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Tips and Techniques 2007

Al Stevens' Music in Ventriloquism

Bill DeMar's Manipulation & Other Bits of Wisdom

Al Moessinger aka Allo's Adding Variety to Your Act

Gary Owen's Stage Craft for Ventriloquists

Steve Axtell's Performing with Latex Puppets

Steve Taylor's Canoodle Marketing


December 2007

Al Stevens' Music in Ventriloquism

by Annie Roberts

"Music is an integral part of most entertainment art forms, and ventriloquism is no exception" (all quotes are taken from Al Stevens' copious notes that accompanied his presentation and are available on his CD-Rom).   In HBO's 1978 Vent Event, all the performers used music or sang except Edgar Bergen, but Bergen did make fun of the band leader so that sort of counts.  This article will cover the kinds of music a vent might use, how to actually incorporate different music into the act, do's and don'ts for novice singers, and how to use backing tracks which is how most vents will work.  Most are solo performers and very few get to work with a sound man. That's a luxury.  Finally, we will touch on avoiding technical difficulties and copyright issues.  

For a ventriloquist who is new to using music, let's start with the easiest to add -- Entrance and Exit music.  This is what plays as you hit the stage running to start your show. When you start talking, the music quietly fades away.  There are three great tunes to use in this situation: Fine and Dandy, This Could Be the Start of Something Big, and There's No Business like Show Business (Songs like these suitable for entrance music are on Al Stevens' CD.  Click here to find out more).  The music helps you make a big entrance, and the audience can't hear anything but the music. Same thing at the end; make a big exit with lots of music and as long as the audience is applauding, the music should keep playing.  You come back out, take your bows, and when the applause begins to die, let the music die.

One place to get lots of great, usable music is from Axtell Expressions' website.  They sell royalty-free CD's called Make It Magic.  There are three volumes available with entrance and exit music, plus anything you need for background music.  All the music in Tim Cowles performance at the 2006 Vent Haven Convention came from Make It Magic.   You can also go online and find royalty-free CD's at the following websites:  Royalty Free Music, Freeplay Music, Studio Cutz, Free Hand Music, Music Bakery, CSS Music, The Production Garden, and Unique Tracks.  

Segues, or as Gary Owen called them in his lecture Bumpers, often are simply called transitions. This is music that is used to introduce and exit during segments within the show.  A typical set-up might look like this:   

  • Show Entrance music
    • monologue
    • introduce 1st puppet
  • Entrance music 1st puppet
    • dialogue with puppet
  • Exit music 1st puppet
    • Introduce 2nd puppet
  • Entrance music for 2nd puppet
    • etc.
  • Show Exit music

This is a lot of music to organize, keep together and get played in the right sequence.   You don't want to say right in the middle of your act, "George, not the right music."  You want it working well for you.  Also, whatever music you select to introduce your different puppets should match the character of the puppet and set the tone for the dialogue that's coming up.  Mortimer Snerd had delightful music, but unfortunately nobody ever heard it.  As soon as the audience heard the first two notes, they broke into wild laughter and applause because they immediately knew that Mortimer was coming out.  The music can become associated with your own character, and if you own the music, your own show.  

Tunes Related to the Character:

  • Dumb, Goofy Character
    • “Lazy Bones”
  • Elderly Character
    • “Yes, I Remember It Well”
  • Hot Lady
    • “Whatever Lola Wants”
    • “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say ‘No’”
  • Cowboy
    • “I’m An Old Cowhand”
  • Bum
    • “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?”
  • Child
    • “Daddy’s Little Girl”

Background music actually plays during the dialogue and sets the scene, evokes a mood, and helps tell a story.  It can communicate sadness, suspense, action, etc. The music can start playing as the dialogue beings and continue through the conversation or it can fade out.  It helps the audience prepare for what's coming up in your show.  

Some vents who work with very young or older audiences do singalongs in their acts where the crowd is singing right along with them.  If they're lucky enough to have a projection system or karaoke machine, this really helps, instead of old-fashioned lyric sheets.  However, most ventriloquists usually do the singing all on their own, either with the puppet or only having the puppet sing.  This is generally entertaining if the vent can sing, but not everybody can.  

"What exactly is a 'good' voice? It depends on what you are singing. Imagine Johnny Cash singing The Barber of Seville.  Not so good.  But when he sang Folsom Prison, it was a different matter. By the standards of formal music, Cash, Elvis, and all four Beatles do not have good voices.  Yet they all made fortunes by singing.  You might recall Jimmy Durante and Louis Armstrong, both of whom had terrible singing voices by every measure known to singers, critics, and vocal coaches alike.  Even so, both men sung routinely as part of their performances and made records that sold well.  These singers with not-so-good voices by formal standards succeeded because their singing pleased their fans. "

There is a way to incorporate music in the act, even if you sing badly.  Let the puppet sing badly, but not for long.  It can be very funny, and the puppet can get away with it.  Or the vent can sing badly and the puppet can make fun of this.   If singing is not a strength, try to pick a tune that fits your voice, like Durante or Armstrong.  Or you can be like Walter Brennan and just speak the lyrics with the music in the background. Remember that it makes the audience uncomfortable if the singing sounds wrong and is not meant to be.  

Another pitfall to avoid is the inability to sing in meter. Meter is how many beats in a measure -- four beats, three beats, eight beats.  Some singers, especially with live accompaniment try to maintain the tempo, but get behind in the beats.  If the vent is accompanied by a piano player, the pianist can compensate for the singer's inconsistency.  Piano players figured out quickly that making the singer sound better makes the tip jar fuller.  If you can't sing in meter and tend to be off in the music, sing in rubatto. Rubatto is where the accompaniment is just playing chords, there is no steady tempo, no stated sense of time, and the singer can sing at his own pace.  This works fine.  

Singing in the right key can be tricky for a woman buying sheet music from a store.  The key in which the tune is published is called the original key.  It is typically pitched for the average male voice or trumpet.  Ladies, if you can't reach the notes, it's because the music was not written for your voice.  You need to find the right key for you.  Determine your vocal range and have an arranger or musician help determine which key applies to your voice.  Then as you get new music, you can automatically have it transposed to the appropriate key or range for your voice.  















Not all songs are right for a ventriloquist act.  Here are some ideas about what NOT to sing. Don't get maudlin; you don't want to give the audience the blues.  You can have a song that is touching, but for the most part, the audience is there to laugh not cry.  Try to stick with the comedy routine that makes them happy.  The music should be an interlude to the ventriloquism.  They came to see a ventriloquist, not a vocal team. 

