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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Posts Tagged ‘convention’

2013 Kickoff!

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on January 17, 2013

The new year is underway! The decorations are put away, last quarter’s estimated taxes have been sent in, and most of us are settling into our routines after the busy holiday season. I was blessed to have a successful December with many engagements leading right up to Christmas. My family and I had something of a Christmas odyssey: we traveled to see grandparents in Eads, TN, then down to the other grandparents in my hometown of Brandon, MS, then to see our bowl game in Jacksonville, FL, then back home. Then I left a day later for Phoenix! Whew!

The Phoenix trip was for an International Brotherhood of Magicians Convention Committee planning meeting, and it also included attending the midyear board meeting for the IBM Executive Committee. Next summer, magicians from all over the world will gather in Phoenix for our annual convention and it is shaping up to be spectacular. I consider it an honor to be involved in putting that event together, and look forward to many more years of service in the IBM.

After returning to Atlanta, it was only a couple of days before I began an intense trade show performance at the International Gift Show at Atlanta’s AmericasMart.

This was an unusual show for a number of reasons. First, the product, “Dr. Pott’s Proven Potty Potion” from PooPourri, was an unusual brand to promote. Second, the company needed multiple performers as they were exhibiting in two locations simultaneously. (Fortunately I also work as an agent and have skilled, personable friends to bring in when necessary!) Lastly, this promotion was to be done in character as Dr. Pott, including a costume! Take a look at this:

Dr. Pott attracts another great crowd at the International Gift Show.

Dr. Pott attracts another great crowd at the International Gift Show.

The show was a great success, drawing in hundreds of attendees to the booths who otherwise would have walked on by. As an actor, I really embraced the character and found it invigorating to stretch some of the acting muscles in a different way. The two locations were extremely different in feel: the showroom location was more like performing in a department store, while the temporary booth location was more like a traditional trade show.

So, the year is off to a busy start. I already have speaking engagements and performances booked into September, with inquiries already coming in for December!

What can you expect to see here in the coming months? Here are a few things to watch for:

  • A new look for my website, http://www.turnermagic.com
  • Continued work on my book, 5 Kinds of Amazing, which is going to expand into a system for creating amazing experiences for your own audiences or clients
  • A follow-up book to High JOEltage! which was released last year. This will become a series of short books following the theme of being amazingly effective in your personal and professional interactions
  • A few surprises I can’t yet divulge!

You can also expect to see continued blogging and updates, though the blog location may transition depending on the new website’s needs. Stay tuned!

As we get the new year rolling, I am actively seeking your help in finding:

  1. Speaking opportunities at conventions and conferences anywhere in the world
  2. Opportunities to take my one-man show to small theatres and performing arts venues
  3. Opportunities to expand my performances at other trade shows across America – using live magic to engage attendees around a product, service, or brand

Please think about the people you know in decision-making positions – and let’s talk about the best way for you to introduce us!

As always, thank you to all my friends and clients and colleagues – this amazing adventure wouldn’t be possible without your continued support and referrals!

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Branding, Buzz, and Team Communication

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on November 5, 2010

How Magic Works In Corporate Settings
Part Five: Branding, Buzz, and Team Communication

One of my recent clients brought an interesting magic communication project for me to address with Message-Driven Entertainment: a launch of a new brand, but with an important twist.

Atlanta magician, mentalist and speaker Joe M. Turner delivers a magic-infused brand launch presentation.

Now I’ve been part of other promotional events and launch events before, but they were usually targeted to clients and/or consumers. Advertising and marketing campaigns, trade show exhibits – this is standard fare for the magic-enhanced edutainment presenter.

This client’s event, however, was targeted to an internal audience of employees, including developers, sales reps, marketing folks, and others.  The new brand identity – specifically, new logos and a new tagline – was being rolled out and these people would be the first to see the final results.

Internal and External Audiences

In a standard launch for consumers, there are some obvious advantages (as well as some risks, which Gap recently learned).  First, the external consumer audience is often a clean slate.  They have no idea that a new launch is coming, and largely have no skin in the game with regard to one design over another.  Furthermore, they are probably unaware of the leadership dynamics within the company, or any competing factions.  In the absence of a truly loved brand – and let’s face it, most brands are not truly loved – the details of the process behind the change are usually trivial to all but the most dedicated fans.  You can sell the new brand (the product) on its merits.

