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Which do you choose?

Cocktail Party

I came across a discussion the other day in a Keynote Speaker’s group. The person who started the thread had spoken at an event that included an optional dinner / social mixer. He had been invited to the dinner, but not comped in.

The question was: should he have paid the $50 and gone to the dinner anyway?

Most of the answers were somewhere between “no” and “hell no.”

That surprised me, so I asked a few of my speaker and performer friends what they would have done. While there were still a variety of answers, most of them followed the same pattern:

“Go as long as there’s no practical reason not to.”

(“practical reasons” being things like travel plans and issues around food… messiness, eating before a presentation, etc.)

I followed on with another question: “Where does the majority of your business come from?”

The most common response was referrals.

I’ve spent the past several days really trying to analyze all of the responses, especially those on the original post.

I’m certainly in no position to say one way is right or better than the other. As many people pointed out, a lot of it will depend on the particular event and attendees.

I finally decided to lump the answers into three categories.

Which one are you in?

Relationships Are Everything

This is the group I would fall into.

As my friend Eugene Burger says:

To be a successful working professional, every gig needs to lead to another gig.

This is a simple way of looking at the financial aspect of be a pro. In his nearly 40-year career, Eugene has never advertised and never had an agent. All he’s ever needed are business cards and charm (which he has in spades).

He also says:

I want my clients to say to themselves, “He’d be really fun to have over for dinner.”

As several responses to my posts stated: it’s all about building relationships. Who knows who will be at that dinner? It could be your next client… or someone who could open up a whole new market for you. Would you spend $50 to secure a $5,000 gig? Worst-case, you prove to the attendees that you’re not only great on stage, but that you’re also a wonderful human being.

Keep the Mystery

This is a perspective that I can understand, even though it doesn’t match my personality or practice.

There is something to be said about maintaining a sense of mystery around your onstage persona. You are the “special guest,” after all. By hanging out offstage, you run the risk of becoming “normal.” Of course, I would argue that you should be just as interesting offstage as you are on.

This is a strategy that can work really well, and is probably somewhat necessary for people who already have more work than they can handle. They have the leisure of not having to ever try to get more work.

The danger, I believe, is that there are many more people who think this about themselves than those for whom it’s true.

“I am the great and powerful…”

Have you ever tried to actually put yourself on a pedestal? Trust me, it’s not easy (it was part of my black belt training).

It’s one thing to maintain an air of mystery. But if your ego tells you that you’re better than your audience, I feel you might be sliding down a slippery slope.

No matter how good you are, nobody wants to work with an egomaniac. You may get booked the first time, but you won’t be asked back.