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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Birthday Party Entertainment Guide - tips from a pro!

Anyone who has ever planned their child’s birthday party knows how stressful it can be. Choosing the location, sending invitations, selecting the food and the entertainment, it all amounts to a bit of an ordeal. Granted, it’s not rocket science, but a misstep here and there can greatly reduce the success of the party.

As both a parent and a birthday party entertainer, I have experienced all aspects of creating successful birthday parties. The biggest and most important decision you have to make is how to entertain the guests during the party. This guide will help you make the right entertainment decisions for you and your child and give you valuable insight into how to make your child’s birthday party fun and memorable.

Do it Yourself?
The first decision you will need to make is whether to hire in-home entertainment, have the party at a “party place”, provide the entertainment yourself, or some combination of all of these options. Hiring outside entertainment or renting a room or facility obviously costs more money, but doing it yourself is more work. As a magician, I am obviously biased towards recommending the hiring of a professional, but if you have a limited budget you can be creative and provide a fun time on your own.

Traditional do-it-yourself options include piƱatas, a craft project, and party games such as Pin the Tail on the Donkey or Musical Chairs. However, you can make it more fun with something a bit different. Here are a couple of ideas I have used:

Birthday Banner
A fun craft idea for young kids is to print out the individual letters in HAPPY BIRTHDAY CAROL (insert birthday child’s name, of course), each on a separate piece of paper. Give one to each child and let them decorate their letter however they wish. Then connect them all and make a big banner that everyone can be proud of.

Decorate Your Own Cupcakes 
Provide undecorated cupcakes and let each child add their own combination of frosting, sprinkles, and various small toppings and candies. Yum!

Games 
There are many unique and exciting games you can play at little or no cost to you. Check out the website http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/party_games_and_activities.htm for some great examples. You may want to steer clear of games in which kids get eliminated one at a time, as that creates “downtime” and can lead to boredom and misbehavior from the kids who are eliminated early.

Hiring an Entertainer 
Many options are available when hiring outside entertainment, so be sure to carefully consider what type of entertainment will fit your needs. The two basic types of entertainers are: 1) One- guest-at-a-time artists and 2) show entertainers.

One-guest-at-a-time artists
Balloon twisters and face-painters fall into the first category. I have seen some amazingly beautiful work done by balloon artists and face-painters and if you have the budget, these can be a nice addition. For some top-notch talent in these areas, visit the “Links” page on my website, www.steveomagic.com. Keep in mind that these artists generally do not entertain everyone at once (though a good balloon artist is fascinating to watch) and you will need to entertain the other guests while the artist is creating their one-guest-at-a-time creations.

Show Entertainers
Show entertainers provide fun for all of the guests for an allotted amount of time. Magicians and clowns fall into this category. When researching entertainers, consider the age and temperament of your child and the party guests to be sure that the type of entertainer matches the audience. If the child is afraid of clowns in make-up or doesn’t like magic, you may have a problem!

IMPORTANT: Book Early. Most of the highly sought-after entertainers fill their weekend schedules weeks in advance, so the earlier you can get the party scheduled and an entertainer hired, the better.

Here are some things to look for when hiring a show entertainer:

1) Quality. This can be difficult to assess, but check the performer’s website and look for: testimonials from other customers, videos, credentials, and experience. Also, if you know someone who has hired an entertainer and had a good experience with them, chances are you will have positive results as well.
Also note whether the performer is a full-time entertainer or performs for parties as a side job or hobby. Some part-time performers have good shows (and I can recommend some), but a full-time entertainer has his or her livelihood at stake and won’t last long without a quality product.
Finally, try to determine how “entertaining” the entertainment is (video demos or word- of-mouth helps here). A clown who just dresses up and looks funny will not be very entertaining for long, nor will a magician who simply performs a series of tricks without providing funny and entertaining routines.

2) Professionalism. Does the performer offer a money-back guarantee? Do they have a quality website? On the phone, do they sound and behave professionally? These are all indicators of whether the performer takes his or her job seriously and if they will deliver what they promise.
It is important that you have a good, confident feeling about who you hire. It is common for parents to worry about the person they hired not showing up and ruining little Johnny’s birthday party. One way to help ease those fears is to get the details in writing. I always send a confirmation email to my clients when they hire me describing the date, time, location, cost, and other particulars of the event. Strong communication is key.
Another safeguard is to confirm with the entertainer the week of the party. Many performers will contact you, but it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and touch base with them to make sure things are still on track as planned.

3) Services. Find out exactly what they offer. How long is their birthday party show? Are there multiple packages in different price ranges? Is their show appropriate for the age of your child and your guests? Do they offer other options, such as goody bags, games, or balloon animals?

4) Value. Cost is always a consideration, but when pricing entertainers be sure to evaluate VALUE rather than simply cost. You could spend $100 and get a disappointing show that may not have been worth it even at no cost, or spend a bit more and have your guests talking about how much fun your party was days later. The saying “you get what you pay for” is appropriate, though it does not always hold true. Evaluate other criteria as well. Also consider if the show has music, live animal productions, stage backdrop, or other features that add value and pizazz to the show.

5) Requirements. What are the requirements of their show? How much space do they need? Are there audience size limits? Does the show need to be performed indoors only or is an outdoor show an option? Do they need electricity? What types of payment do they accept? Is a deposit required?

Other Considerations 
I always recommend to my customers to plan on the show starting 30 minutes after the start time of the party. This gives late-comers a chance to arrive before the show starts but also allows the children a chance to enjoy the show before they get too overwhelmed and wound up from other activities.
Always be sure that adults are present at the show and that those not watching the show are not in the same room talking and causing a distraction. I often get comments that the adults enjoyed the show as much as the kids and I know how much fun it is for parents to see their kids laughing and carrying on at a good comedy magic show. (And if the magician has technical chops, he can amaze the adults too!)

In addition:
If you have pets, secure them in another room or location before the entertainer arrives.
Remove as many distractions from the room as possible. If you plan on giving out noisemakers of any kind, do so AFTER the show (please!) Have the payment ready immediately after the show

Conclusion
By taking a thoughtful approach to your birthday party planning, you will be able to select the right entertainment to meet your needs. Hopefully this guide will help you in your planning process and give you some ideas to make your child’s party the talk of the neighborhood!

This is sponsored post courtesy of Steve-o Magic

About the Author Steve “Steve-o” is a professional magician and family entertainer who performs his birthday party magic shows for kids of all ages throughout Louisville and surrounding areas. For more information on his services, please visit www.steveomagic.com.

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