Parodies are a wonderful form of music and way to make the audience laugh.  Take a tune that is familiar that the audience will know and do it differently.  They will recognize the tune, but when you get to the part that is different, it makes them laugh.  

Original tunes are tunes you write yourself or with the help of a professional musician. They're not expensive when you consider the mileage you can get out of it.  It's yours; no one else can use it, and you can use it as much as you like with no restrictions.  Call Al if you want an original tune.  It might take awhile since he will want to get to know the vent and the character which are important to making the song successful and useful.  Or you can have a pro write it.  You can find a professional musician in any town who could put music down for you.     

Some vents try to sing a cappella.  This term means in the style of the chapel. When choirs sang in the smaller chapel, there was no pipe organ to accompany them.  The term has come to mean singing with no instruments or music.  DON'T DO IT.  You will probably sing off key and hack the meter.  Most singing sounds better with musical accompaniment.  Recorded accompaniment is how most vents work. 

There are several ways to get the recorded accompaniment you want. One is through computer software with programs like Band in a Box.  This software costs about $100 and runs on a PC.  Anyone can get this program and build reasonable sounding accompaniment. It has several hundreds of styles from which to choose, you can select tempo (speed), and tell it to play.  It also allows you to print out sheet music.   Some try Vocal Elimination or where "some performers use center channel removal software to turn a professional vocal recording into an accompaniment."   In other words, it takes "My Way" and eliminates Frank Sinatra's voice.  There are two reasons not to do this.  One: it doesn't actually work with many recordings.  Two: quite often it's not legal.  Just taking Frank's voice out of the middle doesn't make it yours.  Finally, you can download MIDI tracks or karaoke tracks from the internet (see sites listed below) and use those.

Now that you have backing tracks, you will need some kind of playback device:

If you have your own playback equipment and you're going into a venue with a house system, be prepared for anything.  If it's a cruise ship, take voltage adapters.  If you know you're going to get a professional system with a professional sound man, the plug in the middle will work. But if you're working the Moose Lodge, they might have a sound system and a person or they might not.  Be sure you have enough cable and all possible adapters at one end to be able to plug into your system at the other.  DON'T buy cables from consumer electronics stores. They are made for home use, to be plugged in once and left alone.  Repeated plugging and unplugging will wear them out fast, and you've wasted your money.  Go to a professional music supply place and get professional cables that can withstand some wear and tear. 



For more information on personal sound systems including amplifiers, loudspeakers, microphones, playback systems, house systems, setting up, and sound checks or if you are lucky enough to work with live musicians and need to know more about structuring accompaniment charts, lead sheets, rehearsing, train wrecks, etc, buy Al Stevens' CD for excellent, detailed information. There is A LOT of valuable, additional information not included in this article.  

Finally, Copyright Issues and answering the question, "What music can I legally use?" The public domain includes any song written before 1923.  You can do anything with this song; it's for the public and can be performed anywhere. To find out more about public domain, click here.  Who owns the copyright of a tune that is not in the public domain?  The guy who wrote the song, unless other arrangements had been made and then the arranger owns the copyright.  [On a side note, if you have a dummy custom built, a song written, or a script written specifically for you, execute a work-for-hire agreement so that all the work belongs to you and not with the creator. "A work-for-hire agreement is a document that you execute with an artist when you commission the artist to create a work of art for which you and not the artist will hold the copyright.  You must execute this agreement before the artist starts work on the project."]

Since the majority of music is NOT in the public domain, performance licenses make it legal to perform tunes in public.  The ventriloquist is not responsible for securing the performance license; the presenter or venue is.  There are three "performance rights societies" that issue these licenses -- ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.  If you put on a musical presentation in a public venue whether you charge admission or not, one or all three will hand the presenter a contract. That is the person responsible for making sure the music is legal.  Bottom line...don't worry about it.  Go sing "Hello, Dolly" wherever you want.  

Adding music to your act might seem tricky or daunting if you are not a knowledgeable musician, but Al Stevens provides some easy ways to learn a little bit and make your act more professional.  

For additional information including 24 pages of detailed notes, a select list of music tracks, three software programs, a Power Point presentation, plus the video of his 2007 Vent Haven lecture, buy Al Stevens' DVD/CD Rom combo.  It will be money well-spent for any vent who uses music in his act.  It's available at Lee Cornell's Ventriloquism 101.   



October 2007

Bill DeMar's Manipulation & Other Bits of Wisdom

by Annie Roberts

Bill DeMar has always been known for his amazing manipulation of puppets.  Over the years, he has coached people, written articles, and now even compiled a book with the help of Tom Ladshaw. This past July at the 2007 Vent Haven ConVENTion, Bill gave a workshop sharing some of his techniques for bringing figures to life and also, other do's and don'ts that 'manipulate' the audience into having a great time.  

Bill opened his workshop by saying, "I'll tell you everything I know.  It will take about a minute, then you can spend the rest of the time talking amongst yourselves."   Everyone laughed, of course, because the packed room knew that the hour would go fast and be full of good information.  Figure manipulation is about taking a puppet and ALWAYS making it seem alive.  A lot more goes into that than just how you move the head stick or your hand. This is a large part of it, but it also includes the timing of the mouth opening and closing, the personality that you create, the voice that you give the figure, and the dialogue you use to communicate with the audience.

Puppet: Well, hello there, Jerry.
Vent: Hello.

This exchange is common and what's unfortunately all too common is the vent's mouth moves the same for both parts; the puppet's voice is the same as the vent's; and the puppet stares blankly. There is no difference in voice, no difference in originality, no life, no movement, no thought involved...nothing.    First start with synchronizing the mouth with the syllables.  The puppet mouth shouldn't open the same amount for every syllable because that's not how our mouths open.  The synchronization needs to vary in speed and opening to match the dialogue you are saying.  

There are several types of ventriloquists. One is the type that has perfect lip control, perfect face control, manipulation, etc.  He/she is technically perfect, but not always entertaining. Another type is the vent with no technical control, but very entertaining.  This person has good material, is funny, but the audience will say, "His lips moved."  You can't just be technical or just be funny.  They can't be separate; they go together.  If your act is not together, then work to put them together.  However, don't try to work on all elements at once.  Work on the techniques one at a time.  

