Balloon Launch Speech – Shooting (Or De-Flating!) The Messenger
Back in the summer of 2002 I was asked to help defend against a bill being brought up at a Long Island, New York town’s council meeting. The bill, if passed, would ban the release of five or more balloons into the atmosphere by anyone in this township. The fine for releasing five or more balloons could be as high as $500! The fine could be levied on the person who releases the balloons and/or the person who sold the balloons (even if the seller did not do the releasing!).
Spearheaded by Marty Greenstein of Enchanted Parties in Ronkonkoma, New York, the day of the council meeting brought about ten balloon professionals together, A representative from The Balloon Council (TBC) also came to our aid loaded with facts and figures to help educate the town council on the misinformation being spread by local politicians and by a representative of Greenpeace.
I learned a number of interesting things that afternoon on Long Island:
- Come prepared to a meeting like this. Others will ask questions of you and you better be ready with a quick and balanced answer.
- Speak clearly and calmly when in front of a meeting like this as it adds to your presence and authority on the subject matter.
- Always find a way to put the opposition in YOUR shoes, as I did in my speech, by including politicians as our customers. Probably everyone sitting on that council has used balloons at events to forward their own political careers. It was then awfully hard to disagree with me or be against something you have used or enjoyed before.
- “Facts” can be nothing more than well-dressed fiction.
- We all agreed foil balloons should NEVER be released. Latex balloons released in the hundreds (not the thousands) seemed fair and reasonable to launch.
I also was reminded I am not a big fan of balloon launches because they DO pollute the atmosphere. However, and more importantly for our industry, releases PROMOTE balloons. Making people happy by releasing our product can only help endorse our product. After all, anything that can be done to help sell balloons is good for our business.
My biggest concern with regards to banning balloons is the connotation a “ban” puts on anything. A ban is a prohibition, exclusion, or an outlawing of something. To ban balloons is to forbid or disallow them. In the wonderful book Fahrenheit 451, books were banned, rounded up by firemen and burned. The status quo went along with that because the government said books were bad. If the government “bans” balloons, isn’t the implication that the product being banned is bad? Why would anyone want to sell a product that needs to be outlawed in some circles? Doesn’t that sound like a bad business to be in?
Some of our best customers will never spend a dime on a balloon. Speaking demographically, they are the most impressionable customer group we have. They want what we have and will often beg for or implore others to get them. They have occasions and affairs quite often where our balloons are needed. These “customers” of ours are a never-ending resource that helps feed this industry. Who is this highly motivated group? They are our children.
But most children are vulnerable to what may or may not be truly right and wrong. Tell a child something is bad and they believe it. Tell children they should not do something and, even if they do it anyway, they will know it is wrong. Tell a child balloons should not be released or mommy or daddy will get “arrested” and what does that child learn? Tell children balloons pollute the atmosphere and what do they proclaim? Enlighten a child with the supposed “facts” about balloons killing scores of animals and wildlife and what will that child think?
And therein lies my conviction to keep laws like this off the books. A ban of any kind is a great big negative in the minds of the buying public. Ban five balloons as a release and what’s next? No more tent or pool décor? No more street vending? No more arches over street fairs? No balloons at indoor events because five balloons might accidentally get away and get someone a big fat fine? It could happen.
So next time someone wants to ban anything, take a good long look at the “facts” of the matter before you render your opinion. What is fact and what is fiction can be easily switched. Sound convincing enough and your own opinion could easily become the whole truth and nothing but the truth in an instant.