Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Avoid the Crowd and Save Money on your Next Party

In the party industry, Saturday is the busiest day and 12pm to 4pm is prime real estate. Planning your party for "off peak" days and hours can save you a lot of money.

Vendors are much less likely to offer discounts or special pricing during the busiest times. Look for companies that offer incentives to have a party on a Sunday or weekday. Don't be afraid to ask for a deal.

If your Birthday Child is not yet in school, plan an outdoor party on a weekday morning with your playgroup or Mom's group. Host your party at the neighborhood park when it is still cool early in the day. Have Mom or Dad come home from work for a long lunch to share in the celebration.

Consider having an "after school" party. Not only can you save on entertainment but many schools require you invite the whole class if you wish to bring invitations to school. That policy can grow your party to expensive proportions. An "after school party" will ensure a more manageable number of guests. Don't worry, good friends and relatives will make an effort to be there.

Do you have money saving ideas to share? Please offer your suggestions or your experiences so others can benefit on their next party. If we find one we can't live without, we will bring a free pony to your party!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Share the Costs and Save your Cash

Do you have two kids with Birthdays close together? Combining Birthdays and sharing expenses can save you money or allow you to throw a bigger event than you thought you could. Your prospects for sharing are expanded when you consider:

* Siblings
* Cousins
* Friends (theirs or yours)
* Classmates
* Kids from the Neighborhood
* Coworkers

Not only will you save on the cost by combining parties, you will save time, energy and efforts by sharing responsibilities planning and hosting your party.

Remember, the Birthday Boys or Girls do not have to be turning the same age or share the exact date. Teens and toddlers may not be the best combination unless it's family, but a few years separation in age is fine. Be sure you plan entertainment and activities that are age appropriate or will appeal to all ages.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Don't forget the Sprinklers!

Everything was perfect. Every detail handled. The cake was picked up fresh and was smelling so sweet it was inviting the first bite in the car ride to the park. The urge to taste the icing was overcome by the knowledge that a perfect Birthday Party was about to begin. One that they would never forget.

The Phoenix Party rental company was already at the Ramada when mom arrived with the decorations, snacks and cake. They collaborated on where to set up the Spiderman Bounce and orient it so the parents could gather around the picnic tables to eat and chat while still keeping an eye on their little ones.

With the bounce spiked down it was time to go over the safety check list. After all the party could be a disappointment if anything went wrong.

"Adult supervision"...check

"Take off Shoes"...yep

"No flips, tumbling or wrestling"...of course

"No silly string or food inside"...fair enough

"Take down in high winds"...makes sense

"Turn off the sprinklers"...???

Mom hesitated. When she reserved the Ramada the Park Officials asked for the times they would be there. The Park obviously knew where and what they were setting up. After all it cost $50.00 to "book" the facility. One would have to believe that the Park people knew what they were doing, surely they wouldn't need to water on an Arizona Friday night during a little boy's birthday party...

Sprinklers? No problem.

When the party company arrived later that evening to tear down Spiderman he was already deflated. Just like the party mom who sat on top of the picnic table surrounded by wet crepe paper streamers and sagging helium balloons. The guests had left early and never got to enjoy the delicious cake that had smelled so good.

Spiderman weighed quite a bit more wet than he ever did dry. Mom took a deep breath apologized for the bounce getting wet and proclaimed the party a disaster. The birthday boy seemed unfazed, after all he did get to see his friends, get some really neat gifts and got to play in the mud. All in all not a bad day for an eight year old.

Certainly a party he will never forget.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Trouble with Party Directories

Ok, I am about to pull my hair out. I have been working all morning trying to get my business listed on one of these annoying web directories. They are basically vehicles designed to drive web traffic in order to sell advertising. God bless them, I am all for the entrepreneur.

BUT.... what is really frustrating is that instead of helping you find something relevant they actually get in the way. Most of the info they have is obtained from scraping other directory websites. It can be outdated but more importantly it is most definatly incomplete!

By accummulating a huge amount of "content" and creating "link farms", they hope to take advantage of search engine website's logrithims to get placed above the real providers of the services prospective customers are searching for. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN have super secret systems that determine the relevance of the information. The problem is that these engines value links and lists over the actual information that a human may find important. A web site with concise specific information on the type of entertainment you are seeking is much more useful to you than a massive list of companies in your state that may or may not have what you need.

Be sure to type very specific search words and include the local area you live. Search for "Pony Rides Birthday Party Phoenix Arizona" instead of "Ponies in Arizona" and you will save alot of stress. There is no such thing as a nationwide Bounce business or Magician and Sorry I cannot deliver my Pony to New York. Companies like Google do a much better job at figuring out what is relevant for their paid advertisiers. They certainly know where their bread is buttered!

