Improving Magic Conventions

Discuss the latest news and rumors in the magic world.

Postby Guest » 08/13/01 11:55 AM

I've travelled to quite a few magic conventions in the past year and I thought I'd bring up a forum to get some ideas going on how to improve them. The problem is of course that what I look for in a convention is different from what other people look for. There are stage performer, close-up performers, hobbyists, spouses, collectors, etc....all with different needs. To get it going, here are a few suggestions.
1)The stage shows as a whole are terrible for what we should expect from a convention of magicians from all over the world. Many are poorly planned and staged. I've been to conventions where I've seen FOUR zombie routines in one nights show. I can't recall ever seeing a show without technical problems of some sort. I think that shows should be shorter and sweeter leaving the audience wanting to see more rather than wanting to walk out as I have seen many do. Who wants to see an unoriginal illusionist doing the same illusions we've all seen(and know the secret too.) There is no entertainment in that for magicians. My friend Johny Millwater said it best as one illusionist closed the last convention I attended - "You know what would make this great! Those 3 guys from mystery science theatre." Let me put it this way, there is nothing I hate worse than sitting through a bad stage show and there are few things I like better than sitting through a good one. Unfortunately 90% are bad. Thats sad.
2)Close-up shows as a whole are OK. But I think at least one of the days it would be wise to have a one man act rather than the rotation thing. The same could go for stage shows as well. The IJA(Juggling conventions)does it this way. Allowing one excellent performer to engage an audience for a longer period of time creates a completely different feel. The show is more intimate and we get to see what it takes to have a good 30 minute to an hour one-man act which incidently is what a good percentage of small-time working magicians are doing or trying to establish for themselves. When I think of great acts that I've seen at magic conventions I think of seeing Del Rays close-up act, Paul Gertner's Play of Ten Fingers, and Tom Mullica doing Red Skeleton. Those are the ones I remember because I got to really know the performer and his style.
3)Whoever is planning the convention should make sure that there is a place where we can hang out till the wee hours. Preferably, there should be a designated place with food and beverages. It sucks to have to keep moving because you get kicked out of the restaurant, then the bar, then the lobby and you have to end up at Dennys 10 miles away. Needless to say, restaurants should also be within walking distance of the hotel.
4)There should be a system so those with less cash flow can find roommates to defer lodging costs.
5)If you have to pay for the badge to get into the dealers room, there should be more good deals. Granted, I know that its hard for dealers,especially with the internet competition.
6)Close-up guys who do it all(close-up show, lecture,stage act) should be paid more in proportion to the guys that do just a 10 minute illusion act with no name recognition or talent. I hear that a lot of the really good "entertainers" don't do conventions anymore because they don't pay enough. But I've seen some really bad acts that get a lot.
7)Finally, and most importantly, there needs to be more workshops and forums and less lectures. There is so much emphasis on learning new tricks, that magicians are never learning how to improve what they already know. This is where the too perfect theory discussion comes in. This forum is great for getting ideas going and there needs to be something like this at conventions where we don't have to communicate through keyboards but can talk face to face and show each other ways of improving what we do on both technical and psychological levels. Once again I point to juggling conventions. There are very few in relation to magic conventions but from the one I've been too I think those who plan magic conventions could learn a lot. There should be several focused sessions that attendees can choose which to go to. For example, there could be a session on ambitious card routines(this would include practical uses of various double lifts, passes,subtleties etc.), false shuffles, rope tricks, silk tricks, thumbtip tricks, coin matrixes(with or without cards),kids magic, and the list goes on. The way it works is a bunch of people get in one room focused on improving one specific aspect of their repertoire. Everybody plays off each other. The guys that know it all see an unknown move or idea someone saw in a lecture 30 years ago but no-one knows about. The good magicians get the joy of helping enthusiastic newcomers. Newcomers learn to avoid moves that don't work in the real world. You get to really meet and trade ideas with people from all over the country and world. That's what enhancing yourself and your art is all about.

With all of that being said. What do you think?

Postby Guest » 08/13/01 12:51 PM

Very interesting post. You make some good points and on some of the points you could replace "magic convention" with any kind of hobby convention you can think of (horror movie convention, etc.).

Concerning the comment about making sure there is a place to hang out after hours, etc. That is going to depend on location. Granted if the convention is in Vegas, there are no shortage of places that you can hang out in after hours. If your convention is in Bippus, Indiana, you are going to be limited. Sometimes we would end up at someones room for several hours and I am sure this is probably where you will find lots of the magicians.

I really like the idea of having workshops and group sessions on things like the double lift or whatever you want to work on. I think they should be in addition to the lectures they already provide for. I am curious how magicians would react if David Roth were to host a workshop on performing a retention vanish instead of a lecture of his material. Would they want to go or would they get mad?

