I just returned from a show in Aberdeen Scotland where I had the pleasure of working with friend and colleague Charles McFarland and a number of hardworking and hospitable Scottish magicians. As Charles & I have been working at some of the same shows for 20 years or so, I spent most of my time between presentations hanging out with him (it helped that we were only a few booths away from each other). For those who don't know Charles, that he has worked for this particular client, one of the top in its industry, for OVER twenty years testifies to his abilities as a performer and businessman. Enter magician X. He is also working at the show; and by the end of the first day approaches both Charles and I and tells us how wonderful it is to see other high quality professional magicians. He is from another European country where there are not so many, and he tells us what he doesn't like about amateurs. He then quickly runs down his qualifications, drops about a hundred names, shows us a couple of tricks and many, many bits, tells us about the big crowds he is getting and what a great job he's doing and gives us each a pack of his client's custom printed playing cards. He lays it on pretty thick.
Over the course of the next two days he visits us both several times, but we never seem to find him performing at his booth when we go by. He confides in Charles that he's only making a bit more than his usual well paying restaurant gig to be at this tradeshow and tries unsuccessfully to get an answer from Charles as to what he is making.
At the end of that day, Charles drops by my booth with the magician's promotional literature. "Did he give you that?" I ask. "No," said Charles, "he gave it to my client when I was away from the booth and told them if they needed someone closer, he was available."
Seth Kramer asked me recently to provide him with a story about how I got my first tradeshow and I was happy to give it to him; Seth is a great guy and another tradeshow pro. The truth is, the tradeshow world is VERY small and we all know each other or, in the very least, we know someone who knows someone. In case I need spell it out for those missing the obvious point; no one with a career in tradeshows started out by stealing someone else's client. Ethics aside, clients become very possessive of "their" tradeshow magician when they do a good job. That this guy believed Charles' client of 20+ years would even consider hiring someone else shows what an idiot he was. As we would expect, the client immediately went to Charles and told him about the "creep." His reputation among tradeshow magicians is now firmly established.
Those of you readers starting out or hoping to do tradeshows, PLEASE realize there is no shortcut to success and being a sleazeball is not the way to try to create one. Practice a ton; develop a good act; learn what you can from the top performers and those who are already successful in your desired venue; read Seth's book; take a professional sales course (I recommend the Dale Carnegie Sales course); and then be prepared to work harder than you imagine. Most small businesses don't make it - be ethical and maybe more than luck will be on your side.