In an internal launch, much of that goes out the window.  Employees are not a clean slate – they know what happened, where, to whom, when, how hard, and for what reason.  They have relationships with other employees and leaders up and down the org chart, and if there are tensions, they know about it.  Everyone knows all the marketing messages, but they also know if there are any caveats or “yes, but” qualifiers behind those messages.  In this case, you still have to sell the new brand on its merits – but you also have to achieve some buy-in for the change.

Selling the Process

My approach for this event was to sell not just the product, but the process.  This client had taken the smart route, with numerous surveys and checkpoints with employees, customers, and other external sources.  This process had been fairly lengthy, though, spanning many months.  Employees had not all been privy to drafts along the way; they would be seeing the final result a long time after their contribution to the process had taken place.

In addition to simply unveiling the new look, I knew it was important to reemphasize for the employees that they had been a key part of the process, and even if the new look wasn’t precisely their cup of tea, they needed to be reassured that the end result had been reached with their contributions as an important component.

The opening of my program was a review of the process, reminding the audience from the very beginning that they had been part of the process.  This part of the program included terms like “How many of you remember…” and “As you recall…” and “Way back in April.”  The process was explained until all the pieces of the process visually and magically melded into a large print of the new brand.  It was not a sermon, just a quick reminder of the process.

Atlanta magician and mentalist Joe M. Turner at a branding event

Atlanta magician and mentalist Joe M. Turner uses an interactive illusion to emphasize a critical point at a recent branding launch in Atlanta.

Where To Now?

Once the new look was out in front of everyone, the rest of the program focused on helping everyone understand what the messages behind the logo were, as related to key benefits to the different customer groups.

I used customized visual and psychological illusions to reinforce the specific benefits that the client’s marketing team wanted to emphasize.  In the case of this product, those key benefits were saving time, saving money, and saving hassles by using a tool designed to facilitate regulatory compliance.

  • In the case of saving time, I presented a magical effect developed by Alex Elmsley that concludes with a “traveling back in time” moment.  By saving customers time, we are metaphorically giving them the ability to “go back  in time” and reclaim what would have been additional minutes spent on each transaction.

  • To emphasize saving money, I turned to a classic comedy routine in which a borrowed hundred dollar bill is burned and eventually restored.  Messages to customers: don’t burn your money on inferior products, time saved is money saved, and our product’s streamlined efficiency is reflected in our new brand.

  • Finally, the complexities of regulatory compliance were represented as a snare that entangles people and organizations, often simply by accident, due to the complexities and details of the law and regulations surrounding their industry. The client’s product enables customers to complete all the processes and stay compliant.  To illustrate, my wrists were bound with rope by two of the team members, and I escaped from the bonds with a comic flair.

The end result? The client had an engaged, attentive team who not only understood their contributions to the new brand, but who were fully equipped to discuss the key benefits with their customers. That’s a great place to be, but the bonus is that we all had a great time getting there.

Here’s how my clients put it:

“We are so lucky that we found Joe Turner! We wanted to give a creative twist to the re-launch of our new brand identity for our employees and we got so much more! Joe worked with us and did his homework to help us communicate our new brand and key messages in a very creative and memorable way. The employees loved it and will remember this event for a long time. We will definitely look for ways to work with Joe again.”
– Director of Marketing

“Joe is perfect for corporate events! Entertaining, smart, creative; all those things for sure. But most of all, we loved how adaptable and creative Joe was in tailoring his ‘show’ to fit with our marketing message! Excellent fit. We’ve had other ideas on how to use his talents and hope to do so in the future.”
– Senior VP and General Manager

Message-Driven Entertainment

The underlying point of the story is this: professional entertainment can enhance messaging, but it has to be handled skillfully. It requires more than just a cool talent or stage presence — it also takes someone who has been there and “gets it.” When choosing someone to integrate messaging and entertainment, you want someone with real-world talent and experience in both arenas. It’s a unique skill-set, but if you’re reading this blog, you’re connected to the right resource.

