Monday, January 17, 2011

Trade Show Magician Fees

As of this writing, an experienced tradeshow magician can run between $5000 and $10,000, and even higher. This does not usually include expenses.

Having said that, I should take some time to share what I’ve learned about using a magician in your booth. It can be the most productive traffic building tool you can implement, and it can also be a total bust. Much depends on you doing your homework before contracting the individual.

As a Director of Marketing for a few different companies in a career that expanded more than 40 years I had seen many magicians, good and bad, on the tradeshow floor.

My first exposure came in 1987 at the National Office Machine Dealers show, in Chicago. The show had two magicians. They both knocked my socks off. Amazingly I can still remember the names of the company they represented - Labelon and Burroughs. I guess that is the ultimate testimony to their individual abilities. These guys were fun, engaging, and skillful. Their booths were jam-packed with show visitors and the way they weaved the corporate message into their magic shows.

As a marketing professional I saw the entire picture. The booth was loaded with potential customers. They were having fun. And, they were hearing about the company and its products. I watched as show visitors followed each of these gentlemen into the booth like the people of Hamelin following the Pied Piper. At that time, my accumulated marketing knowledge told me that this was the singularly most effect tool a trade show exhibitor could employ. It was a device I knew I had to use in my own booth at upcoming shows.

Three months later I dug out their business cards and called for a quote. Although their rates were competitive, both were more expensive than I would have thought. For some reason my marketing persona got lost. Instead of measuring their rates against the results I saw them produce, I was thinking in terms of an expense rather than as a return on my investment. This was a huge mistake as you shall soon see.

I dismissed the idea of hiring a magician and another three or four months had passed.  Then, while attending a customer function I encountered another magician. He was walking around the ballroom doing his tricks for the guests. I asked him if he ever worked trade shows. He replied in the affirmative and I asked him for his card. After a week or so I called him. His rate was half the rate of the two gentlemen I saw at NOMDA and he would pay his own expenses to boot. What a deal! I hired the guy to represent us at the Canadian Office Products Show, in Toronto.

It was a disaster. I took a lot of heat from my boss and our company never used a magician again. This fellow simply could not draw people to our booth. He had difficulty learning about our product, and seemed to lack any understanding of the industry.

Flying home, I pondered what went wrong. Then a simple time-worn truth hit me - “You get what you pay for.” Comparing the cost of what this gentleman charged to the return we would have generated with the two higher priced individuals made me sick about my decision. I, of all people should have known better. The two magicians I first saw were tradeshow professionals with four-color brochures and huge client lists. They’re business was doing trade shows, not being magicians.

So, my first tip for anyone looking to hire a magician for your trade show is to examine what experience the person has in the tradeshow industry. Like anything, experience often equates with success. Hence, hire a proven tradeshow magician who can provide you with some history. Don’t hire a magician and assume he can do the job for you.

Don’t make the mistake I made by hiring someone who under charges and under delivers. Equally, be cautious of someone whose rate is astronomically out of whack with the competition. Although rate should be important to any prudent shopper, my advice would be - don’t make a decision based on rate alone. For what you spend on graphics, sponsorships, even carpeting, the magician is comparably cheap – especially considering the exposure he brings you.

The magician will be your gateway to show attendees. That person should be able to fit well within your corporate culture and represent you in a highly professional manner. Don’t get so enamored with the tricks or the idea that you forget your overall objective. Whether it’s lead generation, institutionalizing your name, creating more exhibit efficiency, or all of these, you’ll want to be assured you have an individual that can deliver the results you expect.

The following year, I was working for a different company. Once in place, the first thing I did was call the two individuals whom I first saw in Chicago. By the way, the names of these magicians were: Bill Goldman and Harrison Carroll, respectively. I mention this because my online research shows that they are still working. By the way, I am retired and have no vested interest in any magician or group. But I used both these fellows until I retired.

Below is a list of magicians who work exclusively in the trade show industry. These are people I have either used, or have seen firsthand. To my understanding, there are a couple female trade show magicians. However, I have not seen them in action and for that reason defer on listing them here.

Harrison Carroll:
Bill Goldman:  
Dick Stoner:    
Mark Phillips:  

1 comment:

  1. Quite a nice post! I am pleased to find these details. I also would be organizing trade show for promotion of my new beauty shop and was just thinking to get some nice trade show displays for that. Could you recommend a good place for that?