First just do lip control.  Forget the figure. Focus on good lip technique.  Get in front of a mirror and do exercises.  Practice daily.  Then move on to facial expressions.  A vent can't just do a deadpan for the whole act, although sometimes that is funny.  Figure out the facial expressions that go with the material.  Focusing on your own facial expressions may help you discover some expressions for your puppet.   When lip control and facial expressions become second nature, move on to manipulation.  Concentrate on your figure's "lip control" or synchronization and his facial expressions, then begin to put all the parts together.  You can't do it all at once, so break it down into stages and take time to perfect each element.  

Here is another problem, especially for new vents.  They come to the convention, run to the Dealers' Rooms, and grab the first thing they see.  They ask, "How much is that?"  When the answer is $3000, they move on and end up buying a figure for $250, but they might as well have flushed that $250 down the toilet because the figure doesn't fit.  It ends up on eBay the following week.  They got it, but they can't use it.  Vents need to determine the character before looking for a puppet.  Have in mind what you want the personality to be and then find a puppet that matches. If you can't find a puppet that matches, look for a figure maker who can craft that character for you.  There are great figure makers out there.  It can make bringing a character to life difficult if you don't know the personality.    

Once you have developed a personality that fits the puppet you have, you need to be sure that your on-stage persona is different than the character's.  You can't be the same as your puppet.  It's repetitious; it's redundant; it's just not entertaining.  The figure needs to be opposite from the vent, the voice opposite, personality opposite, presentation opposite, even dress opposite.  The more difference you can get between yourself and the character, the more effective the illusion you will have.  It's the whole thing you're going for because it is nothing more than an illusion.  Create as much difference between vent and puppet as possible.  

Some vents don't have a stage personality.  If you did an in-depth interview with vents, you'd find many of them to be shy.  That's why they turned to vent because the focus is on the puppet, and the vent feels mildly invisible.  And it's true that the puppet is the star, but vents have to have some kind of stage personality.  Often it will develop as the performer gets more used to being on stage.  Think about how you "manipulate" yourself on stage, how you are acting and reacting.  

Let's talk again about a vent's facial expressions.  Your face can't look the same throughout the act.  That is not natural.  While the puppet is speaking, your face must be reacting to the material.  This is one of the hardest aspects of vent and one that very few vents do well.  Watch two people having a conversation.  The person listening doesn't stand there with a fixed smile on his face.  Don't lock in the constant smile.  Also don't pull in the lower lip, trying to keep the upper lip still.  Try the natural mouth; that is a slight separation between lips to let the air get out.  The face is relaxed. This expression will better enable one to change the face according to the subject matter.  

Many vents could be stand-up comedians, but very few stand-ups could be ventriloquists. Vents have A LOT more to do than a stand-up.  So far, we've talked about lip control, facial expressions, the puppet's mouth synchronization, creating two distinct and opposite stage personalities, and we haven't even hit on material yet.  Many vents have an idea where the act starts but don't have a clue how it will end. This is the wrong approach.  If you do not have an ending, you cannot start.  When constructing the act, the end should be the thing you worry about most.  What is going to be the kicker? What's the blow-off? How can I end big?  Try to figure out what will be the best bit and then go back to the beginning and aim for that finish.  When you get a lively beginning and a big finish, then determine what filler to put in the middle. Try to keep the pace from dragging or being redundant.  The filler section is the place to work on material.  If you have a joke that's not cutting it, try to work with it; change the wording, the tone, timing, expression, etc.  Try to get it to fit better.  A friend once said to try the joke 21 times, and if after changing and trying that many times, it still doesn't work, then throw it out.  

Many vents resort to repetition in the act.   For example:

Vent: How are you doing, Charlie?
Charlie: What?
Vent: How are you doing?
Charlie: Okay. How are you?
Vent: Glad to be here.
Charlie: What?
Vent: Glad to be here.

Saying the line once should be enough if the vent uses good pronunciation.  Say it correctly the first time, with enough force, with enough diction, enough clarity that there is no question what was said.  The dummy is not deaf and should not pretend to be.  This does not add to the illusion of life.

The illusion of life really means never having a dead figure.  The figure must always look alive.  There should be a criminal penalty for people who dangle the figure by the head stick.  Never let the audience see the figure sitting somewhere lifeless, displayed dead, and don't drag the figure out by the neck pole.  Many people use bird puppets, but unless that bird is flapping its wings, it shouldn't be hanging in midair.  Make a provision and use a stand to support the bird so there is a reason it's sitting there.  

Figure movement should be constant, never still.  It doesn't have to be a lot of movement. In fact, the slight turn of the head might be enough, but it will still make the puppet seem alive.  You don't have to have a lot of mechanics either like wig raising, tongue sticking out, flapping ears, eyebrows, etc.  Just moving the head a little will give it life.  Make those movements smooth, fluid, not jerky.  

If you have a figure that has moving eyes, blinker, or winkers, this will provide more range of expression but it's important to figure out when to move, how and why.  Don't just press the controls at random or you'll be like a Vent Haven tour guide demonstrating a McElroy figure (except for Tom Ladshaw who does an exceptional demonstration.)   Practice emotions like anger, surprise, sadness, frustration, or joy.  Watch how your face creates those emotions in the mirror and then try to get your puppet to emulate them.  For anger, move the eyelids to half-mast; for surprise, pop the mouth open wide.  Attaching the head to the seat of the body with an elastic band and an eye hook will keep the head from popping up too high as you practice these expressions.     

Another factor that can make the dialogue on stage seem unrealistic is having the figure seated at the wrong height, usually too low.  The puppet's eyes should be at nose level. The figure will have to tilt back a bit to look at you, but you're not looking down at the figure, just over to the side. The figure should never be taller.  

Finally, the three biggest assets a human can have are: self-discipline, self-control, and self-confidence.  Have the self-discipline to make yourself learn what you need to learn and all the relating factors.  You need self-control, too, and have the self-confidence to deliver it and to project your material, your act.  Don't be a technically perfect vent or just a funny one. Be both and this will separate you as one of the better performers in this field.

To purchase a professionally recorded DVD of Bill DeMar's workshop including great demonstrations of a figure's different emotions, visit Lee Cornell's Ventriloquism101.  Also available is a DVD of Bill DeMar's Saturday Night Show performance including the signature "Tape Over the Mouth" bit which received a standing ovation.   

A special thanks to Lee Cornell for sending me a copy of both DVD's and several pictures to use to write this article!  