I treat your message with the same respect that you do. It is not trivialized, boiler-plated, or caricatured. When you select me to work with you on a marketing or branding event, I supply the showbiz talent and even change management expertise, but your message is the real star of the show.

Let’s work together to make your trade show, product launch, brand introduction, or other message-driven event a spectacular success!

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The High Price of Cheap Entertainment

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on October 4, 2010

How Magic Works In Corporate Settings
Part Four: The High Price of Cheap Entertainment

Iceberg Dead Ahead!

Don't Sink Your Event! Just when you think you've dodged the budget iceberg by skimping on the entertainment or speaking budget, you discover the immense hidden costs lurking beneath the surface.

Even in a great economy, event planners and producers are right to be cost-conscious. Experienced planners, though, know that there are always significant hidden costs and risks associated with putting low-fee, bargain-basement entertainers or speakers in front of their audience. It destroys the event’s effectiveness. It embarrasses the audience. It undermines the organization’s credibility. Sometimes it can even cost the planner his or her job.

In the last decade I have helped numerous planners overcome “last year’s disaster” – cheesy, amateurish, or foul-mouthed ‘bargains’ that ultimately cost them much more than they thought they had saved. People who know that value considerations are at least as important as price concerns make great clients, but I always wish they could have avoided the painful lesson that got them there. Unfortunately, it took a bad experience — followed by a great experience with me! — for these good folks to learn what savvy consumers have known from time immemorial:

You get what you pay for.

Especially during tough times, I get calls for events where it is clear that the planner is dialing through a list of phone numbers looking for any breathing human who will stand on a stage in return for whatever budget remains after paying for the room, decor, and food… that is to say, for nearly nothing. In their quest to save money, these inexperienced planners are basing the single most focused and memorable part of the evening on ‘whomever we can find for what we have left.’

Your group will be talking to each other and interacting while having cocktails and dinner, but their full attention will be focused on the after-dinner performer for the better part of an hour. From the time the show starts until it ends, the quality of that performance doesn’t just affect the quality of the event – it is the quality of the event. That experience is what the audience really takes with them as their memory of the event – not the floral arrangement, gift bag, or logo-embossed desk accessory. Good or bad, that performance is going to be discussed more than any other element of the event.

  • If the food is mediocre and the entertainment is great, people will remember the entertainment.
  • If the decor is mediocre and the entertainment is great, people will remember the entertainment.
  • If the food is great, the decor is beautiful, the venue is breathtaking, and the entertainment is bad… people will remember the entertainment.

No matter what else happens, people remember the entertainment because that is what holds their attention for the most time and with the most focus and intensity.

I recently got a call from an association that was planning an annual gala in a beautiful, trendy hotel in Atlanta. This was a small group of only a few hundred people, but they were business professionals from around the region, celebrating an important annual event with a nice dinner. They also wanted a professional after-dinner show, but the fee they proposed as an entertainment budget was literally about one-tenth of a reasonable starting price for that service.

Many performers and speakers would have quickly ended the conversation and moved on. I took a different approach, though, because I want this group to have a successful event whether I’m there or not.

Here’s what I shared with them:

As much as I’d love to get your organization’s business immediately, I’m more interested in helping you have a successful event. That way, I’ll have earned your trust, and you’ll know that I’ll be honest and professional with you when you call me in the future and you have a realistic budget to work with.

So here’s what you need to know to have a successful gala event this year: Do not proceed with this plan. The nature of the venue you have chosen demands more than the lowest-common-denominator. If $X is your budget, you should not hire an entertainer this year. Get extra drinks, or decor, or music. Show a fun video montage of people in your organization. But do not use that money to hire an entertainer. Any performer you could get for that fee is not a performer you want to put in front of an audience of professional adults at an annual gala, especially in such a nice venue. That substandard performance will only cloud your interest in having a true professional at a future event when you could have afforded it.

I have no doubt that you can use a phone book or a search engine to find someone who will do this for you at that fee. When you find that person, run as fast as you can in the other direction. You will have found an inexperienced, sub-par performer who is desperate to put the words ‘corporate events’ on his or her web site or résumé. This is not what you want for your audience. Better to save the money than hire anyone for that amount.

