I’m booked to by companies all over the country to be the featured entertainment at their banquet. This has me constantly looking at every detail to see what works best in that particular setting. After performing at numerous banquets for corporations, charities, associations and organizations over many years, I’ve seen what works best for the entertainment portion. It is the textbook opposite from what I see most event planners doing.

If you’re having an entertainer at your next banquet, unless they specifically request otherwise, do these three things and enjoy the overwhelming difference.

Keep the entertainment early.
Most event planners will tell you that the entertainment should be the close of the night. Without a doubt, that seems logical, BUT how long is the event? If people have been sitting for 3+ hours, starting the entertainment at that point won’t have the same enthusiasm level from attendees. This isn’t because the entertainment or any of the other activities are dull. Three hours is just a long time to sit, let alone, pay attention.

Most banquets usually have these elements: dinner, awards/recognition, raffles, entertainment/speaker. All are fine. However, the energy level of the crowd needs to be maintained to get your money’s worth out of the entertainer. A great way to keep the energy up at a banquet of three hours or more is to have the entertainment right after the meal. This keeps people engaged and having fun. It’s a fun break in the other activities, and the evening can be closed with recognition and awards.

banquet entertainment tips2. Keep your audience closer…
If the entertainment is very interactive (like my show), I typically want the people as close as possible…front row no more than five feet from the stage. If my closest audience member is 20-30 feet away, that’s an instant disconnect. I realize that five feet seems close, but to prove my point, I’ve had keynote speakers change their technical riders to the “five foot rule” after working the same events as me.

One more thing. Not only do I like the audience to be as close as possible to me, I like them to be as close as possible to each other. Instead of tables being 12-15 feet apart, make them 7-10. The tighter the group, the more energy in the room and the better the show.

No food during the show!
This is the make or break of most banquets. I have heard top performers all of them say the same thing. Dinner is either finished before the show or is being served afterwards. Otherwise, they will not take the job.

Accept this or not. If people have a meal in front of them, half of their focus on the entertainer is automatically gone. Period. Then add the sound of silverware, plates, glasses clinking, and waitstaff walk around. That’s sound and hunger stealing the focus. Then, if people are sitting at round tables, take into account that 40% of the them will have their backs to the stage while they’re eating.

If you take one tip away from this article, take this one. Even if you’re pressed for time, this one with me is no exception.

A great way to keep energy levels up at a banquet is to have upbeat music during dinner/before the entertainment. The music does not have to be loud by definition. However, if the music level is just slightly raised, people will automatically have to raise their voices to have conversation. Therefore, you automatically have a more energetic group.

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In closing, notice that nothing I’ve told you here is difficult. It just works. And it’s so much easier to see what works when you’ve seen what doesn’t work. Wish you the very best with your upcoming events!

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