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Choosing the right entertainment is as important as choosing the right menu. Many events suffer because the entertainment disrupts rather than delights the guests. The key is to consider your agenda and your audience.

Look at the flow of your agenda. Where are the opportunities to enhance the event with entertainment? During cocktails? Dinner? Later on in the evening? Whatever the time frame, there is the perfect entertainment out there.

Once you have decided on the timing, choose passive or interactive entertainment.

Passive entertainment occurs in the background and interactive entertainment occurs directly with your guests. Passive entertainment works well during dinners, award shows, and receptions. This sort of entertainment doesn’t require the full attention of your guests. It can occur in the background while your guests are enjoying themselves. Some passive entertainment examples might be a jazz trio, harpist, or Cirque-style performers.

Interactive entertainment involves your guests and can be delivered in a myriad of ways. I have hired interactive stage performers (illusionists, jugglers, magicians), roving interactive performers and Las Vegas Showgirls.

I personally prefer interactive entertainment as I believe the guests like the “close up and personal” experience that comes when magic is performed right in front of their eyes. Most importantly – preview your entertainment in action BEFORE the event.

Do-It-Yourself Entertainment Checklist

Booking the correct entertainment is a tricky job. It’s a bit like plumbing. Sometimes it’s best left to the pros. But if you’re determined to do-it-yourself, here are some ‘entertaining’ mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

Pitting entertainers against each other. Something you want to avoid is having two different magicians at the event, two different dance bands or two different acrobats. The competition for the public’s attention amongst the entertainers will create unnecessary tension at the event.

Inviting an entertainer who works with animals – unless specifically requested by the client. This specifically applies to the indoors events. Allergies, coughing and sneezing is not the type of the reaction you are looking for, right?

Booking outside entertainment and hoping for good weather on the day of the event. This almost never works in Vancouver – there’s almost always a chance it could rain tomorrow and even next week. Planning fireworks outside? Check the weather twice. And make sure it’s not in November – our rainiest month. Having fireworks inside? Get written permission from the venue and City of Vancouver.

Hiring an entertainer on a personal relationship. A close friend of yours has recommended a flamboyant chef who performs culinary magic at the open fire grill? Make sure he doesn’t have a pyromania background. See him in action. Don’t forget the fire hydrant!

Hiring Christmas Carolers as the main entertainment. Carolers are good for an opening act or greeting type entertainment, but can no means sustain your audience for the entire event. After a while it becomes painfully annoying!

Surprising the client. This is a big no-no. Amusing the client with surprise entertainment is a road to failure. Including the “surprise” on the final invoice is the fastest route to get there.

Ask An Event Planner

How early do you need to book entertainment to get the act you want?

Entertainment that is popular and good value for your money, will book up 6 months in advance. It’s best to get your main act booked as early as possible.

What is the biggest mistake event planners make when booking entertainment?

They don’t consider their audience and the event agenda. Timing and taste are the keys to good entertainment. Make sure you’re confident on both.

How much should my entertainment cost?

There are many variables, but $10 – $20 per person is a good guide.

Top Three Event Entertainment Choices

Sit-down dinner

A Las Vegas show or other stage act is a great way to combine entertainment into an evening where people will be mostly seated at a table.


Roving entertainers don’t need a stage. Let them work the room so everyone can get closer to the fun.

Outdoor event

Stage performers such as a live band provide a focal point for the event and a way for guests to relax and enjoy the music.

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