by Kevin Gallagher

Don't you just love briefings? Let me set the common scenario. You agree a contract where you start work in a reception at 7:30pm to finish at the end of the meal at 9:30pm for an acceptable fee. Okay, you know as well as I do what the actual finish time will be but the start time should be predictable. As a close-up magician, you are asked along with all other entertainers to be there one hour before so that you can get set-up. By and large, as long as you look raring to go ten minutes before you are due to start, it is not a problem to brush this aside, just make sure that you have designed in enough contingency time of your own. The week before the event, the agent calls to check that you are okay for it with the ulterior motive of telling you that the client has called and asked that you be there for 6:00pm for an important briefing. You turn up an hour before anticipated to attend and you receive the important briefing from a frantic organiser which goes something along the lines "do some tricks but don't upset anyone." Durr, thank-you, that might not have occurred to me. You then have one and a half hours to sit and wait during which time you can help yourself to fresh orange juice, water and peanuts or occasionally, sandwiches which turn up just before you are due to start performing.

There are of course, some types of entertainment that require a little more involved briefing but, as with the one hour set-up, you are simply included along with all activities but almost invariably, the information that you receive could have be communicated in around twenty seconds.

Solutions. Amicably paint the above picture to your agents. Let them understand that you have almost no set-up requirements and that your briefing details are always very simple. Ask them where possible to fend off any requests for early briefings by explaining that you are coming from another engagement and will already be tight on the originally agreed time but to relay any special information. Generally, they will be sympathetic to your cause and this will be enough except for particularly important events where your fee is likely to warrant it or extra fee may be negotiated anyway. For direct work, explain yourself that the extra time is unexpected and that you will be not be able to make it because of other commitments but obtain particulars of the organiser so that you can call and talk to them prior to the event to sort out any extra details before you arrive.

Clearly, if the briefing is indicated on the contract in the first place, you have no choice but be there punctually but remember to take something to read.

Kevin Gallagher February 2003