Crowd size

There are different opinions about the size of the crowd a trade show magician should attract. Some of the photographs on this blog of me performing give a deceptive picture since they depict the beginning of the show before the crowd has had time to gather but it will give a general idea.
One school of thought among trade show magicians is that the bigger the crowd the better.

It is not rocket science to draw a massive crowd. I have been drawing crowds most of my performing life which goes back decades. Sometimes my crowds are very small (perhaps 10 to 20 people), sometimes and most often around 20 to 30 people. A lot depends on the traffic of the trade show in question.

I have on a few occasions drawn the kind of crowds some trade show performers advocate–that is somewhere between 100 to 150 people.

However, that is not necessarily beneficial although it certainly gives the illusion of being so.

First it can draw complaints from other exhibitors and can get an exhibitor closed down. And any pitchman of any experience will tell you that a really large crowd can actually DECREASE the amount of leads.

I still remember meeting an exhibitor at a trade show and he told me “We once hired a magician to represent us but we will never do it again” Naturally I asked why. He told me, “He was very good. He got MASSIVE crowds! But we paid him ten grand a day and he never got us a single lead!” And this was a big name in the trade show magic business.

So bigger isn’t always better. And I charge nowhere near ten grand a day either!

Sure there may well be some exceptions to this policy. Some performers do claim they get good results for the company by working this way. Perhaps they do. The companies who have gone this route don’t share their R.O.I. results with me!

However, the only way I can see this working is on a very large booth with a lot of space inside the booth rather than have the performer work to people in the aisle otherwise it will block up the entire aisle and lead to complaints from show management and other exhibitors. You cannot possibly work like this on a 20 by 10 booth for example. And they wouldn’t have the budget for it anyway. These performers charge massive fees. They work one show per hour and to build such a massive crowd they have to do a 30 minute show. If the booth is too small for this activity the sales people would be blocked off from doing business until the show is over. So that is half an hour wasted time.

These performers often work on a small stage high enough for the entire crowd to see them and of course this adds up to extra expense.

Contrast this to the way that I typically work. Small crowds on a continuous basis. The show lasts around 12 minutes or so, I bring the people on to the booth to talk to the sales people then I start again. And work continuously and my crowds are not so gigantic that the sales people can’t go about their business.

I charge smaller fees (no ten grand a day I am sorry to say!) and can work on a much smaller booth.

Each to their own and this is the way I prefer to do things. It has worked very well over the decades I have been active in this work..


The Trade Show Handbook by Bud Dietrich and Dick Jarrow


This is a pretty old book on Trade Show Magic and in fact is one of the first I ever read. It was written by Bud Dietrich and Dick Jarrow.  Dietrich was a leading trade show magician with a sterling reputation. Mind you,  I still remember one thing that I heard which I always remembered about him. He did many shows for Hoyle Playing Cards which were manufactured by Stancraft.  In fact he was known as “Mr Hoyle” and he was certainly one of the most important trade show magicians around at that time. Now,  in the seventies I also did trade show work for Hoyle when the product line was first introduced to Canada.

Naturally I asked about Bud Dietrich and one rep complained, “Bud was great but there was only one problem. We couldn’t get him to stop because he was such a ham!. The salesmen couldn’t get a word in edgeways!”  I have always remembered that remark in my own work and make sure I don’t get in the way myself! After all the main purpose of a trade show magician is not so much the entertainment but to assist the sales people by gathering a crowd and conveying the features and benefits of the product to the attendees in an entertaining manner.

Having said this Bud Dietrich must have done something right since he was always busy and was one of the highest paid performers in this particular field.

But back to the book. Alas I don’t know much if anything about the other author Dick Jarrow so regrettably I can’t tell you much about him.

I was never able to get much out of the book when it first came out as the concept of performing magic at a trade show was not familiar to me and the book was written as if I should know all about it already. However, much later on the book made more sense to me and as a result became more useful. It talks about microphones, sales meetings and hospitality rooms and other kindred subjects. I think one feature of the book which no other book of this kind possesses is that it actually has a few chapters for the exhibitor who books the magician rather than for the performer himself.

As usual the book tells you nothing about how to book the show in the first place.

Overall, a book that deserves to be in the library of every trade show magician.

Trade Show Secrets Revealed by Phil Kannen


This is quite a readable little volume and it does give a fair bit of information on how to get the trade show booking in the first place along with information on how to best work the show. Hints and tips on business cards, photographs, letters of reference, press clippings and videos showing the work of the magician.

It has a Q and A section. Here are the questions. You will have to obtain the book to find the answers!

1. What is the number one secret of trade show work?

2. As a magician what is the greatest skill I need to develop?

3. How do you start a show?

4.What is the negative part of trade work?

5.How Much Money Can I Make?

6.If you are looking for new corporate markets, where do you look?

7. If you could use only one marketing tool, what would it be?

8. What has been your biggest obstacle?

9. Do you have agents?

10. What magic tricks do you recommend?




Tricks of the Trade by Martini



This particular book gives good advice on trick selection, how to incorporate company messages into magic presentations and other general advice for a magician who wants to work trade shows. However the most valuable component of this book is that unlike other books of this kind this one concentrates on how the performer gets the booking in the first place.

The author describes a system he uses combining direct mail and cold calling. He tells you how to get the names to build a mailing list and mentions sources galore where you can find contacts to help you in your search for a trade show booking.

I would say that more than half the book is taken up by advice on marketing your services as a magician and that can only be a good thing. I would recommend the book for that alone. To be frank I personally don’t use most of what is described to market my services but that doesn’t negate the usefulness of the techniques to others.

Trade Shows-An Inside Insight by Frances Marshall


I have always rather liked this book. A little dated perhaps as it was written a long time ago but the information is valuable nevertheless. It is was originally part of a larger book written for magicians known as “The Success Book” but was later published on it’s own. And a very good little book it is too. It describes the essence of trade show magic in the seventies and eighties but a lot of the information is still relevant today.

It talks about how much to charge (in those days!), attracting the crowd, how to use attention getting techniques and much more. There are comments and articles by the magicians who were the trade show giants of the day such as Eddie Tullock, Bud Dietrich, Harry Lorayne, Mike Rogers etc; however, I think the best contribution is not by a magician but by an agent who used to book the magicians into the trade shows in the first place. He posted his contribution anonymously but it is generally accepted that it was Bob Snodell. This contribution alone is worth the price of the book for the insight and wisdom it contains.

There is not much information about getting the trade show in the  first place but as I have mentioned in a previous post this is a  weakness in most of these books. However the book I will talk about in my next post certainly addresses this and I look forward to telling  you all about it.