A couple of entries back I mentioned that in my own considered opinion not everyone is qualified to perform magic at trade shows. I have seen various performers dressed in jeans, baseball caps and somewhat scruffy appearance completely incompatible with the corporate image. Great for performing on the street but hardly suitable for the trade show floor.
I have even seen these people spend more time advertising themselves instead of the company they are working for. I have even seen one chap put up a massive banner advertising his own services!
They don’t know how to draw a crowd, keep a crowd and most importantly impart company messages and help to SELL the product or service. And worst of all they discourage companies from every hiring a trade show magic presenter ever again.
So the question arises. Why do companies hire them over more experienced trade show magicians who actually know what they are doing? I did an informal survey of companies to find out the answer. Here it is. MONEY! The inferior performer is usually working for peanuts! But this is false economy since as the old adage goes, “You get what you pay for”. What often happens is the company executive who hires the second rate magician ends up looking bad in front of his boss when the guy doesn’t bring in a single lead. Or promotes the company brand properly. Or incorporate the sales messages into the tricks. Or fails to draw a crowd.
Anyway, to get to the point of this entry I was delighted to find that I was not alone in this opinion. I came across this on the internet. I don’t know the author and he has no idea I am going to post his link here. It is written from the point of view of a company executive who decided to hire a magician for a trade show. It agrees with everything I just said and also the entry I made on this blog I made a few weeks back when I insisted that not just any magician is capable of doing trade show work despite what they might say on their websites.
It is a blog post by a gentleman named Dan Corvalis. I recommend everyone reads it.
No they can’t!
There are indeed many magicians who advertise on the internet that they do trade shows. Well they don’t! If you investigate matters a little more closely you will see that they are bluffing! Magicians create ILLUSIONS after all!
There are plenty of magicians with websites promoting their services to the trade show market. Alas, the only experience many of them have with trade shows is the ability to create a website combined with fake testimonials and photographs from the ONE trade show they were hired for and never used again!
These people are general practitioners of magic whose main work is children’s birthday parties, corporate picnics and holiday parties. Having corporate party credits and a website giving the illusion of trade show experience doesn’t guarantee that the magician will have the skills necessary to draw crowds and hold them along with the ability to incorporate sales messages into a trade show presentation.
So buyer beware!
OK. These are not my ideas and furthermore I have never used them since I am not a sales representative. However, they were given to me by someone who is, so I thought it would be nice to share them. The gentleman in question represents his company at various trade shows throughout North America and this is what he had to pass along.
First he thought that booth staff should not sit down at the booth. He felt that better eye contact could be made with prospective customers as they passed by from a standing position. He is also a stickler for getting a good night’s sleep after the show comes to an end so as to be fresh for the next day. No wild parties! He felt that you should smile and greet people with the same enthusiasm at the end of the day as you do at the beginning no matter how tired you may get as the day progresses. And talking about the end of the day he also recommended that you wait right to the very end before leaving since your competitors at the show may well have left by then and you have all the potential prospects to yourself! Finally he thought that you should never judge someone by their appearance and often the best prospect doesn’t look like one!
With regard to the last sentence above it reminds me of a period many, many moons ago when I got a job in a department store. A very famous one called Harrods in London. As up market a store as you could get. The first day I was there I was sent to staff training and there were a whole bunch of us there listening to the trainer. She told us that we should never judge a customer by their appearance. It seems that a rather shabby person asked for assistance in the store and was brushed off by a member of the staff and sent off to a counter which had some less expensive merchandise that was on sale or discounted.
The guy was furious and complained to the management. All hell broke loose when it was discovered that he was a billionaire who owned several department stores himself which were actually in competition with Harrods! The moral of the tale is never to judge a book by its cover!
In my last entry I alluded to my past selling history. My first adventure in sales was selling vacuum cleaners door to door for Electrolux. I was pretty useless at it and in fact never sold a thing for an entire month. After one of my incompetent demonstrations when I made matters worse by blowing more dust and dirt over the carpet than when I started a lady said, “Well, I’ll contact your company if I ever need a vacuum cleaner. Mind you, by that time I don’t think you will be there and I suspect you will be doing something you are more suited to!”
However one day I knocked on a door and the guy answered saying, “Oh, I can’t waste time talking to salesmen. I have to go down town to buy a vacuum cleaner so I have no time to talk” I couldn’t believe my luck and replied, “But I am selling vacuum cleaners”. He responded surprised, “You are?” I said, “Sure, here it is. I can save you a trip down town” He looked at my forlorn self and then looked at the less forlorn vacuum cleaner and said, “OK. Come in and show me what you’ve got” I did and by some miracle I actually sold it. It was in fact the only one I ever sold for the company.
