In recent years, big-name celebrity talent has been showing up at trade shows and other events. Tom Hanks, former San Francisco 49er Steve Young, comedian Tina Fey, and recording stars like the Foo Fighters and Maroon 5 have all made celebrity appearances at major trade shows. A celebrity booking can help you get more attention both before and after they show up and pull in increased traffic to your next event.
Why Book a Celebrity?
It’s not hard to figure out why having a celebrity appear at your event can be a great idea, the main reason being that people love to see, hear from, and meet their favorite stars. But the motivation for booking a celebrity goes a little deeper than that.
Make an Impression
Different celebrities can bring different benefits to your event, just like different venues and different floor plans can. A big name in the industry can attract more attendees to a trade show; a comedian can help people loosen up and enjoy themselves at an awards banquet; a good speaker can motivate and inspire employees at an important training session.
Essentially, a celebrity booking helps you because your event shines in their reflected glory. Whomever they are, or whatever their talent happens to be, can be leveraged to make your event better. That’s why it’s key to choose a celebrity who appeals to your audience. If your audience doesn’t connect with the celebrity you invest in, their appearance is less likely to have the effect you want.
Who is the perfect celebrity to appear at your event? It depends on the type of event you’re holding and its purpose. Whether it’s a product launch, corporate event, trade show, or fundraising event, choosing the right celebrity guest is key. Depending on your needs, that could mean looking at:
- Sports figures
- Movie, TV, or YouTube personalities
- Music acts
- Celebrity chefs
Or the person could be a big name in your industry, someone who’s known for creating a particular product or for being a thought leader. Bill Gates, for instance, would appeal more to audiences at tech and philanthropic events than he would to audiences at fitness expos.
When you book a celebrity, it’s not only your audience who’s likely to be interested. There’s a chance the media will pick up on the story and give you even more publicity. You shouldn’t wait around for this to happen, though. If you want media coverage, include the celebrity appearance in your press releases for the event.
Then there’s the fact that guests will want to post about the appearance on social media, especially if your celebrity guest poses for selfies or performs. If your celeb is high-profile enough, a simple appearance will be enough for people to get their phones out and take photos! Social media coverage is an especially powerful way of publicizing your event. When guests post about your celebrity appearance, it can hugely increase the visibility of your event. And if the celebrity themselves tweets about the event, the sky is the limit!
Pro Tip: This is where a solid hashtag strategy can really pay off. If your guests have been made aware of your event’s hashtag enough times, it’s more likely to accompany their social media posts about your high-profile guest. And if posting about the event is part of your agreement with the guest, be sure to ask them specifically to use your hashtag.
Connect with Your Audience
The most important part of choosing your celebrity talent is to find someone who can connect with your audience in some way. This means thinking about what your audience thinks, likes, and believes in, and choosing a celebrity who can speak to those values.
For instance, if your event is a fundraiser for human rights issues, celebrities such as Angela Bassett or Angelina Jolie are great options. For sports-related events, think Olympian gold medalists, current or former NFL players, or a figure from a local team. Need a motivational speaker? The possibilities are endless – from big names like Suze Orman and Tony Robbins to lesser-known but still effective celebrity speakers such as Dave Ramsey and Lisa Nichols.
What Can a Celebrity Do?
Celebrity appearances aren’t all the same. Depending on the event and the talent a given celebrity has, they may perform; speak at or host an event; or just put in an appearance, walking the trade show floor to greet and take pictures with attendees, for instance.
- Appearance: A celebrity appearance is the simplest way to have a celebrity at your event. With an appearance, the celebrity shows up, walks around the event, and then leaves. In this case, they’re just there to be seen.
- Walkthrough: A walkthrough is similar to an appearance, but the celebrity spends some extra time interacting with guests. For instance, they might chat with guests briefly or take selfies with guests before departing. An autograph signing could be added onto a walkthrough.
- Performance: This kind of appearance is best for performers, such as comedians, musical acts, or dancers. It’s a good option if you want the celebrity to be a more active participant in the event, rather than just showing up to walk around. This option is also more expensive, as it requires more of the celebrity’s time and talents. There may also be performance-related costs, like lighting, sound, etc.
- Meet-and-Greet: At a celebrity meet-and-greet, your event attendees get to meet the special guest and converse with them, possibly taking pictures in front of a step-and-repeat. An autograph signing may also be part of this type of appearance.
- Speaking or hosting: In this case, the celebrity is an integral part of the event. For instance, if they host an evening event, they’re generally there the entire night—visible and active the entire time. For an event like a trade show, they might be there for a keynote address or speaking engagement.
In general, the more you ask a celebrity, guest speaker, or performer to do or the more time you want them present, the more it will cost.
How to Make a Celebrity Booking
Once you’ve decided on the celebrity you want to book—or have it narrowed down to a short-list—the next step is to find out if they’re available for your event. There are a couple ways to go about booking celebrities. You can make direct contact or hire a celebrity booking agency to do it for you.
Contact Their Agent Directly
To book a celebrity appearance, you’ll generally have to contact their agent or other representative. Finding out the identity of their agent isn’t always straightforward. Some celebrities may have this information on their website and social media profiles, but many do not. When this is the case, you can use an online info database to find the information, but this usually has a fee attached.
Once you have the agent’s contact info, the best way to reach out is via email. An unsolicited phone call won’t endear you to a busy agent, and you may not even get the chance to pitch your event. A brief but thorough email is a much better choice. In your first email, just cover the basics:
- The client you want to book
- The location and date of the event
- What you want the celebrity to do
If you don’t get a reply, it’s okay to wait a few days then try again with a second brief email, with the same info.
If you receive a positive reply, you’ll then have the chance to provide more details, talk about fees and availability, and hopefully hammer out a deal.
Hire a Talent Booking Agency
Too busy handling other event details to spend time chasing down a big name? You could hire a talent booking agent or agency to do it for you. They help by putting you in touch with celebrity agents, acting as a kind of reference. This is useful because some agents prefer working with people they know, and the talent agency gives you the “in” that ensures celebrity reps will give your proposal some consideration.
Pro Tip: This can add a big chunk to the cost of hiring a celebrity. If your budget is tight, you may be better off approaching an agent directly.
What Could a Celebrity Booking Do for You?
Celebrity appearances can be a great way of driving traffic to your event and raising your profile. Choose a person who appeals to your audience and, ideally, has some other benefit that will elevate your company by association.