Money down the drain

'Bargain' entertainers and speakers for corporate events are money down the drain.

For professional audiences and events, cheap entertainment is an expensive, high-stakes wager on a losing proposition. The hidden costs – reduced effectiveness, diminished credibility, and lasting negative impact – far outweigh the tantalizing prospect of getting an imagined bargain on a speaker or entertainer.

There are creative ways to achieve professional results on a wide range of budgets, and I love working with my clients to find those solutions. But you can always trust me to tell you where the real opportunities and the real limits are, and to be honest about what will work best for your event and your audience.

Bottom line – the success of your meeting, conference, or gala is as important to me as it is to you. I look forward to working with you, whether as a speaker or an entertainer, to create a successful event.

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Planning for After-Dinner Entertainment: Visibility Matters

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on September 15, 2010

How Magic Works In Corporate Settings
Part Three: Convention Dinners and Galas – Visibility

One special evening of a conference or convention – often the final evening – is typically built around a gala banquet event and some kind of after-dinner entertainment.  Presenting a solidly entertaining show for these audiences is a core competency for my profession.

As you might imagine, I’ve found myself in a variety of venues and performing situations along the way.  Like every meeting and event planner, I’ve also had to deal with last moment challenges and changes.  Technical problems, lost luggage, travel issues… you probably have your own list of horror stories.  Part of being a professional is being prepared to deal with those curve balls.  Whether the audience is fifty people or fifteen hundred or more, I’ve got to be ready to create a successful experience for the audience, no matter what.

That said, there are a number of points on which meeting and event planners can work with performers up front to make sure that known pitfalls are avoided, creating the best possible environment for a successful event.

One major pitfall is the issue of visibility.  The audience must be able to see the performance.  This is an obvious point, but in the planning of a large event, this singularly important component of the experience can be inadvertently weakened by seemingly unrelated choices.

In this article, I’ll share some concepts on the importance of visibility, plus some personal “lessons learned” that meeting and event planners can keep in mind to enhance the success of after-dinner entertainment for their galas and banquets.  Even if you’re working with entertainment of a non-magical nature, it’s worthwhile to do at least a mental run-through of your event plan with these concepts in mind.

A large centerpiece, while dramatic, can obstruct the view of everything else in the room.

A large centerpiece, while dramatic, can obstruct the view of everything else in the room.

Obstructions

Consider those tall, elegant centerpieces on the tables.  Bold, artistic centerpieces can set a dramatic tone in a banquet room, but they can also hinder conversation at the tables.  If there is an after-dinner performer or speaker on the bill, consider a smaller piece.  Alternatively, you can arrange with the host or banquet captain to have the centerpieces moved to another location before the performer begins.  You might move them to tables along the outside walls of the room, or use them to create another decorative element in the room such as a bordered walkway to a photographer’s corner or the exit.

Besides centerpieces, are there balloons, lighting trees, extra microphone stands, an unneeded speaker’s podium, tray jacks, or other extraneous items obstructing or cluttering the audience’s view of the platform?

Lighting

In addition to possible physical obstructions, lighting is crucial to visibility.  Discuss the options with your performer.  I work in a variety of environments, either using the venue’s existing lighting, or working with the production company if the event is using theatrical lighting.  When budget is a concern, an act who can work effectively with a venue’s existing lighting is a smart choice.  When producing a large event, though, there’s no substitute for professionally produced lighting.

Platform or Stage

It’s a given that a raised platform or stage not only improves visibility, but also enhances the production value and theatrical impact of an event.  That said, if your event has fewer than 100 people, you can often produce a successful event without a raised platform or stage.  With enough space between tables, everyone can see a properly positioned speaker.  Consider a corner of the room for the stage area; this can sometimes allow you to dodge inconvenient columns or posts.  Some groups working with a limited budget can find success by setting up tables on one end of a large room and theater-style seating on the other; if your group doesn’t mind changing seats for the show, you can accommodate larger numbers without using a stage.  If going without a stage, make sure the lighting and sound are flawless.

Distance

Distance is a key component of both visibility and a sense of immediacy.  Separating a performer or speaker from the audience with a dance floor or other large open space always reduces the effectiveness of the presentation and diminishes the audience’s experience (Figure 1).  Splitting an audience with a dance floor (Figure 2) will also drain the energy from a live presentation or performance.

