I recommend to anyone interested in pursuing working in the trade show market as a magician a book called A Modern Trade Show Handbook by Seth Kramer. Seth details in the book, the types of magic he performs, his promotional material, the correct sound system and staging needed, how he works with clients, the list goes on and on... Seth really goes into great detail on what it’s like to be a Trade Show Entertainer!
Here are 10 Trade Show Tips by Seth Kramer
Trade Show Tip 1
Being a good (and successful) trade show magician is not about the tricks you perform and it’s not about you and your ego. The secret to being a good trade show magician is knowing that it’s all about the company you’re representing and their product or services.
Trade Show Tip 2
In a pinch, an aerobics step makes an excellent riser. It’s adjustable, inexpensive, and can be found in any local sporting goods store.
Trade Show Tip 3
You can start your show with effects such as the Cups and Balls, or the Three Shell Game that require a table top, but as your crowd builds, you will want to get the tricks up off the table and into the air so the majority of the crowd can see what’s going on. (My friend Bob Kohler’s Ultimate Three Fly is an excellent choice for a trade show trick that plays at chest level.)
Trade Show Tip 4
Don’t ever give out your business card without receiving one in return. By obtaining a reciprocal business card, you can follow up with that contact after the show with a casual email or voice mail.
Trade Show Tip 5
Trade Show pioneer Mike Rogers gave me some advice early in my career (besides always telling me to “slow down, you’re not going to a fire”). He said, “Seth, you need to know your tricks inside and out so that you can perform them in your sleep if necessary. You shouldn’t have to think about any aspect of your tricks. You will need to focus most of your attention on the product information and how you will deliver the message to the crowd and connect with them.”
Trade Show Tip 6
Finding the ideal spots in your show for your marketing messages can be tricky. One exercise I’ve found to be helpful is customizing every show I do. I’m not talking specifically about trade shows here; I mean birthday parties, family shows, anniversary parties, a restaurant gig, etc. You can always find out some key details about the guest of honor when you book the show, or ask about the unique features of a restaurant before you start working.
Trade Show Tip 7
Don’t get a reputation as someone who will try to undercut another working performer by approaching their client when they aren’t around. Chances are that word of your visit will get right back to the performer as soon as they return. Karma has a way of biting you in the ass. As they say, what goes around comes around. There’s plenty of work for everyone; just go out and get it on your own.
Trade Show Tip 8
Just as you are there at the show to gather crowds for your client, the other magician’s and presenter’s are there to do the same for theirs. It makes little sense to try and one-up the competition by performing your show non-stop in an attempt to keep the other performer from doing their job.
Trade Show Tip 9
Make your product pitch interactive. Ask questions during your pitch and try to get feedback from your audience. If you are able to connect with your audience and create a rapport, you will find that you are in a unique position to qualify potential leads for your clients’ sales team.
Trade Show Tip 10
Become a student of sales. The bookstores are full of books (and audio books) that will teach you how to sell more effectively. Make a promise to yourself; For every five magic books you read, read one business book.
Thanks Seth for your input and helping our readers break into the industry!
Aaron Clark (The Amazing Ziggy)
Goals are important, but it's even more important that you stay focused on those goals every day. You should have short and long term goals and your short term goals should be baby steps to getting you to the long term goals. Four years ago I moved from Virginia where I was a full time entertainer, because of personal life circumstances I was forced to leave that life and I moved to Georgia where I knew no one, I had zero connections, and I basically had to start over from scratch. (Not something I recommend to anyone.) I always told my wife that I could do my business anywhere in the world, not really ever thinking that I would have put that to the test. So what I have learned from this experience is that building a name for yourself is a tedious and time consuming process that takes years! I have only been performing as a full time magician here in Georgia for a year. It took 3 years for me to be able to say that I have enough clients to support my family again. Those 3 years were filled with a tremendous amount of hard work promoting my business while I also worked a full time job so I had the income to support my wife and 3 kids. My point in all of this is I had a goal to be a full time magician which was my long term goal. The baby steps to getting me to that goal took me 3 years, but I worked on it every day and I never gave up. And most importantly now that I have achieved that goal I set a new goal and I have been striving to achieve it. My long term goal now is to have my calendar full of events all booked 1 year in advance. Up and until now, even when I lived in Virginia, the majority of my events booked me within 30 days of their events, with a few bookings as far as 4-6 months out. But I never booked a single gig 1 year in advance, yet I heard many of my competitors and even friends were getting repeat clients and even new clients to hire them for the next year right after they finished their event.
So I stopped to think about it and for some of my friends in the DJ business it makes since why they are getting booked a year in advance for Weddings, Proms, and things of that nature. But how are the Magicians getting booked that far in advance? Well the answer I believe is in 2 parts, for potential clients, and for repeat clients. For potential clients, I believe it depends on the types of events that you are marketing to.
For fairs and festivals: The majority of these clients go to an expo where the meet the entertainers (this is typically done in the winter) then they start their planning for their event usually after the 1st of the year. So they are typically planning for a fall festival in January, or about 7-9 months out.
For trade shows: this is a different aspect because the convention itself isn't hiring you but rather the company that is at one of the booths. The conventions are annual conventions, so they know about 1 year in advance when the next convention will be so it's completely conceivable that they would book a magician 1 year in advance.
For schools: I believe it can be done to plan an event for 1 year in advance but in order for that to happen you would need to have proven yourself to the client that you can put on an amazing show (by them having seen a performance elsewhere, or because they are a repeat customer.)
For weddings: I believe it would only be because you wowed the bride and groom from another wedding you attended, or they have met you at a wedding convention.
