He's Quicker Than The Eye
By Neil Tobin
Call him the ultimate magic multi-tasker. Because whether he’s stopping traffic on a busy tradeshow floor, designing a spectacular private event, or performing stunning sleight of hand in a corporate hospitality suite, Seth Kramer is always doing something, well, magical. Here, he answers a few questions about his multifaceted career, just seconds before vanishing (boarding pass in hand).
Magic and tradeshows? What do they have to do with each other?
SK: The biggest challenge for any business in a tradeshow environment is to stop people long enough for them to know what you’re selling. According to one of the big tradeshow bureaus, magic is the best way to get people to stop. That’s certainly been my experience, in the 25-30 tradeshows I do every year. Other variety arts can also be used to stop traffic; my Traffic Stoppers company has successfully used caricature artists, jugglers, even digital photographers during tradeshows. But for some reason – maybe it’s because the mystery element of it gets people talking – magic often seems to work the best. It’s personal, it’s involving, it’s completely customizable. So if the magic is good and the message is strong, it can be an unbeatable combination.
Are you limited to selling products you can manipulate in your hands?
SK: Not at all — contrary to what you might think, most tradeshow situations don’t require the magician to do magic using a tangible product. In fact, I think the easiest product to sell at a tradeshow is an invisible product. It’s not what I do, it’s what I say: I talk about the product, and use magic to punctuate the key points. Leasing companies, software companies…they all have products that you can’t really touch. But you can talk about features and benefits. Insurance is good; so is technology, manufacturing procedures, embedded systems.
How much time do you need to prepare for a tradeshow assignment?
SK: Some clients think that I can get a quick briefing in the morning and then just do their show later that day. And actually, I could — if I didn’t care so much. But to really do the job right, I need a few weeks to really study the business and put together a customized presentation. I’m basically performing a live commercial for their product, really, so I do what any advertising agency would do before putting together an ad: I ask for three or four specific features or benefits of the product, and most importantly, the one thing people should take away with them and remember afterward. Then I build my presentation from the ground up to communicate those things.
Have you learned anything interesting?
SK: That depends on your definition. It certainly lets me learn a little bit about a lot of things. I could tell you about the catalyst’s role in the petroleum refining process, stress tests used to see how many hits per hour a Web site can take before the system crashes, and how a silicon chip is made. Not exactly sparkling dinner party conversation, but by getting to know my clients’ business, I can be that much more effective a spokesman for them.
In addition to your tradeshow performing, you also coordinate a number of events for corporate and private clients every year. Is there any carryover between the two?
SK: Definitely! One of the nice things about working tradeshows is the opportunity to personally meet and observe some of the top performers in the business. My personal phone book is nearly bursting with top-quality performers who I have met and can personally recommend. I am very much a personal-contact kind of guy; I simply don’t hire somebody for an event with whom I haven’t had personal contact, because when I design an event, I want my clients to always be secure in knowing nothing has been left to chance.
What’s your perspective on designing an event?
SK: I don't see the point in doing cookie-cutter events. While another
company may do 10-15 events per week, of which only three may be
exceptional, in that same week my company will concentrate its efforts on
just three or four events, and make every single one of them exceptional. So
I don't take on too many events per week -- spread it too thin, and something's going to suffer. I have a handful of top-notch professional
party coordinators who work with me to put together only the most creative events.
Can you give one of your biggest examples?
SK: For a private event thrown by Great American Victory Markets, we gave nearly 4000 guests a full day of family entertainment, complete with carnival rides – there was a roller coaster and a ferris wheel — plus midway games, strolling performers, catering. And we capped it all off with a concert by Patty Loveless! At other times, we’ve produced concerts starring Carly Simon and Kenny Rogers, the latter for an event seating 10,000 guests.
How about something not as big, but equally creative and memorable?
SK: We were asked to put together a Bar Mitzvah reception for a boy who was an avid photographer. So we themed it as a gallery opening. His favorite black-and-white shots were blown up and framed, and displayed on easels with little cards that described the name, the artist, the media — you know, the usual gallery information. All the pictures were also listed in a gallery guide that was given to each guest, which included an “About the Artist” biography and functioned as a program for the party. The placecards were 35mm film containers, each of which held a strip of paper with die-cuts on the edges to look like film stock and bearing the name of a guest. And throughout the party, we had a digital photo studio on site that took very tasteful black and white portraits of each guest that they could take home and frame.
Magic performances, tradeshow consulting, event planning – is there one aspect you like over the others?
SK: I’m very fortunate in that I don’t have to choose. Some days I wake up and do a sales meeting in Europe, a tradeshow in Las Vegas, or a 40th birthday party cruise around Manhattan. It’s never the same week twice.
To speak with Seth Kramer Productions about your upcoming tradeshow, private or corporate event, call (631) 368-0761 or send an email to info@sethkramerproductions.
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