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September 2007

Al Moessinger a.k.a. Allo's Adding Variety to Your Act

Do you ever feel that your standard dialogue between character and vent is falling a little flat?  You want to get the audience involved but you don't want to be another vent who uses an audience member as a puppet?  You want a little pizzazz, but don't have any ideas how do that?  Al Moessinger knows some great ways to add variety to your act to spice up what you do and build that audience participation in a fun, different way.  

First, a comment about audio systems and your act.  This was a BIG topic at the 2007 ConVENTion and almost every lecturer touched on it in some way, really encouraging people to get good sound systems.  If you can't be heard, you've lost half the act.   A hands-free microphone system is key; a headset like the Countryman E6i Directional Earset is a great piece of equipment.  That let's you be mobile on stage and not limited to what you want to add to your act.  The audience will pay attention to you if they can hear you.  You can move around the stage but they stay focused on you because of your voice.  Be sure you put enthusiasm into your voice.  Liz Von Seggen's Fun with Character Voices DVD is great and Gary Owen is very knowledgeable and approachable.  You can always talk to him at the Convention about voice techniques.  

Okay, there are lots of different ways to open your show besides opening with a joke.  Not everybody is Jeff Dunham who can do an hour and half of killer stand-up material.  Jeff is highly talented, but he didn't just jump on stage and start doing one-man sold out shows.  He's had to work very hard to develop his craft.  Some vents might say that he has a gift and use that as an excuse for why their shows are not succeeding. Jeff does have a gift for great comedy and funny characters, but everyone has gifts.  You need to find your gift; they can come from lots of different places.  When you figure it out, really work to develop that gift into an amazing talent that works for your act and makes it your own.  The purpose is to be entertaining and there are lots of ways to achieve that.  

One technique that Al likes to use is opening with clapping. Using his Roland SP 404 to quickly and easily add music, Al starts pulling a streamer out of his mouth to the beat of the music, all the while the audience is clapping.  The music is lively classical music like Flight of the Bumblebee, and Al is dancing around.  It gets the audience energized and ready for fun.  At the end of the bit, Al is sure to do a safety reminder that boys and girls shouldn't stuff anything into their mouths that's not food.  It was magic in his mouth, and they can go to the library to learn more about magic.  You can also open the show with another bit of magic, pulling a volunteer from the audience and asking them to tear up a piece of paper and stuff the bits into your hand.  Then you pull out a paper hat for the boy or girl to wear on his/her head. 

When doing an educational show, Al follows the show to a T and only ad libs a little because the educational show has been carefully crafted and things tie together in the end.  If it's a family audience with both kids and adults, it's important to mix it up and make sure that elements of the act appeal to both.  Also, watch your audience and read their reactions; be prepared to jump to something else if a bit doesn't seem to be working.  Having some extra tricks in your arsenal is important. 

Al pulls out his duck Webster who has brought an invention, a hypnotize wheel... or something to make him gain or lose weight in thirty seconds.  The audience stares at the wheel while it turns for 30 seconds.  Then the wheel is taken away and Webster either looks bigger or smaller.  Using a prop mixes up the standard vent act and gives it a little more interest.  

Webster: Knock knock
Al: Who there?
Webster: Dishes.
Al: Dishes who?
Webster: Dishes a nice group.  

Another way to open the show or warm-up the audience for an educational show is to use the color/rainbow ropes, an easy to find magic trick.  This is a very versatile, portable trick you can always carry in your pocket. Dialogue to match can be adapted in a variety of ways.  In this case, the three ropes are red, white and blue. You tie them together and then ask a student in the audience to test out if they are tied together by pulling the rope tight.  While the student is holding on, you can pull on the rope a bit and drag the kid across the floor a little which gets a laugh.  Then always thank the boy or girl for following directions, tying some manner cues into the show. Once the three parts of rope -- red, white, and blue -- are tied together, the dialogue goes something like this: 

"The red rope is for believing in yourself.  If you don't believe in yourself, you won't go anywhere.  You need to believe in yourself. We'll be talking about that in the show today. The white rope is choosing good character.  This is very important and we're going to talk about that today too.  The blue rope is choosing good friends.  The people you hang around with make all the difference."

"We've put all these things together -- believing in yourself, choosing good character, and choosing good friends -- so what good are these lessons?  No good unless you use your brain.  Pretend your hand is your brain (at this point wrap the rope around the hand).  Anything can happen so you need to pay attention and have a bit of knowledge.  Everyone pull a handful out of your pocket. (Students should put their hands into their pockets and pretend to pull out a fist.)  Raise your hand in the air and on the count of three shout, 'Be the best you can be!' and throw it up here.  

One, two, three...BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE!

"Choosing friends or choosing good character is not an individual lesson. They all go together to make you the bet you can be."  At this point the rope is unwrapped from the hand and is all one rope.  Ooohh, aaaahhh.  You've just introduced three character components that will be talked about later on in the show.  This trick can adapted for different stories but it packs flat and is easy to do.  

Another technique especially if you perform for children is to take a familiar song and make it visual.  For example, the song Bingo can be done using a clothesline (insert history lesson since most kids have probably never seen a clothesline, ha ha) and big, laminated letters on one side and clapping hands on the other.  The roped stretched across the stage makes the stage look full.  The vent can be mobile and active.  As you lead the song, point to the letters.  When it's time, flip them to the clapping hands and lead them in the clapping.  With the music pre-programmed on the Roland SP 404, it's very easy.

Game shows and reality shows are very popular right now.  Develop a 'game show' for your act.  Say, "Now we're going to play 'Whose Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" As you pull volunteers from the audience, introduce the ladies first and point out that it's good manners to let the ladies go first.  One idea is to do a dance contest.  A good song choice for this is The Twist.  A hula hoop contest is another idea that provides opportunities for fun and laughs.  Get good hula hoops, not the cheap plastic ones and be sure to have some large and small.  Whenever you bring people up from the audience, everyone gets to be a winner.  Don't actually pick a single winner.  At the end of the Hula Hoop Contest, announce you are going to pick the Hula Hoop Champion.  When the person comes up on stage, whisper in his ear (be sure you turn off your mic so as not to give it away to the audience) to just hold his hands up and dance around, that you'll take care of the hoop.  You move the hoop behind the person while they are dancing and being silly.  The audience can see the vent holding the hula hoop, but it is still funny.  

Kids and adults as you can tell by the picture below really like the Air Guitar Championship.  Select three or four volunteers from the audience and use a short music clip.  Johnny B. Goode is a nice choice because it doesn't offend anyone and most people recognize it.  Ask the contestants how long they've been playing and what kind of guitar they will be using.  It's easy to use the puppet with this bit.


Taking a game and adding a lesson is a great for educational shows.  The Smoke Detector Game is great for fire safety.  You take five smoke detectors and attach them to a board with a hinge and number them. One detector needs a new battery so the game is to push the test button to figure out which one it is.  The dialogue goes something like this:

"Your smoke detector is only good if the battery is good. We're going to test these detectors today to find out which one needs a new battery.  Our firemen friends say you should test the battery every month.  You should change the battery when you change your clocks in the spring and fall, and when you come back from vacation.  When the battery is low the smoke detector will beep, but if you've been on vacation you might not have heard the beeping."   Then you bring volunteers up to press the buttons and test them out. It's easy and people enjoy participating.  

Adding variety to your act means getting creative and breaking out of the simple puppet/vent dialogue routine.  It makes it easy to use music in the act without simply singing a song.  It also allows for a wide-range of audience participation that's different from turning someone into a dummy.  These ideas are fun and simple for the audience to do and make everyone who gets up feel like a winner.  Find that pizzazz by creatively adding variety to your act.  

To find out more about Al Moessinger, visit him at his website

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August 2007

Gary Owen's Stage Craft for Ventriloquists

by Annie Roberts

To be an entertaining ventriloquist, it's important that you have good material, good puppets, be dressed nicely, etc., but if the show is not staged well -- if it's poorly lit, has a bad backdrop, you can't be heard -- then the audience is missing out on a good show.  Despite what you might think, you are NOT the star of the show; the puppets are the stars. They are the comedians and what the audience came to see.  The comedy comes from the characters.  So to give the audience a good show focused on the puppets, you've got to make sure the staging elements are in place.  There are many ways to enhance the production value of the show -- lots of different things in different places of the performance to make your show seem more professional, more polished and make those puppets really shine as the stars of the show.

Good staging involves good sound equipment, music, tables/stands, lighting, and choreography.  The staging of your show is a long term investment, but the expenses will definitely pay off.  It's about the whole picture which when done right, the audience will notice a great show.  When done wrong, comments like, "The puppet was cute but I couldn't hear him" or "I couldn't see him too well" surface afterwards.  

The first topic is sound systems.  If they can't hear you, your show is lost.  You need a good sound system of your own that you understand how to use.  Never rely on the host to provide what you need. You might find yourself in a situation where the technology is limited, where you're being asked to use a handheld mic or a lapel mic and the sound is above the audience in speakers at the ceiling.  This is NOT ideal.  Get your own sound system.   It's your show so make sure your show is going to work.  Look for a system that is fairly portable with not too much set-up that also doesn't take up much room in the car.  You want something that is light weight that folds up into a box or case.  A good, punchy system will cost around $400-$500 and can be found in most music stores or guitar centers.  Some vents use a small guitar amp for schools or libraries, and this is okay, but it doesn't put out the punch you need to do vent.  Vocal projection is definitely a weakness for vents; that means not projecting your voice so that it can really be heard by all, so you need a sound system that will push you because if the audience can't hear you, you've just lost half your material.  Get a sound system that makes you sound better.  Gary Owen recommends the Yamaha Pro Audio STAGEPASS300 which meets all the above-mentioned requirements. 

An important component of the sound system is the microphone.  Everyone has their own tastes about mics, but here are some thoughts to influence what looks good and sounds good.  All microphones have their own values, benefits, and drawbacks.  Don't settle for a $99 wireless mic.  You get what you pay for and at that price you will get one that does not carry your voice or  has other things like CB radios on the frequency making your voice cut in and out.  Do you really want your act to sound like a bad cell phone connection?   You've saved money on the mic but you've left your audience frustrated.  Plan to spend anywhere from $300-$700 for a decent microphone, depending on the frequencies and punchiness.

Before you buy anything, get educated.  If you see one you think you like, learn about it and get it demonstrated for you.  Never buy online without an in-person demonstration.  Also, learn about the technical support and repair options.  Find out how and where to get support and repair because it's almost inevitable that at some point you will need it.  Hopefully not ten minutes before a show either!

Now let's talk about wireless headsets.  The basic standard headset with the headband and mic ala Brittney Spears is good for demos at home shows, but doesn't provide much clarity.  Gary Owen's wireless mic of choice is the Countryman E6i Directional Earset.  It's subtle, powerful, and good for vents.  You're looking at investing from $499-$699 for this kind of wireless mic, but it's worth it.  Be sure you get a directional mic, NOT an omni.  Don't get an omni because it picks up sound in a circular pattern and you will get feedback.  Omnis are designed for musicians and concerts.  A directional mic picks up only what is going into the mic.  Wireless provides the vent with freedom of head motion and keeps the hands free to be involved in the act.  Some vents like the mic stand because they can hide their bad lip control behind the mic. A hands free set up will force you get better, not only by providing good sound, but improved lip control. 

You've invested in a good sound system so the audience can hear you; now let's figure out how they can see you with effective lighting.  Never take the facility's word about lighting.  Banquet organizers will often say there is great lighting and you get there and find out it's dark or the light is not aimed at the stage.  Again, if they can't see the character, the other half of your show is lost.  Don't buy intelligent lights that DJ's use.  These have colors and you don't need that.  Gary Owen recommends a Par 48, Par 56, or Par 64 light package.   The lights come on a tree stand and do take some time to set up.  Some people go to Home Depot and buy a shop light and put it on a stand.  You'll certainly have light, but how effective will it be?  Does it make you look like you're being pulled over for a traffic violation?  You can spend from $399-$1500 on lights, and it does take some set up time. To check out lighting go to Musician's Friend and shop some of their packages. If you can't afford a lighting system, tell the client that they will lose value on the show if the audience can't see it.  Ask the buyer to rent lights for you or at least a spot light.  The client pays for it but he will feel like the company will get a better show because of it.  

To the suitcase!  A classic component of the ventriloquist act and used in jokes in just about every vent act.  Each vent has his/her own style of cases and stands, but you might streamline your show and make it more professional looking by choosing just the right kind.  A case that can also be used as your stand will save you trouble of having to use both.  Gary Owen uses a custom case built by Six Flags but it was taken off the magic table design. His case is 15 lbs. empty and 50 lbs. fully-loaded which is the limit for airline travel. The bottom has wheels, of course, for easy rolling.  The case itself is like a clam-shell and the top opens to double the height and become the stand for the figure.  The inside of the case is compartmentalized with slots for figures and props.  Cover the front of the open case with a canvas which can be fairly inexpensively changed as needed for different shows, and your beat-up travel trunk becomes a professional looking prop and stand, custom- sized to fit the height of your figure.  When the show is finished, everything goes back in its place, the clam shell is closed, and you're ready to roll it to car or plane.  It's helps tremendously when your case can be both functional and durable, as well as useful on stage.   




To find out more about cases, visit these resources: 

Jan-Al Road and Touring Cases Anvil Cases Calzone Cases
Case Technology, Inc.  Rock Hard  The Dummy Works
Irv's Luggage

Many vents close their act with a song. In fact, it's become very standard and some might say overused, but there are other ways to incorporate music into your act to enhance the professionalism of the show.  This means using music for introductions, bumpers, and background.  If you're still using a cassette tape, you need to get out of the dinosaur age and into the digital age.  Some places have CD's players or ways to hook your I-Pod in, but you can't always rely on that.   There is a music sampler device called the Roland SP 404 which runs for about $399 which will allow you to add unlimited music to your act.   The buttons are big which is great as you get older according to Al Moessinger.  You can take it anywhere you want to go and often it can hook into the house PA system.  The Roland SP has eight banks with 12 tracks in each bank.  All the information is stored on an external memory flash card (never remove the flash card while the unit is on or all information will be lost).  Always turn off the unit before taking out the memory card. To purchase a Roland SP 404, click here.   You can make the Roland SP 404 wireless by adding the SHURE PG14 Wireless Guitar System  The transmitter plugs into the earphone jack of the SP 404 and the receiver gives you the option of using a balanced or unbalanced line going into your PA.  This unit runs about $199.    

The Roland SP 404 allows you to prerecord your introductions with snappy background music.  It allows you to use music for all segues or bumpers like getting the figure in and out of case, exit music, music for when you bring volunteers up on stage.  It makes your show have no dead time.  The more you use music, the more polished your show looks.  If you have someone working tech backstage, be sure to include specific instructions on cues and tracks.  If it's all written out, it's very easy for someone to follow.  Also, be sure the music you are using is licensed production music.  You can go online and find production music at sites like Royalty Free Music, Freeplay Music, Studio Cutz, Free Hand Music, Music Bakery, CSS Music, The Production Garden, and Unique Tracks.   Axtell Expressions also carries royalty free production music disksRoyalty free music CD’s run anywhere from $70 –$150 each and have a variety of themes per disc. Most companies allow you to audition the music on line before you buy. Many allow you to order and download directly from the websites.   Using music for more than just the closing song adds production value and helps your show be more successful.  Even if you can just add music getting on and off stage, it adds energy to the performance and gets the audience excited for the show.  

Finally, let's look at choreography.  No, we're not talking about adding dancing to the show.  This is about format, entrances and exits, and line-up.  First impressions are important. Think about how the audience first sees your puppet. Does he come out of the case or do you walk out on stage carrying him?  Either way, be sure to keep the figure facing the audience.  Never turn your back or the puppet's back to the audience.  If you're coming out from behind a curtain, put the figure out first toward the audience so they don't see the hole in the figure's back.  Remember to manipulate and make the puppet alive all the way to the stand when the routine starts.  Make sure your stand is pre-set so that once you get there, you're not taking time to adjust. If everything is ready to go, you will come across as much more professional.  

This brings us to format.  Have a written format for your show so you know what you're doing at all times.  Write it down.  If you have someone running sound for you, that person will need it.   Get to your performance site a minimum of one hour before show time.  If you rush to get set up, then you're fried by the time you walk out on stage. Your breathless appearance will make you seem tired before the show has even started.  An hour should give you time to get your sound system set up, to hook into the house system if possible, to go over sound cues with a tech person, to get your stand set to the right height, to make sure the lights are focused on the stage, and finally to actually do a sound check long before any of the audience members arrive. If there is an event going on just prior to your show, you may have to come get set up several hours before and then come back a little before show time. During your sound check, start with the volume low and gradually increase.  Again if everything is ready to go, you will come across as much more professional.

Once you get to the stage, you need to be confident, and you will, if everything is ready to go and tested.  If you look good and sound good, you will perform good.   All these staging elements that the audience takes for granted will help them have a great time at your show. 

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March 2007


Steve Axtell's Performing with Latex Puppets

by Annie Roberts

Typically when a person thinks of a ventriloquist figure, the picture that comes to mind is either a wooden dummy like Charlie McCarthy or a soft muppety figure like Kermit the Frog.  Latex figures don't readily spring to mind, but they are quickly becoming some of the most popular type of figure in the ventriloquist community.  Where do many go to find these new kinds of characters?   Axtell Expressions, of course.  Axtell Expressions was founded by Steve Axtell and is located in scenic Ventura, CA.  They make latex puppets and magic products for entertainers all over the world.  Steve says, "We live an amazing life being able to do this fact it almost seems that it is our destiny." 

For example, did you notice like Stevo Schuling of Germany did that if you rearrange the letters in Axtell you get latex?  "Okay, there's one extra L in Axtell," says Steve, "but they added that when our ancestors came over from England."  Coincidence?  Also, the puppet company is located in Ventura, CA, or did you read it VENTura, CA?  Axtell Expressions was meant to be.

This company not only sells latex figures which will be the focus of this article; they also sell over 100 products from magic and props to CDs and books.  Have you heard of the Pizza to Go or the SFX Board?  Have you seen someone use the Bird Arm Illusion or the Magic Drawing Board?  Axtell Expressions has lots to offer, but what has made them unique are their latex figures.  

They have 70 different puppet characters ranging from wild jungle animals like an Elephant and Lion to crazy creatures like The Wildthing and Man Eating Plant, and people puppets like their famous Old Storyteller.  There are thousands in use right now, most notably Jay Johnson recently on Broadway in his one-man show The Two and Only and Kevin Johnson seen last summer on America's Got Talent and this winter on Late Night with David Letterman.  They've been sold in 60 different countries and as a result, many people wonder how they make their puppets and how this whole thing got started.

Steve's father was a minister so Steve got to see puppets used in church. A friend gave him a flyer from Maher Studios; on one side were pictures of dummies made by Craig Lovik and on the other side puppets.  Steve also saw Sesame Street and inspired by the works of Jim Henson tried to copy his style.   "My mother mailed a photo to Jim Henson and he wrote back introducing me to the Puppeteers of America and encouraging me to in essence quit copying him and start my own unique style...which I immediately began to do from that point on..." While at DisneyWorld, Steve stopped into a magic shop and saw latex Halloween-type masks. It was a Eureka moment!  He began making his own puppets and experimenting with latex.  "I sold my first puppet to a professional vent when I was 15 years old.  It was a bright orange fur fox puppet. I would love to see if someone out there still has it!   I went on to create more characters in my one man show, which included some of my first latex puppets (woman and bird) and my Bird Arm Illusion concept which I added in the seventies.

"I married Suzi and in 1980 and moved to a very small town in central California. We had hopes of starting a puppet business. One sunday while trying to find a church, we opened the phone book and put our finger on one. We ended up driving to a small church in Atascadero (which translated means "mud hole") that was meeting in a pre-school. After the service a man and his wife just happend to invite us to come to their house for turned out to be Craig Lovik, who's puppet work had inspired me for 20 years!  Craig was the creator of many of the Maher Vent figures and latex puppets. I still have that original Maher 'Furry Friends and Pals' flyer in my collection! Prophetically the friend who gave me a copy 20 years earlier had written on it, 'Steve you should go into business doing this.'"  Coincidence or destiny?

That's how Axtell Expressions got started.  Now we'll look at the process of how these figures get made.  Some people think that because Axtell has so many products, it's a mass production company or that the puppets are easy to make, like conveyor belt style.  This couldn't be farther from the truth.  The first step in the process is design.  Steve keeps ideas for new characters in notebooks and has over 500 ideas and drawings written down (and over 200 actual inventions).   Then the ideas are given time to incubate because deferring action leads to better products. 

Once an idea has developed, it's on to the sculpture phase.  Typically three to five days are spent working on the sculptures of the new character. It's a magical process bringing characters to life, but practical considerations are needed as well like appropriate mouth movement; will the hand fit; does the eye angle toward the audience.  Once the sculpture is created, different plasters and stones are used to create molds, either one-piece molds or multiple parts. The clay is removed and the mold creates a negative cavity to be filled with the latex.

When the mold is ready, then casting takes place.  Latex is poured into the cavity.  Ammonia is released from the latex during this stage so a special room is needed for ventilation. The latex thickens the longer it dwells.  When the latex castings are pulled from the mold, they must be prepped.  Bumps and imperfections are removed. The surface is washed to get rid of plaster residue, and it's prepared for painting.  Special formula paints are airbrushed or hand-painted on.

All this work is done primarily just on the head.  Now the body work begins.  Two to three people are involved in creating the body patterns which take a couple days to complete.  Revisions are made and then the process of fitting the head to the body starts, looking at neck rotation and the puppeteer's arm considerations.

It's into the homestretch now as contractors team up to sew the bodies and put on feathers, eyes, etc.  Each figure is finished by getting vacuumed, the assembly double checked, and protectants are put on over the paint and latex surfaces.  Then Voila!  And Axtell Expressions puppet has been completed and uniquely made.  

Like anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to using a latex puppet.  The disadvantages are that no puppet will last forever.  Some have longer shelf lives than others but foam rots, fabric tears, wood splits, and latex melts.   The inside of the latex head may feel slippery, especially when the hand sweats.   Steve recommends using Axtell's "Headliner" which is a foam insert for your hand.  Some puppets are lined inside to prevent this. The process of making a latex puppet is tedious and may delay delivery, but quality puppets of any nature take time to complete.

The advantages to an Axtell Expressions latex puppet are first it has a professional sculptured look. The faces are very expressive and look alive.  The latex surface looks and feels like real skin. They're easy to handle and light-weight, ranging in ounces to the heaviest 7 lbs for the full-size ostrich.  They are low cost for the value, and they look great when used together with a hard figure providing nice variety to a group.  Lastly, they are exceptional characters because Axtell places special emphasis on "character."  

Finally, here are some tips on how to care for latex puppets.  Not all latex formulas are the same.  Steve took 27 years to develop Axtell's secret formula. They don't add fillers like the latex you get at the hobby stores and the mask industry where the latex breaks down in about a year and do add special chemicals to add strength.  If you properly care for your puppet, it should last a long time.  Use protectant on latex; Armorall is still the best and should be applied every three months.  Do NOT use WD40; the petroleum base attacks the latex.  Store an Axtell puppet in a poly bag to keep the dust off.  Keep out of the sun and don't cram your puppet in with your shoes and clothes when traveling.  

Axtell not only has over 70 puppets in their catalog line, but also produces custom one-of-a-kind puppets for entertainers.  For example they made the Madagascar puppets for the Dreamworks movie premieres and are currently making several custom puppets including a very large secret puppet for Japan's top star ventriloquist Ikkokudo.  

Axtell Expressions can definitely provide something different and novel for many audiences -- not a classic dummy and not a muppet.  Steve really did follow Jim Henson's advice and developed his own style, creating unforgettable characters.  Is all this a coincidence?  No way.  Fulfilling his bet! 



1. Steve Axtell

2. Scenic Ventura, CA or is it VENTura, CA.

3. Jay Johnson on Broadway in The Two and Only.

4. Kevin Johnson on America's Got Talent

5. Youthful Steve Axtell and his Sesame Street inspired puppets.  

6. Craig Lovik

7.  Jose Cruz painting a dragon.

8. Carmen Martin attaching the body to the Axtell Storyteller.

9. Steve and his puppet menagerie.

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February 2007

Steve Taylor's Canoodle Marketing

by Annie Roberts

Steve Taylor's Canoodle Marketing is a guide to working smarter, not harder.  You are working as a vent booking shows, but you want to book more and by booking more shows, make more money.  But to paraphrase Albert Einstein, if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you get.  Change how you market your act through canoodling.  Uh? What does canoodle mean?  It means to win over or convince by cajoling or flattering.  In other words, romancing your way to friends and fortune.  

When you book a show, you're selling a promise, a promise that you'll do a show. The client is paying for nothing, just the promise of a show.  You have to think about this promise not as a product but as a luxury.  Luxuries are sold differently than products.  They are sold by telling you the emotional benefits.  A $5 cup of coffee at Starbucks is a luxury; a diamond ring is a luxury.  When you go in to buy a diamond ring, the sales person doesn't tell you the practical value of a diamond; she tells you how beautiful it is and how it will make the special someone in your life feel wonderful and loved.  The focus is on the emotional benefits.  Think of your show in this way, telling about how much fun the audience will have and how good they will feel at the end.  

Now your show is a luxury and doesn't everyone like those?  Of course they do, otherwise there wouldn't be a Starbucks every other block.  How do you measure the quality of a luxury?  It's measured by the amount of money it costs.  Remember that $5 cup of coffee that people line up for every morning?  If your show is a luxury, you need to double your price.  This might cause you to lose some business at first, but you don't want to work for anyone who price shops. Plus, if you do one show at double the fee, that's the same as two shows but you've expended less time. Now you're working smarter, not harder.  The top five reasons people buy luxuries are: 1. Confidence  2. Quality   3. Service    4. Selection   5. Price.   Raising your price is appropriate because it's not the first thing the buyer is looking for.

When a person calls to book a show, the natural inclination for the vent is to talk, often listing features of the performance.  This is a problem.  Don't talk.  Ask questions about the situation and listen to the answers.  Where is it? How many people will be attending? What do they expect to happen after the show? What feedback do they want after the show.  For example, a birthday mom calls for a show in her home instead of having a party at Chuck E. Cheese.  Why?  Find out.  Most likely she's trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Her child saw a vent down the street and loved it.  Or she feels guilty for working. There could be lots of reasons.   Now your show can fill this emotional need. Sell her on what her son's reaction will be after show, how he will be the most popular kid on the block because the kids are going have to great fun.   

Another common misconception to getting more shows is to do mass mailings.  No. Marketing programs say send tons of flyers, and for every 1,000 flyers, you should get 15 shows. That's a 1.5% return on your mailing.  Instead laser focus down. Fine tune the audience and send out repeat mailings to that audience, a couple times a year instead of just once a year.

When you advertise about yourself, often the focus is on your biggest achievements, like TV performances or huge banquets.  The inclination is to put the most impressive stuff first.  Also, self-advertising tends to list your features and how you are different from others.  This can be like going out on a date with someone who only talks about themselves.  It can be huge turn-off.  Remember the client wants good service and really wants to know what's in it for them.  You won't book a show based on the big things, more likely you'll book a show on the little things, the service-oriented techniques that make the client really feel like she's getting a luxury.

Some little things that can make a big difference are, first, answer your phone in friendly voice.  If you have children, do not let your children answer the phone.  It is a business, with a personal touch.  Tell the client you guarantee 100% satisfaction and then be prepared to fulfill that promise.  Finally follow the 2-2-2 principle.  Answer the phone in two rings, and do not use call waiting because the client should feel like the most important customer.  Think about how frustrating it is when a saleslady answers the phone as you pay.  This is NOT service.  Return phone calls within two hours.  If you act professionally, they will assume you are a professional. Finally, always send a handwritten thank you note within two days, including the guarantee whether they book the show or not.  If the client chooses not to book the show, get the address anyway and send a note saying you hope they find the perfect performer for their event.   This helps the person feel good about the experience, and they will be more likely to book you in the future or to recommend you down the road.   

The #1 fear of a mom booking a show is that the vent won't show up for the party.  You must give this confidence that you are going to fulfill your promise.  You can do this with testimonials.  Ask people for whom you've done shows to accept phone calls and to give a recommendation because the best advertising is a good show. Don't overwhelm these client volunteers with calls, however.  Only send the people who are willing to give testimonials three calls in six months.  After six months, send the person a gift card, like to Applebees or Target, and a thank you for doing this service for you.  

The minute someone books a show send a postcard that says something like, "Friends are just family we choose ourselves."  In other words, you are saying 'I'm happy you booked me' in an emotive way.  This handwritten note shows you care personally and provides the kind of service a client wants.  When you make it personal, you get more business.  During the initial phone conversation, that's a great time to find out something personal about them.

People often think of advertising as some kind of debate, like trying to win an argument.  It's not.  It's a seduction.  When a guy asks a girl to marry him, he's not going to argue with her.  Advertising should be personal and a lot more gentle.  There are many different ways to romance but the focus is not on you; it's on the one being romanced.   This is where the personal touch throughout the process will win the client over.  When you send that thank you note after the show, don't put a business card in there or a P.S. at the end, suddenly this nice note becomes an advertisement and all the personal touch is gone.  When all things are equal...or unequal, people hire someone they like, and they're going to like the performer who gives them confidence.  Life is more like high school than we care to admit sometimes.  

Think about some of the best advertising.  It sells to the emotions.  For example, when you see the Disney logo or Hallmark, what feeling to do you get?  Warm and fuzzy?  Probably.  Do these commercials give one feature of their product?  Does Disney list how many rides or shows their parks have?  No. They show a grandfather and a child walking down Main Street Disney World with the family.  You want that experience so you book your next vacation to Orlando.  The opposite effect can also be true.  People react with anger and raised blood pressure at the sight of the Enron logo.  When clients think of you, is the reaction positive or negative?  Are they remembering a performer who was a prima donna or someone who was unorganized and unreliable? Hopefully when former clients think of you, they think of children laughing and having a great time.  These should be the pictures that you include in advertising.  They sell better than you because the person booking the show can picture their own audience.  

As you advertise on your website, the text should focus on the emotional side of your show, using words like imagine and remember. For example, "Imagine the avalanche of appreciation you'll feel when your child jumps into your arms, gives you a big hug, and says, 'You're the best! I love you!'"  Figure out why a parent, principal, or librarian is booking you and create emotive statements that answer that question.  A librarian wants to get kids into the library so they'll check out books and sign up for summer reading.  For library shows, the text should read, "Remember how much fun you had learning when you were a little kid?  The sense of wonder? The delight of discovery? Allow me to help your kids recapture the wonder and excitement of learning."  

Finally booking shows is not about a one-night stand.  No romance there.  It's a life-long commitment.  You spend lots of time and money to book one show.  It's five times easier to book a client again and five times less expensive.  So, the best way you can spend your marketing money is to cultivate long term relationships with past customers. Don't expect one booking from each client who books you, work on getting repeat bookings (usually 10 to 20 over that person's lifetime) and then you'll be spending a lot less time and money trying to get business. Once a miner hits a vein of gold, he doesn't scrape some off and leave forever. No, he keeps digging! So, keep in contact with past clients and get them to buy again and again. That's truly working smarter, not harder.  

This is a broad overview of what Steve Taylor taught about Canoodle Marketing at Vent Haven in 2006. For his complete 6 hour course in Canoodle Marketing, please visit for more information!

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