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Balloon Decorators FLOAT into Success

Steven Jones, special to Party & Halloween Retailer

This coming January (26-30), approximately 500 balloon industry professionals from around the world will gather together in St. Louis, Missouri. Here, they’ll take classes, design elegant competition pieces and network with artists from across the globe. In a word, they’ll FLOAT.

What exactly is FLOAT? On the surface, it’s a convention where people learn how to decorate events with balloons. But since its humble beginnings in 2008, it’s become much more. FLOAT has become a community of career-minded balloon professionals aimed at supporting one another with a style and culture all their own.

 

The early days

FLOAT was first conceived in the Fall of 2007 as another educational project, “BalloonTown USA,” was coming to an end. Even though many enjoyed being part of BTU, which was based on learning by completing a large-scale group build, most people felt they would benefit more from structured classes. At that same time, there were very few in-person opportunities for balloon decorators to learn their craft in the U.S. Balloon decorating conventions were closing down left and right — thanks in part to the rise of the Internet and the convenience of information at your fingertips. So, a small group of balloon decorators ultimately decided to shelve the BalloonTown USA project and from its ashes a new convention concept called FLOAT began to take shape. 

 

Many voices

One of the driving forces behind FLOAT is the idea that decorators should have as many different options as possible when it comes to their working inventory. As such, FLOAT does not limit themselves when it comes to convention sponsorship on the manufacturer level. This is one reason why Tammy Corzine of Celebrations in Delphos, Ohio, likes FLOAT. “I love the variety of manufacturers involved. I can’t run my business with products from just one manufacturer. FLOAT is the only balloon convention I know of where I can see and use so many different brands, all in one place,” she said.

In fact, five different balloon manufacturers currently take part in FLOAT: Anagram, Betallic, Gemar, Qualatex and TufTex. All of these companies sponsor instructors and classes at the convention as well as social events, group functions and more. The wide range of products offered and demonstrated at FLOAT encourage friendly competition between the companies and provide attendees with an incredible spectrum of options for their “balloon tool bag.”

Another important aspect of FLOAT is their class structure. Unlike other balloon conventions, FLOAT openly states that it’s not for everyone. Its classes are structured toward intermediate-to-advanced level balloon professionals. Of course, newbies aren’t denied from attending FLOAT, but the convention unabashedly reminds people that their classes are not geared for those needing a gentler touch.

Mandana Moshrefzadeh, CBA,of Balloon Artistry by Mandana from Oakdale, Minnesota, feels very strongly about that aspect of the event. “There’s an incredible learning that occurs from top notch instructors that are carefully selected to teach. I’ve been to plenty of conventions, but I’ve learned extraordinarily advanced balloon techniques and special secrets from the instructors at FLOAT! I think the warm, friendly, family atmosphere opens them up to share more of their tried-and-tested methods.”

The convention also recognizes that for a lot of balloon professionals, this may be the only chance they can get away each year to learn and play amongst their peers, so the convention tries to cram as many activities and functions as they can into just a few days. Attendees already receive twelve 90-minute classes as part of their registration, but there are also over a dozen optional bonus and master classes available to attendees outside of the regular class schedule. In addition, FLOAT boasts the largest vendor showcase of any balloon-specific convention, multiple social events, a complimentary Hospitality Suite with free beverages and snacks throughout the day and a full day of optional activities taking place on the Saturday leading up to the convention as well. 

“There is something there for everyone,” said Caity Byrne, CBA, of All About Balloons in Washington, D.C. “From the timid beginners to the salty old pros, there are learning opportunities at every turn, from the world-class instructors to the impromptu networking sessions over coffee.” 

 

FLOAT’s bottom line 

You would think with all of this going on at the event, FLOAT’s costs would be out of reach, but in fact the opposite is quite true. FLOAT’s registration fee at its highest level is only $499, making it the lowest priced reoccurring balloon decor convention in the U.S. And for those who reside outside of the continental United States, registration is only $325, meaning international artists as well as those from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories can attend for less money. 

In addition, FLOAT is specifically scheduled in the central region of the U.S. so airfare costs are kept as low as they can be no matter where a delegate may be traveling from. And at just over $90 a night, FLOAT’s host hotel, the St. Louis Airport Marriott, always sells out.

FLOAT is proud of the incredible ROI potential it offers its attendees. When compared to the other educational conventions for decorators, it’s clear to see that FLOAT offers the best overall value for the price.

With an attendance cap of 350 registered delegates, FLOAT 2020 is sure to sell out as it has for the past three conventions. If you’re ready to step up your game and take the next step with your business, FLOAT has a spot waiting just for you.

Originally posted Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019