Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What It Takes To Be An Instructor At The World Balloon Convention.

I am regularly asked, "What does it take to become an industry instructor?" In my mind, a good instructor is someone who has a skill, design style, or techniques that others are interested in seeing and learning, and secondly, that they have the ability to pass on their skills to others in a professional and competent manner. Having a good understanding of what makes a good instructor is essential. 

Potential instructors are often spotted through their skills as a balloon artist; maybe at a convention where they have entered and won competitions, and others through their everyday work and social media presence.

Being an industry instructor is no easy task. It can be pretty challenging at times, always nerve wrecking, but it can be very rewarding, too!

WBC instructors are approached about a year in advance of the event. They are asked to suggest potential class ideas. Once classes have been agreed, they have the arduous task of designing their 90-minute classes. Deciding on what to teach and show in those precious 90-minutes is vital to the success of the class. WBC delegates come from all over the world. This year, we had representation from 52 countries! Not all delegates speak English as a first language, so it's vital that whatever is taught must be visual enough for all delegates to fully understand. The instructors need to ensure that their classes are well prepared, action-packed with great content, informative, delivered according to the class level and the class description, and fun! And finally, their class notes and materials list, including everything that they need for their classes, are submitted approximately four months before the event!

Avital and Nir Schechter CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel.

This year, we had several first-time WBC Instructors. I thought it would be great to find out what Avital and Nir Schechter, CBA's of Baloney Nir in Katzrin, Israel, and Jackie Ochitwa, CBA, of With a Twist Balloon Creations in Alberta, Canada, thought about their first World Balloon Convention! 

Avital and Nir Schechter
Was this your first time at WBC or have you been before as an attendee?
"This was our first time at WBC, and surely not our last! What an adventure, and what a great honor to be instructors at our first WBC. We couldn`t have asked for a better stage to make our classes at. Great opportunity, amazing people, and very good energies!" 

Were you apprehensive about teaching at WBC?
"Of course! Since it was our first WBC, we didn`t really know what to expect. So in order to be more confident about our classes, we made a lot of preparations so we could bring a perfect and well-organized class. The minute we saw all the nice and smiling faces of the attendees at the beginning of our classes, we knew that everything would be just fine. And luckily, we were right ☺  

How much time did it take you to prepare for your classes before arriving in San Diego?
"The preparations for our classes at WBC took over a year. It was an interesting process since we`ve tried to use our experience as delegates at conventions in order to bring practical, informative and useful class. It was very important to us to explore the designs of the classes in actual events, so we could answer all the possible answers and bring our experience to the class."

How do you feel that your classes went?
"In one word- amazing! In 5 words- can we do it again?! When we knew that our classes were fully booked few weeks before the convention, we were extremely excited, but also felt a lot of responsibility to prove the attendees that they made the right choice. The classes went so quickly. We enjoyed every minute. We would like to say thank you to all of the amazing staff of WBC that helped us so much behind the scenes. We would also like to say thank you to all of the attendees of our classes for making this experience so special for us. We were very touched by your great feedback and kind words, and we appreciate it so much."  

Selfie Mania - Design by Nir & Avital Schechter

What were your WBC highlights?
"Our WBC highlights were the parties, the competitions, and the classes. The parties - because of the opportunity to hang out with the most kind and talented people in the world. We didn’t want any party to end! The decor, the music, the dancefloor, the energies - you need to experience it in order to understand it. The competitions - because that’s where the top of the top of the balloon art is at. Watching the competitors making their creations was like attending 10 classes at the same time! It was very inspiring and mind-blowing. The classes - luckily, we had the chance to join few of the classes besides teaching ours and they were awesome. We can`t wait to implement what we`ve learned at the classes in our own business (and the notebook is a treasure!). "

What would you say to anyone considering attending WBC in the future?
"You have 2 years to save up money to WBC 2020 - start NOW! We've been in many conventions in the past, but nothing is compared to the experience we had at WBC. That`s the place to meet the superstars of the balloon world, to enjoy outstanding parties, and to attend classes that will pay back your investment by taking your business to the next level. Add to that the mind-blowing competition pieces (and your opportunity to show off your skills by attending the competitions), talented instructors and unique and electric energies - and you've got all the reasons why to attend WBC. We can't wait for the next one!"

