Birthday Parties Are Year Round Income

                                        Birthday Parties - Party Planning


June through October is always busy with company picnics, family reunions and weddings.  November and December are busy with all of the holiday events.  Too many entertainers get lulled into the idea that January through May are the "slow months".  Not true if you perform at birthday parties, because they are year-round.  Children don't stop having birthdays after Christmas.  Parents find that it is a wonderful time for a party, especially after the holidays die down.  

I understand and agree that birthday parties are not for every entertainer.  We all have our different areas that we enjoy or excel in.  So, if you have already decided that birthdays are not for you, that is fine.  But, if you have given it some thought only to discard the notion because you do not know what they are all about, or you would not know what to do, or you are afraid of them, read on.  Maybe what I say next will change your mind and you, too, can start having fun with birthday parties.  

First, realize that birthday parties are a way for friends to gather to celebrate someone's birthday and they come to the party READY TO HAVE A GOOD TIME!  For the most part, entertaining them is quite easy, since they are all in a good mood already.  You have a captive audience and, when you are through, they get to have refreshments.  It is a wonderful combination.  

When you are putting your birthday party package together, sit down and figure out what you used to like at birthday parties.  Then, write down what you like to do as a children's entertainer.  Now, put the two together.  Remember, just like in a stage performance (or skit competition), you must have a beginning, a middle and an end.   

Your beginning is what you do as you arrive.  Greeting the children, focusing on the birthday child and his/her "new" age, offering a birthday balloon hat, stickers for the kids, a helium balloon, a song, setting up your props in a comedic way - any of the above can be a good opening/beginning.   

Next is the "middle".  What are you good at?  Magic, children's songs, puppetry, games, juggling, balloon animals, storytelling, face painting...let your mind think of all the fun possibilities relating to what you do.  In this section of the party, there is no "one right way" because each of us can make our own skills work for a birthday party.  

And, for your "ending" or exit, you can thank the birthday child for letting you help celebrate their special day, give out hugs to those willing (then brace yourself as they all come running!), hand out "hug" coupons (with your name and phone number on them), sing a good-bye song or quietly leave , once again utilizing your own style.  

Congratulations, you have just created your birthday party (or maybe improved / enhanced your existing one).  Now that you know what you will do at the party, how do you get the bookings?  If you are already out clowning in public, people already have your business card.  (Oh, did I forget to mention that business cards are ESSENTIAL?  Never be caught without a pocketful.)  It seems that, as soon as people find out you are a clown, you start to get phone calls about birthday parties.  The calls will continue coming if you follow through with a quality performance.  Never promise anything you cannot or will not deliver.  If your advertising says you do balloon animals, then you need to make more than swords and wiener dogs.  If you call your act a "magic show", it needs to be more than finger loops or a card trick.   

Each of us needs to have a commitment to quality.  I have one goal that I follow in my clowning and that is:  "Every event, large or small, public or private, has the right to have quality entertainment."  Every time you are out in the public's eye presenting professional, family fun, more parents and event coordinators are opening up their eyes to hiring you for their next event.  It is a wonderful way to advertise by actually showing them what you can do.   

Most important, have fun!



BIRTHDAY PARTIES - Party Planning  

For a successful birthday party, the essential key ingredient lies in party planning with the parent.  Know the party and what it is all about before you arrive.  The best way to accomplish this is to have a "booking information sheet" for each event.  When you are booking the party and have the parent on the phone, you simply go right down the list on the booking sheet, ask the questions and write down the answers.  That way, there are no surprises.  

Information needed may vary from one entertainer to another, even from one party to another, but there is basic information that is the same for everyone and every birthday.  Here is the list:  

     Parent(s) names (first and last)

     Address - complete mailing address with zip code

     Phone numbers - both day and evening

These are self-explanatory.  Always remember to get daytime and evening phone numbers.   

     Date of event

Always double-check by stating the day AND date.  Sometimes, the parent wants the party on Saturday, but gives you Friday's date.  By stating both the day and date, you eliminate that as a possible problem (a BIG problem if you show up on Friday instead of Saturday).  

