Party Professor – April 2016


Social Cues

Helping Our Young Party Hosts Handle Difficult Situations Successfully


Beth Standlee

By Beth Standlee, CEO, TrainerTainment

We ask a lot of ourselves and our teams. Think about it: We put 16-20 year olds in charge of the most important day of a child’s life. Holy cow, when you think of it like that, it’s easy to wonder if we know what we are doing.

These young people are bright. They are informed. They know how to get any answer to any question with a click of a button. What they might not know is all the complexities of human communication. They haven’t be alive as long as someone older, which might mean they don’t have as much experience with the good, bad, and ugly of families.

So let’s look at some of the most common training opportunities that will help your party hosts deliver that superstar service you hope for every day!

There are at least three common awkward party moments that can derail the party experience for a family, the birthday child, and the host. I’d like to tackle the following:

1. What to do about the extra people that show for a party. (Adults and added children like siblings of an invited guest).

2. No-Show Guests. This is always a gut-wrenching situation when classmates and cousins can’t attend a friend’s birthday and the guest of honor is sitting alone with their cake.

3. Finally, one of the most awkward moments can be the birthday child who is caught between the strife that might exist between divorced parents.

The extra people scenario is the easiest to handle in my mind. We teach this all the time to party hosts and sales teams around the country. Take a proactive approach and handle this situation up front. During the sales process and/or the pre-party phone call, ask mom or dad what they plan to do with any extra adults or children that attend the party. Asking the question might sound like this:

Center Rep: “Mom, are you expecting any additional adults or siblings for Billy’s party”?

Mom: “I think there may be about five.”

Center Rep: “Great. If you like, I can order an extra pizza and soda for them or advise your party host that you intend for the extra adults and siblings to be on their own for any food or fun. What’s best for you?”

At this time, you’ve done a great job up-selling if the paying parent doesn’t mind including the added guests to the party. If not, you’ve been extremely helpful to this mom because the party host can communicate with the extra adults that they and their uninvited child guests are on their own for food or fun, and that she would be happy to take their order.

This tactic really helps the attending guests and the family who’s on the hook for paying for the party. It’s a superstar service move to include this training for both your hosts and your sales team. The host can reconfirm with the paying party parent once they arrive on the day of the event so that there is no confusion at all about who’s paying for what.

The No-Show Guests problem is always heartbreaking. I’ve heard many hosts share the story of a party where no guests showed. What you have on your hands is a very sad birthday child. This is their day and none of their friends are with them.

I think the best solution I’ve ever witnessed was when every available host, and even a guest service team member and a manager, turned into the guests for a child’s party. A 7-year-old loves for big people to play with them. This team was “all in.” They played, they grabbed merchandise from the redemption counter for gifts, and shared the party experience 100%. The sad tears from the first 15 minutes of the party were wiped away quickly.

The short solution to the no-show situation is the party must go on!

Finally, handling the complexity of a multi-parent is the one that requires an astute understanding of the social cues that abound. Knowing ahead of time is helpful, but not always something that happens. Sometimes a divorced parent may show unannounced. If there are challenges in the relationship it’s often easy to see the stress. Cues might be that there is very little interaction between the parents or that there is a not so subtle clue in that they are immediately verbal with one another.

In either case, a host’s opportunity is to focus on the children. If there is some kind of explosion waiting to happen, it might be wise to take the children to play. Get them out of the confined space of a party room. Let the parents work out whatever they need to work out. Often times it’s “who’s paying for the party.”

Most of the time parties are going to be great. Most of the time the grown-ups in the room will behave as grown-ups. Nonetheless, it never hurts to talk with and train a young person what to look for and how to respond to some of these awkward moments.

I hope this was helpful and gives you training objectives with your team. And I wish you many more parties that are full of happy adults and children!

Beth is the CEO of TrainerTainment LLC, a training company devoted to the family entertainment and  hospitality industries. Beth and her team are focused on helping the companies they serve make more money through sales, guest service, leadership and social media marketing training. Training products and services are delivered in person, through books and DVDs, and virtually with e-learning courses, webinar development and 24/7 online access. Visit her company’s website at


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