Jackie Ochitwa

Jackie with delegate Shivani Chandhok from India

"I was very apprehensive about teaching at WBC. I was pretty new (incredibly new!) to the teaching world when I was asked.  I had just come home from my first big instructing job at FLOAT 2017 when I received an e-mail from Pioneer asking if I would teach at WBC 2018.  I couldn't believe it!  I was even more apprehensive after I saw the incredible line-up of teachers announced.  It was surreal to see my name grouped with Luc Bertrand, Alberto Falcone, and Sue Bowler.  Preparation for classes began almost immediately.  There were many deadlines to meet, and I was incredibly impressed at how well organized the event is.  It's a well-oiled machine from start to finish.  I sent in a number of possible class ideas and we settled on one.  From there, it was filling out forms for product and any additional equipment we would need.

"I was thankfully eased into my classes - the first four classes were taught alongside a number of incredibly talented balloon twisters.  David and Shana Brenion, and Nao Osaka, the Shechters from Israel (who are the cutest couple I have ever met), to name a few.  We made some adorable accessories for the upcoming Beach Party in one class and had a really fun jam session led by the Brenions for the other.  The day did eventually come for my two solo classes.  I was more nervous than I thought I would be.  I had done all the preparation I could have - I made an example piece that I was happy with.  There were so many people behind the scenes that were there to help out - Braden Meyer helped set up my classroom and was a beast in tracking down more (and more) inflators for the class to use.  I decided that we would have a standing, hands-on class, so a couple hours before the first one started we moved all the chairs out of the room and piled in as many tables as we could find.  I was hoping the students would be tired of sitting at this point and embrace standing - and they did!  A good friend Mandana Moshrefzadeh, was an angel and helped me through both my solo classes. I couldn't have done it without her.  The classes were fun, laid back, and the students were so keen to learn. They made it easy for me."

"One of my highlights from WBC 2018 was the instructor's prep room.  It sounds silly as it was not very glamorous and incredibly noisy and filled with panic at times.  It was also filled with silliness and music and a lot of comradery.  Instructors from Italy, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Belgium, Israel - so many language barriers, but we were all working towards the same goal.  I had so much support from everybody around me.  They made being a first-time instructor so much easier.  Everybody was so welcoming and there if I needed anything.

Jackie with fellow instructors, Nir and Avital Schechter, CBA's Nao Osaka,
Patty Jacobo, CBA, Nicole Greg, CBA, Shana and David Brenion, and Sean Rogers, CBA.

For anybody attending WBC in the future, I would say appreciate all the work that goes in behind the scenes.  I had no idea what it took to put on such a spectacular event, and I'm sure there is so much I didn't see.  I'm excited to go to my first WBC as an attendee and to see it from the other side.  Although I will miss the prep room."

I am really enjoying this first-time series of blogs from this year's World Balloon Convention. My final part (coming soon) will be from some first-time delegates and what they thought about their WBC experience.

A huge thank you to Avital, Nir, and Jackie for sharing their experience with us all!

Happy Ballooning!


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Did You Know that There Are Elves At The World Balloon Convention?

There are so many "Wow!" moments at WBC, and of course, one of those is the incredible decor designed by a line-up of extremely talented balloon artists from around the world! WBC 2018 was no exception, and I can honestly say that there were many "Wow!" moments.

Welcome Event Decor
Designer Stuart Davies, CBA.
Photograph by Nicci Rene.

I would like to start by acknowledging the designers who created all the fabulous decor.
Lobby Decor Designer - Lily Tan, Singapore.
Welcome Event Decor Designer - Stuart Davies, CBA, UK.
Costume Party Event Decor Designer -Federico Onida, CBA, Italy.
Grand Gala Event Decor Designer - Olga Baranova, CBA, Russia.
Grand Gala After Party Event Decor Designer - Chris Adamo, CBA, Australia.

You might be surprised to learn that this post is not about the designers. It is about the amazing crew of people who tirelessly work to make sure that each of the designer's dreams are realised, and that the decor looks as fabulous as it should.

As I have mentioned before, there are many reasons why people attend WBC, and one of those is to be part of the awesome production team — for me, the "Elves of WBC!"  One of my favourite childhood books was a very old story called, "The Elves and the Shoemaker." This story is about a poor shoemaker who receives much-needed help from elves, hence the reason I have given this wonderful group of people the name "elves"! 

The Production Crew Team. 

First-Time WBC Production Crew Members:

Sara and Mike Harris, both CBAs of For Every Occasion in Rhyl, UK., have attended every WBC in varying capacities: as delegates, competitors, and also as a sponsor. This would be the first time that they worked as part of the production crew.

