Tight budgets and tough ROI have companies scaling down entertainment. Event planners suggest several ways to cut costs in a way that qualifiers won't notice.

Michael Boltzman, director of business development, Clear Channel Entertainment Special Events, St. Louis: Try an “unplugged” show — the intimate acoustic concerts made popular by MTV in the mid-1990s. Picture Hall and Oates, for example, with just guitars and a microphone.

Peter Berliner, Innovative Entertainment, San Francisco: Think locally, plan globally. For an event in San Francisco for an international client whose group included many non-English speakers, he used a lineup of mariachi bands, Chinese dragons, doo-wop singers, and weightlifters — all local performers.

Mark Sonder, Mark Sonder Productions, Chantilly, Va.: Know the location of a touring performer. With information on the event venue, “I can search a 250-mile radius …. If someone is working the day before or after an event, I can pull them in …, saving my client airfare costs because the truck is already there, and possibly sound and lighting.”