Books on Trade Show Magic

There are many, many books written on magic and distributed exclusively to the trade. However there are comparatively few books (actually booklets would be a more accurate description) which are written for magicians about trade show magic. That is probably because there are so few performers working in this field and they may not necessarily want to share their knowledge and produce competition.

However, there are indeed a tiny few. I will say something about each of them in future  posts.  For now here is a list of them. If any magician is interested in entering this field it would be worth checking them out.

1. The Real Truth About Trade Show Magic And a Lot More by Eddie Tullock, Gene Urban and Kenton Knepper.

2. Trade Shows–An Inside Insight by Frances Marshall

3. Tricks of the Trade by Martini

4.Trade Show Secrets Revealed by Phil Kannen

5. The Trade Show Handbook by Bud Dietrich and Dick Jarrow

6. A Modern Trade Show Handbook by Seth Kramer

7. How to work Trade Shows as a Business by Chuck Stanford.

None of the authors give the entire picture of what it is all about. There is always something left out, usually how to get the bookings in the first place! So you will have to gather a lot of crumbs to get the full meal! That is why you have to get as many books and sources of knowledge as you can. There are actually some DVDs out on the subject too and I may well comment on these at a later date. There may also be other sources apart from the books above but I prefer to comment on stuff that I have actually read. I have read all of the above and I will tell  you what I think about them in future entries on this blog.

As yet there is no book on trade shows by a magician named Mark Lewis! Maybe one day there will be!

The Hard Sell-Part Two. How does real life selling really work?

In my last entry I mentioned the book, “The Hard Sell” and I promised to explain how it applies to the work of a trade show magician. Well of course at trade shows the main objective is usually to sell something. I think probably the best way to explain how the book relates to selling and drawing a crowd is simply to reproduce what it says on the back cover.  And here you are:

Pitchers routinely transform a patch of bare ground into a sea of eager purchasers using little more than the gift of the gab and some homespun psychology to determine what is needed to convince their customers to buy. Employing some of the most successful sales techniques in the world, in one of the oldest and most difficult of selling situations, their rhetoric has to equal that employed by the most skillful politician or professional persuader.

Using recorded examples of pitchers attracting a crowd, describing and demonstrating their goods, building bargains, cajoling the unconvinced to make a purchase and coping with problem customers the authors reveal, for the first time, the reason for these traders’ extraordinary success. Comparing their findings with more orthodox selling situations the authors illustrate lessons that have relevance for everyone involved in sales, advertising and marketing.

Original, authoritative and highly readable, this book is an essential tool for anyone who wants to understand how selling really works.



The Hard Sell

At this point I would like to tell you about a book which I think should be read by every trade show magician. I suspect it may well also be of some use to sales people of any kind. The name of the book is “The Hard Sell” and the co authors are Colin Clark and Trevor Pinch.

I have already talked about the relationship and the similarities between a svengali pitchman and a trade show performer. This book was written by two sociologists who accidentally came across what are known in Britain as “market pitchers” although the term “market grafters” are often used as well.

I suppose I had better explain what a “market pitcher” is since the concept does not seem to be prevalent in North America from what I have seen.

This may get a trifle complicated. The word “pitch” in the UK has an entirely different meaning than it does in North America. And yet both meanings are relevant to the work of the grafter/pitchman. In America to pitch means to sell. In the UK it refers to the location that you work from. And to complicate matters even further it has another meaning. It means the actual crowd in front of you.

Now I have to explain the “grafter” thing. In America they have a word called “grifter” which does NOT have the same meaning as the word “grafter” A grafter is what Americans call a “pitchman” and a grifter is what  North Americans call a scam artist. However just because you are a scam artist does not make you a grafter since a grafter gathers a crowd and sells to them. So a grafter can be a grifter (and sometimes is)  but he doesn’t have to be. And a “grifter” doesn’t necessarily have to be a grafter since there are lots of ways of scamming people without having to draw a crowd.

And just to complicate matters even further in the US and Canada the word “pitchman” often means any kind of salesman rather than the most accepted one of a salesman who draws a crowd and sells to them.

This description is getting very complicated and I wish I hadn’t started it!

Let me take a deep breath and try to continue. To clarify matters there are two types of grafters. Actually there are three but one of them are jam auction or run out workers which are in a category of their own and there is actually an entire chapter devoted to them in the book I am discussing.

There are the regular grafters who demonstrate and sell one or two products only such as kitchen knives, paint pads, or vegamatics. And yes, svengali decks. They are demonstrators but they are not market pitchers which are a separate breed entirely and I have never seen them in America. Now this type of demonstrator often works in a market but he isn’t a market pitcher.

I am dreading this but I suppose I will now have to explain the word “market”. There are all sorts of outdoor and a few indoor street markets dotted all over the UK. The nearest equivalent over here is flea markets but they are not quite the same thing as British street markets. I am not going to explain the difference in case I have a nervous breakdown trying to explain it. Suffice it to say that it is the nearest equivalent.