Postby Guest » 08/13/01 01:26 PM

I want 'em to be free!

Postby Guest » 08/13/01 01:27 PM

I also want more near Chicago.

Postby Jeremy Medows » 08/13/01 02:51 PM

And it shouldn't cost more than $100.
Jeremy Medows
Posts: 111
Joined: 03/29/08 02:05 AM

Postby Guest » 08/13/01 11:08 PM

If you ask me, the goal of any magic gathering should be to give the attendants a "buzz".

That is, when you leave your mind should be racing with thoughts, your enthusiasm levels at a new peak, your goals are soaring from inspiration and you should be anxious to start working on what you discovered.

This requires, in my opinion, seeing either new and innovative magic, or old magic done exceptionally well.

My personal preference is to have brainstorm sessions galore. Lectures should not show new tricks, but should be about improving the magic you already perform. Shows should offer unique acts presented by unique people. Also, some "free" time to lounge in the lounge chatting with magicians casually. An effort should be made to keep the people in one location, and not have them split off into private groups in private rooms.

Perhaps there is a "Half-Baked Convention" in the future. Don't hold your breath, though.

-Ryan Pilling

Postby Guest » 08/18/01 11:38 AM

Great ideas. It would be great for there to be a "who's who" board. I had no inkling that Karl was at A-1.

I think some of these simple ideas could add a little touch of personality to conventions. Keep in mind that more and more these conventions are becomming financial burdens to the hosts.

The competition for convention goers is getting fierce. More talent more attraction; it all means less free time to session. I agree conventions are packed too full with activity.

Perhaps we shouldn't feel the need to be a part of every activity and rather plan more session time in the jacuzzi.


Postby Pete McCabe » 08/30/01 04:08 AM

If I were running a convention I would hold it at a college in the summer when school was out.

Dorm rooms would be available for the convention guests. They'd be cheap, and they are perfec for the kind of all-hours hanging out that makes a convention great.

Lecture halls -- with their steeply raked seats -- are the perfect places to hold close-up and parlor performances. Also they're pretty good for lectures.

The campus theater can be used for the stage shows.

Meals will be available at the dining hall, again for cheap.

And everything will be within walking distance.

Universities offer great facilities wonderfully conducive to a magic convention at bargain prices in just about every big city in America, and many not so big.

If anybody takes up this idea let me know so I can go to your convention.
Pete McCabe
Posts: 2091
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Simi Valley, CA

Postby Guest » 08/30/01 12:25 PM

Unless campus life has changed radically I wouldn't want to have a common bathroom with 20 other magicians and eat dining hall food.

All that I see missing is the chance for interaction between the attendees. Either there is too much stuff going on or there is no place to gather...and sometimes both.

FISM rocked because almost everyone returned to the main hotel for several hours taking over an entire floor with a bar, plenty of seating and tables, and people from all corners of the world.

Postby Brian Morton » 08/31/01 05:00 PM

You know, I kinda agree with Pete. A college campus in the off-season _is_ the perfect place for a convention.

Except for the dining-hall food part, I'm all for it. nearly every college campus has places nearby for food, beer, etc. -- they breed them just like military bases breed redlight districts. (Oops -- don't wanna offend anybody here like I did on the Denny's ad thread...)

But seriously, campuses are already set up for this. My addition would be that it would be a convention either geared toward the close-up performer or the stage performer -- period. Close-up would be with only a few shows in rooms raked and small like the Castle's close-up room ... or if they have to be bigger, with A/V equipment set up to show the performer on a big screen.

Instead of "trick" lectures, I'd want intensive "teach-ins," with people like Simon Lovell on things like the Second Deal, Whit Haydn or Jamy Swiss on acting, movement and "convincing-ness' (for lack of a better word) for close-up guys, Johnny Thompson and John Carney on what on how the history of magic is relevant today (with examples) and Max Maven on how thinking like a mentalist can make you a better magician.

And Eugene Burger can just hang out and be the Zen Master.

For _that_ kind of convention, I'm already there.

