So you've decided that for your little ones birthday you're going to book an entertainer, you've got a lot of phone numbers and Facebook contacts and you're about to call them all up. But how do you know what to ask them? And how can you tell the good ones from the bad? I've put together 10 questions you should ask your entertainer (and 1 you shouldn't) that will help you book the perfect entertainer!
1 - Are you available on...?
As questions go this is probably one that you would think wouldn't need adding into this list, but there is a reason why it's the first one here. I used to get lots of calls where I would discuss everything with a parent and they would be really keen to book, until I discovered what day they wanted and it would turn out that I was booked. I'd feel bad as it wasted their time, so one of the things I now make sure to do is check the day they want before discussing anything else. It's always best having a few options and times available so that if you find that there is an entertainer that you really want you have more chance of booking them. (As a side note I would always book an entertainer before the venue)
2 - What are your packages/what do they include?
Specifics are important and the next few questions really dig into what is going to happen at your party. The more information you know the better? First and foremost you should find out what packages they offer. Most good entertainers will offer you a variety of packages that cater for a variety of needs and it's really good to start out your conversation with what they can offer you. It'll also give you a chance to narrow their options down to the package you would probably be interested in.
3 - How much do they cost?
At this point it's good to ask the price of your chosen package. Price can be a good indicator of a lot of things including quality. Don't be lulled into buying the cheapest package you see. A £40 per hour entertainer isn't going to be the same quality as someone who charges £100 per hour and it's a noticeable difference between the two! The £40 person is probably cutting expenses or is very inexperienced and trying to get more bookings. Either way it is often more worthwhile spending that little bit extra and getting that peace of mind for your party.
4 - What age range is your service for?
One thing many people don't consider is the age range that the party provider can cater for. Is there a maximum age that their party will be suitable for? Some party providers design their packages with a maximum age in mind, and other parties may not be able to cater to younger audiences. Most magic shows will be targeted at 4 plus and it's really important for both the entertainer and the client that everyone knows the age range of the children that are there. That way the entertainer can make sure they can tailor their show to the exact needs of the party.
5 - Can you cater to a theme?
Are you having a Harry Potter-themed party? Or My Little Pony? Do you want everything done to a certain theme. Lots of entertainers including myself are more than happy to theme our shows/parties around the theme of the party to make it that little bit extra magical. It doesn't hurt to ask if they can provide this service if you are having a themed event as it can make the entertainment integrate more with the party theme.
6 - What's your running order/schedule?
By this point, you're probably interested in booking a certain package but this little question is a great one to discover any little bits that might trip you up on the day. Any good entertainer will know their parties inside out and this shouldn't be a hard question for them to answer. It's important to know if in their party they include important things like breaks for food/drink and when the cake will be presented. Any good entertainer will have this all in hand and it goes to show how prepared your entertainer is.
7 - Is there anything I need to provide?
All party providers are different and some just deal with entertainment while others will provide cakes, decorations, party favours etc. It's a good idea to check what your entertainer will provide as it will make sure you have everything covered for your day and also makes it clearer exactly what you are getting for your money.
8 - Do you have any reviews/videos/pictures?
It's always good to check how much experience your entertainer has and what others think of their service. It's good to check what reviews they have on FB, Netmums etc as well as if there are any images/videos available of their work. Reviews are a great way to see what people think but be wary of any that are just a few words. Look for reviews that give you lots of great descriptions of what exactly the person does and how it is received. The more information the better really. That's why it also helps to see if there are any pictures/videos of their parties. The more you see, the more you know what to expect for your money.
9 - Do you have insurance?
This is an often forgotten about question but is an important one. Take this situation for example. You're at a party and your entertainer is being silly juggling clubs. They aren't really paying attention and accidentally throw one into a window, cracking it. They apologise, and the party goes on. A week after the party you get a bill from the venue to fix the window. It's not your fault so you contact your entertainer. One of two things can happen. If they have Public Liability insurance it's a quick call to their insurer and they will sort it out. If they don't - well you'll probably end up being stuck with a bill or arguing with the entertainer on who's at fault. I know which option I would rather prefer. Any professional will have Public Liability Insurance (myself I have £10m cover) so that in the very unlikely event that something goes wrong you don't stand to lose anything from an error.
10 - How do I book you?
Hooray! You've decided to book your entertainer, but the next step is to discuss the booking process. Most good entertainers will ask for a deposit to secure your booking and will be happy to explain the next steps in the booking process. Professional, entertainers will be able to give you a booking confirmation, setting out the exact details of the booking as well as terms and conditions to protect both yourself and the entertainer in the event of cancellations, illnesses etc. They'll also discuss things like when they will contact you next etc and little ways they will reassure you and help make your day extra magical.
And the question you should never ask:
Do you have a DBS check?
I know it doesn't make sense - why shouldn't you ask if we have a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS - was CRB) check. I could probably write an entire article on why entertainers shouldn't advertise having a DBS check but to sum it up entertainers are not covered by the DBS as they don't meet the legal requirements to be checked, even though they work with children. DBS and the government have put strict rules in place to cover who can get a check and why. One of the rules is that you can't get a check on yourself (which rules out most entertainers) and there is a specific list of people who can apply for a DBS check.
More importantly, entertainers aren't childminders and aren't responsible for regularly caring for, training, supervising, or being solely in charge of persons under 18 and/or vulnerable adults. This basically makes entertainers ineligible for a DBS check and therefore it is technically unlawful for an entertainer to apply for one. So there is no real point of asking if an entertainer has a DBS - as any they have won't actually be of any real use.