You child’s party is an important and potentially costly affair; so you want to get it right!
If you have decided you want to stay away from the play centre / trampoline centre type party and want to do something more memorable and imaginative getting the right entertainment can be a challenge. These questions should help you determine the quality of potential entertainment providers and get the best quality and value for money, and not end up with a 16 year old in a bad wig who can only lead musical bumps!
1/ “What is the party theme but more importantly what is the content that will be delivered to keep the children engaged?”
It’s all very well to have a ‘Snow White’, ‘Elsa’ or ‘Spiderman’ character come in their costume but if the entertainment then consists of a couple of mediocre Disney songs being warbled and a game of musical statues then you could have a lot of crazy disengaged children running around the place.
The best companies will have a clear theme (or theme offerings) that are more than a dressed up character and should be able to talk you through / send you the itinerary of games, activities, show in detail. Steer clear of anyone who can’t do this! A good party needs to be planned and structured to the minute in order to keep engagement and control of the kids. To quote Monica in Friends “Rules control the fun people”! This is not to say that the rules create a regimented and inflexible party- quite the contrary – as anyone who works with kids will know, kids respond to structure and a well-structured party with an entertainer who is in control will keep the kids engaged throughout.
2/ “Who will be the party entertainer, how much experience do they have and the best question……..”
Party entertainment companies vary enormously in that you might be speaking to a one man band in which case the person you speak to will be doing the entertainment. Alternatively you might be speaking to an agency or company who have entertainers deliver for them. In which case I would ask what the experience is of their entertainers. Our entertainers are all experienced in performance which is important for being able to carry off a character and entertain in front of people and crucially they are also experienced in working with (and entertaining) children. This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how often a student gets drafted in, they may have done drama at college and have a younger sibling but has little experience of being in control of a group of children and most importantly engaging them, conducting them and creating a magical time for them. Its an art AND a skill and take practice, training and passion. And so experience of both performing professionally and working with children are an absolute minimum requirement for our entertainment staff. And this leads me onto…
The absolute best question you can ask here…..
“What are they good at?” This isn’t a question we get asked much , because it’s probably perceived as quite direct and also you assume that their entertainers will be good at entertaining. Not always….. a good entertainment company will know their teams strengths and be able to talk passionately about each one; whether they are particularly good at making children laugh, creating a magical character, wowing them with song and dance or conducting amazing games and play with them! If a company cannot talk with passion and confidence about what is good about their team and individual members then I would steer clear.
3/ “What space do you need to deliver a party?”
Depending on how many kids you will have at your party and the specifics of the party you are booking will depend on the exact space requirements. However this is a useful question to ask to judge how genuine and experienced the company is. If you say you will likely have 30 children and they say they can deliver it in a normal house loving room I would be wary! A good party needs space for the children to move and be active and for the entertainer to be able to run games, activities or their show. Unless there are very few children or it’s a sit down show only then generally a space of a village hall, community centre or a large back garden is usually needed. If they say they can do it anywhere then the chances are the quality of the party isn’t the most important thing!
4/ “What do you need to know?”
The company / entertainer you are speaking to should at the very least want to know the name and age of the birthday child (the most important thing as its their birthday!!) as well as practical logistics such as your location, the space of the party, how many children and any special requirements. If you haven’t volunteered this information and they haven’t asked then again they are not putting you, the customer at the centre of the conversation.
You should feel like they are treating your child’s birthday party with the greatest importance – because it is important to your child, to you and it and it’s our business as entertainment companies for it to be the important thing to us too!
5/ What themes / party offerings do you have?
If you get told that they can do whatever you want then be careful…! It actually takes a lot of work, planning, rehearsal and training to come up with a good party structure and content. Even more so if it is themed and includes activities and displays. And so a good company will have some tried and tested formulas that work. As much as this ay sound prescriptive it actually means you are getting a tried and tested party that has been professionally developed and will be sure to be successful. It’s the entertainment’s company business to know what works, come up with the ideas and execute it well. So if a company asks you to tell them what you want I would be doubtful of their experience or proven capabilities. You also may get something that is thrown together rather than professionally created. This is why we have party themes that we have spent time and investment developing, we have written songs, scripts and activities and have trained the entertainment staff in best quality execution and delivery. This is not to say we cannot be flexible and insert ideas or meet specific requirements or interests. But we always start from a base which works.
6/ “When discussing price, is it a final package price or are there likely to be extras?”
It’s worth checking what the price quoted includes; does it include travel for example or are there additional activities, add on’s that might be charged for? Is there an option for food or party bags?
7/ “How long do your entertainers do and do they manage the compete party or only part of it?”
It can vary from entertainers making a character appearance, to doing a 30 or 60 minute show to running a complete 2 hour party. So it’s worth asking this from the outset so you know how much you have to run as the parent! Our packages are for the 2 hour party and are structured as 45 minutes entertainment, followed by 15 minutes calm down craft type activity. At which point we suggest you serve food and do the cake. After which we run another 30 minutes of entertainment right up until the party close. This means the only part the parents have to be involved in is the food! It also means that by leading another session of structured entertainment after food you keep the children controlled up until the end and don’t have the post food, sugar high, running around madness that often can occur at parties! This is worked off in the second half of the entertainment and the party ends on a real high, rather than a sugar come down!
8/ “How flexible are you with numbers of children?”
When booking this type of party you are often inviting a whole class or significant numbers, usually between 20 and 30. Often siblings will be brought along and so there may be additional children on the day that had not been accounted for. It’s worth knowing how much flexibility there is in this. Generally most entertainers will be flexible with this, we certainly are and we always carry enough resources to allow for additional children, but it helps for your peace of mind to know this in advance.
9/ “What back up do you have in case the entertainer due to be delivering the party is sick?”
Obviously this would be a rare occurence and we have never encountered this thankfully, but we do have a back-up plan in case of this where we can at short notice call on another member of the team to be able to deliver the party, even if they are travelling from another area, this will be done at our cost to ensure your party goes ahead as planned! Reliability is a key part of our company ethos and we will do whatever it takes to ensure your child has the birthday party they have been promised!
10/ “What makes you a great party company?”
A good party company will be able to tell you succinctly and easily what makes them successful and stand out. In our case it’s because we have professional performers who are experienced and love children. We have exciting and imaginative themes which incorporate storytelling, music, challenges and activities. These have been developed, tried and tested to result in the best parties which engage active and imaginative children, providing a party that truly involves them, captivates them and that they will remember!