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Topic: Trade show in NYC - what to charge?
Message: Posted by: ksalaz1 (Jul 8, 2005 10:43AM)
I have been offered to do a trade show for a cosmetic marketing company in Sept. in NYC. What is the usual fee and hours worked? Any guidance would be appreciated.

Message: Posted by: Tony S (Jul 8, 2005 12:00PM)
Jim Snack's course has some information on trade shows and what to charge. You may want to contact him - he's extremely helpful.
Message: Posted by: C Christian (Jul 8, 2005 02:52PM)
Hi Ken,
I don't want to sound mean or anything but if I asked that question to Mike Rodgers (and he was alive today) or a few other folks that are in the trade show biz they would say this to me and I quote, "If you don't know, you shouldn't be doing the job!" and they would probably walk away from me.

[i]I[/i] am not telling you this, I am telling you if you went up to the people I worked with in trade shows in the past they would have said this to anyone who asked this question. Even if you are the worlds greatest magician. Because in the trade show world it doesn't matter.

Which taught me a valuable lesson...
Make sure you are ready for the job because you don't want to ruin it for the rest of the magicians that do trade show work for a living.


Message: Posted by: icentertainment (Jul 8, 2005 11:44PM)
Charge as much as you can.

Price depends on several factors

How long per day (in hours).
How many days.
Is it 1 show per hour or constantly throughout the day?
How much travel is involved?
Do you need accommodations?

Also find out how they found out about you-
Do they believe they really need you?

How important are you to the success of the booth?

Do you have to do anything special that requires extra cost- ie. custom-designed or printed tricks?

Do they want your standard show or a customized show?
How much preshow work is there or do you "just turn up"?

To answer how many hours depends on you- are you prepared and do you have the stamina to work 8 hours a day 3 days in a row in the hustle-bustle of a live trade show- it ain't like working in a restaurant.

Not knowing what to charge is common and don't take any notice of ego people who say
"if you don't know you shouldn't be doing it"- Those people started at one time and you can bet thousands of dollars they had no clue either.

I would suggest you cover expenses and charge (if you are just starting out) between 100-200 bucks an hour, with a minimum of 3 hours a day.

This isn't unreasonable for New York and it doesn't oversell your services.

As for conditions --YOU SET THEM.
You tell them that you have a 10 minute break after 45 minutes or whatever.
You tell them how long you work for. Tell them if they can't afford a full day then to work the 3 hours at the peak time, say from 10 in the morning to 1 pm.

Break it up if you want to:
2 hours in the morning and 1 hour later- it's up to you because you are your own boss!


Message: Posted by: ksalaz1 (Jul 11, 2005 07:28AM)
Everyone, Thank you for your responses. I think I know where to go from here.

Icentertainment, thank you for breaking down the questions like that, it helps me get clear a few things I hadn't thought of.

C Christian, thank you for taking the time to respond. I know your advice is probably coming from the right place. However, If I waited to "be ready" for every job I did I never would have booked my clients over the past few years which include NY Yankees, Ritz Carlton, JP Morgan, etc. I won't screw up your trade show biz, although I appreciate your concern.

In addition, my question wasn't "Am I ready?", It was "How much to Charge?" I normally bill out my corporate events at $500/HR., but have never done a trade show, so I wasn't sure if there was some other scale or rule of thumb to go by.


Message: Posted by: icentertainment (Jul 12, 2005 02:39AM)
Get as much as you can get.

$500 per hour is a good price.

But do understand what your purpose at the show is.

And your client has this info.

Are you to do just tricks to entertain people or are you there to engage passing traffic.

This has nothing to do with price but it will help when you perform to know why they have you and to know their expectations.

Cheers, and good luck.

Message: Posted by: ASTOUNDU (Jul 14, 2005 10:35AM)
Trade Shows are tough work, especially if you are going to have another magician near you who's very experienced... but don't let that scare you. Learn all you can about the company. Remember the company comes first, not your magic. People are there to buy and you are there to sell everyone that your company is the best.

If you are doing booth work you will need a small sound system. My advice is to go to a trade show and see what's going on. Just walk around and see what companies are doing at their booths. Good luck.
Philip Klipper
Message: Posted by: ksalaz1 (Jul 14, 2005 03:03PM)

Thanks for the advice. I will go and check out a trade show or two before the September date. I spoke with the representative hiring me yesterday and we discussed price. I told him $500/Hr. usually for Corporate gigs and that I would do the gig for $1500 a day and alternate between magic and breaks. I also said I would be performing for more than a total of 3 hours since they are interested in me being there for a couple days. In a sense, I would give them a price break. He said he would get back to me shortly. Thank you all for the advice and keep it coming if you think of anything new. It is all very appreciated.

Message: Posted by: icentertainment (Jul 15, 2005 08:12AM)
For that kind of money it would probably be advisable to meet with the client- if he is not the final descision-maker or rather it's a group descision- you should meet with them.

You don't need a sound system especially for your first trade show. but if you do make sure it's a head set not a hand held- (but I think that's common sense).

