Want to make your next big banquet entertainment really stand out? As an alternative to name talent, local acts/bands, and theme parties, why not build your own show? You might need help from your producer, but regardless of who does the majority of the work, there are any number of proven and exciting ways to differentiate your next show. Here are just a few.

Know Your Customer: Create a musical program around a Broadway revue, an award-winning film, or hits from a particular era or composer. Choose the material, performers, orchestra size, and so on, building a show that suits your audience, venue, and budget. You could even pre-record an entire evening of music that fits your group like a glove. Maybe there's a storyline. Perhaps it ties in with your theme.

Night of Comedy: An improv group properly prepped on your audience can have tremendous impact at relatively low cost. Or offer three different types of comics for 20 minutes each — one of whom acts as host — for a night of comedy. People are under more stress than ever these days: Why not leave ’em laughing? (For more on choosing comedic performers, see On Event Production, ICP September/October 2000, page 64). Here again, you choose the performers and produce your own show.

World of Magic: Magic acts vary as much as musicians and comedians. Make it global. Choose acts from around the world, particularly if you're producing a show overseas or an event with international attendees. Here again, you can present three different types of magicians or illusionists.

Variety Night: Jugglers, ventriloquists, mentalists, acrobats — the list goes on. Get yourself a great host and away you go!

Dancing: If your group loves to dance, hire professional dancers to perform first on stage and around the room, then make the room and your guests the show. Place dance floors in atypical patterns throughout the room along with smaller stages. Provided the geography of the ballroom supports it, dancing can become the main attraction. And provided the budget supports it, add a top dance band or surprise attendees with a name act that's revealed after they're already on their feet — the way they like it. Or keep a lid on costs by hiring a great DJ.

Remember: Name acts, bands, DJs, and interactive dance troupes are not your only options. Put on your thinking cap and produce a show designed specifically for the unique disposition and preferences of your group.

Ken Kirsh, CMP, is president of Kirsh Productions Inc. in New York City. Contact him at (212) 262-4388 or kenkirsh@kirshproductions.com.


The element of surprise — who's performing at the banquet, where next year's conference is — often adds impact to a program. But keeping secrets is a challenge. Here's how not to blow the surprise:

  • Assign someone on your staff this specific responsibility.

  • Identify and seal all potential leaks and remain vigilant.

  • Lock off ballroom rehearsals, informing people on a need-to-know basis only.

  • E-mail everyone in your company who knows in advance that it's confidential.

  • Make sure the production company and other vendors treat it confidentially.

  • Alert guest speakers and other external presenters who precede the announcement or performer that it's a surprise.