I will be brutally honest here, I have been called "difficult to work with" on 2 occasions that I know of. We will get to these 2 occasions later.
When a person is difficult to work with, you might imagine the person to be a diva, making unreasonable requests for his or her own personal enjoyment. For example, wanting the holding room to be of a certain colour, asking for a specific brand of snack to be served, not wanting to perform because the audience is of a demographic that the performer is biased against or even coming late to an engagement as if it is his/her right to do so.
In other words, this performer puts himself/herself above the engagement.
But on the other hand, what does being professional entail? In my opinion, being professional means putting the event/performance first before self. Here are some of the things that I do (and do not) that I consider professional:
1. Technical Rider:
"A tech rider is a one-page document that gives the venue an understanding of what your technical requirements are and how to set up the stage before you arrive. It also gives them an opportunity to let you know if they can't accommodate any of your needs."
The technical rider for my Interactive Illusion Show is a very straightforward one. In fact, most of the venues have no issues providing it. Occasionally, the venue will ask if it is okay for them to provide a lapel mike instead of a headset mike. And most of the time, it is not a problem but my preference is for the headset mike or ear held mike.
On rare occasions, the venue might have forgotten to cater for a headset/lapel mike and ask if I could use a wireless microphone. Being a professional, I always bring a microphone brace so that when such emergencies occur, I am ready.
Being a professional, I am always prepared.
2. Turning Up Early
I always come 20 minutes-6 hours before my event begins, depending on the scale of the shows. Some of my peers cannot grasp this concept of being early and assume that they just need to be on time. Maybe it is the "Scorpio" in me that makes me want to be at the venue early and survey my surroundings so that I can detect anomalies and make adjustments in my performance.
When I arrive at the venue, I would immediately do my sound and equipment checks before making "friendlies" with the event producer. I have been told, prior to my show, that my seriousness is not appreciated and that they want a more fun performer. After watching my show, their opinions changed because they know that my seriousness is attributed to making sure the show goes right. My seriousness stems from wanting to make sure everything is in place and good to go. While I have time before the show to make small talk about your children's first spelling test or how your new hair colour is amazing, I am in the zone where I visualize the show, and then execute it as perfectly as I can.
Being all in the zone, I apologize for my resting bitch face before the performance, but hey, better to have a performer who takes the show seriously than one that mucks around yea?
Coming early comes in very handy, I will give you two examples.
1) Once I went to the event that was projected to have 500 guests. To my surprise, when I went to the venue, there were barely 50 guests present. I quickly spoke to the client and explained the situation, citing that it would be a lot better to do a stand up show, in a nearer proximity to the guests than on stage. The client hesitated but took my idea. The show was great and the crowd enjoyed a more interactive show.
Had I arrive just on time and pressured to start, I would stick to the plan and do a lackluster stage performance with a sparse crowd.
2) The second example: The event I was to perform for under-ran. They were ahead of time. I was ready to begin with and the whole event when on smoothly without any dead time in between.
I always make sure I look my best when I come to an event. I make sure my shirts are well-pressed, my hair is well combed, and my shoes are well shined. I also make sure my nails are clean and I would rinse my mouth with a mouth wash before show time.
My suits are tailored to my body, it is important that I look good, so you look good. Because my background is in corporate entertainment, I often perform as a representative of the client's brand. Being part of the brand, I make sure that my attire and demeanor is in line with their corporate identity. This is so much more important for the mingling performer where your guests can see and feel the magic. Unfortunately, a lot of events producers do not understand this. They see a roving performer as one who is there to just "show tricks". As long as the guests are "wow-ed", it doesn't matter what he or she wears.
No. It matters because I am an extension of your client's identity.
I say that again, I look good, so you look good.
Imagine booking a performer who turns up in a sloppy oversize jacket (probably borrowed from his Dad).
Would you actually be proud to showcase him as part of your brand identity?
Three real life examples of where I draw the line when it concerns my attire.
1) Three years back, I had a request for an event that asked me to dress up as Peter Pan. They were very specific about the attire and I had to wear tights.
I said no. And naturally (and thankfully) they did not book me.
No tights for me, thank you.
2) 2 Years back, I had a client who wanted me to come in their corporate colors: White and Red. The event was for their lower management.
