I’m booked to by companies all over the country to be the featured entertainment at their banquet. I’m constantly trying to improve what looks best. I examine literally every tiny detail. Script, wardrobe, props, name it, I’ve checked it. I’ve been known to change one word in routines I’ve been doing for five years and see drastic improvements. I see it very simply as, my show should always be evolving if I’m learning new things.
Because I’m always learning, that doesn’t just involve improving my show. It also involves improving the event as a whole. I feel that it’s not just my job to be the entertainment. It’s to use my experience to convey to my clients what I’ve seen work best in each circumstance. After performing at numerous banquets for corporations, charities and organizations over the last 15 years, I’ve seen what works best for the entertainment portion. I’m really not going to sugarcoat this…it is the textbook opposite from what I see most event planners doing. Now, that’s the bad news. The good news is, 95% of any potential problems can be solved in three simple steps.
If you’re having an entertainer at your next banquet, unless they specifically request otherwise, do these three things and enjoy the overwhelming difference.
1. 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 the banquet is two hours (or three with a cocktail hour at the beginning), the entertainment being the close of the evening is a great idea. However, if people will be seated for 3+ hours, having the entertainment as a closer is a less than ideal option. People can lose some of their enthusiasm. This isn’t because the evening’s activities are dull. Three hours can just be a long time to sit, and worse, pay attention.
Most banquets usually have these elements: dinner, awards/recognition, raffles, entertainment/speaker. All of these elements 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.
2. Keep your audience closer…
My show is extremely interactive. When people are sitting at tables, I want them as close to the stage as they can possibly be. If my closest audience member is 20-30 feet away, then it’s going to be extremely hard to interact with them. However, if the closest audience member is less than 5 feet from the stage, my job is going to be extremely easy. I know, that seems close. However, to prove my point, I’ve had keynote speakers change their technical riders after working the same events as me.
Here’s one more piece of advice on this. 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.
3. No food during the show!
This is the make or break of most banquets. I have heard from magicians who make 5 figures for a banquet show and one in Europe who makes 6 figures per show and 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.
Why is this so critical? If you’re booking an entertainer, in this case a magician, then any interaction is going to require audience focus. If people have a meal in front of them, half of their focus on the entertainer is automatically gone. Period. What makes it harder is that eating creates noise. Silverware, plates, glasses clinking, waitstaff…I’m sure you can hear it all. The average best case scenario with entertainment during dinner is the first three rows of tables will be engaged. Everyone further back is fighting to hear over the noise from the tables between themselves and the stage.
Also, if people are sitting at round tables, take into account that 40% of the people will have their backs to the stage while they’re eating.
If you take one tip away from this article, take this one. I’m not saying that the entertainment portion will not be a success if it’s held during dinner? However, I am saying that your chances are much greater if the entertainment is separate from the dinner. If you’re pressed for time, make it a shorter show and maybe even try to cut a few minutes out of the dinner. Just don’t make the mistake of combining the two.
A great way to keep energy levels up at a banquet is to have upbeat music during dinner/before the entertainment. Now, I need to qualify what I consider to be upbeat music, or better yet, what I consider not to be upbeat. I love classical music…no joke, one of my favorites…but it’s not upbeat! Light rock, pop, jazz are great. Anything with a beat that people can tap their feet to and clean lyrics that they can lip-sync to. Believe me, it’ll put attendees in a great mood!
In closing let me ask you to look over these few tips and realize that nothing I’ve told you here is difficult. Entertainment at your banquet can be a huge success. There’s nothing like spending little time and effort for have such a big reward!
Of course, if you’re interested in having a magician as the entertainment at your next banquet, you’re welcome to contact us!