User avatar
Brian Morton
Posts: 387
Joined: 03/12/08 11:43 AM
Location: Bawlamer, Merlin

Postby magicman1 » 09/27/01 03:36 AM

This is for the person who wanted conventions to be free and to be near Chicago. That is an oxymoron if I ever heard one. I lived in Chicago 1953-1999 and in that time frame there 3 national magic conventions in Chicago 1954 SAM 1959 SAM/IBM combined and 35 years later in 1994 a SAM convention. Why the long gap? The answer is just one word UNIONS. The 1994 SAM would not have happened if the DePaul theater students had not agreed to work for 1/2 union rates. Just ask any magic convention chairman and he will tell you that Chicago is one of the most costly locations to have a convention. Now don't some wise guy with a long memory tell me there was a SAM convention in Chicago in 1975. That convention was held in a hotel just across the street from the city limits of Chicago. The convention saved thousands by having it on the other side of the street.
Posts: 3
Joined: 03/08/09 12:01 PM

Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/27/01 10:26 AM

Try not to say dopey things along the lines of "magic conventions should be free." That's silly and pointless. It can cost upward of $25,000 to $50,000 to put on a magic covention. Frankly, I think most (not all, but most) give you plenty in exchange for your registration fee of $100 to $200 dollars.
As far as staying in a college dormitory, you guys are nuts! It was bad enough living in one of those dumps when I was a student. I do agree that conventions should do MORE to help guys who want to share rooms get together. That would help people save a lot of money and make the entire scenario more affordable.
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine
User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 21550
Joined: 07/18/01 12:00 PM
Location: Washington DC

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » 09/27/01 11:40 AM

One of the most enjoyable get-togethers I attended in the recent past was held at UCLA (on campus)in LA. I think it was called the LA One-Day of Magic. All of the lectures were held in a lecture room with tiered seating.

The old Inn Event was also stimulating because of its size, small number of participants, and its primary focus on "talks" and "lectures." There was always lots of opportunities to intimately session and exchange IDEAS.

The Second Deal confabs were also intense and productive, creating its own stylized "buzz," because it was like a small, non-stop session of nutso-cardmen.

At one time I briefly toyed with the notion of having a small (30) invitational confab for hard-core Vernon, Marlo, Jennings fans: a 2-day event along the lines of Mullica's Tomfoolery Bashes. It would be a downsized version of FFFF.

Yes, size matters. Less is More.

[ September 27, 2001: Message edited by: Jon Racherbaumer ]
Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 830
Joined: 01/22/08 01:00 PM
Location: New Orleans

Postby Tom Dobrowolski » 09/27/01 03:10 PM

I always find it interesting to hear people critique and make suggestions regarding magic conventions. Anyone who is critcal of existing conventions just needs to go through the experience of organizing or assisting in planning and executing a convention once to understand and appreciate all the effort and expense that is involved. This experience is invaluable to anyone considering running there own convention.

In my enthusiastic youth I put together a convention held in the suburbs of Chicago , "The First Annual Chicago Magic Bash" in October 1986. The line up of talent was Michael Amarr, Daryl, Albert Goshman, John Cornelius, Paul Gertner,Jay Marshall, Michael Douglas and Jim Krenz. All the performers were available throughout the weekend and I scheduled several open ended sessions for all performers and registrants to encourage participation. One was a late night videotaping session at the end of each day where both the performers and attendees were encourage to perform and be taped. All the performers and many of the attendees participated and tapes were available to purchase for anyone there. Those who did attend really enjoyed the convention.It was intended to be an annual event. There was only one (so far). Due to efforts to keep the registration fee low a small turn out of registrants and not selling out the public shows there was a substantial loss. (Jon Racherbaumer is right size DOES matter.) To this day I have many people,including Jay Marshall, encouraging me to have another convention and offering their services to get it going. It has taken me years of consideration whether or not to put forth all the effort that would be involved in running another convention. I learned ALOT from the experience and have many ideas for the next "Bash" that hopefully would be new and different and do plan on resurrecting the "Bash" in the near future.
Due to the proliferation of magic conventions these days I will not have another "Bash" unless I am able to put together the right talent and line up of events that would add something new and exciting to magic conventions. If it doesn't meet these requirements why would I expect people to attend?
Who knows what the future may bring but I certainly do find this string very interesting.
Tom Dobrowolski
Posts: 609
Joined: 03/13/08 09:20 AM
Location: Palatine, Illinois

Postby CHRIS » 09/27/01 04:38 PM

Tom, I whole-heartedly have to agree with you. I was involved with the organization of one large magical convention in Europe. There is so much going on behind the scenes which is not apparent to the casual attendee.

I see however one more problem with conventions, particularly if it is a new one with a new 'style'. And that is advertising to get the right people to attend and to convince them that this is a 'new style' convention. I always assume that a convention has to come out even or make money. In such a case you need either many people attending or very high registration fees. In either case one needs to attract enough paying customers. This goal is easier to achieve for a convention which is happening regularly, because the word of mouth can bring you more potential attendees than advertising can do.

I do not agree with 'size matters' insofar as one can organize a large scale convention with a workshop feeling. Essentially one has to break up into several or many small groups. Given the wide range in interest I think it quite possible to have an excellent convention for several hundred people where one can have a lot of personal contact with performers and experience a workshop atmosphere.