The other alternative is to lower the price and have a contract that they hire you at their next trade show. or sign a 3-year contract or something of that nature. Ask if they have any other events comming up that they can book you for- Christmas, client Product launch or whatever.

If you have time, check out http://www.funinc.com for trade show giveaways which you can use to top up your sales.
Message: Posted by: Dannydoyle (Jul 16, 2005 03:34PM)
I have a tendency to agree with the above quotes from Mike Rogers. Eddie Tulluck used to say the same exact thing. Do your research before you get involved.

What they never seemed to account for is the possability of someone working a different environment and being noticed by a guy who owns a company and saw a magician at the last trade show so he offers the work. NO sane person turns this stuff down so I am a little more forgiving.

Do yourself a huge favor and don't turn to the magic community for help here. Look for help from the business people. Xerox has a course called PSS which you should look at. It is their features and benifits selling course and will help you learn to sell. It is not cheap, but is worth its weight in gold. It has been the industry standard for selling for 30 years for every company arround.

Remember a sale is made on EVERY call. Yes its true. Either you sell someone your services, or they sell you on a reason that they don't need them. Either way a sale is made. You can learn to be on the closing end of sales, and how to spike your prices as high as the market will allow.

Good Luck with it

Message: Posted by: icentertainment (Jul 17, 2005 12:05AM)
I would go to any trade show in your area- and be a visitor just to look around and learn about the industry- how booths operate why they do what they do.

The exhibition industry is huge and really untapped resource for great cash.

Learn about the industry from their magazines and actual shows also look at other exhibition supplier companies like signage, and ask for price quotes too see how much money they charge.

Type trade show into google and see what is available.
Message: Posted by: ksalaz1 (Jul 18, 2005 02:43PM)
Hey Guys,

Thank you for all your your continued replies. It seems I have more work to do, but I'm glad to do it. I will let you know what happens from here. If I have more questions from my research at the trade shows, I'll post up again.


Message: Posted by: RayBanks (Aug 14, 2005 11:04AM)
Travel, meals, lodging should always be in addition to any fee you charge. Especially in New York where you can run up quite a bill in a short time.
Message: Posted by: RonCalhoun (Sep 17, 2005 11:14PM)
On 2005-07-14 16:03, ksalaz1 wrote:

Thanks for the advice. I will go and check out a Trade show or two before the September date. I spoke with the representative hiring me yesterday and we discussed price. ...

He said he would get back to me shortly.


Message: Posted by: icentertainment (Sep 18, 2005 11:25AM)
If you got the gig

Please send 10% by cheque

details are on my web

Message: Posted by: squando (Apr 16, 2006 03:52PM)
I have heard that below 2k a day is on the light side, but have no first hand experience, yet...
Message: Posted by: corpmagi (Apr 16, 2006 05:07PM)
2K is above average for a trade show day. $1.5K Average. 1K would be considered on the light side. Plus
expenses of course.

500 trade shows under my belt.
Message: Posted by: MattWayne (Apr 17, 2006 03:42PM)
Oh, oh, oh- 100 to 200 bucks? Come on now. Wow. Big disagreement there.

That cosmetic owner is going to look at you like you're nuts. Either that or she/he will say, "Hmmm he must not be very good at a price like that." Corpmagi is right on. 2K is the base price. That is a good price for this market and you should (considering it's Manhattan) be able to ask for that amount with zero arguements from tne owner. Then add your expenses to it. Train tickets, cabs- planning on spending the night? Want to go eat out afterwards to celebrate a good show? All these are expenses that you wouldn't normally have. So, you must tack those on. Extra 500 or 700 dollars for expenses. Hotels in Manhattan will run at least $100 each night. Amtrak train to Central Station will be (for me) $100 roundtrip. Food you could spend $100 easily there. But if you're me you'd save and eat hotdogs from vendors. And cabs start out at $2.50 just when you get in and inflate in price after each minute. Good bit of money.

Be smart- charge high. BUT- make sure you have the backing and magic to support this show. Manhattan, not to scare you, has some heavy hitters. Especially at gala or trade shows. Professionalism should be polished and you should give no reason for the client to have doubts. Hopefully you also have some magical bits that you could use to help promote their products. If you didn't get booked to do a 'sales' magic show- inquire to the client if they'd like a product incorporation into your magic. Selling their products to their audiences with your magical skills. Give them lots of reasons to want your services.

Hope you get the show and make out OK.
Take care- let us know what happens. Good learning experience you'll have here.

Best regards,
Matt Tomasko
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Apr 17, 2006 06:18PM)
It was really in the 70s before I started doing good trade shows. Unfortunately my real take on that market is that the quality of the magic has declined considerably while the quantity of the magicians has increased.

There seems to be two market types out there. The trade show magicians that truly are corporate staff (Harry Collins when he was at Frito-Lay) and those who do every trade show by private treaty (one show at a time). My observation also is that those who are not truly part of corporate staff make less than half of what the corporate staff trade show people make.

This is for a variety of reasons. One is the scope of operations for the exhibitor. The big guys want continuity and the little guys can't afford it. Firms that only exhibit at four to six trade shows a year tend to have a tougher time keeping a good trade show staff at all levels. Talented people frequently expect exposure as part of the compensation package. A magician that has to work exhibits for several different firms within the same industry ultimately has no "borrowed image" to enhance the product exhibit. He has no specific identity that endures season after season and show after show. He is just another "pretty face" at the booth.

