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How To Use Entertainment to Make Your Holiday Party a Smashing Success

by Mitch Williams

If you’re in charge of planning a holiday party this year you may want to make some kind of entertainment a part of the festivities.  Good entertainment that is well planned can make a huge difference in how successful your party will be. Even more than the location, the décor, and other elements, the right entertainment can set the tone for your event and give your guests a unique, memorable, and truly enjoyable experience that they can carry with them for many a day to come.  The right entertainment can add atmosphere and class, humor and fun, or inspiration and encouragement to the tone of your event.

A Few Questions About Your Party…

The decisions about entertainment really come down to the type of event you’re having and the tone that you wish to set.  A few simple question may be helpful:  “How many people will be attending?”, “What kinds of guests will be present?” ( For example will it be all men, women only, couples, or families?  Do the guests know each other and have something in common, such as working for the same company?  Etc.)

"If it's a company party, is it directly business related, or just for fun?"  “Where will the party take place, and what kind of function will it be?”  (A sit-down dinner, just hors d’oeuvres, just cocktails, or all of the above?  What other activities will be taking place?)

What Kind Of Entertainment?

The next question is what needs do you want the entertainment to fill?  Will it be the main event of the evening, one of several highlights, or will it simply be background to everything else?  For example, if you’re having music, what is it for?  Is it for dancing, background, creating a specific atmosphere?  How many musicians, what type or style do you need?  A show band or a DJ can be good for events where the tone is casual, upbeat, and lively.  A string quartet can add a great touch of elegance during the cocktail hour.  A jazz combo gives an energetic, classy feel.

If the entertainment will be the main event of the evening, you may want to have some sort of feature performer such as a variety act of some kind; a magician (an excellent choice!), a comedian, a juggler, a singer, a show band, etc., and you will probably want the entertainment to last somewhere between thirty minutes to an hour or so.

If the entertainment is simply one part of a bigger program or of several highlighted activities, the same type of performer might still be appropriate (yes, magic is still a great choice!), but you may want the length of the performance to be shorter, somewhere between twelve and twenty-five minutes.

And if the entertainment is to be simply background to the party, you may want some sort of ongoing, low key entertainment, such as dance music, strolling close up magic (yes, it works well here too!), strolling musicians, or a small orchestra, depending on your budget.  

And of course depending on the schedule and time frame, you may decide to use a combination of more than one of the above choices.  (Such as strolling close up magic for the cocktail hour and a stand up magic show after dinner.)

If your party is strictly business related, a dynamic or motivational speaker or entertainer can help set the tone and get attendees motivated for upcoming projects in the New Year.  Again, a good choice might be a comedian, hypnotist, or especially a magician with a fun, inspiring approach.

Whatever the case, make sure you're clear about the specific needs you hope to fill with the entertainment, and simply choose accordingly.

Finding the Right Entertainers…

Once you've determined the specific needs of your event, it will help you in choosing entertainment.  You want to look for entertainers who can tell you specifically what benefits they will offer for your event, and how those benefits will fill your unique needs.  If an entertainer is unable to communicate clearly and directly how he or she can fill those needs, they may not have your needs in mind at all.  Make sure you're completely clear about the specifics of what the entertainer will be providing, and that it's spelled out in a written agreement.

You can find a variety of entertainers in the yellow pages or on the Internet.  Don’t assume that the one with the biggest ad will be the best.  As with any other service professional, make sure they have experience and good references.  Any quality entertainer should be able to provide you with background credits, testimonials, and reference letters from past clients.

And don’t make the mistake of letting price be the only deciding factor.  It’s important that the entertainment not only provides a fun filled, lively experience, but also that none of your guests are put off or offended in any way.  If your audience is conservative, or a family group, make sure that the entertainer’s material is appropriate.  Comedians and other performers who are used to working in adult nightclubs can sometimes have a very different idea of what’s “clean” than what you may have.  So make sure you’re clear and specific about your needs.

Some Important Tips

Whoever you end up hiring, you want to be certain you’re getting the best value for the money you spend on entertainment.  Here are a few useful tips to help you determine whether an entertainer can come through for you in bringing the best experience to your guests.