Chris.... preserving magic one book at a time.
Posts: 678
Joined: 01/31/08 01:00 PM
Location: las vegas

Postby Shawn Farquhar » 12/18/02 03:07 AM

As the producer of the Pacific Coast Association of Magicians convention, Western Regional Magic Convention and a dozen VMC Weekends of Magic, I believe I can say I have tried an enormous amount of new ideas at conventions and most don't work.

We held PCAM and Western Regional at college campus locations and all we heard was the food was bad, the rooms were small, the beds were hard, the walks to the theatre were too long and the dealers having to be in class room not directly attached to the theatre...oh my heavens!

We have hosted solo evening shows, ie. "An Evening with Mr X", featuring some of the finest performers in magic and heard..."geez only one guy tonight...oh he's good and all but for the kind of money we're paying I wan't to see more..."

I even went so far as to give every person who registered a $20 voucher to spend in the dealers room one year and they said..."why didn't he just give us back the cash so we could spend it on food or something?"

The fact of the matter is most folks who attend conventions want it to be just like the last years when they had sooooo much fun. Change is good but it always comes with a price...and too many folks don't want to pay it.

Oh! Just to let you know PCAM 2003 will be in Coquitlam, BC and it's already half full.

Oh yeah...I'll be trying a few new ideas this year in the format...just because I couldn't live without the few complaints that make doing the convention one of the great joys in my life!


Shawn Farquhar

"if you can't laugh at yourself, you're just not getting the joke."
Shawn Farquhar
Posts: 108
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Entertainer

Postby Pete Biro » 12/18/02 11:45 AM

Having been on the IBM National Convention Committee (until the politicians got out of hand) for 11 years, and a member of the Board of Directors of the World Magic Seminar... I think I can add a few things to this thread.

1: It is NOT CHEAP to do anything anymore. Unions can kill you with theater costs.

2: You are almost ALWAYS going to have technical glitches on the stage shows because many acts have too complex requirements and the shows are,in fact, opening nights with no dress rehearsals or out of town test dates.

3: Many magicians LIE. They send in their act list and when they show up don't follow it. That's why the occasional(!) repeats. You don't know how hard we tried to avoid duplications on shows.

4: Costs to fly acts in. This can kill a committee's budget.

In the real, non-convention, world a company hires an act. They come in the day of the show, do thier act and leave. At a magic convention they need to be kept (room paid for the whole time) and comped to a registration. That costs more.

5: Hotels. In order to have a facility with PROPER meeting rooms, elevated platforms, lights, sound, etc. etc. you need to GUARANTEE X-No. of hotel room nights. When that isn't met (due to four or five guys in one room, or going down the street to a cheaper joint) the hotel will NAIL YOU for rental costs of the meeting rooms and theater (if they have one, like the WMS in Las Vegas).

6: Places to "hang"--again, we try to find these kinds of places. In MANY CASES in our Pre-convention meetings with the hotel managers we tell them "Magicians are a late crowd, after the main shows they like to come back, hang out, eat, etc. so keep the coffee shops, etc. open late." They say, "OK." When we get there, siz months later, the managers are different people, the contract is buried or lost, and they FORGET to keep the places open.

7: Talent. I tried so hard to keep bringing in new faces. What happend--only a few times thankfully--acts like Dr. Magic and a few others, were totally awful. But we did bring in many, many original acts from all corners of the globe.

Although "New" is asked for, there are classic performers worth seeing over and over again (not necessarily year after year, but skip one or two and bring them back.)

8: Close up. So hard to show well. TV monitors cost a ton these days. We tried to break down the size of the rooms so smaller groups could see the peformances... but then the acts had to work 3 or 4 repeats and would "moan and groan."

Hey, real world trade shows? You do 20 minute shows over and over and over all day long, then do hospitality shows at night.

I could go on but.... argh.... to many issues, too little time.

In conclusion... smaller conventions are probably the best bet. Specialized for sure, as you can't please everyone all the time.

You also have to pick "family" sites. Remember the husband gets vacation time and wants to go to a convention. The wife and kids go along but could care less about double lifts and chick pans, so they MUST HAVE things to do, places to see NEARBY.

More? Hmmmm. Not today. :rolleyes: :eek: :rolleyes:
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Pete Biro » 12/18/02 11:47 AM

Oh yeah, at the WMS you can visit the dealer room free, no need to be registered. After all, you don't have to pay to get into a store where you want to shop. ;)
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Jeff Pierce Magic » 12/18/02 04:04 PM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
Oh yeah, at the WMS you can visit the dealer room free, no need to be registered. After all, you don't have to pay to get into a store where you want to shop. ;)
Pete, what a refreshing idea!

visit my website at:
Jeff Pierce Magic
Posts: 622
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Orlando, FL

Postby Guest » 12/18/02 07:54 PM

Speaking of new acts, what happened to Mundaka? One appearance at the IBM and he disappeared. Not on purpose, I assume. --Asrah

Postby Pete Biro » 12/18/02 08:11 PM

Mundaka. Gosh was he good. He was killing and doing just as we wanted... then he went into a totally awful variation of Seabrooke's burnt note routine and the audience turned on him.

Had he not done that one item, what he had been booked to do would have gotten a standing ovation.

Let me see if I can find out anything on him.
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Terry » 12/19/02 06:07 AM

Referring back to #8 on Pete's list, I attended Joe Steven's convention back in the late 80's at the Tropicana and he had tiered seating in front of the close up table and a TV in each corner of the room for those who didn't want to sit in the "stands". This worked out really well, but as Pete noted, the cost today would be too much.
Posts: 1250
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Kentucky

Postby Guest » 12/19/02 10:46 AM

Amen to everyone that has worked on magic conventions in the past. They are a nightmare to produce (I know, I am running one right now). The attendees don't hear the labour pains, they just get to see the baby! Some of the very best conventions are the small afairs with only several hundred people. The big conventions just don't have the same personal feel to them. The old Desert Magic Seminars, while were slightly larger on that scale were still like family reunions and made ALL feel welcome. Many new friendships were formed there that have lasted for many, many years.
Those were the days!
PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat

Postby Guest » 12/19/02 07:47 PM

I attend a University Professors' teaching conference each year (and hosted it once) which is always held on a college campus during the summer.

It's not your father's dorm food. If you haven't been on a campus in recent years, you would be very pleasantly surprised what a Marriot or Sodexho does in the terms of meals.

The attraction of a campus setting is of course, low price, and a close-togetherness. The down sides for a magic convention would be lack of laypeople hanging around to perform for, and in some cases, slim or no bar facilities. There are ways around this latter problem, however.

As for workshops, I always wanted to go to a panel type setting in which, say, Eugene Burger, Jon Racherbammer, and Daryl would all perform the same simple card trick (Rosisini's Double Reverse?). They could describe how they go about finding a presentation for the trick which suits their style. I think I would learn so much from seeing three performers such as these explain and show their thinking that that one session alone would be worth price of admission.

Hey, kids, let's put together a magic convention!

Postby Terry » 12/20/02 06:02 AM

I may have missed this if anyone had posted before, but I've always felt that conventions were a chance to get to meet new and renew old friendships. In past attendance at conventions, I have seen more incredible magic done in the lobbies and bars of the hotel.
Posts: 1250
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Kentucky

Postby Randy DiMarco » 12/20/02 07:27 AM

I think the best part of most conventions is getting together with friends you only see a few times a year. The events are secondary. Leave plenty of free time for socializing and sessioning. For close up conventions the prototype is the FFFF (back in the old days when it used to be held at the Forks). Dan Block, Joe Ryan and I have been trying to stick to this formula for the last seven years with The Buffalo Get-Together. Check out our site at and e-mail me if you are interested in attending next year.
Randy DiMarco
Posts: 146
Joined: 03/13/08 03:45 PM

Postby Pete Biro » 12/20/02 10:53 AM

Agreed... meeting your friends is NO. 1 on my list. I am hoping to go to the FISM in Holland next year JUST TO SEE MY FRIENDS over there. I don't care about who's on the shows or the schedule (unless I wind up working as a judge again)!!!
Stay tooned.
User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Hollyweird

Postby Danny Archer » 12/20/02 03:46 PM

My two cents
I eagerly read this thread about improving magic conventions with great interest as one on the producers of the Las Vegas Magic Invitational (LVMI), as well as the former East Coast Magic Spectacular and a convention attendee and lecturer; Ive looked at the convention scene from all sides

There were some very good ideas furnished (Karl Heins suggestion to help match up roommates looking to save a few bucks, Tom Cutts whos here list), that I think we will try at next years LVMI there were many other good suggestions; more workshops, less lectures, brainstorm sessions etc. ..

The problem as I see it is that a convention faces the same problems as a theatrical movie the people attending/watching come from different backgrounds, have different expectations wants and desires say we had a workshop on the Retention Vanish as someone suggested what about the people who dont do coin magic or already know the move? What do they do during that time? Trying to cover all the bases in an art form as varied as magic is almost impossible for any convention to hope to achieve

