How Actors Work As Trade Show Presenters

If you read Acting In Chicago, you know I do TV shows, commercials, VO and such, but I also work in other, more remote corners of the acting world. Being a trade show presenter falls into that category. It’s definitely not acting in the traditional sense, it’s more like hosting, but that doesn’t mean actors shouldn’t learn about this kind of work. It could turn into a nice income stream, which will allow you to be able to keep working toward your traditional acting goals.

If you’d rather watch the video of this post, here it is:

Every year for the past 7, I’ve worked for Avid Technology. And If you don’t know Avid, they make a lot of the tech which allows creators to make your favorite media. If you’ve ever streamed music, watched a TV show or movie, or caught your local news, you’ve experienced Avid’s work. And every year the company has a large presence at NAB, the trade show for broadcasters.

My job starts a few weeks before I head to Vegas, where NAB is held. The script is written by the production team and I’ll jump on a conference call for a read through. This is to give everyone a chance to hear the words out loud for the first time. Changes will be discussed and the scripts will be updated. Eventually they’ll be declared final, and the video production team will start crafting media to go along with the presentation. Avid likes to integrate software demos into their presentations, so Avid’s trainers are always my co-presenters.

As a rule, I do these presentations on ear prompter. If you don’t know what an ear prompter is, it’s a tool that allows actors to deliver their lines word for word, without holding a script and without the need for memorization. I did a video that explains everything.

The EAR is ideal for live presentations because it solves a lot of problems. Scripts are frequently changed at the last minute, and they usually need to be timed to media elements. Instead of relying on my memory and timing, having scripts streamed to me via the EAR takes that responsibility away, which is great.

I’ll usually arrive in Vegas a couple days before the show opens. When I get there, the booth is in the process of being built, and we begin the process of building our presentation. As we rehearse, we work on content, pacing and just try to become as familiar as possible with the words. This process is a reflection of how our technical director works. He doesn’t like surprises and feels it’s worth an extra day or two of rehearsals so everyone can be as prepped as possible.

Eventually, show day arrives and by then all the kinks are usually worked out. But sometimes the unforeseen happens. This year, one of our LED screens decided to act up five minutes before the show opened on day 1, spitting green fuzz instead of buttery smooth video and graphics. It got sorted out before the crowds came, but it was close.

I typically do one presentation an hour, lasting up to 20 minutes long. Some years I’ll work two different scripts, others I’ll do just one. This year it was pretty short, only about 10 minutes. It all depends on what Avid wants to showcase.

Trade show presentations
You know you’ve made it big when the mic has your name on it.

The crowds are legendarily thick around the Avid booth’s main stage. At peak times, the room’s noise level is through the roof, so a couple years ago I started using two wireless earpieces for this show. I used to be able to get away with just one with the volume cranked to compensate for the ambient noise, but no more. Now I stream audio through both ears, which guarantees that I’ll hear every consonant.

The show is a four day event. Day number one is super energetic. The crowd is excited to be there, the demos are still fresh to the presenters, and I’m just glad to be there working and getting good feedback.

As they days go on, we settle into a routine, but become a little more tired each day. By day three everyone’s in the booth has heard the script thirty times and the crowd starts to thin out. People still come by, but they don’t linger as long because they may be rushing to see as much as possible while there’s still time. By day four I usually take the day to walk around and see what other booths are doing.

We end up saying our goodbyes after having a little fun with our last show. One year we were given footage from a Star Trek film to use in a demo, so we all dressed up…

Star Trek silliness.
Having some fun during out last presentation.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that working a trade show isn’t hard work. You earn your money doing this job. It’s hard on your feet, it’s mentally challenging to stay engaged with material you (sometimes) know little about for days on end, and it requires a lot of interaction with the public.

Speaking of money, trade shows can be very lucrative for actors. In Acting In Chicago, I include very detailed information about how much an actor can make from trade show work, and which talent agencies actors should look at for this work.

It’s definitely worth looking into as a side gig. And if you wind up loving it, there are actors who have made trade shows their main thing.