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Supporting Your Entertainment

Posted on December 09, 2008

You may not expect it, but the room setup and the timetable for the event play a huge role in whether your entertainment is a show-stopping hit or a complete failure. It’s crucial for planners to consider how the flow of the evening will support the entertainment in order to pull off a successful event.

Intimate is Beautiful…And Funnier
There’s a reason why comedy clubs are so small and it has nothing to do with the cost of real estate. Comedy is an intimate experience and laughter is contagious. Tables set closely together and close to the stage encourage the feeling of connectedness and foster contagious laughter. Tables far apart and set back from the stage kill it. Our actors are trained to wait for the laughter to build, to let it roll out across the audience to the rear of the space, so the space in the room is an important part of the dynamic. The kiss of death is a buffet or a dance floor in front of the stage. The laughter dies before it reaches the audience. We’ve turned down business that requires us to perform with a big space between us and the crowd. We’d be wasting the event planner’s money. Whether it’s an audience of 2000 or 200, great comedy is close.

Food and Beverage Service
This might seem unrelated, but the quality of the banquet service is key. To start, make sure you have an appropriate number of servers and that everyone is served their food at the same time. One of our most challenging performances took place at an event where there weren’t enough servers. The result was that half the room was served their meal while the other half waited. And waited. And went to the still-open bar. The show in the audience was competing with the one on the stage—one annoyed guest threw a piece of cheesecake at a waiter. Then, coordinate closely with the banquet captain so there isn’t too much going on at once. If the audience is being served while the entertainment or speaker is on, the audience isn’t clear on what you want them to do: Is it time to eat? Is it time to watch/listen?  

Setting the Stage
Lighting is a key element in giving the audience cues on how to react and to create a sense of occasion for the performance. The best strategy is to keep the house lights up and the stage lights dim until about half the audience is seated and dim the house lights and turn up the stage lights. It prepares the audience and focuses their attention on the stage. Keeping the house lights on during a performance confuses the audience, interferes with their focus on the stage and discourages the sense of intimacy that enhances a performance.  

Tomorrow: How to successfully move people to their seats and get the entertainment going.


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