Be sure to ask these important questions…

  • "Are you a full time professional entertainer?"  While there are exceptions, in many cases if an entertainer isn't full time, it may mean he's either not experienced enough, doesn't have a good enough show, or is simply not professional and dependable enough to support a full time career.  In general, those who make their living as entertainers have to be good enough to continue getting strong referrals, customer loyalty, and repeat business, and will tend to be more talented and more professional than those who merely do it as a sideline.
  • "Can you provide references from past clients?"  Any performer worth his salt should be glad to furnish you with letters and testimonials from his happy, satisfied customers.  If he can’t, you may want to proceed with caution!
  • "Do you offer a money back guarantee?"  If an entertainer doesn’t guarantee his work, there may be a reason he’s not prepared to do so!  Even paying a much lower price is still a waste of money if your guests aren’t thrilled, or worse, are somehow offended or put off by the performance.  You need to be certain the entertainment can deliver for your event.
  • "Can you tell me clearly and specifically what benefits you provide for my event?"  Many performers are more interested in looking good than in meeting your unique needs.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, make sure the entertainer is clear about how they can help meet your specific needs.

Talent Agencies

If you’re working with a talent agency, make sure they also have good references and are a licensed agency.  Be certain the contract spells out all details of the performance agreement, including the amount to be paid to each performer, the agent’s commission, as well as who is responsible for each.

In some cases you’ll pay each performer directly, and he or she is then responsible for paying the commission to the agent.  With others, you may pay one fee to the agency, who then pays their acts, after deducting their commission.  Some unscrupulous agents have been known to charge a much higher fee than the performer would normally ask, without telling either the client or the entertainer, and then keeping the difference.  So be sure everything's laid out in the written agreement.

Scheduling

As they say, timing is everything.  Scheduling entertainment for your party is no exception.  If you want the entertainment to be anything other than background filler, such as dinner music, it’s important that you schedule it at some point in the evening when your guests will feel comfortable giving it their attention.

Occasionally inexperienced party planners will make the mistake of scheduling entertainment during the dinner hour, in which case the guests must either continue eating and risk missing part of the show, or they have to interrupt their meal in order to watch the entertainment, in which case their food will probably get cold.  The show should probably either be before dinner during the “cocktail hour” (this is particularly appropriate for strolling performers), or it should be after dinner, (especially if you want it to be the evening’s main event).

Setup

Having some familiarity with the party location and knowing how the room will be set up can also be helpful in making your entertainment a success.  Make sure you’re clear about the technical needs of each of your entertainers.  Spending top dollar on a great entertainer is largely wasted if your room is set up so that a big part of the audience can’t see the performer, or if an inadequate sound system means they can’t be heard

If the performers are visually appealing, make sure everyone has good sight lines, and that there is adequate lighting on the performance area.  Obviously a stage or riser is helpful, but if these are unavailable, you should at least make sure that the room is arranged in such a way that there will be a clear view of the performer no matter where you sit.

If the room is long and narrow, such as in many banquet halls, you may want to arrange the tables so that the performance can take place at one end of the room, since if the performer is in the middle of the room, people at the ends of the room will inevitably end up having a great view of the performer’s back for much of the show, and this can be quite frustrating, particularly if the performer is visually appealing in any way.

Any experienced entertainer should be able to help you plan for these needs and give you a list of their technical requirements.

Use Your Creativity

As with every other aspect of planning your event, don’t be afraid to be creative and to think “outside the box”.  Don’t assume that certain types of entertainment are “just for kids”.  (That’s one of the biggest misconceptions I encounter regarding magic, here in the midwestern United States.)  Or that they won’t work in certain situations.  Quite often the least obvious types of entertainment can be just the unique twist that will bring a touch of freshness and appeal to your event.

The main thing is, don’t automatically rule something out because you think it “wouldn’t work”.  Look into a variety of options and ask for input from other creative or knowledgeable individuals.  Above all, have fun planning your holiday party entertainment, and you're sure to make the party fun and memorable for you and all your guests.


To learn how to have absolutely unforgettable entertainment programs at your next holiday party, CONTACT MITCH NOW!

© Copyright Mitch Williams, all rights reserved.