Market pitchers are still grafters but they are a different type of grafter. Instead of one product or two they have a massive range such as toys, radios, electrical goods, household linens etc;. They don’t work from a counter as you can well imagine.Instead they work from either a massive stall with a very large frontage or more often from the back of a lorry (truck). They have assistants who hand them up the goods, serve customers and generally assist. They draw massive crowds which are far bigger than a regular grafter (demonstrator) does.

With witty patter and showmanship they sell the big variety of goods that they have on display.

This post is already taking up far more space than I intended so for now I will stop here. In my next post I will explain more about how this wonderful book relates to the art of gathering a crowd and selling to them and how all this relates to the trade show environment.

The Art of the Svengali Pitchman

So what is a svengali pitchman and what does it have to do with trade shows? OK. I will try to explain. There is a trick deck of cards known as the svengali deck which was invented by Burling Hull early in the 20th Century. It was originally devised to be used by magicians but it soon became very popular as an item to be sold to the public by carnival pitchmen and others. Thousands of these decks have been demonstrated and sold over the years in fairs, exhibitions, carnivals and department stores.

The basic premise of the deck is that the cards start out as a regular deck and then suddenly change  to all nine of hearts! Or some other specific card.

A svengali pitchman is someone who makes a living selling these decks. And that is what I used to do before I became involved in trade show magic. I have sold these cards in 5 different countries, particularly in Britain and Ireland. I must have demonstrated these in virtually any city of any size in the British Isles.  For many years I sold the cards in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium in Blackpool before moving to Ireland. I once sold 478 decks in one day in a Dublin department store.

So what does this have to do with trade shows? Well, a lot of techniques of the svengali pitchman can be used very effectively at trade shows. In fact svengali decks are often sold at consumer shows in the very same exhibition halls  that trade shows are held! The methods of gathering a crowd and holding them are exactly the same and of course the sales ability that is used when selling trick decks of cards comes in very handy when trying to persuade trade show attendees to enter a booth and talk to the salesmen. And of course the sales skills used to sell trick decks of cards at a consumer show can help immensely when transferred to the trade show floor.

Humour is a very important element of the svengali pitchman. If you can make people laugh you can sell to them more easily. And that goes for trade show work too. Sadly,  I have to say that I have seen many trade show magicians perform in a  too serious manner which is overly scripted and to be frank a little dull and robotic.  There is just not enough humour in their presentations and they seem as if they have said the same thing a thousand times before and they are just bored and want to go home!

This is fatal! You have to keep the humour going. Fun sells!  A laughing crowd is a happy crowd. And a happy crowd is easier to sell to.  I am probably the only trade show magician working today who has extensive experience in selling svengali decks as a pitchman and I believe this gives me a tremendous advantage over anyone else in the same line of work.

Here is an example of me selling svengali decks years and years ago. The style is too rough and ready for a trade show and it does have to be tempered a bit in that environment but many of the same elements are present when I represent companies on their booths.



How I put a script together for a trade show presentation.

Here is an example of how I incorporate company messages into my magic presentations at a trade show. This video has certain limitations but it should give you an idea. The first limitation is that it was not done at a trade show! However, it does show you exactly the procedure I use. The second limitation is that I only wrote the script the day before the video was recorded and subsequently I did not have enough time to learn it. Normally I have a lead time of several weeks to prepare what I say at a trade show but this was an exception. And of course as I stated, it wasn’t for a trade show anyway!  Alas since I wasn’t able to learn the script in time I had to type it out and lay it beside me while I performed. And of course you keep seeing me glancing at the script so I can see what to say next! And that doesn’t look very good at all!

Still, for what it is worth here you go. This was for Wendy’s fast food chain.

Eddie Tullock again!

One of the first posts on this blog was a video showing legendary trade show magician Eddie Tullock at work. Well you might as well see him again. This time he is doing an office demonstration. I do these too. Sometimes a company would like to see the magician in action before committing to using him on the booth so I make an appointment to visit and give a live demonstration. Of course this only works if the company offices are local to the greater Toronto area where I reside.

I work for companies all over Canada so if the company is out of town I send them video clips of my work and that works well too. However, there is nothing like the power of a live demonstration in person and many of my bookings come from either fellow exhibitors at trade shows who approach me after seeing me work or office demonstrations such as described.

Anyway here is Eddie at work:

How it all works and how a trade show magician can help you.

1. It breaks the ice and makes it easier for you to do your job. A laughing prospect is an easier one to sell to. The presentation will give you a conversation starter to use with your customers both during and after the show.

2. I will have a crowd of 10-30 people gathered in front of me. At the end of my demonstration I direct them all to come on to the booth to talk to the salespeople. If you have a free gift to hand to them I mention this and it encourages them to interact with you. You can either scan their badges, get them to fill out a lead form, answer their questions or best of all SELL to them!

