When I was younger I hated showcases.

I’d get asked to perform in one and end up getting the shaft. By that, I mean they were basically free shows for the audiences.

I didn’t see any value in showcasing. To me they were glorified free entertainment.

“I’m a pro, I get paid,” I told myself.

Then I started getting requests to do PAID showcases!

That is right, they wanted me to PAY them to do my act for FREE! What a racket!

Why did I feel this way? Because I was un-informed. I had no idea how to showcase my act. And as a result, I wasn’t getting shows.

The Education

So I started to attend some showcases and watch the acts that went onstage. A lot of them were no better at showcasing than I was.

But there were a few that really stood out.

I watched what they did. I studied how they did it. And I watched them book work as a result.

During this phase I also learned what type of showcases were right for me.

If it was an after dinner showcase – I was likely to be just free entertainment. So I avoided those.

I looked for established talent showcases. Ones that had a track record. They were usually worth applying for.

I would also reach out to acts that had been on the showcase in the past to get their take on things. That can be eye-opening.

Now I’m going to share what I learned:

How you should showcase your act

If you ever decide to do a showcase.

The first thing I learned:

Good acts stick to their time. Bad acts tend to run over.

A showcase is taxing on the audience.

They see a lot of different acts. They have to sit through both good and bad entertainers. Showcase attendees can’t just get up and walk out when an act sucks.

They make a commitment of their time and don’t appreciate people who take advantage of them. So don’t do it.

Here are a few examples:

Example One: There was a magic act on a fair showcase who had no clue regarding time limits. The showcase gave you 15 minutes.

He said, “I only am getting warmed up in 15 minutes.”

His showcase act stayed on for 45 minutes. I have no idea why they didn’t cut his lights and sound.

(The following year it was a rule that if you went over time, your power was gone and you were in the dark.)

He had no idea the audience wanted him to stop. He had no clue as to how to read a crowd.

The next day – he was upset people were avoiding him and no one booked his act.

Example Two: A history enthusiast had put together a show for libraries. That was a 20 minute spot, which included set up and tear down of any props in the act.

Miss History took more than 20 minutes to set up and then did about 30 minutes of her act, before they finally asked her to stop.

Then she needed another 25 minutes to break down because she continued to talk about her program while she did it.

And the next act (me) couldn’t get on stage to set because her “stuff” was everywhere.

Example Three: I was emcee for a showcase that offered a 5 minute spots. Part of my job was to make sure people knew they had to stick to their five minutes.

An act said to me, don’t worry, I timed my set out last night and it averaged 4 minutes 30 seconds.

He forgot audience reaction time. He forgot he would likely interact with the audience. His 4 1/2 minutes ran 8.

Don’t be those acts!!!!

So now that you understand why the audiences don’t like you to run over, let me share another scenario.

One showcase was attached to a tradeshow. Acts who were not on the showcase were in there.

During breaks, the attendees would go into the tradeshow for refreshments and to talk with the other performers.

These performers had given up their day to be there. It was their only chance to connect face to face.

When the showcase acts ran over – it shortened the breaks and many of the attendees never got into the tradeshow. Obviously the acts in there were unhappy too.

Going over time hurts you – DON’T DO IT!

The second thing I learned:

Just because you have 15 minutes – (or even 5 minutes) doesn’t mean you have to fill it!

The goal of a showcase is to make people realize you are a captivating entertainer. That you know how to grab attention and the audience will have fun.

If you can’t grab an audience in the first few minutes, it is a pretty good bet the next two hours wouldn’t change their minds.

When I showcase, my opening is designed to grab the audience’s attention. It is pretty quick. It stops conversation and makes everyone look at the stage.

I go into my strongest routine, and then I stop. No need to go any further because I wouldn’t top what I just did.

A short blurb telling them about my act and how I can work with them is followed with “come talk with me after the showcase, I’d love to work with you.”

Then I get off the stage.

I’d rather leave them wanting more than ever outlast my welcome.

The third thing I learned:

Entertain the people in front of you.

I actually learned this one by attending library summer reading program showcases.

Acts would go onstage and tell the librarians to act like kids. They had them doing jumping jacks, standing, bowing, waving their arms, etc.

And these ladies would have looks of dread on their faces.

It is one thing to do that with kids. Having adults do it is just embarrassing.

Would you hire an act that made you feel uncomfortable?

When I do a showcase, I entertain the audience in front of me.

That is a good rule no matter if it is a show or a showcase.

When people in the audience are entertained and have fun, they think, “Wow – this guy (or girl) is entertaining. My audience would love them.”

So don’t talk down to the audience or treat them like kids if they are adults. Use common sense.

Today, I love the opportunity to showcase. Even when I have to pay to do so.

These three little tidbits changed how my act went over. Now I book work when I showcase and they more than pay for themselves.

If you have a solid act and follow these suggestions – you have a pretty good chance of doing the same.

Have you done a showcase? Any more suggestions you’d like to add? Use the comments below: