After 15 years of performing at live events, I can honestly say I’ve been in almost every single type of venue and performance situation where the unexpected can happen. Planning an event can be stressful, and there’s no reason that hiring an entertainer should be on the list of stressors. I am here to give you my Top Five Entertainment Planning Tips for your event. These tips are based on what I’ve seen and experienced performing magic and mind reading at corporate events across the US.
This guide is a quick overview of best practices. You should also note that when you book me, or another professional act, you should be given what’s called a “Technical Rider” which outlines all of the specifics for your venue and production team to follow, and should eliminate all the guesswork. It is important to follow the rider to ensure you set your entertainer up for success.
Here are my Top 5 Event Planning Tips
1. Have a quality sound system for your entertainer, don’t rely on the DJ’s equipment
Poor sound is one of the biggest culprits of ruining a quality show at a live event. Of course, it should go without saying that the best case scenario for any event is to have a dedicated sound technician or an audio-visual (A/V) team. Luckily, there are other options in case your venue or budget doesn’t allow for a full A/V crew.
Having a dedicated PA system is a great second best. This ensures that sound will carry properly throughout the room. These can be rented inexpensively through a local supplier, or sometimes even through your venue. Some entertainers travel with their own sound equipment. For someone like myself, who is often traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles, it is unrealistic to bring a sound system with me to every gig. It is much simpler to plan your sound ahead of the event.
Two common sound system mistakes:
- Using the venue’s in-house speaker systems – These can be funky, outdated, or simply have terrible sound quality. But, not all are like this. Some are absolutely state of the art and a great option to use. If the system is updated and sounds great, be sure the entertainer and venue can communicate so they can access the system to run their microphone and/or music at the time of the event. If the venue’s system is old, doesn’t work well, or there won’t be someone on-site during your event to help you use it, do not risk using their system. In reality, it is much more efficient to rent a PA system for the show. But, if your venue does have a great built-in sound system your entertainment can plug into, be sure the venue is aware and that they have someone at the event who can monitor its use. The last thing you want is to show up on the day of the event and no one knows how to use the system. Or, far worse, you or your entertainment misuse it and break something.
- Using the DJ’s system – I’ve been asked countless times to hook up my microphone to a DJ’s sound system. After trying a few times, I can honestly say this is not a good idea at all. I finally had to draw a line in the sand and simply say no. Too often the sound from the DJ booth will not carry properly throughout the venue, or the system may have problems of their own. Asking for this scenario also puts someone like myself at risk to break something in their system since it is not made for this purpose. And while I do carry liability insurance, I don’t wish to use it for something easily prevented. So simply put, do not rely on the DJ’s sound system for your entertainer. Their system works great for getting people dancing on the dance floor, because that is what it is for. It is not a substitute for quality sound for a stage entertainer.
2. Have the proper staging, a movable podium, and un-obstructed sight lines.
In my experience, a fixed podium gets in the way 99% of the time. Most often a podium is either center stage, or on the right or left sight of the stage. In both cases, if the podium cannot be moved, it can create a barrier for the entertainer and audience. It’s like a second person on stage who doesn’t contribute anything to the show. Do not have a fixed podium if it will get in the way of your entertainment. It can severely limit the capabilities of the act and connection with the audience, which means your event will not be as fun.
Other staging elements can have an impact too. Having stage risers (or a full stage) is important because they help with visibility, and to elevate your performer ensure they can command the audience. And while it can be tempting to have your performer do their act on the dance floor, this can reduce visibility for a large segment of your audience.
Lastly, be careful to ensure your center pieces aren’t too tall. Center pieces are great, but they can get in the way of guest visibility.
3. Never schedule an entertainer during the meal
This is another problem that slips past many event planners. The reality of this is simple; the show distracts from the food, and the food distracts from the show. Your hungry guests will not care about the show, and your entertainer will not be able to captivate the audience if all they can do is focus on their meal. A show can be great before the meal, just make sure the audience isn’t hungry already. It usually best to schedule a show after the meal. Everyone is full and focused. If you’re low on time, your entertainment can start during dessert, but just be sure your wait staff knows not to clear plates during the show. It is distracting and it can wait until the after the show is over. And, also be sure the wait staff gets a final round of drinks ordered before they bring out the dessert. This way they can serve dessert and drinks at the same time in one final motion.
4. Introduce your Entertainment, and After the Show Tell Your Audience What’s Next
It can be uncomfortable for an audience to see someone they don’t know step on stage, only to suddenly realize they are about to watch a show. Do not put your audience or entertainer in that awkward position. A professional entertainer should have a great pre-written introduction that they can give someone at the event to read, or have a professionally recorded intro to be used to let the audience know what they are in for. This helps energize the audience in anticipation for what they are about to experience.
Along the same lines, its also important for the audience to know what will be happening AFTER the show program is over. Your entertainer can do this for you, but this can be a little clunky as a way to end a show. It is far better to have someone from your organization or group take the stage immediately after the entertainer steps down to let your audience know what they will be doing next. Whether it is a game, dancing, or calling it a night. People like to know what is next, so be sure to tell them.
5. Last but not least… NEVER put a dance floor between the stage and performer (and how to fix this)
Dance floors that are placed between a seated audience and the stage create a “death valley”, in which your entertainer’s act will surely go to die. So, If you can avoid it, do not separate the performer from the audience by putting the dance floor between the stage and audience. If you have a band following the entertainer, there are a couple of options if you have no other choice but to put the dance floor between the banquet tables and performer. The best option is to have all guests move their chairs onto the dance floor during that portion of the program. This takes a bit of directing and effort on the audience’s part, but is the best option to ensure a great show and to maximize your entertainment dollars.
You can also see this helpful diagram for other room set up options:
So there you have it! My top five tips for planning entertainment for your event. If you have any questions on these points, please be sure to contact me directly.