Mike Harris, CBA.
The production crew are all unsung heroes, the elves of WBC who make dreams reality. Do you agree with that statement? 
"Absolutely, 100%. I knew from the other events I had attended that the amazing event decor had to be built, but until this year, I did not realise who did it or how much hard work was involved. Most days started for the team at either 7 or 7:30 a.m. and would go on until up to midnight. One day we worked until 3:00 a.m. 
It was great to work as part of this fantastic team who all have their own strengths and specialities. They accepted us straight into the team from day one, and I know I have made some great friends for life," Sara added "I always knew these ‘elves’ worked hard, but can honestly say I really had no idea just how hard! The hours they put in are immense."

Sara Harris, CBA.

What do you think you gained from being part of the crew?

"Apart from a great bunch of new friends, I think the experience of working as part of a large crew on gigantic projects. It was also reassuring to see that other artists work in the same way that we do on projects. Not only from a design point of view, but also the way the team worked on the designs." Sara also felt that they gained more experience working on big decor.

What were your WBC 2018 highlights?
"Working with a hard-working, great fun team. Seeing each of the designs come to life and the final night awards dinner when we knew we had finished and could finally relax." For Sara, "I loved the beach party, but my highlight was the welcome decor - absolutely loved it!"

Was there anything that you did not enjoy about your role?  "There was nothing that we did not enjoy. It is hard work, long hours, but very rewarding to see the results. In conclusion, WBC 2018 was a whirlwind of thousands of balloons, more than I have ever worked with on one project. We worked hard. We didn’t have time to play hard, but we made some great friends for life. I only hope we get to do it all again sometime in the future. I would like to say a big thank you to LaDonna Belcher and her team for welcoming us in, and trusting us as part of this first-class crew." 

Barry Revell, CBA, of Lightitup Balloons in Perth, Australia, also joined the production crew for the first time this year.

Barry Revell, CBA.
Barry's first WBC was in 2016 in New Orleans, and although a delegate, he found himself volunteering to help the production crew with inflating balloons and knew that this would be the perfect WBC role for him.

The production crew are all unsung heroes, the elves of WBC who make dreams reality. Do you agree with that statement?  
"100%, yes! Without the production crews help, it would be so hard for the designers to achieve their designs and the mass numbers of balloons that the decor requires."

What do you think that you gained from being part of the crew? 
"I learned many new skills from working on the large scale decor projects. I also enjoyed working together with others crew members. It was great that we were able to combine our skills. I also gained many more balloon artist friends from around the world."

What were your WBC 2018 highlights?
"There were many highlights. Seeing how the designers became overcome with emotion once their event decor had been turned from a design on paper into reality. Also, working alongside nineteen other amazing and talented balloon artists."

What did you least enjoy about your role? "That the whole experience finished too quickly."

LaDonna Belcher, CBA with Barry Revell and
Olga Samoilova, CBA.

This year's fabulous production team members were:
Greg Arrigoni, Garrett Gruberman, Mark Toomey, Sue Boone, Ines Lambert, Cheryl Skoric, Alexandra Ventura, Bonnie Fisher, Lisa Talip, Chase Nelson, Evan Nelson, Tara Silva, Debi Leidel, Cindy Rasmusson, Ray Wilson, Mike Harris, Sara Harris, Barry Revell, Sandy Pressley, Fathi Boheme, and JR (Huvaldo) Magnia. 
This amazing team was led by the fabulous LaDonna Belcher, CBA, who was awarded the Golden Light Award at this years WBC in honour of the wonderful late Linda Bruce. LaDonna had this to say about her team. "They work with a pure heart as if each event was their very own, and we are all in one accord to help the designer achieve their dream."  

A huge thank you to Mike, Sara, and Barry for sharing their WBC first-time experience working on the production crew team!

Happy Ballooning!



Monday, April 9, 2018

Tips for Promoting Your Business, WBC, and the Balloon Industry.

Writing and releasing a press release can help your business gain valuable PR. But before you put pen to paper, ask yourself, "Is this story newsworthy?"

Anyone who has recently returned from the World Balloon Convention 2018 has the perfect newsworthy story and the opportunity to promote your business!

Here are some tips on promoting balloons in your community and promoting your business through your WBC experience.