     Time of event

The time of the party should be listed both as when the party actually starts and when you plan to arrive.  For the most part, you will be arriving shortly after the party guests arrive.  But there are instances when a special activity is planned before your arrival and it helps if you know you are not the first on the agenda.  At a public park, it is best if the children are allowed free-play time on the play equipment BEFORE you arrive, to get some energy worked off.  If it is a swimming party, it makes sense for the children to swim first before you arrive to paint faces.  At a pizza parlor or fast food establishment, feeding the children first cuts down on the interruptions to your show.  It is helpful for you to suggest these time arrangements as possibilities to the parent in party planning.  A lot of parents are putting on this type of party for the first time and will appreciate your suggestions.  

     Event location

Is the party location at their home or somewhere else?  It will make a difference in your show and your agenda of planned activities if the party is at a Discovery Zone or Gymboree.  At the local pizza parlor where your party may be only one of several in the same party room, you will need to make adjustments in your party (i.e. there may not be room to play your standard type of games, you may be severely limited in how much room you have especially if you are standing in an aisle used constantly by the waiters/waitresses, children from the other parties will also want the balloon animals, etc.).  Be prepared to be flexible in these situations.  Play with the kids, cheer them on at the arcade games as you are gathering them up for the show, recommend to the parents that everyone wear a name tag so you know who belongs to your party, etc.  

     Birthday child's name and age

Remember to ask if they go by a nickname.  Is their last name different than the parents'?  This is helpful information when, six months later, another family calls you and says they saw you at Suzy Smith's party, but you have a different last name on the party sheet.  In this day and age of extended families, it is a common occurrence for the last names to be different.  

The age of the child can also be different.  Many December birthdays choose to celebrate a "half" birthday in June or July.  Some families postpone a party or celebrate early due to other obligations on their calendars or busy lives.  It is nice, at the party, to be able to say "TODAY is Joey's birthday" or "Today, we are CELEBRATING Joey's birthday".   

     Names and ages of siblings of birthday child  

If you know who they are ahead of time, it is nice to acknowledge them at the party when you are asking everyone's names.  An older brother or sister can become a helper and appreciates receiving some attention.   

     Number of children expected and their age range

This can be especially beneficial in planning your agenda for the party.  If the birthday child is younger and all of the guests are considerably older, your activities / show needs to be planned accordingly.  A one year old's party is usually aimed at the older guests because they are the ones who will understand and respond to what you are doing.  I always explain that to the parents of the one year old ahead of time which eliminates any misunderstanding at the party.  Always let the parent know the basic scenario of your show / activities planned so they aren't expecting one thing and you deliver something else.   

     Where they got your name from

Is this party a referral, from your phone ad or somewhere else?  This information can be helpful in a number of ways.  First you can look back at the party or parties they have already been at to avoid duplication of activities.  Second, it enables you to recognize previous birthday children at the next party.  Third, it helps you with your marketing and promotional strategies for the future (i.e. Is your phone book ad getting you results?  Are your advertising dollars being spent wisely?)  

     Directions to their house

Get directions from your area or, if you are traveling from one party to the next, from where you will be coming from.  Get specific...ask for the name of the street you turn on, not just "take a right turn after Safeway".  Invest in a Thomas Guide and replace it at least every two years.  Have one at home and one in the car.  Getting lost is usually the result of not getting good directions.  Arriving late at a party frazzled and frantic because you just spent 20 minutes going in the wrong direction is a bad way to start the birthday celebration.  Allow extra time to get to the party, drive by the house and then park under a nice shade tree a few blocks away to wait.  This is a good time to refresh your memory on siblings' names, whose party you have already been at, jot down notes from your event you just finished or add to your clown journal.   

     Fee you are charging

The fee should be written on your booking sheet.  Even though I specify to parents that the fee should be in an envelope and handed to me as I leave the party, I still get the occasional parent who asks me on the porch "Now, how much do I owe you?"  If it is on the party sheet, you do not have to guess and possibly make a mistake.  Having this information on your booking sheets will help at tax time, too.   

After the party, take a few minutes to jot down what you actually did, what activities, what magic tricks were used, etc.  It helps in party planning future birthdays.  If you ever draw a blank on what to do at a different party, you can always look back through previous party sheets and get ideas.  It is a great source of information to draw from and you will be glad you kept track of it.  

This may seem like a lot at first, but it will soon become routine and easy to do.  It most certainly will make your party planning efforts worth it when your parties are stress-free.  


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