After explaining that I did not have a white suit, the client happily agreed to pay for the white suit. I performed in a fitting suit, I looked good, they looked good. I returned the suit to the client after the event is over. I am always grateful to clients who can see things on both points of view.
3) One year ago, I had a request to perform for a White Party. Get this: This party was a birthday celebration of the CEO of one of the top banks in Singapore. The guest list consisted of high net worth individuals from banks in Singapore and abroad.
Naturally, I asked to make a suit so that I can perform for this event. This request was met with huge resistance. I was ordered to just get a jacket off the shelf and "as long as it is white", it works.
No. It does not. I have had the privilege to mingle with top CEOs and directors in my course of work. These people know value when they see it. An oversized jacket would make me look silly, and make the event producer look sillier.
I stood my grounds and managed to convince the coordinator for the suit. I did the event and it was very well received from the client and the guests. I returned the jacket thereafter.
However, I was labelled as "difficult to work with" after the event simply because I wanted to look good and presentable for your event. While I assumed the line between professionalism and being a diva was a clear one, it was unfortunate that the coordinator did not. She had to do more work on her part by getting permission for this tailored jacket. As a result, my due diligence was labelled as "difficult to work with".
Thus far, majority of my dealings had been pleasant because both the Events Producer/Client and I want to make the event the best that we can. As long as we fall back on this principle, professionalism will meet professionalism and everyone wins. (win-win-win situation).
Despite being labelled "difficult to work with" on two occasions, I am very grateful for the other clients I have that appreciates my professionalism. I will rush my proposal for you so that you can pitch it to your client because I know you will do your best as I will do mine. This common understanding flourishes the industry and we all win.
Here are some testimonies:
it was definitely a great working experience with you and thank you for being patient and understanding with our requests. We do not have any feedback as we felt it was a good performance delivered overall. You were also very prompt with replying which made working with you a breeze.
Thank you for showing us your art and hope to be able to work together again! :)"
Tracie (Ms) | Accounts Executive | 3-sixty Brand Communications
31st March 2016
“You're an awesome magician and treasured friend. I can never forget that moment you stopped me and my wife during our wedding and said that if you didn't perform that magic card trick for us, you will never have a chance to. Perhaps it was a small gesture - but it told us that you really cared about making magic meaningful for people. And you did -- on our memorable wedding day.
17th November 2015
"To whom it may concern,
Alexander Yuen was engaged for Eurex Asia's Housewarming Event on the 14th July to entertain our guests during dinner. He did a wonderful job in engaging and interacting with our top clients and partners. His style of magic was intellectual, sleek and sophisticated which was highly appealing to an educated audience.
Alexander was highly professional in his dealings, accommodating and addressing all my concerns. He came early and was prepared to begin before the show time.
Even though we had some doubts about magic initially, my bosses and I were very impressed with Alexander's performance. Alexander's brand of magic appealed very much to our corporate guests and everyone had something great to say about his magic at the end of the event.
I would highly recommend his services to anyone who is looking for a classy and eloquent magician for a corporate event."
Liz Yeo, Marketing Manager of Eurex Asia Singapore
16th July 2015
Thank you for your amazing performance on our Dec. 11 – Sofgen Christmas event.
Appreciate so much on the extra stage show that you provided us everyone enjoyed your show.
Our COO from Geneva was very impress with your finale show according to him it was a brilliant :)
I already pass your card to one of our contractor. I will definitely introduce your services to relatives and friends.
All the best for the coming year 2015.
22nd December 2014
You get the idea. I rest my case.
The other occasion that I was labelled difficult to work with? Thought you wouldn't ask :p
4 years ago, I worked with an events company that was known for delaying payments. I made sure they signed a contract which states that full payment has to be made on the day of the venue itself, prior to performance.
Guess what? They did not want to pay me before I commenced. I did the show still but with the request that they SMS me a declaration that they will pay me after the event immediately. The events person disappeared after the engagement, I followed up for a few weeks and over one phone conversation, I was reprimanded for being difficult to work with.
I did get paid in the end. Professionalism always pays off in the end.
PS: HEY, IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO, FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA!
FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM! its not so difficult!