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Discover the truth behind Good, Fast & Cheap: when it comes to Balloons and Face Painting

Where I live (in Minnesota), everyone comes out to meet their neighbors on the first Tuesday of August, labeled “National Night Out” or “Night 2 Unite”! These community block parties are filled with food, music, fun, a visit from the local police or fire fighters, in an effort to raise awareness and get to know our neighbors.

In the last three weeks, we have received about thirty requests for entertainment for National Night Out in the Twin Cities. We have heard from individuals who are hosting barbecues with a few neighbors, associations planning parties for their town homes as well as apartment managers planning for all 800 of their residents.

0201141747 lh lori alone minion balloon bs w-2015 logoThe most popular entertainment this year is balloon sculptures and face painting. What’s interesting is that when I ask, “How many people would you like us to reach?”, the most common answer I hear is “I don’t know. We just want someone here for two hours.” I get this answer whether there are 50 children or 500 children at the event.  (I wonder if that’s the same answer they give the food committee when asked “How many hot dogs do you want?”  “I don’t know. Just put out food for 2 hours…” :o)

One client called last week (which is very short notice for National Night Out) and said that they had 300 kids, so they just wanted one face painter to do the “really fast stuff” in order to reach all the kids. It was a 2 hour event, so I had her do the math with me. 300 kids divided by 2 hours is 150 per hour. 150 kids painted in 60 minutes would require 24 seconds per child.

When was the last time you could accomplish anything with a child in 24 seconds! :o)  Even if we could paint something that fast (and it wouldn’t be very good), it doesn’t take into consideration allowing children to be children. She wasn’t thinking about the time it takes a child time to climb into the chair. Then it takes time to tell the artist what he wants (assuming he has already decided and isn’t suffering from paralysis of analysis). Then there’s the time showing the child the mirror and helping him out of the chair. The only thing in the artist’s control is how quickly we apply the design. We have some of the fastest face painters (and balloon artists) in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, but even so, our goal isn’t to become vending machines, cranking out our work, but to create memories instead.

This client was shopping this year, because she thought her entertainment last year wasn’t fast enough, and the designs weren’t very impressive. Oh, and her manager wanted her to see if she could get a better price than they’d paid last year, because they already spent money on inflatables, food, decorations and prizes!good fast cheap icon by lori with logo

What’s most important for Balloons and Face Painting? Good, Fast or Cheap.

This is when I introduced the Good-Fast-Cheap model! She wanted the face painting to be Good, Fast and Cheap, which simply isn’t possible. If it’s good and fast, then it won’t be cheap. If it’s good and cheap, then it won’t be fast. And if it’s fast and cheap, you can bet that it won’t be very good. I’m sure you’ve heard this before! I didn’t make this up; it has probably been around since before I was born.

When you hire entertainment, especially entertainment which includes a giveaway (Balloons, Face Painting, Caricatures, Henna, Glitter Tats or Airbrush), please keep in mind that you’re not hiring someone to do time. You’re paying for a service which is defined by time, but measured by output, so it’s important to communicate your expectations and understand the artists limitations.

I’ve even heard balloonists and face painters say “Choose one”. In other words, if it’s good, it won’t be fast or cheap. If it’s fast, it won’t be cheap or good. If it’s cheap, it won’t be fast or good. :o)

When you’re planning for your next event, decide what is most important to you, and plan accordingly.

Tips to really know what you’re hiring when it comes to Balloons and Face Painting: Good, Fast or Cheap…

Here are 4 questions you can ask of any entertainment vendor to ensure that you know what you’re getting:

1.  Can I see samples of the work of the artist who is available to come to my event? Some companies advertise great samples done by artists who don’t actually work for them. Or maybe they do have a talented artist, but that individual is already booked on the date you’re requesting.

2.  How many people can that artist reach per hour? A rock bottom price of $90/hour for caricatures isn’t such a bargain when you realize that the artist can only draw 6 people per hour!

3.  What kind of artistry is available at that speed? Yes… I can make 2 ft “Minion” balloons (and 3 ft. superheros and princesses), but making them at your company picnic where I have 2 hours to reach 60 kids would cause problems! Find out what types of designs would be available for your event, to reach your desired group.

4.  How long has this artist been doing it, and what are her credentials? Yes, I am biased towards the full-time-Professionals with professional training, but hear me out. The individual who makes a living at this generally has an increased mastery, allowing him to be faster and more playful, without sacrificing quality. I’ve been twisting balloons so long that I don’t have to look at my hands, which frees me up to make jokes and be funny (and make cool balloons!) Plus, you might only plan 1-2 events each year, but an experienced artist/entertainer is at hundreds of events a year, bringing that expertise to your event!

I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”  Becoming an educated consumer and working with a vendor who works hard to understand your expectations will guarantee a great event for all!

If you’d like more helpful hints on planning an affordable event, check out my previous blog on this subject.