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Every day I speak with party planners about entertainment for their events. I ask questions about the age and size of the group, the venue as well as the other activities happening that day.

The final question is, “What kind of budget are you trying to stay within, so that I don’t recommend anything out of reach?”

The most common answer I get is “As cheap as possible”.

And this makes me wonder…  “Do you not like the people who are coming to your event?” :o)

Seriously, though… after going through all of the time, trouble and expense to plan the event, buy the food, the decorations, the prizes, etc., why cut corners on the one element of the event that people will talk about, long after the event has ended? Of all the areas where event planners spend money, the entertainment is the single-most-talked-about activity of any special event. (Whether it’s good or not…) Few people post, tweet, share, instagram, snapchat or buzz about the venue, the decorations, the food or the prizes.

Good entertainment creates memories and photo opportunities which will stay with your guests indefinitely. I recently received an email from a high school senior party client. I recognized her name and pointed out that we had performed at her daughter’s 8th birthday 10 years earlier. Within minutes, she sent me a photograph of my husband and her daughter at the party! He made her daughter and her friends laugh out loud for over 30 minutes, and those memories last!

Why do people believe they want the cheapest entertainment available? Because they have forgotten that “you get what you pay for”.  Also, they don’t realize that the cheapest entertainment doesn’t always mean they are getting the best value. What I have learned over the years is that people don’t actually want “cheap” entertainment. What they want is affordable entertainment, and to feel like their money is well spent.

So, here are 5 ways to make the entertainment at your event affordable and worth it, without sacrificing the very memories you’re trying to create.

  1. Determine Coverage: If you are having “giveaway” entertainment (such as Caricatures, Henna, Face Painting, Balloons, etc.), entertainment where people wait in line for something they take with them, you want to decide how many people you want reached, which is distinct from how many people who are attending your event. If you have 100 adults and 30 children, you can decide if you want 100% of the kids to get balloons, or a percentage. Then, when you search for entertainment, you can find the vendor who can reach that many kids within a time block that works for your event. This is better than hiring the cheapest artist in town, only to discover that he neglected to reach 70% of your young guests.
  2. Schedule carefully: One way to save money, without sacrificing quality, is to recognize the habits of your event goers. If your picnic is from 12:00pm-4:00pm, chances are, you don’t need entertainment the entire time. Many guests at special events arrive 15-30 minutes after the start time. If you stagger your entertainment, you will have greater coverage during peak times. Instead of 4 artists from 12-4, you could have two from 12-3 and two from 1-4.
  3. Recognize that more is not always better:  If budget is a concern, consider that it’s better to have more of one thing, than just a little of a lot of things. For example, instead of having 1 Airbrush Artist, 1 Henna Artist and 1 Caricature Artist, where you end up with long lines and disappointed guests when the group is larger than the artists’ capacity, it would be better to have 3 Airbrush artists, or 3 Henna or 3 Caricaturists. People won’t miss what isn’t available. But they will feel a sense of regret if they wanted what was there and couldn’t have it. Likewise, more prizes and bigger prizes don’t make a better event. If you need to save money, shaving off 10% of your prize budget will free up more money for memory-making entertainment.
  4. Age Appropriate Shows: If yours is an event where you would like your entertainment to put on a show, it’s important to find a show which is designed for your target audience. We hear feedback from party planners that their show last year “just didn’t keep anyone’s attention”. After learning more about the experience, I often find out that their entertainment vendor hadn’t asked all the right questions to determine if the show would be a good match for the group.  If your event is a picnic for families, then your show should target 3-9 year olds. (Don’t worry… a quality Children’s comedy show will be just as entertaining to parents and grandparents as it is to the younger crowd). Likewise, if your event is targeting teens, ‘tweens or adults, and you cut corners and get the “cheapest” show, you may find that it was never intended for a mature audience, which means you wasted the very money you were trying to save. When budgeting for shows, you’ll want to approach it like going to the theater, and set aside enough money accordingly.
  5. Bundle your entertainment: We believe that it’s better to get the best entertainment in town at a discount, rather than mediocre entertainment at full price. If you can work with a company which allows you to do “one stop shopping”, you can save money through volume discounts, that otherwise wouldn’t be available if you ordered “a la carte” from different companies. Plus, having a single source for your entertainment means that you have one person to contact, who will give you impeccable service and take care of any problems which may arise with your artists and entertainers.

If you don’t have the budget for good entertainment this year, save your money! “No” entertainment is better than “bad” entertainment. At the end of the day, saving $100 won’t matter if you feel like you wasted the $400 you did spend! :o)