This is a question that comes up often when talking to people about corporate entertainment and how to work in this market. How much material you need depends on the role you fulfill at the event. A general rule, though, is–the more the better.
You knew that was coming; the more the better. I have one friend who just moves his prop stand further away from center stage depending on the length of the show. It’s not a great strategy. I am not recommending that for you.
Don’t ever stretch your material at a corporate event. Be honest with yourself and the producer. Up to sixty minutes is a really safe place to have bands, and singers should have up to three forty five minute sets. It’s great to have an hour for variety acts or comedians. Ninety percent of it should be ‘A’ material, and know how to use it. Booked in between the ‘A’ material you can try some of your new stuff. Make sure it’s all clean, all non-political, and all non-sexual.
There are a lot of ways acts are utilized. For General Sessions: an act is usually broken up into a few ten to fifteen minute sets spread throughout the session. If it’s an After-Dinner Party, the performance is typically one hour. An Awards Ceremony performance is typically forty five minutes to an hour. If you are an MC, you need about a dozen two to five minute spots.
Any offer you get from a producer will include exactly what’s expected of you. Make sure you can deliver and never count on coming up with stuff when you’re on stage. That’s a real weak plan that will lead you down a road to not showing well and not being rehired.
It doesn’t count as your time if you’re a great improviser. Know what you have and if more comes up, you can use that and keep it for your next show. It may come up or it may not come up. One general rule with a corporate audience is that nothing should last more then five minutes, whether it’s a song, routine, a joke premise, or any kind of bit. Attention wanes at meetings like this. You have to keep it moving and keep the feel of the show fresh. Don’t ever let people think, “I wish this was over.” That goes for any show, right? Don’t ever let them think that your act should be ending soon.
So wrapping it up, the more material you have, the better. Don’t ever show anything less then A material to an audience unless you are absolutely at your wits end or you have it booked between A material.
This market is sophisticated. It can smell schlock a mile away. Don’t let them smell it when you are on stage.
I’ll see you on the road.