Avoid the OOPS! How To Prepare For Guest Entertainers And Speakers

Seasoned Entertainers and Speakers have a "show-must-go-on" mentality. Here are some tips to help event planners cover the bases for their hired talent to avoid glitches. My readers always have great tips to add - so I welcome you to share your comments and tips! P.S. If you need to brush up on showbiz terminology, check out my blog on 13 Showbiz Words Event Planners Should Know.

Read the rider

This is a no-brainer, however worth mentioning as certain speakers and entertainers have specific needs that are key to their performance. The size of the stage, audio & lighting needs, distance from dressing room, tables backstage, etc., should all be outlined in the rider. Ask for a stage plot if one is not already provided - this will give you a map of how the entertainer visualizes the set-up of the stage, instrument placement, podium placement, prop placement, etc.


This is actually for the planner's benefit more than the talent's, as inability to find parking can make an otherwise punctual performer late for sound check. Communicate with the entertainer on the best load-in zone and parking space(s). Provide a map if your venue is a large convention center or complex. Place a cone with a sign in the reserved parking space. Provide parking passes if required.

Green Room

The Green Room is usually a comfortable space where the performer can warm-up, relax, and prep for their show. This is preferably a secure space where the performer can leave personal items when performing. A locker is helpful if the green room is not a locked space. The reason I recommend a Green Room is tokeep the entertainer's gear cases, water bottles, backpacks, etc. out of view so they do not clutter the venue. Also, we always recommendkeeping the performer out of sight until the show, making their appearance more magical and special and ensuring that their costumes are not spoiled.

Dressing Room

The Dressing Room will need to be close to the stage - check with your talent to see if there are costume changes throughout the show and communicate the distance between center stage and the dressing room. For instance, in our touring show tech rider, we note that there are costume changes every 2-3 minutes and specify maximum distance a dressing room can be from the stage. Traveling down long hallways, staircases, and elevators can cause delays.

One solution our company has found is the pop-up dressing stall. (You can see a video demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmZbAqV4cIU&feature=youtu.be) This is particularly helpful for meeting spaces and ballrooms that don't have theatrical dressing rooms. I believe we spent about $30 on it and it folds up to about the size of a pizza, making it easy to travel with. Conceal the pop-up with pipe and drape - it is important to get floor-length, opaque curtains. The inexpensive banjo cloth is see-through when lit from behind - it often does not reach the floor.

A few things that are helpful to place backstage are:


-Iron or Steamer


-Garment Rack



- Fan

-Glow sticks or rope lights to light dark pathways backstage

-Pitcher of water / cups

Meal On-Site

Some entertainers require a meal on-site. I highly recommend this to event planners as the performers will no doubt be on site over a meal time for set-up, sound check, and performance. If you do not feed the entertainers, they will often leave after sound check to scout out their dining options. This opens up the chance of your talent getting lost, caught in traffic, searching for parking.

Sound / Light Check

Always schedule a sound / lighting check early in the day so there is time to make adjustments and fix and problems. This must be the same operator that will be running the show - not Mr. Sound Guy's teenage son, wife, etc. Be sure that audio, video, and lighting equipment is attended at all times. Only once in two decades have I experienced theft, however a more common scenario is when another vendor or decorator accidentally moves equipment or dislodges a cable.

Insist that all wireless microphones have their batteries changed after sound check / before the show. This is a practice our sound designer is adamant about as she always carries a battery charge tester and tests even the new batteries before the show. In addition we always require that corded back up mics are set up and ready to go in an emergency. Also be sure to clarify whether the entertainer is expecting a wireless lavalier, wireless headset, or handheld wireless mic. Some performances require hands-free amplification, while a professional vocalist will need the ability to "work" the handheld mic so they do not cause distortion on loud notes.


If you are renting portable staging, inspect it for squeaks, and stability. Often times heavily used rental staging can become wob