How to Hire a Children’s Entertainer

Over the years I have had many parents ask, “How can I get entertainment jobs for my kids?” I realize parents are proud of their children and want to see them excel, but we have to keep things in perspective. Kids are dabbling in balloons, naija gist magic, and juggling just for fun. They are not looking for work; they are just playing. As a child develops their entertainment skills, it might become a hobby. Hobbies, if you’re lucky, can turn into a career; and if you’re really lucky, it may become a successful career! Parents shouldn’t worry about how to get their child a job, they should ensure the child has fun playing with their new found skill.

Children, even teenagers, are restricted by law on the number of hours they can work. Companies can not and will not enter into a contract with minors, especially with the liability issues that can arise from hiring a minor. These two reasons alone make it difficult for kids to get entertainment jobs. Many parents will argue that it’s only a picnic or just a birthday party, they are not sending their child to work in a factory. However, if the child was sent to a factory it would have strict rules protecting the child, their rights, and a secure work environment. Working for themselves, children and their parents have to use common sense to determine what is hazardous and what is safe, not only for their health, but for the audience safety.

Imagine that your child is a juggler and does a small fire act. They have practiced it many times in the past for family and friends and are now doing it for a crowd of people at the local church picnic. It’s been a long, hot, dry summer and the grass is a nice crispy golden brown. During the show the crowd is slowly moving closer and closer. Kids move closer as parents push their little ones up to the front so they can see and hear better. As the performer soaks the fire torch in lighter fluid they accidentally tip over the bucket, and lighter fluid is absorbed into the drought-ridden turf. Trying to be professional the child picks up the torch and begins his or her routine, and because of the spill is now standing in dried grass, covered with lighter fluid.

If a torch drops, will a fire start? How quickly will it spread? Are kids sitting to close? Are animals in the audience? How windy is it? These are things that need to be considered, prior to even beginning a torch act. You may think this would not happen, but I know of a performer who almost started a fire station on fire. This performer was extremely embarrassed, along with receiving a stern lecture by the fire chief and a couple of parents who thought that he was careless.

The performer was 23 years old, performed this routine 5 times before in public, and though it was the coolest part of his act. Accidents like this do happen. From then on, the performer had strict rules, made sure a fire extinguisher was available, and would not do the routine if the environment was not safe for the audience. In addition, he went out and bought liability insurance. A hundred-dollar job is not worth injuring a child or the hundred-thousand-dollar lawsuit by the parent of an injured child.

Encourage your child to learn all aspects of entertaining and not just the mechanics. Children can acquire the mechanics of a routine, but lack the communication skills to really sell the routine. These communication skills will come as confidence grows and as the child matures. Often, kids are great when communicating with family and friends, but lack the social communication skills required to work with a group of unknown adults. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears among adults so don’t assume that kids don’t have the same fear.

Children of professional entertainers understand that multiple skills are required to be a successful entertainer and try to acquire these skills prior to entertaining in public. A professional singer’s child may start singing with mom and dad at very early age; their parents work with professionals, give advice, train, and develop their child from experiences that they have learned over their professional career. Individuals or parents who do not entertain are under the impression that just because their child is achieving the basics that the child is now qualified to perform in public. These children may be talented but lack background knowledge and thus are not fully ready to perform.

At a restaurant I frequently entertained at, I would have a mom who would always tell me how great her son’s magic was and how she wants him to do show, birthday parties, restaurants and fairs. Her son was 12, a good looking kid, shy, but overall seemed really interested in magic. Just recently, I was working the restaurant and saw this boy, now a 17 year old with some friends. I walked over to the table to entertain the group and just goofing around pulled out a deck of cards. As I did the card trick.

TV Magic Deck) the young 17 year old mentioned he did magic. “Yes, you used to come with your mom and brother.” I said. “Yep, that was me,” he replied. “My magic is nowhere as good as yours.” This was the boy who according to his mother, was going to grow up to be the next David Copperfield. In reality it was a child who was fascinated by magic, took an interest in it and went on with is life. He was not looking for a career, but just an fun outlet.

Planning a part or event doesn’t have to be that difficult. If you want to improve your events, find a way to make them really special. One way to do that is to introduce a little spice into the mix – in the form of entertainers – break the ice and get things moving.

And what more entertaining spice can you think of than a good entertainer. Whatever their role, be it mascot, mingler, or in the spotlight, a good entertainer can make people feel relaxed and comfortable and add flare to an otherwise dull event.

When you use an entertainer to improve your event, think about the type of party you’ll be hosting. Of course, you must first identify your goal. Are you welcoming home a long lost uncle? Trying to sell a timeshare? Increasing your network of professional contacts? And what are the characteristics of your guests? Are they business people, families, students? What type of party will it be? A small, intimate affair for a few friends or a big bash for the whole neighborhood? When you’ve established who’ll be there and what you’ll all be doing, you can begin to search for the perfect entertainer to brighten up the affair and improve your events.

How will you use your entertainer? A DJ is perfect for a party where people will be dancing. A comedian makes a great emcee or stand-up performer. A public speaker can not only entertain, but motivate and inform. Dancers can teach while they entertain, and exotic dancers (like belly dancers) can keep the place sizzling. Musicians, including singers, are a wonderful
addition to most events. Here is a list of types of entertainers you may not think of without a little help:

– balloon twisters
– clowns
– face painters
– impersonators
– hypnotists
– magicians
– Elvis impersonators
– mentalists
– puppeteers
– ventriloquists

Musical entertainment doesn’t have to be a rock band or chamber orchestra. What about a barber shop quartet, folk singers, hip hop or rappers, or even a small gospel choir. It all depends on the people and the party.

You can probably find a number of choices by visiting your yellow pages or checking on the internet. The options are almost limitless. Most of these entertainers work at very reasonable prices because they’re either just starting out and need the experience, or they’ve already retired and want to keep active in their beloved profession.

If your budget won’t support a professional entertainer, you might think about bringing in someone who will mingle with your guests to get and keep the conversations and laughter going. Do you know someone who’s outgoing and funny? A good mingler is comfortable with all types of people and is a great conversationalist. If you bring someone in with that purpose in mind, it will probably improve your event and bring the best out in your guests. Of course, as host or hostess, you’ll want to play the role of mingler as well, making sure your guests are comfortable and involved.

One approach to party entertainment is to have activities in which the guests participate. A hypnotist can use your guests as subjects and keep everyone laughing. Impersonators can play role-playing games – what would you say to the President at a fun event? A local dance teacher can keep everyone involved in learning a new dance step. There are also theme parties where everyone has a role. One of the most familiar is the murder mystery where guests have to solve a crime. Casino or poker parties involve your guests in challenging and fun activities for hours!

And, of course, there’s the traditional costume party where your entertainer can play a specific role (like Caesar or George Washington). You can turn your costume party into a casual version of Trivial Pursuit, where the entertainer/character asks guests questions about his or her life or events of that day. You can offer prizes for most answers. Be creative! People love to get outside the old party box. A professional entertainer will give your party a special flare and improve your events.

Bringing in a professional photographer is a great way to get people excited. Few people don’t like to have their picture taken. Now, imagine them having their picture taken with Caesar, George Washington, or George Bush!

There’s only one down side to this approach. Once you’ve spiced up your party with a professional entertainer, your guests will expect all your events to be as much fun! They’ll be talking about you and the party for years to come. So, if you’ve run out of ways to bring smiles to the faces of your friends, family, and business acquaintances, consider introducing an entertainer into the mix. They’ll make your party a smashing success and improve all your events!

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