It's a funny concept (and perhaps counter-cultural) but in our experiences, less is more.

Blasphemy?  We are a culture of bigger, faster, stronger, unlimited plans and all-you-can-eat!

True, that's one facet of our culture.  But let me use the "Chuck E. Cheese" example.

As a concerned parent, you want to provide your children with a great childhood.  Strong values, healthy teeth, success you never had, etc.  Sometimes a little "keeping up with the Joneses" happens and you find yourself seeking "what is cool?  What is trending?"  For some parents of young children, it's the little Vegas that is Chuck E Cheese.

This is not to disparage the mouse - mice have great power in our society, particularly "M" and his crew.  So I'm not interested in incurring rodent wrath here.

However, your family is marked and you enter the safe zone.  Lights and sounds assault your senses.  Screaming kids running everywhere. An animatronic show tries to perform over the din while the obsession with ticket currency for overpriced plastic happens in a pseudo stock exchange.

And that's why they sold beer.  Maybe they don't anymore.  My kids are grown so I've been paroled (for now) ;)

Extrapolate this example into a recent experience we had.  On the surface, it was simply "story time" at a small school celebrating a literacy night:

How about a superhero visit?  What a cool idea! Young children love the "wow factor"

"By the's also our school's birthday.  Can the hero lead the kids in singing?"

So a singing superhero?  Okay.....

"By the way.....we'll have cupcakes.  We should get that out of the way after the song so that the kids will stop focusing on them."

So the singing superhero is now facilitating cupcake distribution? Okay.....

"By the way....we're also reading a story about a kid with Autism.  It's a great book!  No, we don't have a copy for you (3 days before the gig) but you can find it, familiarize yourself with it, and can you tie that into your story?"

So the singing, cupcake facilitating superhero is now tying in their backstory into another story to relate to the students? Okay....

(The day of the event) "By the way.....we have a copy of the book to give the kids!  Maybe they can unwrap it just before your story time begins?"

So the singing, cupcake facilitating superhero is now tying in their backstory into another story to relate to the students AND spending part of a 30 MINUTE service time to have over 100 various-aged students unwrap a book they may not have even read? Okay....

As you might have expected, 30 minutes stretched into 90 minutes (including some photo ops.) The kids all had a great time, but what was the feedback?

EVERYONE IS FURIOUS!  Where was the story?

So the kids received a cupcake, a free book, a present AFTER all of the story time, met a superhero, had pictures with him, and had a great time.  BUT, the teachers, principal, school board, all powers-that-be who complicated and stretched out the experience were disappointed?

This happens very rarely.  We were so shocked that we just left.  "No charge." We didn't want to hear from them and certainly didn't want them leaving a review!

The lesson here?  Less is more.

Singing?  NO.

Cupcakes? NO.

Obscure tie-in? NO.

Book distribution? NO.

Essentially we should have said NO to all the extras.  The children didn't care about the book, didn't need the sugar on a school night, weren't interested in any tie-ins (definitely not in singing!) or what the adults thought.  They were in school AGAIN after being in school all day.  They were happy just to meet a superhero and go to bed.


So, loyal reader and likely creative, use our pain to your advantage.  Be yourself, be clear, don't over-promise and (in this nightmare) under-deliver.  You'll attract the right customers.