If the passers-by have not had previous contact with the balloon twisting and see you, they won’t know what to think. You’re gonna need them to see your balloons to convince them they want a figure made by you. They have to be given the impression that they are available here and now and that they are a lot of fun.
So when I get to a fair or something, the first thing I do is put balloon hats on the heads of my daughters and all their friends. I give away at least 10 or 20 big hats to increase my visibility and attract people.
Keep in mind that if no one has balloons, it’s easier for parents to say no. Conversely, if it seems like almost everybody has a balloon hat, and kids see their happy peers moving around with them, like peacocks sporting their plumage, they’ll be more insistent that it’s the “only” thing they “really” want today (even if they quickly forget and parents have to give in on another purchase later).
People tend to want what they see in other people, and that is both good and bad. For example, I can never take out flowers until people have seen one, and then, I may have to do too many.
It’s the same trick that’s used in raffles. Often at fairs there are people walking around the stalls with big stuffed animals so that it looks like the animals are easy to win. In our case it is less compromising to do this tactic, since everyone gets their reward when you make the figure.
It is important that even if no one is buying you balloon, you look “busy”. Create an elaborate presentation to attract people and increase your audience. Play with the balloons. Have prepared phrases or claims like “Miss, I have a balloon that matches your shirt color perfectly”
Make an elaborate pirate or space warrior costume in your “free” time. Build elaborate animals made from lots of balloons (if someone sees you and wants one, sell it for 5 X’s or offer them a smaller version for less money). Always look like you’re having fun and you’ll be rewarded handsomely.
In case no one approaches you, you have to look “even happier”. If you lose money, you have to “laugh” at having spent a day outdoors doing what you like best. With those thoughts in your head, you will be irresistible to your audience.
Another very important thing is that you talk to anyone who wants to talk to you. You can talk while you’re shaping the balloons. In fact, if you need a break, take it while you talk to them. Keep in mind that they are your audience and they want to meet the entertainer. You never know if one of them might want to hire you in the future.
One thing I usually do to attract people is make a flashy balloon-fun detector, which actually looks like a metal detector. Then I ask the kids if the kids passing by are laughing enough. Inevitably kids and adults point at other kids and you can get close to them with the detector. That way you have your crowd, having a good time, getting involved and helping you.
How to maintain your workspace
I usually prefer to organize my clientele in a row. There’s nothing nice about having dozens of kids and parents crowded around you arguing about who’s going to be next, about being surrounded by kids holding your balloons, etc.
Having fun using subtle, and not so subtle, crowd control techniques while doing your show makes it much more enjoyable for everyone, including me. This way I can concentrate more on the task at hand: entertaining and shaping.
The simpler your control techniques are, the more adults and children will respect you and what you do. My ability to handle crowds (and have fun doing it) has become one of my strengths for selling.
When people start getting too passionate I usually use my right arm, move it in an arc, and ask the kids to stay out of my reach. Maybe, I even make the “I’m gonna get them” joke but without doing it. And from time to time I do the same thing again as a reminder so they don’t forget.
Another option is to paint a bow with chalk or tape and tell the kids that they have to stay outside. Many jugglers carry a rope with them that they put on the floor to mark their workspace, a “safety zone” in their case. It is flexible, lightweight, easy to carry on a roll, and can be placed in any shape (rectangular, circular, irregular, etc). In addition, a rope is reusable, can be collected in a second, and leaves no residue or marks as adhesive tape does.
Work space is often an inherent problem in this trade. I have often found myself stuck in a corner or trying not to hit the “kids” with the balloons while I model them. Sometimes there are subtle changes in the line as each time one child picks up his balloon, the next one comes a little closer, and you have to be careful.
We try to be friendly, but sometimes we have to ask the whole line to take a giant step backwards to get enough space. Also, the problem of space is especially problematic in summer when there is no breeze and temperatures are very high.
Another trick I use is to place a hula hoop on the ground with me in the middle of it. That way I create my “space” and tell everyone to stay out of it.
Finally, a large inflator can also provide a good physical barrier between you and your audience (this can be beneficial with a difficult group) just raise it like a weapon and tell them to be careful or you will blow them away.