Three presents beautifully wrapped and placed on a flat table

Designing Memorable Gifts: A Guide for Kids Entertainers

If you checked out my last article, you’re probably doing fun, creative promotional materials by now that both your little audience and your taller clients adore. Now it’s time to look into creating gifts that you can give to make a more permanent, more positive impression.

What to Give?

Something Useful

The first giveaway I ever noticed was a baseball schedule given to me by a realtor. It was super useful to me not because I liked baseball, but because it let me know what days the games were so I could avoid game-day traffic.

I understand that must certainly not be the purpose of that particular giveaway, but no matter. I found a use for it, and it stuck to my mind after all these years.

Things that have a specific use make great giveaway gifts. They might not be particularly pretty, but if they serve a practical purpose, your clients are likely to appreciate them. So why not think of things that would be incredibly helpful to your clients?

Let me give an example. As entertainers, especially birthday entertainers, we can offer great help to our clients who usually plan just one or two parties a year. After all, with all the time we spend at parties, we can be considered the experts. So why not have a party planner that your clients can download from your website? That might be something they can appreciate, especially those who are such busy bees.

You can also develop a Pinterest board for all your party ideas. Right now, I have Pinterest boards for super heroes and musical themes because those are the themes for the main summer reading programs in the libraries in my area. Links to those boards will appear on my Facebook page for those librarians who need last-minute ideas for their programs. I’m sure that would be something helpful, and it costs me next to nothing to offer.

Something Delightful

It’s so satisfying to see a look of surprise and delight on someone’s face and know you’ve helped put it there. To do this, why not make your thank-you card into a pop-up card? (You are sending thank-you cards, right?)

Something Artsy

Can you give something that people will love to tape to their refrigerator? If yes, then do so. I’m currently working on a photo frame where parents can put the photo of their adorable kid wearing my adorable balloon art.

If you want, you can even do something extreme, like a friend of mine who traveled the world making balloon art for people all around the globe. He took a documentary filmmaker with him and together they created the Balloon Hat Experience. How’s that for giving back?

Something Fun

In this profession, we almost always come in contact with kids, so why not give away something that all kids love—toys? Think: what can I give that children can play with, something that they will rush to show their friends? You can even think a little outside the box and consider giving a magic trick. Even if you’re not a magician, maybe you could find an inexpensive magic trick that relates to what you do.

Something Meaningful

Jeff McBride once performed a rubber band routine for me during one of his magic school classes. The routine included a wonderful story about the star within, and the rubber band magically turned into the shape of a star. I don’t remember the story at all, but I remember the feeling I had the moment I realized the rubber band was a star. I thought, “Yes, I believe! There is a star in me waiting to come out!” Even though I knew that it was “just” a magic routine, I still have that star seven years later.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Gifts

How Much Does It Cost?

This is the toughest one for me. Some of my favorite ideas aren’t actually feasible because they will cost too much.

For example, I sorely want to give away idea notebooks complete with built-in pencils to every child in my show. However, the lowest cost I can come up with for these is about a couple of bucks per set. Not realistic.

I then thought of a cool printable that I could put on my website for kids to download and it costed me nothing but my time. I also subscribe to a service that allows me to create word searches, mazes, and crossword puzzles. I put my branding all over them and make them available to the members of my kids club. The little ones love them!

Is It Right for You?

Would I give out a baseball schedule? No. Not only does sports bore me to tears; it also has nothing to do with MY legend. The gift I give has to be something that’s going to bring joy or be of some use to MY fans, people who love what I love and who love what I do for them.

One of the most popular gifts I’ve designed is a big modeling balloon (a 646Q) with a tiny origami book of instructions on how to bring fun to the PTA meeting with that balloon. It was creative and extraordinary, it fit me and the event, and it had a purpose to boot, so it was no surprise that it became a hit.

Is It Appropriate for the Venue?

Once I thought it was a great idea to give out an uninflated balloon to each kid at my show. I told them to put their balloons in their pocket and play with them at home. I didn’t consider the possibility that the parents and kids might not listen to my rule. Some played with the balloons inside the library, hence creating chaos. The result? I was politely asked to please never do that again. Now I give out bookmarks and the librarians love me for it.

It’s important to think not only about your obvious audience—in this case, the families who come to the library—but also about your actual client, the person who booked the show. Think: how are your giveaways going to affect them?

Is It Appropriate for the Person Who Will Receive It?

Let’s give everyone a free kitten! Yay! And how about a little drum kit? Yay!

But wait a minute. What sounds like fun may turn out to be not so great for the receiver or for the receiver’s parents.

Think of romancing your customers. What would bring them joy? Who are your people and what do they love? Why did they hire you? They were obviously attracted to you enough to give you their attention. Find out what will delight them, then figure out how to get them that in a cost-effective manner.

Some of My Faves

I prefer interactive gifts over any other giveaways. My all-time favorite is my Story Contest. After the show, I give everyone a bookmark with a link to my Story Contest. This gives them a chance to (1) win a free show for their school; (2) be the star in that show; and (3) get more balloons than they can carry!  (I say it that way, with the numbers, to make it really dramatic.)

This serves three purposes. First, the bookmark serves like a consolation prize (because there’s no way I’m making balloons for 300 kids after the show!). Second, it gets the kids and their parents on my website. Third, it thrills my clients because the kids are now excited about reading and writing, which is usually their purpose for hiring me. With that simple bookmark, everybody wins!

Another thing that I also like to do is give away gifts that are directly tied to the event. For example, magicians usually give away magic wands with their promotional info on the sticks. Their assistant gets one during the show, and so does everyone else at the party. You can be sure those wands would be waved even until the kids reach home.

One of My Faves That I Will Never Use

I once saw these business cards that you could plant and then wildflowers would grow out of them. Seriously, how brilliant is that and how perfect would that be for someone who does environmental shows or who uses wildflowers in his or her branding?

Though I would really love to use that idea, it just doesn’t tie in with what I do. But it’s super, super cool. If anyone here uses that idea, please send me one of your business cards, okay?

Adding a Special Touch

You can go a little extra mile for your client by preparing one wonderful gift for the birthday child. It’s a fantastic idea and it makes the guest of honor and their parents feel special.

You can style your gift in such a way that it promotes your brand. Just make sure not to overdo it. It would also be great if you could think of something that is related to who you are as a performer. If you use, for example, a wildflower for your branding, you may give a wildflower growing kit with a pot and a little bag of soil to go along with your cool wildflower seed card. It’s not something that many people get often, so that gift would certainly make you stand out and delight the receiver as well.

So you see, giving away gifts has its returns. It gives happiness to your clients, and it makes you memorable. So next time you have a show, think about preparing giveaways for your audience. They don’t have to cost much. They just have to be creative. Have fun with it and make it yours.

Next month, I’ll talk about the mother lode of promotional gifts: interactive gifts. Watch out for that!