Gig Business, Party Ideas

5 Tips for Setting Up Your Event Stage for Success

By GigSalad

Article author, Julia Tobey, is a pro in the entertainment and event planning industry and is a member of the incredible vintage trio, The Beverly Belles. This post originally appeared on the Party Singers’ blog. Reprinted with permission.  Check out The Beverly Belles GigSalad profile to book these talented musicians! 


You’ve invested in a venue, you’ve booked amazing Talent, you want your guests to enjoy the show. How do you set up your performers and event stage for success? Put yourself in the performers’ shoes.

Imagine you are onstage performing (gulp!) and looking out at your audience. You want to connect with these people. If they are seated too far away, directly to your right or left, behind the stage or behind an obstruction; you—the performer—can’t reach these folks, and they—the audience—are likely to get frustrated and not enjoy the show. No one likes to stare at the back of someone’s head.

Here are five simple tips to make everyone happy!


1. Set them up to see the show. 

Seat your audience in FRONT of your stage and LIGHT your performers.

Avoid seating any audience members directly to the right or left, around a corner or especially behind the stage. It’s nearly impossible for the performers to connect with these people and they will likely stare at the side or back of the performers for the whole performance or worse yet—miss the show completely.

If necessary, use the space directly to the sides of the stage for the buffet or bars, a photo booth, displays, etc. Leaving it open is even better.

If your space is narrow, seat the audience deep (vertically) versus spread side to side (horizontally). This will at least make the stage visible to most, if not all of your audience, even if they are a bit further away. And the performers won’t feel like they’re turning their backs on some folks.

And be sure the performers will be lit with flattering stage lighting if the performance space will be dark.


2. Get cozy. 

Seat your audience CLOSE to the stage and CLOSE to one another.

Great performers like to engage with their audience and make them feel included. If the first row of tables or chairs is too far away, that feels like dead space to the audience and the performers.

Seat the first row of the audience as close as five feet away from the front edge of the stage if possible and don’t spread the audience out too much. Keeping it all contained keeps the performance energy locked together.

If you have a lot of space, set up the extras (like the buffet, bars, etc.) behind the seating area, or just keep that space open. But get the audience close to the show!


3. A pillar is not your friend. 

Don’t BLOCK your audience’s view of the stage.

Whenever possible, seat people to the right or left of any sort of obstruction. Unless, of course, you’re hosting superheroes and they all have X-ray vision. Most people will feel miffed if they are seated behind a pillar.

Keep this in mind when choosing a venue. If there are a lot of obstructions, look elsewhere if you’re hoping for full capacity!


4. Distraction kills a show.  

Set up ACTION spots away from the line of view of the stage.

As a performer, one of the worst things in the world is to have a constant visual or audio distraction anywhere near the stage during a show.

For example, I was performing with The Beverly Belles once for a dinner show and the buffet was set up ten feet away from center stage with the audience to the right and left of it. Every time someone got up to get a second helping, drink or dessert, the whole audience would look at that person as they pushed through the chairs, excusing their way to and from the buffet. It distracted us and distracted the audience. Again, it would have been better to set up the buffet behind the seating area.


5. Allow plenty of time to set up and communicate. 

Check in with your performers beforehand and build in ample set-up time on the day.

Make sure you have a conversation with the agent or performers before the event date. Send a mockup drawing of your audience setup if you are unsure and get their input.

Then, on the day, be sure to give the performers plenty of time to get their sound equipment loaded in, set up, sound checked and get out of view before the audience starts coming in.

Another time with The Beverly Belles, our show was slated to be a surprise for dessert entertainment. When we showed up to begin setting up at our pre-designated time, the planner rushed us away saying folks were already coming into the performance space. I had to remind her that we are not ninjas and it’s hard to be invisible or silent when setting up and sound checking. If the surprise had to be a bust, then so be it! It was much better than having an hour-long show full of technical errors or sound issues. This could have been avoided if there was a separate cocktail or receiving area. Or just pay a little extra for the Talent to arrive and set up way early.


Wasn’t that EASY?! A little forethought and planning is sure to make your event go off without a hitch. If you have a hard time envisioning a stage or an audience in your event space, enlist the help of a friend, a professional event planner or ask a performer or stage technician for help! Happy Planning!


If you’re planning an event and you’re in need of entertainment, check out your local options on GigSalad.


  1. Taylor Wright February 28, 2020

    I like that you said to not have anything in front of the stage or something that could be distracting. My brother has a traveling band and needs help finding a stage that could accommodate their needs while also being portable. I’ll be sure to share this with him so he knows what to look outr for when setting up their potential stage.

  2. Pete June 15, 2021

    Thank you for such invaluable information! I am fairly new in the industry and this has come in very handy.
    Great work and all the best…


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