How to Host a Talent Show

Talent shows can be a lot of fun, but only if the people running them know what they're doing. It takes patience and organization to make a series of amateur performances into a cohesive and entertaining night.

Whether you're putting on a show as a fundraiser, a benefit or just for profit, thinking ahead and staying on point during the event will pay huge dividends.

Make sure you have performers. Talent shows are great only when you have enough--or ideally more than enough--performers. This allows for a greater diversity of acts and a fuller, richer night of entertainment for the audience.

Choose a date. Talent shows are very often community events, so make sure the date doesn't clash with a big football game, a school dance or any other event that will draw your potential crowd. If you live in a cold climate, try to hold your event in the fall or spring, when inclement weather is less severe. You don't want to hold a talent show in the middle of a snowstorm.

Find a venue. If the show is for a school, contact the principal's office to see about reserving the auditorium. Other venues include community centers, art centers and other public places with performance space.

Recruit talent. If you're allowing open signup, a first-come, first-served policy might be best, as you'll only have so much time for performances (talent shows longer than an hour or so can grow tiresome for the audience.) If you're selecting the performers, strive for experienced performers and a diversity of acts.

Advertise the show in any way that's within your means. Tell the performers it is their duty (and in their best interest) to encourage family and friends to attend. Consider giving a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to a local charity or other well-known organization. Its members can help promote the show.

Give the performers information ahead of time. With your performers selected and your time frame determined, give the performers written instructions about the show. Tell them when to check in at the venue, when they will perform and how long they will have to perform. Provide other relevant details, such as the show's start time, address and ticket prices.

Do this as far in advance as possible, as performers will need to make their acts fit the time constraints.

Give a pre-show pep talk. Once the performers arrive, get everyone together and go over how the night will work. Be energetic and encouraging--if you're nervous, they probably will be, and it could show in their performance.

Start on time. It is unwise to keep the audience waiting. Some will be eager to see the performances and others will be eager to get out on time. Either way, you and your performers owe them the courtesy of starting on time.

Do a short opening bit. As the host, it's your job to get things started. Hit the stage with some confidence and swagger. Speak loudly, clearly and confidently. Borrow from the great TV variety show hosts: Tell the audience they're in for a great show, and give them hints as to what to expect.

Entertain in between. Certain acts require a few minutes to set up, and every act deserves its own conclusion and segue. At a minimum, remind the audience of the performer's name and preview what's about to come. Mention the performers' experience. If they have none, mention this is their first-ever performance. Do what you can to get the audience interested, and have a few clean jokes or anecdotes to tell.

Announce winners, awards and thank the audience. If your show was a competition, announce the winner as soon as possible after the last act.