One thing we have done is by focusing our convention on close-up magic we hope that the people attending will be more like-minded mentalist, escape artists, family entertainers may choose to attend but they know what kind of magic they will be seeing

the idea on alternate venues made some good points the East Coast Magic Spectacular was a general magic convention that was held at a local high school lecture were held in the gym which allowed us to pull out the bleachers and have tiered seating for all the dealers room was the school cafeteria with the dealers arranged around the edges of the room and plenty of tables and chairs in the middle for talking and sessioning the evening show was in the school auditorium so we had a great stage, lights and sound this worked well for the convention when it was a one-day .. everything took place under one roof when a convention takes multiple days and people are flying in from all over, they need an easy way to get from hotels to convention site and this is where the school ideas runs into problems (and again it is only possible to do this during the summer when schools are closed)

We selected Las Vegas as our site because my partner Robert Allen lives there and its a destination city access by air is easy and affordable, there are hotel rooms galore, 24 hour food and room to session all night if you want and plenty to do for accompanying spouses and children

We are trying to make the LVMI better each year and the 2002 event far exceeded the 2001 convention both years we featured a Ask the Pros Panel which gave attendees the chance to ask questions from the lectures and performers .. this was a popular part of LVMI and we will continue this we had an opening night cocktail party by the pool and people enjoyed mingling and meeting others outdoors (as most saw very little sky after that) we also have opportunities for attendees to perform (as does FFFF) and these show will continue to be a part of the convention we had a workshop conducted by Lee Asher on his Pulp Friction move and this was popular as well

Here are some ideas we have kicked around but not tried ...please let me know what you think
A trick swap you bring a trick from your junk drawer worth at least $10 you will be matched with another person and you do the tricks for each other and then swap them
A Work in Progress Show you perform and then if you want, you can ask for critique/comments on your effect/act
An All XXX show this is a show that is all cards, no cards, all thumbtips, etc. Some theme that runs through the show
Magic Jeopardy a quiz show with all the questions relating to magic

We start our events at 11 AM to give people a chance to sleep and event then some said we started too early. You cant make everyone happy all the time but if convention organizers ASK for comments and LISTEN to their attendees maybe we can make everyone happy
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
Danny Archer
Posts: 595
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Denver

Postby Guest » 12/20/02 06:05 PM

It must be hell on earth trying to arrange a convention. You can never make everyone happy.
You will be damned if you do and damned if you don't.

If it works out you probably won't hear much in the way of praise. If it doesn't work out you will never hear the end of it.

Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/20/02 06:13 PM

I used to be good friends with the guy who produce the New York Magic Symposiums back in the 80's. I think that was when I first heard the word "stress."

User avatar
Dustin Stinett
Posts: 6172
Joined: 07/22/01 12:00 PM
Location: Southern California

Postby Nicholas Carifo » 12/20/02 06:48 PM

In the late 1980's, as a teenage-magic-buff-run-amok, I loved attending the convention organized by Joe Lefler in Cleveland called "The Cleveland Magic Conclave" I believe.

It WAS held at a community college. The lectures WERE held in great steep lecture halls, as were the close-up shows. The Stage show was in the college auditorium (no unions I assume), tho the theatre was "in the round" which made for interesting conditions, but very intimate and fun.

We did not stay in the dorms (thank god), but in very nearby motels. I really liked this convention, but I beleive it ended for the same reason most don't make it, financial reasons.

Today, the conventions of choice in that area are The Columbus Magi-Fest in it's 80th something year run very admirably by Dr. Jep Hostetler, and the International Battle of Magicians in Canton, OH going on 15 or so years I believe, in the wild & wacky hands of Tim Deremer and Larry Durian:) Both are terrific conventions in my book, and very different from each other. I recommend them both highly.

Nicholas Carifo
Nicholas Carifo
Posts: 179
Joined: 03/13/08 11:40 AM
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Postby opie » 12/20/02 07:47 PM

Nicholas....Having been involved in the production of numerous national literary (poetry)conventions at universities/colleges, I can attest to the fact that campuses during off curriculum times are a good value for the money and have some advantages over big hotels....

Many of our literary conferences/conventions cost us only a couple of hundred dollars, and that included food (two meals per day) and lodging...but it was "Spartan" (or bare necessities for those who do not know the term)...BUT, it was great, and I was popular among the heterosexual young ladies with whom we shared bathing areas.....

Now, just so that I am not misunderstood on this thread, I am in favor of conventions where the sponsors/producers really work to find low-cost lodging, food, and quality theater-type performance areas....

...other than that, I don't have anything to say on this thread.....

...other than that only those who have been under the gun have the right and knowledge to say how things are.....THEN, it would be nice to hear from those who have been to a convention and been disappointed.....and THEN, from those who might have an idea of what they might like if they ever attended a convention....

Posts: 502
Joined: 03/14/08 10:43 AM
Location: austin tx

Postby Dustin Stinett » 12/20/02 08:29 PM

Now, I have a question. As a producer of conventions, how are you managing to stay ahead of the astronomical costs these days? Magic conventions seem to have very low registration fees (regardless of what some of the folks here may think) in relation to other conventions I am aware of.

