Whether you’re a new or an experienced kids entertainer, there was certainly a time when you had to deal with rowdy kids who are disrupting your show, a particularly persistent child who walks up onstage while you’re performing, or a couple of parents who approach you at the end of your show and insist you make balloons for their kids even though you’ve said you won’t be making any.
In these situations, how do you keep crowd control in such a way that you don’t come across as unaccommodating or offending?
Members of the Kids Entertainer Hub Facebook group discussed this particular issue that children’s performers—particularly those who use balloons in their shows—usually face. Below are some of the best and most useful answers.
1. When they get loud, you get quiet.
This is one of the oldest tricks in the book—and one of the most effective. When the kids get noisy, just talk more softly and you’ll find your young audience hushing down to hear you. It’s simple and works beautifully.
2. Enlist the help of a friend to get feedback.
If you notice that the attention of your little audience keep wandering off, maybe you have to reevaluate your show. Ask a professional friend whom you trust to sit with your audience and get feedback from them to help you figure out if the reason you’re losing their focus is because you are going too fast or too slow for them. You might pick up a lot of other insights, too.
3. Set the tone.
Develop a good audience warm-up where you let the kids know (subtly, of course) that you’re in control and that good behaviour will mean more fun for everyone.
Here’s an easy to do and effective audience warm-up that is based upon techniques teachers use in class situations. Kids understand this and will join in quickly as they are already ‘imprinted’ with the behaviour they need to follow.
Every time it gets a bit rowdy with kids talking, PAUSE and repeat the above. The kids will follow along with this fun pattern and quiet down. Do it with a twinkle in your eye, a raise of your eyebrow and a measured smile and you’ll be in control.
Another old trick that you can do is when asking for volunteers, tell the children that you will be picking only someone who’s sitting quietly with their hands in the air. You can be creative with this, too. Tell the children to make funny faces or to flap their wings, but without being rowdy of course. By giving them something to do rather than telling them what they can’t do, you’ll be empowering your young audience and channeling and handling their energy effectively.
4. Consider charging for balloons.
For kids entertainers who perform library shows involving balloons, you can earn more dollars on top of your fee and cut down the number of parents asking for balloons for their child at the end of your show by offering them for a cost. It’s important, however, that you talk about this first with your client (those who hired you for the library show) or ask them what they recommend. If they give you the go signal, then go for it.
The only setback with this technique is if the number of people who want to buy balloons from you turn out to be more than you or your booker has anticipated. It becomes especially tricky when you have another gig you have to get to. So keep this in mind when you’re thinking of selling some balloon sculptures after a show.
5. Give your booker the option to buy giveaway balloons from you.
As an alternative to tip #4, you can offer your client the choice to purchase a set number of balloons from you. After your show, when the kids or parents approach you to ask for balloons, you can simply point them to “the nice lady over there” who would be handing out the balloons.
6. Prepare giveaways for everyone.
Sometimes all the kids—and their parents—want is one item, one freebie, to take home. So get bookmarks, trading cards, colouring sheets, or magic tricks to give away after your show (and be sure that they contain your contact information!). There are a lot of charming but inexpensive choices out there.
7. Be clear about what you’re hired to do.
Are you booked to do line twisting or to perform a magical storytelling show where you use balloons? Clarify to your booker that it’s either one or the other. If you’re hired to do a show where you happen to use balloons, make it a point to ask your booker to be clear about how they promote your show. Instead of calling it a “balloon show,” they can describe it as a “storytelling show with balloons.” The shift in emphasis can curb or prevent audience misunderstanding and set their expectations right.
If your booker is making promotional materials for the event, you can also request them to insert a line that says no balloons will be given away during or after your performance. Just explain to them your concern and they would likely work with you to prevent any chaos.
And to clarify matters outright with your audience, announce at least a couple of times during your show that you won’t be providing balloons during or after your performance. Sound friendly or make it funny, and most people will understand.
8. Learn to say no.
If after all this you’re still confronted by kids or parents insisting that you make a sword or a flower balloon art for them or their kids, just say, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t booked to twist balloons today but just to do my show.”
And to make this come down more easily, you can tell them other ways they can score a balloon. You can try telling them, “I’m done for today, but I’ll be more than happy to make a balloon for you next time you see me. Here’s my website so you and your mom can see where you can catch me next.”
There you have it—eight easy steps you can try as soon as your next gig. Apply them and gain more control of your audience.