So don't waste your time trying to manueveur through some bogus search engine spam directory from the other side of the country trying to find a diamond in your own back yard. Narrow your search and support your local entertainer or party planner, they are the ones who will take good care of you in the end.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Behind the Make-up; the Truth about Clowns

Clowns come in all colors, shapes and sizes. They also come in all degrees of talent, ability and attitude. So how do you navigate the yellow page adds or the Internet to find a clown you can have confidence in? I'll attempt to help you in the next few paragraphs.

Let's talk about who is a clown. A clown is first a performer. They could have been the drama geek you went to high school with. They could be an aspiring actor paying their dues. They could be a teacher who is great with kids and knows they can make great money working a few hours on weekends.

A clown is also an independent business person. They market their services in the same way as other businesses. You may find a clown in the yellow pages, you may find them on the Internet or you may find them through a friend either at their party or from a referral. As not all artists are good business people and not all business people are good artists. There is a symbiotic relationship between professional party planners and successful clowns.

Clowns usually offer several talents as their standard service. This can be face painting, balloon animals, magic, story telling, games or an interactive show. You can determine what they do through their ad or your discussions with them. You obviously cannot judge their talent without the opinion of a trusted friend or witnessing their show yourself.

The other way to assure yourself the clown you choose is competent, qualified and can perform the things you contract for is to use a party planner. You can rest assured that the party planner you use has the same questions and concerns as you. Through their due diligence, they have weeded out the weak performers, the chronically late, the limited talents, the bad attitudes through customer feed back, networking within the industry and personal evaluation. After all their business relies on word of mouth, referrals and reputation. They cannot afford to send out undependable entertainers and put their livelihood at risk.

You also benefit from the party planner's desire to keep you as a customer. A Clown offers the same show, face painting designs, magic tricks or balloon animals for every party year after year. The chances of you booking them over and over as the headliner of your parties is not as likely as you bringing in other types of entertainment. Their incentive to handle your customer service issue to your satisfaction is not as great and any discounts or coupons they offer you come right out of their pocket. It can also be uncomfortable or intimidating to discuss some deficiencies in an artist's performance with them directly. Imagine trying to explain that your party guests noticed that they had bad breath or an offensive body odor!

A party planner offers the widest variety of entertainment available in your area. You can discuss any issues with them discreetly and know that they appreciate the feedback. The planner's incentive is to handle any concerns to your satisfaction. They hope you will come back to them year after year for all your party needs and they can offer discounts or coupons that may be used on other types of entertainment. Let the booking agent handle the problem with the performer. They have the leverage. Your clown is more likely to "make it right" since the agency represents a continual flow of business to them. After all, if you were not happy with a particular clown, why would a discount on having the same clown return to your next party help you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My super sweet spoiled kid? Avoid party wars

My super sweet spoiled kid? Avoid party wars
Re: Today Show segment on children’s birthdays

This morning, Anne Curry of NBC interviewed Camille Chatterjee, the editor of Parenting Magazine about children’s birthday parties. Although the actual article on msnbc.com is balanced and offers some great tips on creating fun without breaking the bank, the Today Show slant was that parents go overboard, spend too much and are too excessive.
Chatterjee sited a Parenting Magazine poll of parents as their scientific basis for their assertions. Based on their reader's responses, She made several assumptions. Based on my own experience entertaining at several thousand birthday parties in Arizona over the last two decades, I will share my observations:

Point: 22% of parents report that the birthday child had a "melt down" at their own party.
Counterpoint: 78% did not and probably had a great time, it’s the cup ½ full or ½ empty??? Have the party and let the child mingle and enjoy in his or her own way. The stress could be coming from the mother ordering them here or there… "pose for this picture…" "smile for me…" "say hi to Aunt Gertrude…." "come thank Uncle Bobby for coming…." It’s their party, just let them have fun.

Point: The child won’t remember anyway so don’t have the big party until he/she is 4 or 5 years old.
Counterpoint: Well if they won’t remember, don’t do anything until they are 4 or 5...no Disneyland…no trips…no Phoenix Zoo…just keep them home…maybe in a box like BF Skinner. Children should be enriched with all of life’s social experiences at a very early age. Imagine the behavior of a 4 year old who has never been to a party or big social event???
For many cultures the 1st and 2nd birthday are milestones to be celebrated. Birthday parties are wonderful social and family gatherings that teach community and sharing and interaction in a safe environment where the child is surrounded by those who love and protect him.

Point: Only invite guests that total 1 plus the child’s age.
Counterpoint: Many people have large families or extended families. Who do you purposefully exclude?? Many schools require inviting the whole class so that no feelings are hurt. (Not everyone has to attend.) Again, birthdays are a great family social event to be celebrated and shared by the number of people that you and your child want to share it with, not the number recommended.

