When organizing your event entertainment the best options are often to keep it simple and keep it local

Sometimes, you want your entertainment to take center stage and sometimes, you want entertainers that blend into your event.

The route you choose will depend on the type of event you’re hosting, your guests’ expectations, and the talent available for your budget.

When you’re planning your budget, keep in mind that not all talent will break your bank, but hiring the wrong or having no talent can break your event.

Also, talent refers to everything from an emcee to help keep your guests entertained and your event moving at a good pace to a center stage-worthy band or big-name star.

Matching talent to your event style

We don’t often think of galas as casual events, but not all year-end or annual events have to be galas.

Let’s take a look at entertainment categories and how they suit your event type, guest expectations, and your budget.


Skilled emcees are essential for events with a program full of presentations, ceremonies, and other entertainment. However, emcees can help any event type run more efficiently and provide more entertainment value for your guests.

Details to consider:

  • Match your emcee’s style to your event. You don’t want to hire an emcee known for profanity or off-color humor to work an event honoring religious or children’s organizations
  • Agree early on whether the emcee will write their own material or whether they will require a prepared script
  • Plan a dress rehearsal to make sure the material is ready and everyone is on the same page

Expert speakers and presenters

Keynote speakers add tremendous value to an event whether their message is educational or inspirational. Polished speakers are appropriate for almost any event type.

Details to consider:

  • Determine early whether a gratuity or fee is expected so you can budget for just the right speaker
  • Communicate clearly whether a pitch for their latest book or program is allowed since many keynote speakers who come free or cheap expect to be able to pitch their offers in some way
  • Get a clear idea of your speakers audio/visual requirements so you have the correct setup for the event. Even a free speaker can be expensive if their A/V requirements aren’t in your budget

Local community groups

Some of the most budget-friendly talent will come from local community groups. Many groups will perform free or for a small gratuity that covers transportation and other expenses.

Details to consider:

  • Many local groups include children as part of the performance. Keep this in mind if your event centers around alcohol, firearms or any other topic considered adult-only
  • Local groups will not typically have agents and you will need to manage releases for publicity and the use of photos, especially where children are involved
  • Local groups run the gamut of performance experience. Some will be polished and professional while others will be less professional but still with great entertainment value. Keep this in mind and try to match the tone of your event with the group you select

Local professional talent

You don’t have to live in a large city to be surrounded by a wealth of local professional talent. Actors, singers, dancers, magicians, comedians – all can be found in most communities.

Details to consider:

  • Local professional talent may or may not be less expensive than well-known celebrities, so talk money early in the transaction
  • Local professional talent may or may not have an agent, so navigating contracts might be trickier
  • While lesser-known talent might not have the same draw as a big-name celebrity, with the proper marketing, you can turn local talent into a win for all involved

Local celebrities

Local celebrities can also be nationally or internationally known and will sometimes lend their name and talents to groups in their local community.

Details to consider:

  • Celebrities are often contractually obligated to charge a fee, but it may not be the tens or hundreds of thousands they typically charge. Nail this down early in your negotiations
  • Not sure where to start? Try any pro sports teams, operas, ballet, symphony orchestras, or acting groups
  • Consider hiring a professional event planner or talent agent to make sure you get the best talent and don’t run into any contract issues

End-of-year galas are often sophisticated events and require a great deal of planning. If you’re getting a late start, or if your event planning is in process but you’re feeling a time pinch, I’d love to help.

Aurice Guyton

Author Aurice Guyton

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