If your birthday child is no longer impressed by your apple juggling routine or cringes at the thought of you line dancing in front of his or her friends, it may be time to consider adding a little professional entertainment to the birthday party mix.
Hiring an outside entertainer should make your job as party planner and host easier and make your child’s day unforgettable. “The job of the entertainer is to captivate and engage your guests with a performance that is smart and funny, make the birthday child feel special and lighten the parent’s stressful task of throwing a party,” says Naomi Hummel of Miss Naomi Bee.
Here are some tips you should consider when hiring professional entertainment for your child’s birthday party:
Connect with an interest
“What do your kids like? Every child has different activities they prefer, and characters they like,” Hummel says. “Younger kids will love costumed characters; older kids will probably be more interested in a magician.”
Ask your child to brainstorm some entertainment ideas and then see what you can find that will match his or her interests.
Be sure to hire an entertainer that all guests will enjoy. “If you are having a party for an entire class, you may want to go with entertainment that is more gender-neutral,” suggests Tim Adams of Amazing Tim Adamz.
To appeal to a broad range of interest or ages, look for an entertainer that does more than one thing. “The show I perform is a comedy, magic, juggling show that I can suit for different ages,” says Rick Colen of Let’s Clown Around. “In addition to the interest of the child, also consider the number of guests that are invited and length of the party,” suggests Karen Burris of Mary Macaroni. “The majority of my parties run between 45-60 minutes; however, if there are more than 25 children, I will suggest we add time.”
“A good entertainer will always ask the age range of attendees,” says Andrew Noyszewski of Kidz Magic. “This allows the performer to choose the direction of the show.”
Most entertainers will give parents options on the type of shows available that meet the needs of your child’s age and the size of the group, so be sure to look at party packages carefully to make sure everything you are getting will work for the age group you are entertaining. “You don’t necessarily want balloon animals for a party of toddlers,” suggest Adams. And, Noyszewski says, don’t assume all entertainers specialize in children’s entertainment. “I know many great magicians, but they are poor kid entertainers,” says Noyszewski. “You want an entertainer who offers age-appropriate shows that will keep kids engaged and entertained.”
Location, location, location
Space is important, but performers have learned to accommodate their shows for even the smallest of spots.
“I have been in many size spaces from a tiny corner in a restaurant to gymnasium or forest preserve,” says Burris. “I work with whatever space I have, but the ideal space is an open area large enough for the kids to sit on the floor in front of me and be able to get up and dance.”
While most entertainers will work within indoor and outdoor spaces, due to an entertainer’s equipment, an indoor spot might be more convenient. “I actually prefer to perform indoors,” says Adams. “But, if an outdoor party makes more sense, I will often suggest that parents have me perform indoors and bring the kids inside when we are ready for the show. It’s sort of like bringing them in for a theater show.”
If you are having the party at a restaurant or park district, make sure you have what you need from the entertainer.
“A lot of restaurants and park districts require a certificate of insurance,” says Noyszewski.
Plan for the set up
Entertainers will need some time to set up, so be sure to ask if they would like to arrive prior to the start of your party and let them help you choose a perfect spot for the show.
“I do like to get there a little early to scope out the location,” says Adams. “I can usually suggest a great spot for the performance.”
If you have a specific performance area in mind, talk that over with the entertainer prior to their arrival. “I have usually discussed the performance space with the parent so I know how much space I will have and they have the area cleared for me when I arrive,” adds Burris.
Once they have a location to set up, most entertainers enjoy having the kids be a part of their “pre-show” activities.
“I prefer to set up with the guests because I entertain them as I set up,” says Noyszewski. “It gives me time to meet my audience. Some kids are shy or afraid but after a few minutes they warm up to you. Others may be super excited and it gives them time to calm down with you.”
Hummel agrees. “In fact, I’ve found that it is more exciting for everyone when I show up after all the guests have arrived. This way we can get started right away, and since I charge by the hour, it means that my clients are getting the most for their money.”
For some performers-especially magicians or clowns who may want to keep parts of their act secret-set up can be done while guests are in another location. “I am always pre-set up before I get to the party location,” says Colen. “I’m ready to go in just five minutes and can set up in the performance area while guests are meeting and greeting.”
Ask for references
“If possible, it’s great if you can come out and experience a performance,” says Colen. But, if that’s not possible, all entertainers agree that parents should always ask for references before hiring entertainment for their child’s birthday party.
“Get references from the age group in which the entertainer will be performing,” says Adams. “This will ensure your party and the entertainer a great match.”
And never shy away from asking the performer any questions or sharing concerns you may have. “I’ve been doing birthday parties for kids for years, and if you have a question, I probably have an answer,” Hummel says.
After all, it’s not just you as a parent that is hoping the party is a success. “As a performer, I don’t want to put myself in a situation where I will not be successful,” says Burris. “I want to provide the best party possible and if I feel like I am not a good fit, I will be very honest and suggest alternate performers or additional performers.”
Noyszewski says he is often asked why he doesn’t work trade shows and comedy clubs. “Simple, I love what I do! I am a children’s entertainer and it’s my passion. It may not be as prestigious as the other gigs, but the smiles and laughs I put on children’s faces means the world to me.”
Part of Celebrations, a special advertising birthday party guide.