96 SHOWS IN 3 DAYS, IN VEGAS – Bo in the trenches / by Bo Gerard

Performing at trade shows is grueling work!  For those of you who have never experiences one, Trade Shows are events where sometimes hundreds of companies buy booth space and try promote their company or new product to people in their industry.  You very often have to perform a platform show in your client’s booth twice and hour, and often times you are doing strolling work in between shows to build a crowd for the next show.

Most trade show days are 8 or 9 hours long and a lot of them are two or three days long.  And sometimes you are working a hospitality suite for your client in the evening as well!  You come home totally wiped from these marathon events.


I have performed everything from merely strolling in the client’s booth, doing crowd building entertainment, to writing and performing in elaborately produced custom stage shows where the audience is seated theater style.  Some of these bigger shows involved small illusions, multiple performers and giveaways.  At trade shows over the years I have been a funny spokesman, a robot, Albert Einstein, a mannequin, a 12-inch puppet Sherlock Holmes, and a mad scientist. 

Screen capture from the Ericsson video.

Screen capture from the Ericsson video.

But at one of them, I was paid NOT to be physically present at all (one of my favorite ways to perform at a trade show.) The telecom company, Ericsson, had purchased a large booth – not really a booth, more like a huge swath of convention floor – at a Las Vegas trade show, and I appeared on a video screen, 4X an hour, hawking some of their new technology.  Back then everyone wanted something a little different from what the competitors had in their booths.  So, Ericsson decided a virtual salesman, acting like he could really see you and telling you to look this way and that at the wonderful products in the booth, might be something passing attendees might stop and watch.

The video shoot took place in Irving, Texas and was produced by a wonderful and talented group of folks called Emerald City Productions.  Gretchen and I worked with them on many interesting and varied projects, both live and videotaped.  They had the unique ability to not only know what their talent was capable of, but also how to sell and produce something that was edgy and exciting for their clients.  I always felt that when we were working together on a project there were no limits.  We could reach for the stars!  The Ericsson video was 15 minutes long and featured yours truly as a fast-talking pitchman who was having objects constantly handed or thrown into frame toward him.  It was a monster to shoot because all of the throwing and catching had to be perfectly timed and seem effortless.  All the while I was spewing a constant, rapid and very technical pitch, and I had to look and sound comfortable and knowledgeable to the passing convention attendees, who were much more familiar with the jargon I was using than I would ever be.

And if you’re good at this trade show thing you can convince the attendees that you know everything there is to know about the product or service you just did a spiel on – but in actuality everything you know about the product is what you have just said in your show, and no more.  Every trade show performer will tell you the same story – where after your live show attendees will invariably come up and ask you a question about the info you just presented (pricing, compatibility with other systems, regulatory issues).  Well friends, one NEVER attempts to answer the question.  No, no!  One simply says “I am so glad you asked that, Chris! (You know his name is Chris because They’re all wearing convention badges with their names on them) Let me introduce you to Steve, our regional sales rep.  He’ll be able to answer that and any other question you have.”  You glance at your watch - and you still have 6 hours and 12 shows to go.  MUST FIND COFFEE!!!