How to Host A Live Show

While live shows take a lot of work to organise, they are enormous fun. Kudos to you for deciding to run your own show - we need more people like you! Your first step will be to decide if you will have a show that has a good mix of classes for all sizes, types and finishes of models, or a specialty show (that focuses on one particular type of model, such as OFs, minis or foals). The beauty of holding a live show is that you can craft the perfect class list. For a first-timer, it’s best to hold a small, casual show. You can always hold larger shows in the future, and a smaller show is an excellent and low-stress way of getting your feet wet. 

Once you have everything finalised, send out the program at least a couple of months prior to the show - the more notice you can give possible entrants, the better. Use various clubs and associations, such as the Down Under Model Horse Society, social media such as Facebook, and hobby sites such as Model Horse Sales Pages to promote your show.


Money Management

Planning a live show can get expensive, so it`s important that you keep good records of your expenses and income. As you generally won`t receive any income from the show, such as entry fees, until closer to the show, you will need to pay for some aspects out of your own pocket. This includes things like hall hire and bond, ribbons, and prizes.

Once the show is over, you will be able to recoup your costs from the show`s income.

You may need to do a little research to find the best date for holding your live. Contact possible entrants (either directly or via social media), and see what dates would be suitable for them to attend. The best time for a live show is on the weekend, as many people work or attend school. Avoid long weekends as possible; not only will traffic increase around this time, but higher  accommodation and travel prices may prevent entrants who live further away from making the journey to your show, plus a long weekend is a popular time for people to take short holidays.

If you intend to hire a venue, then have a few dates in mind when you begin the search for a hall. Large spaces for hire are often secured quickly, especially on weekends, so start the search early and have a few ‘back up’ dates on hand should your first choice be taken.

Decide on a venue for the show. If you are only running a small show (for example, less than 30 classes), and only expect a few entrants, you may be able to use your house or garage. A larger show, and/or a show with a higher number of enMelbourne Live Show 2009 was held at Kilbreda College, Mentone VICtrants will usually require a larger venue, such as a community room or hall.

Remember you will need lots of room; as well as space for each entrant to have their own table, you will need room for your judging rings and at least one table to display your prizes and raffle items/donations.

Consider these places for your show venue:

  • Schools,
  • community halls/centres
  • scout halls 
  • dance halls,
  • theatres,
  • senior citizen`s centres,
  • town halls,
  • RSLs,
  • churches
  • civic centres

There have also been live shows held in curious places like airplane hangers, so don`t immediately rule out a suggestion!

When looking at venues for hire, you`ll need to investigate what is available in your local area on the date you have selected, and get details on hire, costs and facilities available. You`ll need somewhere with good, sturdy tables for the models, and kitchen and toilet facilities, which are usually included in the hire fee.

Venues may give their size as a capacity (the number of people it can hold) rather than physical measurements. As a very general guide, a hall that holds around 200-250 people is a good size for a show of around 20 people. A smaller venue that holds 100 may fit a show with ten entrants. It can be hard to imagine the hall set up for a show when you are visiting a hall, so if you are in doubt, err on the side of more space, rather than less.

Check for other important factors, such as location of the venue, and accommodation and public transport for travelling entrants. Consider availability of parking close to the hall, and take away outlets for those who wish to purchase lunch. To make it easier for the venue owner and yourself, it may help to describe your show as an art exhibition when beginning to call around for information or drawing anaologies with the model train and plane hobbies. This will help give venue owners an idea of what to expect from you.

You can use a list similar to this to help you note what is included with each venue.

  Venue A Venue B Venue C
Hire fee      
Insurance requirements      
Hall size      
Time of hire      
- What size?      
- How many?      
Close to public transport      

You may have to call many different venues before you find one that suits your needs and budget. Don`t be discouraged! If others have held shows in your area, you can ask them for details of venues they have used previously.

Venues may charge you an hourly fee, or a flat fee for the day. You will be hard-pressed to find a venue that does not also charge a bond (a dollar amount that is kept as security in case the hall is damaged during your hire term). This will be returned after the hire period if the hall has not been damaged.

Hall hire will most likely be the most expensive item on your planning list. Expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $500 on the hire cost alone, or more for very large halls.


Most venues may allow you to pay the bond as a deposit (to hold your booking), and then pay the actual hire fee closer to the show day.

Venue Inspection

Once you have called around and found some venues that sound suitable, you should organise a visit to look at the hall. Some places like community centres may allow you to drop in at any time (even when the hall is being used), while other places may ask that you make an appointment.

During the inspection, the venue manager may show you around. Here are some things to look at, and ask the manager, while you are there.

