Trade show tips for entertainers and magicians
Working trade shows
Getting work as a trade show artist is not the easiest task, but it offers a good chance to earn well and if you do your work properly, you can stay in for a long time.
Performing at trade shows is in many ways different from a normal performing venue where an artist does his show and people are often expecting a performance. At trade shows, we first have to make people stop, then get them interested in what we do and the stuff we promote. Finally we have to somehow get them to visit the booth we are promoting. It’s a different venue compared to anything else. Street performing is somewhat similar, but working trade shows has additional challenges and it requires different approach.
It’s essential to be an experienced performer if you want to do any kind of trade show business as a performer. You need to be very confident and polite, and it helps if you have experience in sales as well. The client you’re working for needs to feel that you increase and add value to their business, otherwise you might not be booked again.
We often see musicians and theatrical acts trying to get visitors attention at trade shows. There are also video shows showing new products and small lectures on stands etc. Magic is a very good medium, because people are generally very interested in magic and the company message or pitch is fairly easy to deliver disguised in a magic trick. The magic performed can use the company name or product, thus linking the sales message with the trick itself.
The main thing however, is you personality and performance skill. It doesn’t matter if you do world’s best magic tricks, but you’re not good communicating with people. If on the other hand people like you, they can feel obligated to visit the boot you are promoting. This makes the boot owners happy and gets you more work over time.
How to attract visitors
Companies use different attraction methods according to their style and needs; musicians, jugglers, loud sound effects and even theatre. Still nothing works better than a seasoned performer who can gather big crowds in minutes. As in street magic, we need sound, colour and movement to attract attention. These are wise words by the great street magic expert Cellini.
There are mainly two ways to perform at trade shows: stand up magic or close up magic. When you combine your close-up with the company message, you move freely around the boot and sometimes you can get a big crowd looking at your show and sometimes only few people. As for stand-up, you definitely need a microphone and amplifier to get your message through in this otherwise loud and noisy environment. I would definitely recommend working on a slightly elevated stand. Remember the magic formula: colour, sound and movement! Once some onlookers are attracted, the interest is developed and more will gather around you.
Once the customers are around the stand, the sales staffs have a better chance to move in on them. This is why magic is a good medium, because it can hold peoples interest for many minutes and after your show is over, magic will usually leave people in a happy mood and open minded. They will very likely stay near the stand and a sales person has a good chance to make contact with potential customers.
Gimmicks and props
Sometimes I make special cards that I use in card tricks. These cards have normal back but faces are blank, and the company logo and message is printed on them. There are many ways to do tricks with these cards but in the end I always give one card as a souvenir. You can do a basic card trick where you find the selected card and then in the end change it to this printed card. It’s always a good idea to give something to spectators and this card serves two goals: first it carries the company message, and secondly they will talk to others about you and show the card, which is good for you and the company you are working for.
I usually make 1-2 full decks with these cards and it’s usually enough for 3-4 days.
See the example cards below.
Otherwise I carry only small props that fit in my pockets; cards, coins, rings, small ropes and other props.
If I perform on a platform, then I use bigger props suitable for the situation.
A good magician at a trade show stand can make a big difference! He can create a positive image for the company and bring a small, maybe remotely located and otherwise uninteresting stand full of people.
All street performers know that the hardest part is to make the first group of people stop. Same applies to trade show performing. It requires lot of energy from the performer and he has to break the ice over and over again. It is not easy and not for everyone, but when you find your flow you can really make a big difference. It is also demanding that you have to make new connections all the time and some people will turn away – not because they didn’t want to see your magic but because they were reserved, in a hurry or found your approach too bold for their liking. We have to understand this and deal with it with right attitude.
Humour is also very important, and once a good crowd is gathered, the important message is simple to deliver. If done correctly and professionally with good attitude, customers will remember this company and they get many new potential clients.
And so do you!