For corporate: Yes without question I believe you can get them to book 1 year in advance, since the will know product launch dates, corporate outings, company picnics, grand openings, etc. It's all about getting to know the clients and having them love the service you provide, and creating an urgency in the clients mind that if they don't book you 1 year in advance then they won't be able to book you for next years event.
So what I'm getting at is that each market is going to be a little bit different but I believe that I will achieve this goal and I'm taking my baby steps every day toward achieving it.
Quote from Brian Tracy: "When your goals are clear, you come up with exactly the right answer at exactly the right time."
Learning magic's biggest secrets can be done a few ways, but performing magic's biggest secrets can only be done one way....with Practice, and LOTS of it! Like anything in life the more time you spend practicing at it the better you will get. But it also requires a great deal of studying and reading which I put a lot of time and effort into doing every day. Sean Watson is a good friend and talented magician who is an international magician that lives in Las Vegas but is from Canada originally. I met Sean working at a Fair in Gatithersburg, Maryland in 2011. Sean was hired as a strolling magician and I was a stilt walker and we shared a trailer and got to hang out for 10 days. I learned a lot for Sean and I even got to be his opening act for a show he was doing in Blacksburg, VA. Sean frequently performs for corporate events and his video below will show some of his work in that area.
Illusionbooks.com wrote the following article about making a VIP magically appear, which for corporate magicians is a common request, and I found this article to be extremely informative!
If you are a corporate Event Magician, the most popular request will be to make the CEO magically appear. Wedding magicians will often be asked if they can make the bride, groom or couple appear on stage. Even birthday party magicians are asked if they can make the birthday child appear from nowhere.
Half the time, the logistics will just not allow for such an appearance to be performed. However, if you can make a VIP appear for an event, you can charge a premium fee for this illusion. You should easily be able to charge an extra 25% – 50% of your show fee (on top of your show fee) to execute this illusion.
As a commercial performer, it might be a good idea to research how this can be done so that you can be ready to stage this (and charge for it) when the opportunity arises.
Methods, Props & Considerations
There are a number of standard props and methods that can be used to produce the VIP. A ‘Tip-over Trunk’, ‘Flash Appearance’, ‘Book of Life’, ‘Stack of Boxes’, ‘Mummy Wrap Switch’ Three Way Screen’, ‘Bryce’s Screen’, ‘Modern Cabinet’, ‘Giant Square Circle’ and ‘Backstage with the Magician’ are common favorites.
You can also talk to a professional illusion builder to see what can be built for you based on your budget and needs.
Most professional large-scale magicians or illusionists typically would have at least one of these illusions in their arsenal to make a layman appear.
Here are things to consider when designing the VIP production illusion:
I share a very simple appearance that can performed without any large props in the Backstage Section of this website.
Over the years, I have made dozens or VIPs, celebrities and executives appear on stage. I don’t have one method to make a person appear, I have at least 10 methods and have used them all at one time or another.
I have used “standard” props such as the “Tip Over Trunk” and a traditional “Flash Appearance”. I have also developed many different appearances out of necessity due to fit into an event space or to fit a stage set design.
Several times, I have been asked to make a VIP appear but the client/ show producer did not want a “box” on stage. This led me to design a practical person appearance called “Backdoor Appearance” designed specifically for VIPs at corporate & special events.
The workings of this illusion are integrated into the event backdrop design so there are no “props” per say except for an open-frame platform. This design can be found in my illusion book, ‘Illusionary Departures’.
For something that packs flat and is easy to perform, “VIP Trunk” is easy to build and easy for the VIP to perform. The benefit of this illusion is that it packs flat and is not a huge prop. It is a great alternative to a “Tip Over Trunk” and is detailed in my book “Urban Illusions”.
These two illusions (and a third “Simple VIP Appearance” are also available as an illusion design package “VIP Appearances“.
My latest illusion design “The Arrival” is described in my book Corporate Illusions Made Easy. It is a large prop but can break down. However, it is very impressive but simple to build and can be presented very effectively with video animations projected onto the prop.
I also designed a self-contained appearance illusion called “Flash Blinded’ – The Worker’s Appearance Illusion System“, specifically for the Event Magician. I used this for a number of years, especially when I was traveling to different countries for a corporate road show.
Alternatives to an Appearance Illusion
If the event environment, logistics or budget does not allow you to stage the VIP appearance, suggest that he perform an illusion or escape, just not an appearance. Many times, the event organizers would just like the VIP to be highlighted on stage in some way or sometimes the VIP has an ego and insists on being part of stage program.
In that case, offer to teach the VIP to perform a self-contained stage effect, illusion or escape.
If appropriate, he could also produce items relevant to the event from a production box like a square circle, mirror box or drawer box. The idea is for the VIP to perform the magic and have you facilitate or assist. Technically, you might be executing the magic techniques but the VIP gets the credit… just like how illusionists and assistants work.
A simple shackle escape makes the VIP looks good and is interesting for the audience.
I created an escape illusion called ‘Corporate Restraint’ (from Corporate Illusions Made Easy) where the VIP instantly escapes from a set of shackles and a sack tied tight, held by his employees. While this is not an appearance, it is a powerful effect that does the job.
You are only limited by your creativity and general magic knowledge but the single takeaway is to remember that you can offer alternatives to a client who want their VIP to appear on stage.
My Name is Aaron Clark and I'm know as The Amazing Ziggy. I've been a Professional Magician for over 20 years performing all over the US and internationally, but mostly for events on the east coast in the Atlanta Area.