  • Lighting. Is all of the lighting artifical or is there some natural light? Is it bright or a dim hall? (Lighting is very important!) Where are the light switches, and how do you turn the lights off and on?
  • Storage. Where are the chairs and tables stored? Do you need to put them away (or back in the same way you found them, if they were already out) after the show?
  • Locked doors. Are there any doors, such as to the kitchen, that are locked?
  • Cleaning supplies. Where is the broom, and if needed, a mop and bucket in case of any accidents?
  • Access time. When can you open the hall to set up? When do you have to leave?
  • Keys. Will someone be at the hall to open it for you? If not, when will you collect and return the keys?
  • Alarm. Is there an alarm that you will need to arm and disarm?
  • Heating and cooling. How do you use the heater/air conditioner/fans?

You may want to write these up in a table to keep track of the answers. If you like, you may choose to bring along some photos of other live shows to show the venue manager. Don`t be afraid to talk to them about your hobby! It`s great promotion, and they might even have some models of their own to bring along!

If you decide to hire a hall, here are some points to consider:

  • Public liability insurance. You will need to check whether your show will be covered under the venue’s own insurance. Public liability insurance protects you and the venue from being sued should someone be injured while at your show. Many venues will allow your once-off event to be covered by their insurance for a small fee, especially if the venue is owned or managed by your local council. For your own safety, DUMHS does not recommend hiring a hall without insurance. Some venues will require you to source your own insurance. From the author`s experience, this can cost over $500 for a one-day show, so avoid these venues if possible.
  • Hire times. Remember to include at the very least an hour either side of the show to allow yourself time to set up your tables, and clean up any mess afterwards. If luck is on your side, some halls may allow you to set up the night before the show. Explore this option to save yourself time and stress in the morning.

If you are a minor (under 18 years), you legally cannot sign a contract. Your parent/guardian must do this for you, so make sure they are involved in the entire process.

Some of this information may not be discussed with the venue owners until after you have inspected the venue, but it is best that you try and ask questions about all possible circumstances so you are not caught unawares on the day of the show.

Class List
A good, well-balanced class list can be hard to create, so look at class lists from other shows for inspiration. If it`s your first time running a show, 60 or 70 classes will allow you to finish at a reasonable time. As soon as the date, venue and class list are finalised, apply for your show to become a DUN qualifier.

Most shows will split primarily by finish - that is, OF is seperate from CM and AR. (Depending on the size of the show, CM and AR may be separate from each other, too.) A few performance classes and some workmanship and collectability classes are a good addition for a non-specialty show. It is common for performance classes to be held first, as this allows entrants to tack up the night before. Running these classes later in the day or at the end means there will be a significant delay to the show while entrants tack up in the middle of the show.

Depending on the size of the show, you may wish to have guest judges, or do all of the judging yourself. Your Judge hard at work.judges should be knowledgeable in the area that you are requesting them for. You may have one judge for the entire show, or several judges.

It is a smart idea to offer your judges something in recognition for their efforts in judging at your show. You may offer them reduced or free entry into your show (if they are not judging the whole show), complimentary raffle tickets, a gift, free lunch, etc. If your judge has travelled a distance, they may request a small payment towards their expenses. Whatever you decide to give to your judge, make sure they know you are grateful for their contribution.

If you are judging, and like to touch and pick up the models in the show ring, you must state this very clearly to any entrants before you begin. Ensure you wear a pair of clean cotton gloves to prevent marks or staining.

It’s highly recommended to have a non-shower act as the ring steward during the show. This person will be responsible for calling classes, checking that all models entered for each class are present in the ring ready for judging, organising ribbons for the judge, advising entrants when to remove models from the ring, etc. If you like, you can keep a list of what models are entered in which classes, and cross off each model when it arrives in the ring for judging. While you can have your judge record their results for you, your show may run quicker with the use of a steward.

Show Rules
A show packet or program is a file that includes information on the venue, such as location, transport, and packing, as well as show-specific information that addresses class requirements, tag information, table information, lunch breaks, etc. Your packet should also include your class list and an entry form. When someone enquires about your show, this is what you should send them. Encourage entrants to ask questions if something is not covered in the show packet.

Rules will vary with each show, but consider covering things such as: number of models allowed per class per entrant; breed regulations; what type of tack is allowed in certain classes; whether only certain brands and sizes are accepted or whether all brands and sizes are welcome; etc. Be sure to include an area that notes that no responsibility will be taken for any damaged models or accessories and that entrants show at their own risk.
If you are holding a raffle, include information on this in your packet, and list the names and details of anyone who has donated prizes.

If the show is being held at home, ensure that any young children are informed not to touch any of the models, and pets are kept well away from the showing area. Upon nominating models for the show, the entrant takes on the responsibility of accepting the rules as set down in the program.

Entry Fees
Live show fees can vary depending on what costs are involved with running the show. You may chose to have an entry fee of $1 per model per class, or you may set a flat entry fee, which can range from $10 to $50 per entrant. If holding the show at home, you`ll only need to cover expenses for ribbons, prizes and catering. If holding the show at a hall, you`ll need to consider room hire fees too.

