Trade Show Magic

By Alex Robertson - Tuesday, September 10, 2019


If you're interested in learning more about how trade show magic works, this is the approach I prefer to take. I don’t always follow all these steps but generally this is how it works for me.

How do I get trade show work?

The most success I have had with getting bookings is from people who have seen me perform magic in person. This is true not just for trade show magic, for close up magic in general. I have had referrals for trade show work, but most of the time it has worked this way: The organizer of the company’s trade show is looking for things to have on the stand to attract people. They see me perform magic, and they think "that would work".

How you reach those people can be a challenge, but it's easier than you might think. The next time you get booked by a company for close up magic, take a look at that company’s website. If the company exhibits at trade shows it has cost them a lot of money to do that. They will often show this off on their blog, about page, or Facebook page. If you don't see anything then you can still find out when you do the event for them by asking “does your company exhibit at trade shows?” when you get there. Your next job is to find out who in the company organizes that trade show. Once you know you start by working the event as normal. Towards the end of you find that person. Make sure you impress them and then say, "have you ever worked with a trade show magician?". "Because I can get more people onto your stand, generate leads for the business...". Remember it's their event so they may not want to talk business with you at the moment. The important thing is that you get their email and then you can follow up with that person later.

How can I make the most money from trade show magic?

So this is where the company shows an interest in having you on the trade show stand. Most of the time they want to know the price. You need to tell them your price, and then justify it. Your price will be far more than the cost of having you do close up magic one evening, so you need to tell them what they are getting for their money. I like to offer several price packages:

The first one is simply to have me perform close up magic on their stand. The magic is not branded or customized in any way for them, but it is something interesting and entertaining to have on the stand.

With the second price package I offer almost the same thing, but with the companies branding included in some way. I will have custom cards made with the company’s logo, and other props that I use feature the branding of the company.

The third option is what I want them to go for. This is where I offer them me performing at their trade show with custom made magic tricks and routines designed to pull people in and generate leads for the business. I tell them I will do my own research, meet with them and then come up with a variety of magic for their trade show. I will then meet them again to finalize everything, perform for them for as long as they want on the stand, and follow up with them afterwards.

If they choose option 1, that’s easy. All I need to do is show up and do close up magic. Option 2 is also very simple, I just need to get some custom cards made with the companies logo, and customize a few other props as well. If they choose option 3, here’s what I do next.

Do your homework

Next I learn what I can about the product we are marketing at the trade show from their website. I try to work out who their competitors are. As well as strengths and weaknesses of competing products. I normally spend around 1 – 3 hours doing this. If they have pictures of the company at previous trade shows then that’s useful to have. Usually I start making a file on the company. In it I include what I’ve learned about the company so far, a brief SWOT analysis, and then some ideas on some tricks for the show I have already. For me, that’s a pretty good starting point.

Face Time

Now it's time for the first meeting with the client. I try to go to their offices where appropriate. I bring some magic with me in case they want to see something, but most of the time they want to talk business. Here's where you can impress them; Not with your magic skills but by asking the right questions. You need to know what you will be selling so make sure you understand what it is and why it is important. I tend to make a list of several USPs for the product, and for the company. Then I ask "If someone only remembered one thing about this product, what do you want that to be?". I also need to know our target market, and who we hope to reach at the trade show. Having some marketing done by the company about the product is always very useful. If there is anything you can take away with you, like a brochure or a video, then that will be very useful. The product itself can be very useful if you can get one, (or several) but it depends on the product as to whether that's practical or not.

What tricks should I do as a trade show magician?

So at this point I’ve had the meeting, I've got the info on the product. Now I have to decide what effects I am going to perform and how I am going to present them. I tend to go with effects that are reliable and have an instant reset. This is not the venue to try out a strong effect that you can only do once, and then have to spend 2 minutes resetting. For trade shows you need effects you can do again and again all day long without any issues. I prefer to do things that are close to my working set at the time, with a couple extra effects that are specific to the trade show. The good thing is that there are probably tricks you already do that you can customize for a trade show. Here are some of the effects I used in the last trade show I worked at.

