Remember that scene in the 1988 film "Big" in which the Tom Hanks character dances with the store manager on the big floor piano at FAO Schwarz? If you don't, here it is. [It's 2 minutes long, but all you need to watch is about 20 seconds.]
I've always wondered what it would be like to work at FAO Schwarz and demonstrate products for the "guests."
And then — completely out of the blue! — I got this email several days ago from someone named "Charlie Yo-Yo."
My name is Charlie, and I'm one of the people demonstrating the Ball of Whacks at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. I've been having a lot of fun with it.
So, being quite intimate with the Ball of Whacks as I am, I thought I would introduce myself to you, because I feel like we're already friends in a way.
Here's an example of how my pitch goes: I have it in my hand, in one kind of configuration or another, and I'm standing near the boxed products.
"Hi! I'm playing with a Ball of Whacks — It's a brand new designer toy, it was made by a guy named Roger von Oech, who is an expert in creative thinking."
I'll then make a piece of hand candy out of two whacks. I then put it in the guest's hand.
"See, doesn't it feel nice in your hand?"
About now, the guest will ask how do you play with it . . . .
"There's really no one way to play with it, it's a very open ended toy - it comes with this book by the designer, it's a really great book, [I flip through some pages] you see he gives lots of ideas about how to configure it and play with it, some exercises and games you can play with it.
Most importantly, though, he explains how just playing with a toy like this, just goofing around with it, can exercise your brain. It gets the neurons firing in your head. This can be very useful when it comes to things like solving problems. Quite often, when I play with this toy, I find it leads me in directions I didn't think I would go. This kind of activity can be quite useful for solving problems in other areas of your life. "
In fact, if you or someone you know, has to do a lot of problem solving, this would make a great gift. For an engineer, or a creative executive, artists, college students. It looks nice, just the way it looks makes you want to hold it in your hand, and it feels nice in your hand too. It's a great piece of hand candy."
Congratulations, I think it's a great product. You might be interested in knowing that at one point last week, a six year old boy was very attracted to the Ball of Whacks. At first I was a bit cautious, because I know it is recommended for eight and up. This boy took to it and understood it right away. I was amazed to see him assemble something best described as a "standing star," sorta like a star with three legs. It was something I didn't see in your book, and something I hadn't thought of making myself. It was very impressive. The boy's dad was impressed as well, and it resulted in a sale.
Oh, and by the way, I'm a professional yo-yo player, and normally that is what I demo for FAO. My manager thought I would be a good fit for your product, and that's what I'm doing when we're sold out of yo-yos!
Best wishes to you,
Many thanks Charlie! I appreciate your "hands on" efforts.
So how does one become a professional demonstrator? I followed up with Charlie, and asked him for his background. And this is what he said:
My background . . . educationally I studied art. BFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But most of my career has been in toys. I've worked in almost every aspect of the toy business - demonstrating, marketing and product development, and most importantly, sales (where you make your money).
Currently I work part time at FAO as a demonstrator, but during the week I am a sales rep for about twenty different off-brand Chinese manufacturers. In the meantime though, as I said, I am a professional yo-yo player, I've worked for a few different yo-yo companies - this is what I look like in action:
Question for readers: What product demonstration experiences can you share?