1. As soon as possible, write up a press release. Most journalists get hundreds of press releases each week — many of which don’t even get opened. It’s a good idea to label the subject header of your email with the phrase "press release" or "story idea."
Here are some ideas on what could be included in your press release:
  • A catchy, attention-grabbing headline
  • Who attended from your business
  • What WBC is and why you went
  • Where WBC was
  • Specifics about the success of the convention;
    • How many delegates 
    • How many countries were represented at the convention 
    • How many days you attended
    • National media exposure from this newspaper and that TV network
  • Highlights from your WBC experience, including new product finds, new ideas, your competition results, or your volunteer experiences
  • A quote describing your WBC experience, and/or what you plan to do with your newfound knowledge
  • Conclude with a paragraph listing your balloon business specialties, location, and contact information
2. Include a photo taken at the convention and a written caption describing what is happening in the photo. Make sure that you credit the balloon work shown in the photo. If you worked on decor or helped with a sculpture, include that too. Don't send photos as large files; they will ask you for a higher resolution if they need it.

3. Generally, you should send a press release by email. It's wise to make your subject line attention-grabbing. Any press release sent by email should be pasted into the email rather than sent as an attachment — you email may be flagged as spam, otherwise.

Journalists receive a lot of emails, so you may want to follow up with a call to check they've seen it. Make it your mission to find out the name and email address of the person who will be able to make a decision about whether or not to run your story. 

A good press release should take a factual tone and be short and concise, giving the journalist the essence of the story. They will get in touch if they want more information.

Here is a sample press release:

For Immediate Release
April xx, 2018
For more information: Sue Bowler - sue@suebowler.com

BalloonArt by Sue Bowler attends World's largest Balloon Convention

Sue Bowler, CBA, of BalloonArt by Sue Bowler in Henley-on-Thames, UK, attended the World Balloon Convention (WBC) in San Diego, California, last month.
Nearly 900 balloon professionals from 52 countries attended the convention where design, product, and business classes were taught and incredible balloon competitions took place in nine different categories from large sculpture to balloon fashion.

" This was an amazing opportunity to not only learn exciting new techniques and design ideas but to also work alongside some of the best balloon artists in the world. I had the opportunity to work on some of the most stunning and elaborate event parties".

" I can't wait to apply all the new skills that I learned at WBC to my decorating jobs and to my business. I know that my clients will as excited as I am when they see my new design ideas and some fabulous new techniques that I will be introducing over the next few months" Sue said.

BalloonArt by Sue Bowler has been in business since 1990, offering balloons along with other party supplies and gifts, balloon decor, and balloon deliveries. BalloonArt by Sue Bowler is located in Peppard Common, Henley-On-Thames, and can be reached at xxx-xxxx or by visiting www.suebowler.com

Photo Enclosed - 
Sue Bowler of BalloonArt by Sue Bowler in Henley-On-Thames, Oxon, recently attended the World Balloon Convention in San Diego, CA. She is pictured here with a beautiful balloon and flower wedding Arch.

Extra tips for gaining year-round media exposure:

  • Develop a list of media contacts. Ensure that you have the correct contact names and correct spellings, and for newspapers, find out their deadlines.
  • Send press releases regularly on your big events, awards that you've won, workshops you've attended, or unique sculptures that you have been commissioned to create. Always include a good photo to illustrate the power of balloons.
  • Tie-in press releases to holidays or special commemorative days, if possible.
  • Donate impressive work for community events and invite the media! 
Here are some WBC 2018 facts:

  • WBC 2018, held March 14-17 in San Diego, CA, USA.
  • Hosted by Pioneer® Balloon Company, the event showcased balloon artists and balloon creations from all over the world, with delegates representing 52 countries. 
  • In addition to the top-notch educational curriculum—which featured 55 classes taught by 33 of the industry’s most respected professionals—other activities included nine competitions with 157 entries, a Vendor Showcase, two Deco-Twisting Jams, and a CBA® Exam that resulted in 25 proud new Certified Balloon Artists. Finally, WBC 2018 was also host to 100 children from the Greater San Diego Boys and Girls Club for an hour of balloon entertainment and a personalized tour through the sculpture gallery.  
  • World Balloon Convention Media Coverage: Total Impressions: 859,050
    • Fox 5 San Diego
    • KSON 103.7
    • NBC 7 San Diego
    • The CW San Diego
    • CBS 8 San Diego
Wishing you every success with your press releases!

Happy Ballooning!