Point: Incredibly, parents begin planning the birthday 2 months in advance.
Counterpoint: Incredible?? No. That really isn’t soon enough if there is a certain venue or type of entertainment that you want. Many parks in our area are booked up even 7 months in advance. Halls and banquet facilities can be booked up over a year out. Although we can even help people the day before the party, that parent does need to be flexible on what type of entertainment they want and the available times.

As you know, television is immediate and fast paced, segments are limited and need to have the greatest impact in the shortest time. Therefore, it is understandable that they would seize the sensational angle in light of the success of the "My Super Sweet 16" program on MTV. But basing the article on a reader survey, especially the same survey that showed 71% send "thank you" notes but only 41% receive them (where did the 30% go???) is a flawed premise. I have blogged the article for you to read below. For the same reasons you should not let your child's friends' parties influence your decision, you should not let the Today Show prevent you from creating the party and memories you and your family will share for ever.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Party Pyramid

When planning the schedule of your kid's party there are some basic elements you should keep in mind. Although the age, number and relationship of the guests will influence your choices I will share with you a format that has been a proven winner for countless birthday parties that I have worked on across Arizona. I would say the basic preschool to elementary age children's party should follow this structure.

Think of your party as a theatrical production. Gustuv Freytag was a 19th century play wright and novelist but his most lasting work was his analysis of Greek Theater that resulted in the modern structure of the five act play or short story. It is known as "Freytag's Pyramid".

  • Act I - Exposition: This is the time that your guests arrive. Plan time for greeting, introductions and handling any last minute demands.

  • Act II - Rising Action: You direct your child's friends to the moon bounce or the swing set to keep them occupied or this is the time for games and crafts.

  • Act III - Climax: This is when your professional children's entertainer works their magic. It may be pony rides, a petting zoo, clown, magician or face painter. This is the time you can prepare your snacks, lunch or cake.

  • Act IV - Falling Action: A great way to focus the kid's attention and allow your entertainment to escape is to move right to the cake or pinata.

  • Act V - Resolution or Denouement: Now your group begins to diminish, you finally have a moment to spend with the grownups. Make time for goodbyes, thank you's and, if you choose, goodie bags.

As you begin to plan your event, keep this structure in mind. You can think of it as a simple guide and use your creativity to bring it to life. There are many possibilities as to entertainment, invitations, games, crafts and activities, but if you use this outline as your foundation, you will be able to build upon it. We will cover many of these over the coming weeks, but for now, remember your party will become a fond memory you and your child will share forever so make it special!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Party Planning 101 - Booking Your Party Entertainment

As this is the first post, I thought we should start at the beginning; booking your entertainment. When the inspiration hits you that it is time for a party, that's the time to get moving. Your motivation may be your child's birthday, a company picnic, a special event or even a block party; but the process originates from that seed.

There are several steps in the early stages that are inter-dependant. Primarily date, times and entertainment. They must be balanced against each other before you plow ahead with decisions that are difficult to change. I have had many party moms call me after they have set dates and times, mailed out invitations and purchased matching plates, table cloths and napkins for their "Pony Party" only to find out that there is no one available to give pony rides at their kid's birthday party!

The best piece of advice I can give you right now is...."BEFORE you mail out invitations, book your entertainment!"

You may feel a false sense of security because lots of party businesses show up when you google "child birthday party" "petting zoo" or "pony rides". A lot of what pops up are "link farms", basically websites comprised of the same lists of clowns, magicians, inflatable companies and other entertainers that may or may not still be around and are used primarily to generate page hits to sell advertising. I have been in the children's party planning industry for almost 20 years and have seen many businesses come and go in the Phoenix, Arizona market. Some folks seem to think that doing kids parties is easy money and soon learn that it takes a professional commitment and requires working EVERY Saturday, Sunday and Holiday FOREVER! I have no doubt you have seen a proliferation of inflatable bounce companies in your area as well. Despite the number of businesses serving your area, there a few things to keep in mind.

1) Most are very small "Mom and Pop" operations that rent moon jumps on the side.

2) They may be slow to respond to your inquiries because they have "real jobs" during the week.

3) Many go out of business in the first year or two.

4) Most have limited inventories and popular items book first.

5) Some unscrupulous businesses will take a "better" job over yours if they have the chance.

5) Even when equipment is available, there are constraints on delivery schedules.

6) Remember every one else in your town is planning their party on the same day as you!

So, once you have a date or two in mind; contact your local professional children's entertainment company and determine what type of entertainment is available for your preferred times. Once you have decided what you want, reserve it. Now you can work on your invitations!