As we approach the holiday season, many of us are going to be planning Christmas parties and holiday celebrations. Finding the right entertainment for these events is a huge undertaking. Get it right and you’re a hero! Get it wrong and your guests have to suffer through a boring program. No pressure, huh?

Don’t worry! As a professional speaker and entertainer, I have worked with some of the finest event planners in the industry and have learned from them all. Follow this guide to help you through the decision-making process and guarantee that you have a massively successful event.

1. Planning

One of the very first steps when planning an event is to decide on as many of the specific details as possible. These details should include date, time, location, number of guests invited, etc. Most entertainers and speakers will ask you these questions to get an idea of what you are planning so they can adjust their performance to best fit your event.

2. Type of Program

The type of event you are planning will also dictate what type of program to consider. If you are planning a Christmas party, you will obviously be looking for a different type of program than if you are planning your child’s birthday party. You must consider who your guests are and what they will find entertaining.

Keep this in mind: your entertainer is representing you at the party. Therefore, you have an excellent opportunity to show off without lifting a finger! The person you choose should be professional and have experience that gives you confidence in them. You will know about an entertainer’s or speaker’s level of experience by their resume, testimonials, references, and letters of recommendation.

3. Choosing the Right Program

All savvy, business-minded, professional entertainers and speakers have websites. A well designed website allows your future entertainer to list their specialties, describe exactly what they do and how they do it, as well as post video clips, photos, letters of recommendation, etc. A good website is the ultimate brochure for entertainers to inform potential clients on who they are.

You should be able to see enough from an entertainer’s website to get a really good idea of whether he or she will be able to do the job for you or not. Be sure to evaluate whether or not the entertainer you are considering specializes in entertaining groups like yours.

4. The Initial Contact

There are several ways to make contact with your prospective entertainer or speaker. The easiest is to just pick up the phone and call the entertainer’s office. Making contact with your prospective entertainer with a phone call is an excellent way to get to know them. By actually speaking with your entertainer you can learn things that you may not be able to tell through other contact methods. A conversation allows you to hear the person’s voice and it allows you to get an impression about how appropriate this person is for your event. A phone conversation also allows your entertainer to ask you specific questions that they need answered in order to quote a fee, check availability, and be sure that they are the right fit for your event.

Another option is to send the entertainer an email. Email is a great way to make first contact with your prospective entertainer. If you choose to make contact through email, try to give as many details about the event as possible. Include your phone number and a window of time when you will be available to talk so that the entertainer can call you back and ask additional questions he or she may have.

An additional way to make contact with your entertainer is to fill out a web form that is on his or her website. A web form will have specific fields such as name, phone number, your address, type of function, venue address, approximate number of guests expected, etc. The web form is often a preferred method of contact over email because it is designed to provide the entertainer with specific information needed in order to quote a fee, check availability, etc.

Price Shopping? Everyone is on some kind of budget. The general rule of thumb is this: Do not go with the lowest price. Going with the lowest price is likely a precursor to disappointment. In the entertainment and speaking fields remember the old adage “you get what you pay for.”

5. Contracts, Confirmation Calls and Letters

Once all the details have been decided on, you should expect to receive a contract from your entertainer or speaker. This is not something to stress over. It is normal operating procedure for any professional entertainer or speaker. In fact, if you don’t get a contract, you should start to wonder.

The contract basically spells out all the details that have been agreed upon when discussing your event. You should take the time to review all of the details, including type of program, start and end time, venue address, price, etc. The performance agreement should set you at ease because you now know that your entertainer has all the details correct and can prepare to deliver a dynamic, appropriate program.

6. The Day of the Event

As far as the program goes, you should have had several discussions with your entertainer by now which would answer any and all questions that either of you may have had. It should be clear, because of the previously agreed upon details in the contract, what time your entertainer will arrive, when and where they will set up, and what time the program will begin. Be sure that you or the main contact person of the event is carrying a cell phone in case your entertainer runs into any last minute issues and needs to contact you.

7. Last Minute Details and Showtime!

You’ve done your research and selected the best program for your event. At this point, there should be nothing for you to worry about. Kick back, relax and enjoy!