Still, even under those conditions, a magician can make a good living. I would like to make some suggestions for pricing the services.

Rule #1 Get the same travel allowance as the fulltime sales employees at the exhibit. This is for expenses of travel and staying at the show. Be fair and follow the lead of the other corporate employees. Some will allow for lavish meals others give you $10 and wish you luck. Some will include tips, laundry and phone calls and some will not. Don't rock the boat. It causes them problems with the other employees. (They plan to keep them after they replace the magician! Know your place.) If you are a recognized member of the exhibit team, have the company pay for and handle all freight, printing and other media costs and give-aways related to the show. Often they have their own trucks, print shop, studio and production facilities and budgets for such things. Let the pros handle it. (Don't buy it retail!)

Rule #2 Be something that no other employee at the show can be. (Don't count on it being a magician. Many old trade show vets may have seen many more trade show magicians than you have. Many know the tricks well. It may have encouraged them to stay in sales! Some of these people make six digits in commissions at a trade show. They are not your competitor!) Help the sales staff build contacts and get sales. But most of all know why the firm is hiring a magician for the trade show. There are at least a half dozen roles that magicians can play in a successful market for the vendor. Some are financially more significant than others.

Corporate marketing departments buy days and markets, not hours. If all you want is labor wages play the labor game with them and quote hours. (Wear steel toe boots because you are shooting yourself in the foot!) Quote event prices. (Booth work, sales meeting, after hours party, stage show, part in the market variety show, private showing fashion show, etc.) Include a "standby" fee for extra days cancelled etc. ($600/day standby is not rare for cancelled shows.) Shows get cancelled for all kinds of reasons. Product not ready, no samples available, wanting to see what the competition is offering first (time table determined by the competitor!), supplier problems, using the human resources elsewhere at the time, strikes, weather, etc. are common reasons for the show not to use you as planned. If they like you they will also pay you to be on standby (unavailable to competitors). You hope that they use your services as a corporate gift because they will pay the full fee. You may end up doing the magic for a fair, fundraiser, awards banquet, etc. You represent the company! You are also building "borrowed image" that the company will have to pay you for during your career there. Do it well. Performing in TV commercials pays better than trade shows but it will help you keep the trade shows too!

Pricing is greatly affected by what else you do for the exhibitor. I’m also an old marketing professor and registered lobbyist. I have also done TV commercials for some very large clients. The report (market intelligence) that I can write for the vendor after the show is often as valuable as the show sales. Others identify key personnel in competitive firms or wanted customer accounts and ways to “move“ them. Some have contacts of their own to transfer to the firm. Some are more memorable than the company name or product. It is about influence on the bottom line! What do you have to offer in addition to entertainment?

I firmly recommend avoiding the word “hour” in pricing. Think in terms of events.

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: corpmagi (Apr 22, 2006 12:55PM)
Bob Sanders is right about charging by the show/event and not by the hour or the day. My first day is always the most expensive to cover my time preparing the script/presentation for the client. If a client insists on hiring you for just one or two days of a three or four day show, make sure that you add some additional money for your time spent preparing for the show. Sometimes I charge a script writing fee that must be paid up front along with the deposit.

I always bill for my exact expenses and provide receipts for the client. It is almost impossible for you to estimate and try to tack on an amount that will cover you (especially in Manhattan). If you get 50% of the contract price up front and the balance on the last day of the show, you will be covered for any money you are spending up front.

I never gouge clients on expenses. I am charging a very good fee for my show. The way I see it, I'm there for the show and the expenses are just a way of getting me there. Save your receipts and forward them to your client along with a detailed invoice for your legitimate expenses. Air, hotel, meals, parking, ground transportation, that should cover all the bases. If you have large props (illusions perhaps) that need to be shipped, the client should pay for those expenses as well. I usually build those fees into the price for having the illusion at the show so it's not seen by the client as an extra cost.

Hope this helps you.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (May 22, 2006 09:07PM)
This thread is essentially about a New York trade show. However, not all trade shows are in major cities. I have had to do them at rodeos, car races, golf tournaments, awards events, professional conferences, fairs, company picnics, on river boats, etc. This is another reason for my suggesting that you price by event. Some of your material that works in one place may not be a good fit in another. It may cause logistics problems going from one show to another.

Industry is usually willing to pay for it but not help you with the problem. Knowing what to charge can be critical in those circumstances. Have a plan. Know the basics, car rentals, freight rates, hotel rates, schedule problems, union problems (wait until you can’t move your props!), sound system requirements, special problems that cost you down time, time available to handle “other business”, cash available requirements, security, etc. In a bind enough will escape you.

They usually just want a number. That’s all they plan to pay.

They let you furnish the number. They make the decision.

Don’t be surprised that the decision was already made. They really just wanted the number. Most likely this is not a shopping trip! It is a budget item. Don’t run if you’re not being chased. Avoid price wars. Winners still lose.

Good Luck!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander