The Friday Afternoon Show Dilemma
One of the common booking requests you will get is the Friday afternoon birthday party. Usually it involves the birthday child’s mum inviting the entire class to their home or a nearby park. These bookings can be the worst ones you will ever do as the kids have just spent 5 days following rules at school and now are ready for their usual Friday afternoon ritual of going a little bit crazy and unleashing all of that energy they have stored up during the week.
THEN you come along and tell them all to sit down in a group and be nice and quiet. What would you do if you were a kid?
There are two definite tips for you here:
- Don’t accept the booking. Someone else will do it. This might be your best option if you are not that confident.
- If you take the booking, be very clear with the booking mum on this one point: watching your magic show is not optional for the kids. Every child who attends MUST sit with the group and watch the show. It is not a choice of watch a bit of the show then play on the swings or go and eat some more chips and lollies.
The reason you insist on this is that you often get a few drop-offs. This is where the parents drop the kids at the party and leave. This is a green light for mischievous kids to start engaging in anarchy after a long week of school rules. I have learnt this through experience.
This situation can also happen when you are booked for a kids party and when you get there, you find out that these are very wealthy clients and they have booked multiple entertainers like balloon twisters and face painters and superhero characters, and they have masses of big toys like giant pedal cars. These kids are so super hyped and overstimulated that getting them to all watch is virtually impossible. These shows do not go well. Grit your teeth and do the best you can, get paid and leave.
And to make the task easier somehow, here are some quick tips that can help you gain more control.
The Words You Use
The words that come from your mouth are important. A few simple changes to what you say can make a big difference over a period of time to how you enjoy your work.
Now while I am not a subscriber to the whole idea of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), I certainly do understand and practice using selected words and word combinations to create a better chance of creating positive outcomes for me. I use these simple examples all the time.
Do not say (ACTION) please.
Say (ACTION) Thank you.
Example: ‘Everyone sit down please’ offers a chance for dissention to your request. You are giving the audience an option by asking please.
On the other hand, saying ‘Everyone sit down, thank you’ implies that the audience have accepted your request and you are thanking them for their cooperation.
Of course this is all subliminal and these thoughts happen in a split second, but they increase the rate of compliance. That’s certainly the case in my experience.
Another one is AND. You give two directions and join them with the word AND.
‘Come up on stage AND stand next to me here.’
‘Stop talking AND look at me right now.’
This simple technique works because you are creating the need for the person to whom the directions are aimed to have to give a complex answer if they don’t want to do what you asked.
In the first example, they might not want to come on stage and they also don’t want to stand next to you. They subconsciously realise they can’t just say no because then, they won’t be specifying which bit they are saying no to. It just becomes too complex to say no so they will likely follow your directions because in that split second, it seems the easier thing to do. Again this is not a sure-fire technique but over time, it increases your strike rate.
I use this little tactic to great effect at the end of my Balloon Workshops, where I have a magic show followed by a balloon twisting workshop.
Often I get 60-80 kids in these workshops. Often I get very positive feedback from staff on how I control or prevent the chaos that you can expect when you have 70 kids and 700 balloons in a small space. The secret is I have watched, studied, changed, tried different tactics again and again until I eventually came up with those that make this really quite easy (resulting in a good holiday money spinner for me).
At the end of the session, I get everyone in for a group photo. This used to be like herding cats until I tried this:
I stop the music, grab the microphone and say, “It’s the greatest photo of your lifetime. It happens right down the front here, right now. Little kids to the front, sitting on your bottoms. Older and taller kids to the back, standing. I am not asking again. Here we go.”
EIGHT, SEVEN, and so on.
Here I count very methodically, leaving a 2-second gap between numbers. The kids pick up on this and without me saying a word, they ‘usually’ arrange themselves by the time I get to one.
At the end of the countdown, I might need to crowd the kids to the centre a bit, but they are all there. I get the staff to take the photos which I orchestrate the poses for. If the kids are not in place, they miss out. The staff can deal with any tears later.
This whole process takes about 3 minutes. You can try this using another way but it will take 10 minutes and it will be no better as everyone is likely to get grumpy after those long 10 minutes.
And there you have it. Next time you give a Friday afternoon show, give these tips a try. I’d love to hear if they worked for you. And if you have tips of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below for the whole Kids Entertainer Hub community.