Living in the entertainment capital of the world, Live Talks Los Angeles founder and producer Ted Habte-Gabr already had an exhaustive rolodex of celebrity connections at his fingertips. But now, that rolodex has now swelled from Los Angeles to the entire world.
“Previous to the pandemic, if I’m booking somebody, I’d be limited to pairing them with someone from LA, but now I can think more widely,” says Habte-Gabr, who has spent the last decade booking intimate conversations between big-named celebrities such as Jane Fonda and Eva Longoria; Judd Apatow and John Cleese; and Margaret Cho and Judy Gold. “In some sense, it creates a lot more interesting opportunities.”
COVID-19 has caused venues to shutter but has opened new doors for event creators to book high-profile talent from anywhere. Instead of having to deal with extraneous costs such as flights and accommodations, the playing field has become more levelled for those who don’t live in a major entertainment city.
Still, even with fewer hoops to jump through, booking your favourite celebrity comes with its own unique challenges. If you’re thinking of upping the calibre of talent for your next event, heed these tips from Eventbrite’s creators.
Understand what your niche is
Having a good brand identity can make you stand out to high-profile talent, especially as you’re trying to build up name recognition, says Habte-Gabr. “If someone really wants to make it, they have to have a selling proposition that’s a little different or a little unique from what already exists,” he says, noting that it’s important to form good relationships with publishers and publicists. “That’s going to be a value to both the personality that’s agreeing to participate and for an audience out there who’s going to say ‘I’m so glad that this person started this new thing.’ ”
That selling proposition can boil down to what city you reside in and the audience you bring. Brittany Kerfoot, deputy director of events at Washington, DC-based bookstore Politics and Prose, says publicists are particularly inclined to work with her on promoting political authors. “DC is a hub for political authors, maybe more than some other cities might be,” she says. It’s why Politics and Prose has hosted a slew of notable politicians online, including former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Rep. Katie Hill, and former Second Lady Jill Biden.
Schedule your event during a celebrity’s promotional cycle
Habte-Gabr says many of his guests make appearances to promote their own projects, making his events a key part of a publicity tour. He keeps a sharp eye on movie, book, music, and more promotional schedules in addition to press releases. “We don’t [pay] booking fees because many people that appear on our series are on a promotional cycle to get the word out about their book or movie or their TV series,” he says.
Promotional appearances are also central to Politics and Prose’s event strategy. “We want people to read these books and buy these books from us,” Kerfoot says, noting that many of the store’s biggest events are “fully bundled,” when audience members buy a book in advance to get into an event.
Make sure you have a good moderator
Just as important as a celebrity guest is a quality moderator, says John Gordon, founder and director of London’s How To Academy who has booked personalities such as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and musician Tori Amos for its thought leadership events. “They’re the conductor of an orchestra,” he says. “It may just be an orchestra of one person talking, but they are the conductor. And if you don’t really invest in and ensure that your interviewers are really good at creating chemistry, you’re going to have a rubbish event.” Gordon says that the best moderators need to have empathy and know to leave their egos at the virtual door.
Using Zoom with Eventbrite’s integration can make your life easier
If you use Zoom or Vimeo to host your live events, there’s good news: you can integrate that platform with Eventbrite. Kerfoot says the integration has proven to be a big saver when capturing registrations for its Zoom-based events. “We use Zoom webinar to conduct our events, but Eventbrite for registrations,” she says. “The integration allows people to be automatically registered for the webinar and the whole process is pretty seamless.”
Communication can make or break relationships
Kerfoot says clear communication is a key reason why Politics and Prose has maintained solid relationships with its high-profile guests. After an event’s Eventbrite page is published, Kerfoot will send a confirmation email to a guest’s publicist with logistics such as soundcheck time, full run of show details, and who on the Politics and Prose team will be responsible for certain tasks during the event. A few minutes before the event goes live on Zoom, Kerfoot will do a soundcheck with guests via the platform’s virtual green room and instruct them to fix any lighting or connectivity issues before a show.
Research how similar creators are setting ticket prices
Do your research before setting ticket prices, says Habte-Gabr, adding that Eventbrite’s platform is helpful in sharing insights on pricing. He says it’s wise to have different tier options though he wouldn’t recommend doing more than three. After putting an event on sale, Habte-Gabr will hold off on promoting it on social media to see where organic ticket sales are coming from. “Sometimes holding off for a day or two can help give you some insight on what the ticket buying behaviour is,” he says.
Gordon says he’s experimenting every week with his ticketing model. He started with £5 (around AUD$9) before raising the price to a minimum of £10 (around AUD$18). “It’s really a gut feeling as to what we can do.”
Kerfoot says that Politics and Prose’s free events have a sliding scale option for donations, which has helped the bookstore stay afloat during COVID-19 and continue its efforts in producing quality events.
“We’re not just in here to put on a pretty event and call it a day,” she says. “We really want these events to be a full experience for people, and I think the fact that our staff is just so dedicated and passionate, and truly love the authors that we promote makes a huge difference.”
Book a big-name guest, then create your next online event!