User avatar
Dustin Stinett
Posts: 6172
Joined: 07/22/01 12:00 PM
Location: Southern California

Postby Shawn Farquhar » 12/20/02 09:05 PM

I love Dr. Joes idea of having a panel where several performers each present the same effect and then talk about it.

I have tried several forums at the PCAM and Western Regional and have had rather good results. Last year we had Kevin James, Gaeton Bloom, Don Wayne and Andre Kole do a panel on creativity hosted by Mike Caveney. This was a huge success. Although we did have a few folks ask why they didn't do any tricks...oh an one fellow who kept wanting to ask them why they thought they could hold intelectual copyrights.

We also tried an interesting experiement with Doug Malloy, David Acer, Rich Marrota and Whit Hayden. We offered an evening of Comedy on the opening night and asked all of them to just do stand up material and try to stay away from magic if at all possible. This was to show our folks that entertaining is first and that these incredible entertainers could easily entertain without magic. The results were interesting. Each of them ended up doing an effect that they had carried with them in case. In fact one act planted the props in the audience. The funny part was that since none of them were able to see the others performances they all ended up doing their own versions of Bill in Lemon. Quite an experience.

As for Dr. Joe's comment on College food...we held PCAM 1999 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. The location was awesome the accomodation were nice the theatre was ok and the food was fit for a king...good king. In fact the convention chairman took the profits from the convention and sent each registrant a small check to make up for the food.

Danny Archer was right when he mentioned the workshops not being able to easily suit all the registrants. This can be a huge problem when you find a large group of your registrants just hanging out...they can do that for free at home! We tried an interesting idea that worked better than most. We placed a sign up board at the registration desk asking folks to sign up to attend or present a workshop. We had a coplue of presenters in our back pocket in case no one volunteered. In fact we were amazed at the amount of people who wanted to host their own workshop! In the end we had to find two additional areas for workshops to take place since we had so many great choices for the registrants.
Shawn Farquhar

"if you can't laugh at yourself, you're just not getting the joke."
Shawn Farquhar
Posts: 108
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Entertainer

Postby opie » 12/20/02 09:34 PM

I really like the "sign-up" to give a mini workshop idea....At TAOM, we always have informal areas set aside with tables where people can get together and exchange ideas...

I had not thought about asking registrants to volunteer for "sessions", but that is a great suggestion....

Posts: 502
Joined: 03/14/08 10:43 AM
Location: austin tx

Postby David Alexander » 12/21/02 01:01 AM

I think it would be interesting if large conventions posted their accouting so that the process is transparent and everyone can see where the money is spent and what happens to any additional monies that are left over...if any.

Comps and perks should also be accounted for, too.
David Alexander
Posts: 1550
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Aurora IL

Postby Guest » 12/21/02 06:05 AM

It was at the IBM convention in Quebec City in '93 that Mundaka appeared.
After the show, the late Karrell Fox said to me: "Well, there'll be mixed reviews about that."
Mixed reviews? Much of the audience either walked out or booed the guy!
And, while his props were spectacular, I disagree with Pete Biro about his act; it was fairly routine: Linking rings, cut and restored turban, etc.
And, of course, the notorious borrowed-bill routine that "brought down the house" (but in the wrong way!)

I agree with Jay Marshall who once said that the ideal convention would be:
Three days.
No set acts.
An open bar.
That would satisfy just about everybody here, it seems.

I would add one thing: Big conventions (and they are too big now) are 'way too cheap. The registration should be at least doubled to stay in line with conventions in other fields -- medical, insurance, academic, etc. conventions.

A magic convention should be an event, an occasion, a high point in your year.
Not a challenge to see how many can sleep in a car in the parking lot and how little you can spend, while getting the maximum in return.

Peter Marucci

Postby Terry » 12/21/02 07:00 AM

I would add one thing: Big conventions (and they are too big now) are 'way too cheap. The registration should be at least doubled to stay in line with conventions in other fields -- medical, insurance, academic, etc. conventions.
Peter, I would agree with your suggestion except for the fact that most people don't have the incomes of the medical, legal, insurance, etc.

Most conventions are supported by the average joe/jane. Everyone looks to save money on a trip/vacation.

The monetary impact has to be looked at from all angles. The planner would like to break even/make a few dollars, which is absolutely correct in our capitalistic system. The attendees would like an inexpensive hotel room, afterall you only sleep/shower there. Less cost to attendees potentially provides more spendable cash which would make the dealers happy.
Posts: 1250
Joined: 01/18/08 01:00 PM
Location: Kentucky

Postby Danny Archer » 12/21/02 07:34 AM

 I think it would be interesting if large conventions posted their accouting so that the process is transparent and everyone can see where the money is spent and what happens to any additional monies that are left over...if any.

