event needs, as well as TrivWorks’ various service offerings in detail. She and I were both very excited, and finally got to the pressing issue of price.

“My budget is a bit low,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “But I am committed to doing whatever I can to make something work! Can I ask, what do you realistically have to spend on corporate event entertainment?”

To which she replied, “$300.”

There was a pause, as I took a moment to process what she had just said. “Umm – you stated in your Email that your budget was $2,500…” I replied.

To which she said, “Yeah, for the ENTIRE EVENT!”

I closed my eyes, took a breath, then replied as calmly as I could, “I’m afraid I can’t send a professional corporate event emcee from the U.S. to Canada, to lead a 2-hour customized trivia event for 120 people, for $300.”

She sighed, then replied, “Yeah, that’s what I thought. It was worth a shot, anyway!” To which I turned to look straight into the camera, slumped my shoulders, and scowled.

How could somebody think this, I wondered? What would lead somebody to honestly believe that they could find the type of company party entertainment they were seeking, and only spend $300 – let alone a venue, food, beverage, entertainment and all other corporate event expenses for 120 people…for $2,500?

Let’s start this conversation by stating the obvious: everything has a cost. As with anything else, when it comes to entertainment for a corporate event, a general rule of thumb is, you get what you pay for. I am NOT saying that whatever costs the most has to be the best, however – not by a long shot (if you’ve ever gone to a restaurant and perused the wine list, you may be tempted to think this, however as any vinophile will tell you, that’s just plain wrong).  

But over the long run, this logic DOES tend to hold up. The more expensive a product or experience is, the higher quality it is likely to be. Why is this?

Prices among competing products differ because they are made from different source products, produced in a different fashion, or deliver a fundamentally different experience to the end user. Some things are mass produced, while others are tailor-made. I like to use cars as an example here. If your goal is to get from Place A to Place B, any car will do. However, whether you go via Uber Pool vs a stretch limo will profoundly alter the experience, wouldn’t you agree?

With corporate event entertainment, you are likely looking at many different options for your function, each of which will fill that two-hour time slot you’re looking at (ie: get you from Point A to Point B). However, are you looking for an Uber experience, or a limo experience? I could take this analogy a step further, and say maybe you don’t want either; maybe you want to walk, ride a bike, take a clown car, or sail on a boat? All will get you from A to B, but in profoundly different ways – and at vastly different price points.

The big question, therefore, when considering how much to spend on your event is: what kind of experience are you looking for?

A lot of this comes down to two factors: your budget, and the importance of the event. The budget is the obvious one: you can only spend what you have available. However, the importance of the event is really a critical deciding factor to determining just what kind of entertainment you should be bringing in – and, consequently, how much you should be spending on it.

If the event is minimally important to you – say, an informal happy hour for people in your department to get to know one another better – then the expectation among your attendees is likely going to be low. The risk is also low; you needn’t worry about blowing your audience away with killer entertainment, nor demolishing the budget with a high-ticket vendor. You can probably afford to shop around a bit, and make an entertainment decision based mostly on price; to keep the above analogy going, the bicycle will likely do just fine here (follow this link for another article on budget corporate event entertainment ideas).

But what if, instead, you are looking to entertain your company-wide year-end party, or an executive retreat, or a loyalty reward event for your most-valued clients? The stakes here are a bit higher, wouldn’t you say? Do you think price should be the deciding factor in this case? Is the bike really the way to go?

A helpful trick here is to think of things in terms of a per person/hour basis. Let’s use the example I cited at the beginning of this post. I had thought that my prospective client wanted to spend $2,500. With 120 people, that works out to just over $20 per person for a 2-hour entertainment experience – about as much as a movie ticket and small popcorn. Like I said, definitely on the lower end as far as event entertainment, and you can’t really expect a lot for that $20 bucks – especially when you compare to Broadway, concert, sporting event or other similar spectator experiences, ticket prices for which can easily exceed $100 or more (often MUCH more).

Now let’s apply this same test, only using the $300 budget the prospective client has to work with. $300 divided by 120 people works out to a whopping $2.50 per person. Now, I ask you: what can you honestly expect to receive in return for $2.50? What can you, right now, buy for $2.50, which will entertain you for 2 hours? Can you think of literally ANYTHING?

Me neither.

Reminder:  you get what you pay for. What a vendor charges is a reflection of A) the quality of their product or experience; B) their experience and expertise; and C) their reputation. If a vendor is charging a lot, it’s probably because they can deliver a lot – and as such you, the consumer, can rightfully expect a lot in return. Likewise, when a vendor charges a little, you can’t – and shouldn’t – expect much.

For another example of a vendor quoting clients a ridiculously low rate which should raise flags, click here.