Another common question we get at FLOAT is this one. After all, with the huge success of the World Balloon Convention earlier this year, naturally people want to know how FLOAT compares. Since (A) Qualatex is the sponsor of the WBC, (B) Qualatex is also a sponsor of FLOAT and (C) we at FLOAT want to be as fair as possible to everyone out there providing education to the balloon industry, let's look at this even handedly so we can compare apples to apples so to speak.
1. Overall attendance: The first noticeable difference between the two events is that FLOAT is substantially smaller than the World Balloon Convention. The 2014 WBC estimated their attendance at roughly 900 people, where FLOAT averaged around 150 to 175 total attendees over the previous four years.
Depending on how you look at things, this is either really good or really bad. Some people consider smaller conventions not worth the investment and would rather save up their money and attend the larger one for more expected "bang for their buck". However, many people have told us at FLOAT that they prefer a smaller convention because they feel they get more one-on-one attention, both from the instructors and the producers and staff. So it really depends on what you are looking for from your experience.
Another side effect of smaller attendance is how the class process actually takes place. At the WBC, you have to sign up in advance for classes; after all, with so many people and class room size limited, they need to manage that as best they can. At FLOAT, smaller class sizes also means no sign-ups required, so you can pop in and out of classrooms as you like. Mind you, this only applies to regular classes offered as part of your registration; master and bonus classes that require additional fees to attend do involve signing up in advance.
2. Overall impact: This is where the World Balloon Convention truly shines. With a seemingly enormous budget, the WBC is absolutely all about massive impact. You've never been "wowwed" by balloons unless you've entered a venue like this and just had wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor decor before you. And with such budgets, the WBC is able to bring in dozens of instructors from all over the world.
FLOAT, on the other hand, has a substantially smaller budget and is heavily reliant upon registrations and sponsorships to keep it...well, a-FLOAT! In this case, rather than large scale decor, FLOAT chooses to focus on what can be done with smaller (and what some consider more realistic) real world budgets. And while FLOAT has fewer instructors, the next segment will explain the significance there as well.
Believe me when I say that each have their place in the levels of importance. Which one is more important is truly up to the attendee.
3. Classes Offered: Both conventions offer a series of 90-minute general classes that are included in the price of attending. Naturally, with more instructors in general, the WBC offers far more class options for the attendee, ranging from beginner to advanced level. And classes are offered for both decorators and entertainers.
This is another facet that FLOAT cannot really compete with, so we choose to focus rather than fan out. Rather than offer beginner level classes, FLOAT only offers intermediate and advanced level courses, and their instructors are chosen based on that concept. In addition, we do not as a rule offer entertainment based classes, choosing to focus on the decor side of things. As such, we have created a niche market with veteran decorators who like and appreciate the fact that the classes offered are aimed at their skill level and come from people who understand that fact and live in the same world they do.
Now this can be intimidating to some newer balloon pros, so you are encouraged to read our previous blog post, "Am I Ready for FLOAT?" if you're concerned about whether or not you're qualified to attend FLOAT.
4. Product Showcased: Here is another obvious difference between the two events. The World Balloon Convention, as stated earlier, is produced by Qualatex and the Pioneer Balloon Company. So it makes perfect sense that the only products you're going to see at the WBC are those produced by Qualatex. And there is nothing wrong with that! If they're flipping the bill for the event, they absolutely should expect exclusivity for their wares.
But there ARE a lot of other balloon manufacturers out there, so FLOAT offers the attendee as large of a selection as we can. Balloons are tools, and we at FLOAT want you exposed to every tool we can find. So by showcasing different manufacturers we hope to expand your pallet exponentially.
5. Overall Cost to Attend: On the average, FLOAT is less costly to attend than the WBC. Average registration fee at the World Balloon Convention went for between $450 and $500, where as FLOAT's current registration fee (at the time of this blog) is $375.00. In addition, FLOAT's host hotel rates are roughly $80 per night, as opposed to the $130 per night in Denver earlier this year. Now travel costs are obviously going to vary based on where you live, but when it comes to registration fees and hotel, FLOAT involves less cost.
Mind you, your decision should NEVER be based on who is the cheapest. While cost is absolutely a contributing factor, anyone good in business knows that price should never been the only aspect you consider in an investment.
At the end of the day, the World Balloon Convention and FLOAT offer truly unique experiences, and both absolutely have their place in the balloon educational world. Which one is right for you...well, only you can answer that.
If you'd like to attend FLOAT, we'd LOVE to see you there :)