proven event strategies...
Students playing arcade games in prom gowns
keep everyone active & awake
While there should be plenty of anticipation to keep people awake until they get there, remember that most everyone attending the post prom party will have already had a very long and tiring day — and many students, as well as the parent volunteers, will have had little sleep the night before. Last minute worries and preparations, pick-ups, deliveries, decorations, tuxedoes, dresses, flowers, nail polish, hair styles, makeup, cleaning the car, food, family, pictures... not to mention school or work depending upon the day of the week. So, be sure to plan for everyone to be busy doing something throughout the entire event. If students or chaperones sit down for any length of time, without being otherwise engaged in an activity, the day's events will likely catch up with them pretty quickly. And over-tired people, teenagers or adults, should not be driving home early in the morning.
let the kids be the entertainment
In every high school graduating class there are teenagers who love to be the center of attention. So, let them be an integral part of the entertainment. Games, contests, and activities that allow the more outgoing students to show-off in front of their peers can make for some of the more memorable moments. Hula hoops, juggling balls, limbo lines, pin the tail on the donkey.... Yes, I know they are teenagers, but who doesn't want to relive their childhood every now and then, especially when preparing to the leave the relative comfort of high school and given the opportunity to do so with friends who may go back to the days of elementary school?
should we buy games & activities or rent them?
This decision will have a major impact on how you plan and manage your event, from the amount of money you will need to raise, to the number of volunteers you will need to coordinate, to the volume of "stuff" you will need to research, and locate, and purchase, and store, and move, and assemble, and set up, and take down, and deliver, and...
By way of personal experience, the first after prom party I attended as an adult volunteer virtually all of the games and activities were rented from a local (actually, about an hour and a half away) company that specialized in such things. The PTSA Post Prom Committee purchased an entertainment package, with the vendor providing most of the manpower to setup and run all of the games and activities, which meant parent volunteers did not have to store electronic basketball games in their garages and living rooms for months, nor move them to the hall and then spend time putting them together and setting them up before the event. And, when the evening was over – at 4:00 AM – we were not responsible for packing everything up, loading it all in our personal cars & trucks, and placing it back in storage.
However, it also meant that all the money we spent on rental fees and paid assistants was gone when the rental company drove away as the sun was rising the next morning. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the rental company truck, with virtually all of the activities on it, broke down en route and arrived less than an hour before the first students arrived... talk about nervous. However, everything turned out fine and the rental company was really great to work with.
So, the next year when I took a leap of faith to help manage the entertainment, we decided to test a different strategy — we would purchase as many games and activities as might be practical and then give as many of them away to students as awards and prizes at the end of the night. Electronic basketball arcade games, televisions and PlayStation™ consoles, wire puzzles, juggling balls, hula hoops, high quality DDR pads, and other games and activities were purchased for use during the event and given away at the end of the night (morning;-) as prizes. It was a great use of donated funds, but it did require considerable extra time and effort on the part of parents and chaperones.
something to do everywhere you look
Depending upon the layout of your gathering space, a bunch of small, inexpensive toys, games, and activities can be placed on tables around the room to help keep kids occupied. Those "miracle" fortune fish that curl up in your hand, assorted slide puzzles, Jacob's ladder blocks, small maze puzzles, tic-tac-toe and triangle challenge peg games, animal balloons with balloon inflators, wire puzzles, playing cards, and silly putty are just a few examples of the type of activities that individual kids and small groups of students might enjoy. Keep in mind that some things might be fun to play around with, but potentially unsafe in a crowded room or inappropriate for an after prom party. Dozens of yo-yos or super bouncy balls flying around the room might end up being a safety issue. Party bubbles are fun until someone slips in a puddle of slippery liquid soap. Finger traps were lots of fun as a kid, but somebody always ended up crying before they were put away.... you get the point.
coffee, tea, caffeinated soda...
Please don't forget the adults who will be serving as chaperones... they will really appreciate a pot of fresh brewed coffee, or a strong cup of tea, or a tall glass of soda with extra caffeine;-)