September 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts August 1998 Current Issue
August 1998
Short Cuts:

Joel Bauer Trade show Houdini: Joel Bauer works magic.

It's every convention planner's fantasy: Eager crowds swarm the trade show floor, generating hundreds of new sales leads. Before the day is out, profits are soaring, and exhibitors and attendees have committed to future shows through the year 2010...

With a little magic, it might just happen. And magic is just what a growing number of organizations are banking on. Whether it's to work the crowd at trade shows or receptions, roll out new products to a skeptical sales team or introduce a lofty business mission, corporate Houdinis are in demand.

Each has a slightly different routine. When Bob Higa (847-991-7911) is on stage, doves materialize from silk scarves, and foot-long needles pass through translucent balloons. That's just for starters. For grander illusions, he'll carve his assistant in half, mysteriously trade places with her in a double- padlocked box - even have your CEO appear on stage amid an explosion of fireworks. Higa, based in Palatine, Ill., comes from the other side; he draws on 20 years in sales and marketing to help clients achieve business objectives through magic and illusion. And he's not afraid to share his secrets. "I teach the audience magic - not just a trick, but a routine they can use to demonstrate their points," he says.

Joel Bauer (818-895-1599), meanwhile, calls himself a "perceptionist." He was the guy who drew hundreds to the Panasonic booth this past June during PC Expo at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. "I don't do magic shows," says the North Hills, Calif.-based performer. "My act is reading people's minds. I touch them and connect with them - something the booth staff can't do," says Bauer, who wields a mean deck of cards and challenges the audience to stump him with dates, numbers, names and words they think up (but don't reveal), while seamlessly weaving in tidbits about the company's product or service. "I become an extension of the marketing arm for the company," says Bauer, who has touted everything from fertilizer to intranet services.

Also among the ranks of these meeting magic-makers is Larry Tamarkin (770-740-0005) of Alpharetta, Ga., who likens his role to that of a corporate go-between. "My goal is to be the liaison between the crowd and the trade show booth people. I use magic to bring them to the booth, and then turn them over to the salespeople," he says. Tamarkin relies on elegant slight-of-hand magic - card tricks, disappearing coins, multiplying balls and seemingly endless rope lengths - to tempt booth-browsers or to break the ice at cocktail receptions.

There's no magic to finding a magician. With a quick search of the Web, hundreds of listings will appear before your eyes in seconds. n CHERYL-ANNE STURKEN



"Definitely 'She Works Hard for the Money.' I guess because planners never get paid enough for the things they have to put up with."
Weatherly M. Treese, CMP
Commodity Manager
Interim Services Inc.
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

"I really love the song from The Sound of Music, 'My Favorite Things.' Whenever things get tough, I hum that tune. We need to think of the positive things in life, rather than dwelling on the negative, but most of us don't."
Rose Garland, CMP
Employee Development Consultant
Internal Revenue Service
St. Louis, Mo.

"Maybe that old song that goes 'You gotta have heart; all you really need is heart...' We have to try to do everything to please our attendees. That's what planning is all about."
Bea Karber
Senior Consultant
BK Associates
St. Johns, Mich.

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