All the World is a Stage: Planning the Structure and Program for Your Event

09 April 2015

You become the director of a special kind of play when planning and producing an event. The action, activities, and entertainment at an event must be carefully scripted and planned out. There should be a strong opening, surpris¬es, a climax, and an exciting finale—all advanc¬ing at the appropriate pace.

Speakers, music, and entertainment are essential tools that allow you to engage with your guests, tell your story, and deliver your important message to donors. You must thought¬fully think out all of the elements you plan to include in your programming.

Compare your event to a Broadway show. There is a structure for plays and movies that audiences have come to expect. Your event is no different. Good dramatic structure demands excellent timing. Con¬sider these key elements of a successful play:

  • Critical information must not be delivered too late.
  • Openings should not be soft, and you must build to the climax.
  • The audience should always be hungry for answers and those answers must be satisfying.
  • The opening number isn’t usually the largest number, but it provides an exciting introduction of what is in store.
  • The touching and emotionally compelling song takes place right before the end.
  • The finale is the largest number in the show.

Take a look at this graph showing the peaks and valleys of a Broadway show and its musical numbers for manipulating mood.

graph broadway stage blog

Notice that the graph does not stay high continuously throughout the entire show, nor does it grow endlessly. It has peaks and valleys throughout, while gradually building up at the end. If the audience is amped up all of the time, then after a certain point they no longer feel amped, but are now exhausted. You need the excitement to go up and down. The brain needs those changes in speed to remain fully connected.

This connection will allow your guests to be fully primed to take in your message and call for action, particularly if it has an emotional connection for your guests. As you plan the programming for your next event, keep this idea of the Broadway show in mind and how best you can make your speakers, music, and entertainment convey your essential messaging.


Jessica Ballard is a public relations and marketing professional planning donor-related events in the non-profit industry. She is currently the Director of Events and Communications for the Division of Development and Alumni at Utah Valley University.

To hear more on this topic, don’t miss Jessica’s presentation at Fundamentals of Fundraising.

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