Include extensive show fee information in your show packet that covers questions like: How much is my fee if I only bring two models, or 76 models? Is the fee for each model, regardless of the number of classes, or is it for each class entered?

You may like to offer an ‘early bird’ offer, in which entry fees are discounted for entrants who send in their forms early. Many entrants wait until the week before the show to send in their entries, which can cause a lot of stress for you.

Consider how you will record your results on the day of the show. A common system is to assign a unique exhibit number to each model. Models are then shown with hang tags (small tags tied onto a hind leg, including model information on one side and the identifying number on the other). Some shows use entry cards (flat cards similar to the hang tags, but are collected by the steward instead of writing down information to record results).

As this is your show, you can choose whichever option you like, or invent your own system. Make sure that your method is clearly covered in the show packet so that everyone is aware.


Many live shows hold a raffle during the day. Sales of raffle tickets will help you to cover the cost of the show. If you would like to hold a raffle, think about asking people in the hobby, such as tackmakers, propmakers and artists, as well as general hobbyists, if they would like to donate to your show.

Be polite (this is very important!) when asking, and gracious with whatever donation you receive - the person you are asking is donating from the kindness of their heart, and they do not have to give you anything at all.

If possible, give back to your donor - you could send them a `certificate of appreciation`, advertise their name at the show, etc.


A well-stocked raffle prize table at Mini Mania Live Show, 2011.

A good price to sell raffle tickets at is $1 each, or six tickets for $5. Have this information in your show packet, announce it at the start of the show, and then again before you draw the raffle. Give people as many chances as possible to buy tickets - you want to make money, remember! After lunch is a good time to draw the raffle.

Factors that Affect a Show`s Success

  • Location: if the show is held in a rural or hard-to-reach location, you may not achieve as many entrants compared to a location in a more central area.
  • Class list: an open class list will always attract more people than a specialised one.
  • Advertising: have you given entrants enough notice to book time off work?
  • Entry fees: very expensive entry fees will limit entries


Tables and Chairs
Whether the venue is at home or a hired venue, you need to ensure there is enough table/bench space on which to stand entrant’s models, and to use as show rings. Models are usually laid on their sides prior to being moved to the judging tables, to prevent the domino effect should the table be accidentally knocked. One table per entrant is a reasonable allocation, but it doesn’t hurt to have spares.Ring 2 at Melbourne Live Show, 2012.

You should have at least two show rings; while the first ring is being judged, entrants can place their models into the second. A separate Champion ring is also very handy, as this saves time by not having to call back models when judging for superior places. You should also have another table to hold your ribbons and prizes, and if you are holding a raffle, to display the raffle prizes.

Chairs should be provided for entrants to sit down, plus another table that will hold any ribbons and prizes. Your judge will probably want a chair between divisions, and they may like a table for their things as well.

Ribbons and Rosettes

Many shows offer satin ribbons and rosettes for Champion and higher placings. If you want to offer these prizes, then you will need to place your order early, so that the manufacturer has enough time to produce your order. (The AIMHC forum has a thread of some ribbon suppliers you may like to use.)

A common prize method is to award paper or cardboard ribbons for placings (1st-6th, or 1st-10th), flat satin ribbons to Champions and Reserves, and rosettes for Grand Champions and higher. You can of course award anything you like - sashes, chocolate and certificates are all awards that have also been given out at other shows!

Be aware that the more superior places (champions and higher) that you award, the higher this will push your ribbon bill. Try not to dilute your class list too much just to squeeze in a few more champions, as this can also minimise the effects of winning a superior award in the first place.

Catering facilities will vary depending upon the size of the show and location. Normally, tea and coffee making facilities and perhaps morning/afternoon tea should be provided by the host, costs for which can be incorporated into the show fees. Other beverages such as cans of soft drink, etc can be made available for entrants to purchase, as well as lunch. To keep costs down, it’s best to keep the catering simple. If there are take away outlets nearby, entrants can purchase their own lunches, or the host can provide lunch for a fee to cover costs.

At the Show

Setting up the HallPrize table at Melbourne Live Show 2010.
Set your tables up in a way that gives easy access to the show rings to all entrants. How the room is organised will depend on size, how many competitors, etc, but it is useful to have the judging rings towards the front or centre, and a table with the ribbons/trophies etc close at hand by the show rings.

Use at least two show rings; while one class is being judged, the other table can be filled. This means the show will move along promptly.

Entrant tables should be set up clear of the judging area. Walking space between these areas is needed as competitors and judges will need to be able to move around feely without knocking into tables. Competitors with large numbers of models will need plenty of table space for organising their charges, but those with only a few models may be able to share their table with another competitor.

After a Live Show
Remember to thank the steward, judges and any other volunteers for their efforts in putting forward their time, money and effort to hold the show. A happy and appreciated judge will be more likely to host another show, so make sure they know you enjoyed the day.