How To Become an Auto Show Model & Product Specialist

If you are going to the Detroit North American International Auto Show this weekend, or one of the many other auto shows going on around the country from now through spring, you will notice that the men and women that are giving you information about the vehicles are product specialists and product presenters, or as many would call them, “auto show models.” Having the auto show models at the show is a key element to the automotive marketing process. It pairs attractive people with beautiful vehicles, and has been one of the most effective parts of the auto show experience. Plus, it is not only women that are featured by the vehicles!

Zipper SEO has a team of people who have been involved in the auto show world for many years and are familiar with the process of getting into the business, along with the training and preparation that goes into becoming an auto show model. And, in case you are thinking that the models just twirl around on the car, being eye candy for the vehicle, there is far, far more than that that goes into giving quality information about your favorite car in an entertaining manner.

Here is the real deal about getting into the auto show industry.

having car experience, performing background is crucial

When you go to audition for one of the big companies—which are typically Gail and Rice Productions in Farmington Hills, Michigan and Productions Plus in Bingham Farms, Michigan—the process is very fun, and lighthearted and quick for the most part. You will want to have your headshot/full-body shot ready, with your resume stapled to the back of the headshot, with the text facing outward. Make sure you have submitted that headshot online on their website earlier before you have locked down the interview (we will expand on that in a bit).

If you are local to Michigan, you will go into the office and meet with the account executive for the particular brand you are auditioning for, the Gail and Rice or Productions Plus representative, and possibly one other person from either the marketing company or the car company in the room.

First, there will be a basic introduction, which is normally very pleasant, a quick chat about your schedule and interests and how your travel would be and if there would be any issue with traveling a lot. Being a product specialist/narrator means that you will be traveling a lot between September and April, so prepare accordingly.

Secondly, you will be asked to give a product narration from a script that you will have prepared beforehand. The script has a ton of information regarding the brand, vehicle specs, possible pricing and release date, along with other fluff words that can be molded into your own personality and your audience.  The scripts are created by the automotive company & as you will learn over time, some parts of the script can be molded into your own personality, as long as the main parts of the script that are the key selling points are covered. If you live out of state, you may be required to submit a YouTube video with the link to the talent coordinator.

Hired in to the automotive brand

If you are hired into the brand, then the real fun begins. You will have a training in either Detroit or the Los Angeles area (depending on the brand you work for) sometime around mid-to-late August or even early September. Your training is normally 3-5 days with lots of classroom time in terms of learning the product guide for your brand and having the opportunity to test drive the vehicles at the end of the week.

You are paid for the week and afterwards, you really do feel more confident about doing your narrations, particularly if you have a marketing or acting background in your past.

Once you are starting on the road, typically, the companies will give you a chance to pick out some cities you would like to go to and work and those you don’t want to go to. That list isn’t always adhered to as cancellations happen, people’s schedules get into the way and you may be asked to fill in for someone. If your schedule allows for a last-minute trip somewhere – definitely take it.

During my time at Gail & Rice particularly, the company was always great about making sure my per diem was always in hand before I took a flight, or if I was going to another city spur of the moment, the company actually sent the check to the hotel of the city I was already in to make sure I had that money in hand. Per diem was typically about $75-80 per day, possibly more if we were in a big city that has a higher cost of living such as New York or Los Angeles where you have to figure in use of a taxi or cost of a restaurant bill, even at a cheap place. Your normal rate for a day can range anywhere from $175 a day to around $400 per day, just depending on the brand, amount of years you have been in, etc.

You will have tons of opportunities to go to a variety of different cities around the country as there are hundreds of different auto shows in pretty much every major city in the country and the great thing is that your base pay does not change. The marketing companies pay you your same day rate no matter where you are working. The only time a city will be different is when the shows are less days – you will get more working the Detroit and Chicago Auto Shows as opposed to Anaheim or Salt Lake City because the big shows are just more days.

The travel is equal in the sense that it doesn’t matter where you live – if you are going to be in a city, the company will fly you there from your nearest airport and of course, all of that is taken care of for you. In some cities, you may get a Super Shuttle to take back to your hotel or just take a taxi or Uber if/when you are flying into a city by yourself – meaning that no one from your team is on the same flight.

hotel accommodations on the road

When you are landing in your city, you are typically staying somewhere close to the hotel (this also depends on the city, sometimes you may be out a way) which is a short walking distance. This is always nice because you can basically leave your room about 30 minutes before you have to be on the show floor and have time to grab a quick bagel or some kind of breakfast before your day begins.

With the rooms, most times you have your own room on the road, there are some times that you will share a room with someone. If you end up dating or possibly married to someone you are on the road with (happens much more than you would think) then you can suggest that you share the same room and normally the marketing firms are more than willing to oblige because that’s one less room they have to spend money on.

The rooms are normally very comfortable and spacious as expected, being in some of the nicer hotels in the area. If you have a roommate, you want to be with someone who has a bit of a similar personality as you – if you go out a lot, you need to be with someone who does the same or vice versa. If not, the road life for that period you are in a city can be very tough to handle.

Your schedule can vary from day to day, even your wardrobe (wardrobe is paid for you). The schedule can be early in the morning (show open usually at 10:00 a.m.), mid afternoon (12:00 – around 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.) or evening (2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.). Most brands give their workers two 3o minute breaks with an hour lunch, which is normally the time a specialist will go get some food in the concourse of the convention center or maybe go back for a relaxing quick nap until its time to get back on the show floor.

working on the auto show floor

Okay, you have gone through all of the preshow stuff and you know where you are staying, its time to actually talk about what is going on on the show floor for a model. Most cities, the auto show is the biggest show that is going to be in that convention center space all year so it will draw plenty of people out to see the event, sometimes a few celebrities, but the 99% are just coming out to see the cars, possibly test drive the cars and yes, see the models – both male and female.

As a male being involved in the auto shows and working on minivans for most of my tenure, I really enjoyed the time and didn’t have too many weird people saying odd things. Unfortunately, there is definitely a double-standard for the ladies in the business, which is sad because the ladies I had a chance to work with were some of the most professional, kind people and definitely knew their products and put in tons of hard work to make sure they knew their product line and their narration script.

However, there is a level of business flirting I like to call it within the auto show world, where you really do have to smile and roll with the punches if a guy asks “hey, do you come with the car?” If you are reading this and are planning on going to an auto show, please don’t ever say that to any model. It is old, tired and will get you nowhere, if anything, it looks odd and creepy. Ok, I have given my PSA about that. Back to the show floor.

Normally, you give a narration every 15 minutes. You are on your platform and people will come ask you questions. Pretty easy and basic. Is there some weird drama that happens once in a while? absolutely. But the key to longevity is to stay away from it (it can be like high school if you let it) and focus on your work and making sure you are staying in contact with family and friends on the road.

The biggest places you will work during the season, depending on your schedule include Texas State Fair, North American International Auto Show (Detroit), Chicago Auto Show, New York Auto Show, Los Angeles International Auto Show. The most actual fun shows are Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Orlando, Syracuse and Denver.

Auto show life is amazing, if you don’t act wild and keep your head on straight. Its a great job, wardrobe, travel and salary are pretty great and wouldn’t trade in the travel and real-world experience for anything.