Comps and perks should also be accounted for, too. David Alexander

Why David? What size differentiates a small convention from a large one? Whos business is it besides the convention organizers? It's not a publicly held company listed on the Stock Exchange ... and the info on the IBM and SAM may be available if you read their annual reports they publish in their respective magazines...

The first year of the Las Vegas Magic Invitational the convention was set to begin on 9/14/01. Two events occurred that we didnt count on .. the World Trade Center tragedy three days before the start of the convention, and the Magic Live convention three weeks before in the same city the combination of these two caused our convention to suffer mightily and some registrants who had flights booked were unable to make it to Las Vegas. I ended up driving with another performer from Denver we lost a lot of money .. how much is our business

If anyone thinks that producing a convention is a way to make a lot of money Ive got some swampland in Florida Id like to talk to you about my partner Robert and I work many long hours behind the scenes trying to produce a fun-filled three days of magic for the 2002 convention which began on 9/15 as of July 1st we had eight paid registrations (and 10 dealers) in spite of looking another financial disaster square in the eye, we forged ahead and luckily the people came, they had a great time and there was a ton of buzz about the LVMI in magazines and on the Net

Do you think we can sit back and cruise? As of today we have three paid registrations . Robert and I will start to beat the bushes in January and we have our fingers crossed

FYI the talent is not listed on our web site, but booked so far are Jamy Ian Swiss, Simon Lovell, Joe Givan, Armando Lucero, Geoff Williams and Shoot Ogawa more to come

Also several prominent magicians are trying to organize a one day Coinvention to take place on 9/17 the day after LVMI that will de a day long coin magic convention with workshops/lectures/shows
Producer of MINDvention
mentalism convention
Danny Archer
Posts: 595
Joined: 02/29/08 01:00 PM
Location: Denver

Postby Dave Egleston » 12/21/02 09:34 AM

Even though I'm not qualified to talk about making conventions "better" - That's never stopped me from putting my foot in my mouth before -

Show expenses and perks? - These are not a charity event - as I've stated before - just because we a entertainment/hobby based industry- doesn't mean we are non-profit - It is none of your business how much Genii makes or an individual makes or doesn't make on any aspect of his life - (There are exceptions - publicly owned businesses for instance) There is only one way to help conventions "get better" ultimately - Attend the good ones and don't attend the bad ones -

As far as Mr Marucci - He's absolutely right - Charge more for registration fees - Though 99% of teenagers are better magicians than me - 99% of those teenagers do not spend and buy more than me - and I'm not going to hammer every published magician in attendance to give up his work - for free. As far as the "most of us don't have the income to pay higher fees" theory - I saw a young man at one of Maxwell's fiascoes "scrape" up the registration fee - attend every extra charge lecture and event - buy about $350.00 worth of magic and books sleep in his car - because he couldn't "afford" a $39.00 room. Actually, I was going to recommend raising the prices for these conventions - I doubt you'll see enough of a dropoff to make it better

Because I'm such an a--hole - when I go to a convention and something isn't right - I don't screw around with the convention hosts/coordinator - I normally go to the event staff/managemnt at the hotel and ask why something isn't provided - such as rooms with tables and chairs after the days activities are over - Why no beverages are available - and without exception - the hotel staff will claim noone let them know what the "gist" of the convention was about - They didn't know there would be people roaming about at 4 in the morning floating a deck of cards out the window - They didn't know that unlike other conventions - Our conventioneers aren't interested, to a large extent, in going out on the town - I found this to be true at the first Desert Seminar I attended - The staff at the hotel where we were staying, was amazed that we were staying at the hotel, away from the casino and not going out on the strip - This is the fundamental problem with almost all walks of life - No and incomplete communication - in these cases - with the hotel and convention staff -

I read a posting earlier - about "Charging" to get into the dealers room? I'm sure that's not true - I spend about a grand at every convention I go to - If someone wants to charge me even 1 dollar to get in to a place to spend money - I just saved a $1000.00. And once again - being the A--hole - I'm going to tell every dealer I see at the convention - I'm going to spend the money allocated for that convention elsewhere, and it goes without saying - I'll not come back.

Once again - even though I'm not "qualified" to comment on how to organize a convention or make it better, I'm the guy all the convention organizers want to attract - I watch and admire the "talent" without heckling or making snide comments - never ask about their guarded stuff (except for Roger Klause) - usually pay for anything a perfomer/lecturer is selling - have some disposable income I'm willing to spend and just has a great time enjoying the magicians around me.
Dave Egleston
Posts: 429
Joined: 01/17/08 01:00 PM
Location: Ceres, Ca.


Return to Buzz