Figure 1 - Avoid Figure 1 - Avoid Figure 3 - Preferred

If a dance floor is required, place it to one side of the room and add an additional table for the DJ (Figure 3).  If the DJ or band must use the same stage as the performer, or if the dance floor cannot be repositioned, try to place seating on the floor until the dinner and show are concluded, then have those tables removed during a break after the featured performance and before the dance music starts.

Atlanta magician and keynote speaker Joe M. Turner presents an illusion via IMAG at a 2010 conference.

Atlanta magician and keynote speaker Joe M. Turner presents an illusion via IMAG at a 2010 conference.

IMAG

Image magnification, or IMAG, can be a valuable solution to problems of distance and staging.  By projecting the speaker, presenter, or entertainer’s image on large video screens, problems of distance are quickly overcome.  In addition to allowing more viewers to see the proceedings at a greater distance, it also broadens the scale and thus the variety of entertainment which can be presented effectively.

With regard to magic specifically, IMAG allows performer to use a wider range of equipment and draw upon a broader repertoire of material during the show.  For example, a magic routine with a handful of dollar bills, a deck of cards, or the company’s annual report suddenly becomes just as visible to thousands of people as a full-scale stage illusion.  This can result in savings on the entertainment budget because the transportation of additional illusions and assistants may be trimmed if the show is designed for a single performer.

If you think IMAG may potentially be part of your event plan, discuss it with your performer so that you both talk through the full range of options available as part of the entertainment.  One last tip – please don’t record the projected video without the knowledge and consent of the performer; an infinite set of repeat performances for future audiences is an added value for which performers and speakers deserve to be compensated.

Head Tables

Whether at a dinner or a luncheon, no experienced speaker or performer ever wants to be trapped behind a lectern at a head table.  Add a platform on another wall to improve focus on your performer and to give him or her space to move.  Likewise, the people at the head table should not be relegated to watching the side or back of any presenter.  Give your performer or speaker the opportunity to make an excellent, lasting impression on your organization’s leadership by letting them experience the presentation as it is intended to be seen: from the front.

In Conclusion…

Good visibility is critical to the after-dinner entertainment experience.  Savvy event planners and meeting planners keep visibility in mind even when working on details that seem unrelated to the entertainment.  First-time planners — often those who have recently been tapped for “this year’s event” — sometimes find themselves surprised at the last minute when all the pieces of the puzzle are finally in the same room at the same time.  These tips are intended as helpful hints from someone who has worked through the challenges and wants to help you create the best possible environment for your successful event.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on entertainment and event-planning pitfalls… and how to avoid or overcome them!  And in the meantime, if you’re planning a meeting or special event – call me and let’s talk about how my visual and psychological illusions can add value to your conference or banquet.

Distance

Distance is a key

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Atlanta Magician and Mentalist Joe M. Turner on Better Mornings Atlanta | June 30, 2010

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on July 4, 2010

Last week I performed in the opening night gala show for the Society of American Magicians (SAM) National Convention in Atlanta. As part of the promotion of the show, the national PR coordinator for the SAM, George Schindler, asked me to make some media appearances. I ended up doing two spots for CBS Atlanta’s program Better Mornings Atlanta – a broadcast spot (above) and a web extra (below). Both segments were performed with host Jennifer Valdez.

Enjoy!

Corporate magician, mentalist and keynote speaker Joe M. Turner is your event’s “Chief Impossibility Officer.” Follow him online!

Facebook: http://facebook.com/turnermagic
Twitter: http://twitter.com/turnermagic
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/joemturner

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Upcoming publication and conference appearance

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on June 2, 2008

A sleight-of-hand method I devised will be published in either the August or September issue of Genii Magazine. It is a new method for causing a finger ring to appear to penetrate off a cord onto which it has been laced. I performed this effect for Martin Gardner last year and fooled him, which is a source of no small pride for me!

This publication will happen at the same time as the 2008 Southeastern Association of Magicians convention (August 21-23 in Atlanta), a magicians-only conference at which I will be performing and lecturing.

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