Of course my vacuum cleaner career did not last and I went on to selling carbon paper by calling on offices and was useless at that too. And then I got another job selling carbon paper by phone and was no good at that either!
But then I found my niche. I discovered I was far better at selling to a crowd than I was to individuals so I became an exhibition demonstrator or pitchman. The type of guy you see selling kitchen gadgets at fairs. I would gather crowds around me while I sold bar accessories, knives, potato peelers, wrenches, eyeglass cleaners, flower holders and trick decks of cards. I would take in money right, left and centre and learned a lot from veteran pitchmen.
I use those very skills today as a trade show magician. I gather the crowds in exactly the same way, hold them until the very end and bring the people on to the booth and hand them over to the sales people at the end of the show. I have never been a trade show sales rep myself but I have learned a few things from the people I have worked with and hope to impart a few of them in entries to come.
I have always said that to be a good trade show magician you need three qualities. Obviously the first one is that you should be a good entertaining magician. However, if you just rely on that you won’t get very far. Many excellent magicians (even award winning world champions) have been booked to represent companies at trade shows but have been dismal failures. They don’t know how to draw a crowd, how to keep them from walking away, how to incorporate company sales messages into their presentations which help to brand the products or services offered and finally they don’t know how to keep doing this all day! It isn’t like doing a magic show at a birthday party or banquet when you perform for 45 minutes or so and go home!
Which brings me to the other two qualities needed. The second is STAMINA! You need a lot of that as a trade show magician because you are working for perhaps 8 hours a day for three days or so on end! Sure you take necessary breaks but as already mentioned this is not like working at a normal venue, spending two or three hours there, only one hour at most on stage and going home!
But the third quality is probably the most important one. The magician has to be a good salesman. He doesn’t personally sell the product himself since there are alway sales staff on the booth to take care of that but he should have a basic sales instinct on how to help the company representatives to do their jobs. This means a knowledge of sales techniques, how to study company products and services and incorporate the branding into the presentation, getting the attendees in a laughing mood which of course breaks the ice for the sales staff and makes it easier for them to close sales and gather leads. And the magician should also have an instinct for spotting potential qualified prospects in the crowd that he can pass on to the sales staff. At the end of his presentation he should be able to sell the crowd on coming in to the booth to talk to the sales people.
So it isn’t just a matter of doing card tricks! There is a lot more to it than one would think. In my next few blog entries I will attempt to pass on some hints and tips I have learned from sales representatives at various trade shows I have worked at over the years and will also tell you about my own experience at selling vacuum cleaners to flower holders!
For the next couple of days this is where I shall be performing. I went down there yesterday to set up and check the layout of the show. I look forward to entertaining the throngs of dentists and others who will be attending. This video is from last year. I was at last year’s show and was fortunate enough to be rebooked for this year. Fellow magician James Alan was also performing at this show last year and you can see him for a second or two at 19 seconds in although he is not performing in the video. Incidentally here is a link to James’s own blog.
Sorry I have been neglecting this blog recently but I have been performing at trade shows in Western Canada and have only just returned. I am now taking a rest until my next trade show which thankfully is in Toronto itself in a couple of weeks. Oops! My memory is going! I forgot I am doing one today!
Talking about Toronto here I am at the Print World Show which took place there. Not a particularly busy show traffic wise but I was able to draw consistent crowds anyway.
A good trade show magician should be able to draw crowds even when there is not much in the way of traffic. There are various tricks of the trade (no pun intended) whereby this can be done. One is to be so good that the people come back to see you again and again.
I am off to another trade show which starts this afternoon so I had better stop typing before I am late. Cheerio for now.
I am no social media enthusiast but lately I have been amused by something called Pinterest. I have posted quite a few photos and videos of my trade show work there and intend to post even more. When I run out of things to post about my wondrous self I may well post videos and pictures of other magicians who work at trade shows.
Anyway, here you are:
I find this a very useful book full of good information. The author had quite a decent career as a trade show magician from the late seventies right up to the mid nineties or so. He is now a Buddhist Lhama!
Chuck Stanford was highly influenced and learned a lot from Eddie Tullock who has already been discussed on this blog. The book covers such areas as why a company would want to hire a magician to trade show travel tips, how to work a show, what to charge, how to get bookings and other excellent info.
The book was originally published in 1989 and there was a very limited amount of information in the book as to how to get the trade show booking in the first place. However, that changed in 2006 when he republished the book with an extra chapter which described the very methods he used to get the trade show booking. It is based on telephone cold calling and it certainly worked for him. He emphasises that marketing and selling your services to potential clients is a full time job and in fact takes up more time than working the show itself!
The book is very readable and I consider it one of the better manuscripts on this subject.