How I Work Large Crowds when My Back is to the Wall

DSC01339My back is against the wall surround by kids, and the client has requested that I not make mythical or cartoon characters because of religious beliefs.

The banquet hall is warm, and I can feel sweat beading up on my brow. At present, I have thirty people gathered watching and listening. Instantly, I start to make every movement larger, funnier, and without thought. This is about showmanship and not detailed twisting.

Like a theatrical producer orchestrating a Broadway show, I must maintain control and dictate who, what, and how they will get their moment in the spotlight. You would think that a seasoned professional like myself would not stumble. Yet, the restrictions placed on me not to create mythical or cartoon characters forces me to be conscious of each decision.  No longer could I rely on reflexes and memories, it was about processing, filtering, and thinking.  I caught myself looking at my apron blankly.  An array of balloons at my disposal and the first thing that pops into my mind are restricted options.  No dragons, aliens, or Mickey Mouse for this group. I mentally walk through the Zoo, yet this is not time to stroll through memory lane, it was more like sprinting though the Zoo.

As I worked, sweat dripped from my head, the line of little people was diminishing.  Still surround by kids, the thought process turned to hats.  Color has slowly filled the banquet hall as the crowd of kids turned to adults.  When adults start seeking balloons you have made an impression on the audience. As time ticked by, the crowd disbursed,  I wiped the sweat from my brow knowing the client was happy, the kids were content, and adults were requesting business cards allowing my overburdened mind to relax.

Tips For Working Large Groups

  • Using Showmanship to win over the crowd
  • Make eye contact with audience members making them feel special
  • Interact with every audience selection, left, middle, and right side
  • Periodically, inform your audience how you are selecting who gets your next  balloons.  I prefer cute little kids to the big creepy kinds and all in between.
  • Select designs that are oversize, colorful, and require 3-4 steps max.  You want to produce quantity with quality.  If you forsake either, you risk the chance of being ordinary and who is going to ask for a business cards if you are just “ordinary”.
  • Educate clients prior to contract to get the best kids to time ratio.  More kids then time, does not hold well for anybody.When in question, fall back to hats.  Hat are colorful, quick, and make an impact.   

2 thoughts on “How I Work Large Crowds when My Back is to the Wall”

  1. Ha! we can all relate to the surrounded situation. My advice would be not to consider doing complex multi balloon works in such a situation but keep it simple until the crush has passed, it can be hard to judge and one desires to make the highest quality models one can, but this must be tempered with the time and demand otherwise you risk either going over your time or leaving frustrated people empty handed!!! which is of course the least desired scenario. Always get information about how many guests are expected so you can know what to expect and be ready with your approach before hand,

  2. Overall, this is a great article. However, I must take exception to your statement, “I prefer cute little kids to the big creepy kinds and all in between.” As entertainers, it is incumbent upon all of us to be kind (or at least courteous) to all members of the public, from the cute and cuddly to the ugly and smelly. I can remember my UNDERwhelm at going to Disney for the first time, about one or two years after it opened. At the time, I was about 11, and my sister was 12. The costume characters waved, or at least acknowledged, my then one-year-old brother, but completely ignored my sister and me, even after I said hi. This was many moons ago, and I still can remember. To this day, Disney WORLD (in FL) is still not on my priority list of places to come back to. The moral in this? Don’t be rude to anyone. As entertainers, my husband and I go with first come, first served. If you are working in a camp, youth program, counselors may bring GROUPS of children up by age, bringing the younger groups up first, while the older groups are engaged in another activity, i.e. hula contests, bean bag tosses, treasure digs, etc. If you find that the big kids are truly out of control, summon a responsible adult to escort them away or to get them back under control. Remember, we are entertainers, after all, not babysitters nor night club bouncers with obnoxious attitudes and equally obnoxious velvet ropes. I treat everyone as an equal, with the four kinds of respect every entertainer should operate with: respect for one’s craft, respect for one’s audience, respect for other entertainers, and respect for oneself.

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