3. I will have a crowd in front of me for about 10 minutes or so. This is enough time for your astute sales people to observe and pick out the hot prospects by their manner and the attendee badges. I also at one point ask the people in the crowd to raise their hands if they make the buying decisions for their company. It is done in a fun manner in the middle of a card trick and it does enable you to identify who the key people are.

4. If you are busy dealing with a prospect while another one is waiting I can entertain that person and keep them occupied until you are free to deal with them.

5. If you have regular clients/customers and bring them over to watch me this can create goodwill and excellent public relations.

6. I constantly proclaim the benefits and features of your products/services in a fun way and help attendees to remember your company name.

7. I draw people over to the booth and can make it the most entertaining and memorable booth at the show. Constant crowds mean constant business.

8. I have a method of actually collecting the badges of qualified prospects during my show so that they can be scanned by the sales representatives and given back at the end of the show. This is a good way of eliminating the “tire kickers” and only scanning the more likely prospects.

Still more on gathering a crowd.

Here are some methods that I don’t use personally but I am quite sure they work. An old pitchman’s trick is to start mumbling to yourself. You talk out loud about the product or what  you are going to do. You do NOT look up or make eye contact, at least you sense there are a few people watching. Then of course you pounce, bring them all in a little nearer and then get to work. It takes a bit of nerve to use this method since the magician may feel a bit silly and self conscious talking to himself but he soon gets used to it and it does work.

Here is the sort of thing the magician might say using a deck of cards, “I am going to make a deck of cards, walk, talk, snort, jump through a hoop, and do a tap dance right here on the table. i am going to make them disappear, reappear, one at a time, two at a time, all at once and vanish right through thin air.” After a couple minutes of this type of thing the nucleus of the crowd starts to gather.

Famed trade show magician Eddie Tullock used to wait until a couple of people walked by and asked them, “Have you had your lesson today?” They would respond, “what lesson?” and he would reply that he was talking about a lesson in the card game Bridge and that would get him an opening to start.

Noted Trade Show magician Danny Orleans stated on a magic forum that he would spot the name tag of an attendee and say something like, “Peter! You’ve arrived! We were just saying, ‘Is Peter going to show up’ and Abracadabra, you are here!” The attendee is taken aback and and doesn’t immediately realise it is a ploy until it is too late and before he knows it he is sucked in.

Some magicians have used larger tricks to gain attention especially one that makes a bit of a noise such as producing coins from thin air and dropping them into a champagne bucket or coffee can. Others have used the famous trick where the magician links metal rings together. This makes a bit of noise as the rings clang together.

Not every magician knows how to gather a crowd and this is possibly the biggest challenge of the inexperienced in the trade show market. However, it can be done quite well by those who know what they are doing.

In my next post I will describe a method that I have never used at a trade show although one day I might. I think it may be a   a little flamboyant for a trade show and so far that has inhibited me from trying it. However, I did it often at consumer shows when I was selling trick decks of cards. Of course consumers shows tend to have a less sedate atmosphere than trade shows. I also used it in department stores and it would bring crowds out of nowhere even when traffic was quiet. I will tell you all about it later.//

How to Gather a Crowd

There are many different methods that a trade show magician can use to gather a crowd. Some are more subtle than others. I have seen a few quite brash methods that I don’t think fit a company image very well so I prefer to avoid them. Even worse, I have seen some magicians look quite desperate trying to grab people almost begging them to come over and I am afraid it makes me cringe to watch. I am sure that it scares more people away than it attracts. This usually is a sign of a magician who is not used to the trade show environment.

I have several different approaches depending on the circumstances. Here is one that I often use. I lurk like a spider waiting for a fly. When the fly comes within distance I pounce. In other words I wait for someone to pass me. I prefer a group rather than just one person but I will work with whatever I have to. But let us say that two people stroll by. I merely hold up two sponge balls, one in each hand at the tips of my fingers and say simply, “Have you seen this?” Nothing more needs to be said. They look startled at the question and are tranfixed by the silly little sponge balls (which look like clown noses)  thus confusing them too much to make an excuse to get away from you. I follow up by carefully watching them and when they are in a bit of a trance looking at me and the two sponges wondering what on earth they are I say, “you can’t go through life without seeing these,you know.”

I then say, “come and have a look. You don’t have to spend any money. Nobody else does” That always makes them laugh, it breaks the ice and they come over to me.  Now I don’t always use this line. It depends on the circumstances, the company I am representing and whatever their product or service is. If I deem it appropriate I may say something else equally effective.

I do a great trick using the sponge balls but at the same time I am looking at other passers by and occasionally draw them over too with the same lines. I am not afraid to break off briefly from what I am doing to do this and I am still controlling the people in front of me.

By the time I have finished the sponge ball trick  more people will have gathered and away I go. By the time I have finished after 10 minutes or so I have a large crowd who are laughing and gasping and generally enjoying themselves. Laughter and happiness attracts more people.

Anyway, that is one way. I will try and explain a few more in coming days.