*Card2Phone Effect: You produce a card by pulling it out of the screen of your smartphone Customization: This was the finale to my card routine. The card represents their information. When I produced the card from the phone I used the following line. "If you're a manager and you're looking for something to use for your team, this allows you to login from wherever you are (produce card) and see what the team are working on (hand them the card).” Available in the app store.

Extreme Burn Effect: You change low value bills, or slips of paper into bills of a high value in the blink of an eye. Customisation: I had slips of paper each with a different USP of the product on each one. One said "GDPR compliant", another said "UK based". The last one said "Cost effective". I show each one, and mention the USP on the slip of paper, when I say "cost effective" that's when I change them into real money. Available here: Extreme Burn

Klaus the Mouse Effect: A clockwork mouse moves along a ribbon spread to find a selected card. Customisation: I talked about how there are devices that can plug into the computer, and capture information as it is entered. The spectator at the point usually said "keyloggers", at which point I replied, "right, but there's also these" (introduce Klaus) "Mouse loggers". This always got a good laugh. "This one finds emails, here write down your email address". The card is then lost in the pack, and Klauss finds it. We then get to keep the email address. Available here: Klause The Mouse

Clarity Box Effect: You show a clear Perspex box, with a card inside. A spectator signs a card and lost in the pack. You remove the card from the box showing that it it the spectators signed card. Customisation. Instead of a playing card I used a billet. I explained that lots of people choose passwords they are familiar with like a family member or a hobby. I ask them to think of their pets name. At the end of the effect the effect I removed the billet inside the box and it had the name written on it. Available here: Clarity Box

Show and Tell

This is where I present what I have come up with for the trade show. By this point I usually have about 10 different themed magic effects to show them. 5 of are the main ones I will do on the day. The rest are to give them an idea of when else I can do but also gauge what they might want more of. In this meeting I get immediate feedback on any changes to my script I needs to make.

It's Showtime

Wear comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet all day! At the trade show your main job is stop people from walking past the stand First get them to notice you, then what you are doing, and then the stand itself. Sometimes I start with a simple flourish and people will often do a double take, at that point it’s very easy to start doing a magic trick for them. The people on your stand probably won’t approach people as often as you do, so your ability to stop people from just walking past is a very valuable thing to have on the stand. It can still be hard to make people stop in the first place, but here are a few opening lines I’ve used that have been much more effective than saying “do you want to see a card trick?”:

“I’ll show you a quick trick” – Usually I say this after they’ve already noticed me or made eye contact with me. I’m saying it almost as if I know they want me to, and I’m agreeing to their request. Also by saying the word “quick” implies that they won’t be with me for long. With this you are also leading them into something, instead of asking them something.

“I’ll show you the fastest card trick in the world” – I got this one from Marc Paul, who has a DVD called Trade Show secrets. It’s well worth looking at.

*“Do you know what this is?” *– Used to introduce a trick. They will usually say no at which point you can say “I’ll show, it only takes a few seconds.” It’s quite disarming because it’s asking a question that assumes they will stop and want to know more.

“Are you causing trouble?” – Use at your own risk! I normally say this to a woman or group of women, they will often laugh at this and then you can start a trick.

Normally after performing 1-3 effects I can tell who in the group I should introduce to the sales team. Introducing people to the sales team and generating leads is what I am there to do. If that means I have to cut a magic trick short, then that’s fine. The most value I can provide is by generating quality leads for the business I am working for.

The Aftermath

After the trade show it is important to follow up. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a meeting at this point because then I can have face time with the client. We can discuss what worked, and what we need to improve on for the next trade show. My experience has always been that they just don’t want a meeting with me at this point. They don’t need it, and they are very busy with all the leads I have generated for them! I would suggest simply dropping them an email to follow up with them, offer them a meeting if you want to, but don’t expect them to want one.

If you’ve made it this far then you must be serious about your trade show work. I’d suggest getting Trade Show Secrets by Marc Paul, it’s a fantastic reference for if you want to know how to effectively work in trade show magic.


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