He doesn't pull rabbits out of a hat or drive a skewer through his forearm like some well-known illusionists.
But Winnipegger Anders Boulanger can turn five US$1 bills into five US$50 bills with the snap of his fingers. And even better, he has turned a boyhood fascination with magic into a booming business that has him flying to trade shows all over the world to perform tricks on behalf of a host of information technology companies such as Siemens and BASF.
They hire him to draw people to their trade-show booth and to help educate them about the products and services offered. The marketing director for one Silicon Valley IT company was so impressed with his performances she has hired him for four trade shows in the last 18 months. And she has him booked for two more in the future.
"Doing business in this new economy, companies are thinking outside the box and using unconventional ways of generating new business," Melanie Gill said. "Anders offers a very unique service that creatively captures the attention of customers and uses magic to engage their imagination directly to our brand."
'Anders offers a very unique service that creatively captures the attention of customers and uses magic to engage their imagination directly to our brand.'
"He (starts off) bringing in maybe three or four (people)... and the next thing you know he has a crowd of 100," she explained.
He also has a real knack for weaving information about a client and its products or services into his performances, Gill added.
"It's a great way to gain exposure and to really let people know who we are and what we do."
Although he's a magician, Boulanger prefers to use the term "infotainer" to describe his role at trade shows. He even calls his company the Infotainers.
"When it comes to trade shows, I don't want to say I'm a magician because that kind of creates negative connotations sometimes," he explained. "People don't want to have people pulling rabbits out their hat at their trade-show booth because maybe it's kind of perceived as cheesy or just kind of dated."
The kinds of cringe-inducing tricks used by some magician/illusionists, such as Criss Angel or David Blaine are also a no-no for Boulanger.
"They kind of do some stranger things, like putting a skewer through their arm or whatever. But that's not something most companies want to have linked to their brand, either."
So he sticks to own little bag of tricks, which include things like turning $1 bills into $50 bills with the snap of his fingers.
"That's a very useful transformation mechanism if you're going to talk about the savings a company is going to provide you, or about how they can make you money," he said.
Another trick is to cut a double-arm's-length piece of dental floss into tiny pieces to symbolize all of the things that can go wrong for a company, then magically transform the little pieces back into a single long piece.
"That's how I can kind of integrate that messaging in and talk about... the benefits (of hiring his client)," he said. "When I can get people to embrace their imagination and not the sales pitch by using magic, it creates a stronger, genuine bond toward my client's brand."
The goal is to generate new customer leads for the trade-show client, and Boulanger said at an one recent show he increased his client's leads by 331 per cent. Those leads generated an additional $5.5 million in sales for the firm.
"When you can have that kind of an impact on a company, you can charge a lot more (for your services) than you could ever make performing at a Christmas party or a banquet," Boulanger said. "That's also what makes it so exciting -- that I can have that kind of an impact on a company's profits... "
Boulanger started focusing on trade shows in 2007, after training under L.A. magician Joe Bauer, whom he describes as one of the giants of the industry. Trade shows now account for about 80 per cent of the Infotainers' yearly revenues, and Boulanger said the company is so busy he has three or four other U.S. "infotainers" working for him on part-time basis.
The married father of two young children said it was an uncle who got him interested in magic by giving him a magician's kit for his fifth birthday. His grandparents threw more fuel on the fire by giving him bigger and better kits with each subsequent birthday.
By the time he was 12, he was being hired to perform tricks at birthday parties in his hometown of Wawanesa.
"That (a birthday party) was my first paid gig," he says with a chuckle. "I got five bucks."
And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 7, 2015 B6