Observations and Tips on Performing Part 1 By Andrew Smith
I have been performing magic for the general public (private functions and other paid/unpaid and charity events) since I was 17, and over that time I have made observations about performing as a magician that I have maintained during that time and I would like to share with you, in the form of a few tips and ideas that I hope may help you on your journey. I don’t feel any one is more important than the other (and they are not all I have), and I am sure that at some time during my career in magic thus far, each has taken more prominence than the others, but I share these in the hope you will interpret each with your own sense of priority any time you feel the need.
Share, Listen and be Interested
I was once told that people like people, like themselves. Suffice to say that people, as a rule, tend to interact with others they share common ground with. We tend to gravitate more toward those we share the same opinions, lifestyle choices and interests with, so why not think about ways you can incorporate this into your performance. Share your likes (and even your dislikes), talk about things that interest you and show interest in others. This is a great way of interacting with your audience, build rapport and shows you're as interested in them as they should be in the magic you're performing. If you think about this when putting together a script for your act or effects, its helps in making whatever you are saying engaging and will leave those who have watched you perform walk away from not only seeing some great magic (hopefully!), but feeling they have found out a little more about you as a person and this can be just as interesting and magical as the latest miracle you have just performed. Check out the amazing and legendary (non-magic) book, How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie for great advice on creating rapport with people and really engaging them.
Take Your Time
Don’t be in a rush to perform straight away. Before approaching anyone to perform magic (be that close up or stand up), build up to the magic. Your first impression on any audience does not have to be one where an effect takes place. As I said above, get to know your audience. Say something amusing by way of introduction. Do something strange and mysterious to set the mood for the magic ahead. Ask a question to raise interest and provide an answer with the trick you are opening with, but don’t be in a rush to get to the magic within seconds of being in an audience's company. Remember, most want to know a little about you first at the very least, so hold off on the magic as long as you can (but not too long), before you start your first effect.
It goes without saying that you should always be prepared, but you’d be surprised at how many aren’t. Preparation is so obvious that most only focus on having a spare set or cards or replacements for something should it break, but goes much deeper than this. Be prepared for anything to happen. This is easier said than done if nothing ever seems to happen, but you should never say never. The best advice I can give here is to know the environment you are going to be working in and prepare for that as best you can. If you know it's going to be a loud bar, prepare for drinks being spilled, people not being able to hear and patrons getting drunk. If its a busy restaurant, prepare for waitresses interrupting to serve food, people on another table watching (it does happen and this is where choice of material and knowing performing angles comes in) and pressure to spend less time at each table, as these are all things that can and do happen (if you are not prepared for them). Constantly re-assessing the environments you work in does help with this, as does experience. The more you perform, the more prepared. The key is to come away from each occasion learning something about the experience. Make this a constant and soon you’ll be prepared (mostly) for things to happen out of the norm. Also be prepared should a trick or routine go wrong. We are not all infallible, and sometimes something just happens and a trick goes wrong. Be prepared. Know your material, know your script, know your audience and above all know that at the end of the day it is just a trick and if it does go wrong, its not the end of the world. If the audiences likes you and are on your side, sometimes the best way to deal with something not working is just to be honest and move on.
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Don’t worry about trivial things. OK, so you lost the card during the overhand shuffle. Be prepared and if possible start again, or proceed to something else. Magicians have an advantage that for the most part, spectators do not know what's about to happen, so if you lose the card, think of ways of bringing the effect to a conclusion different to that which you intended. If you are past the point of no return however, don’t worry about it. I realize this may be a difficult notion to swallow at times, but it really does help during the most challenging of moments. Learn from the experience and try to work out what went wrong afterwards to develop ways to prevent it happening again. If it helps and is valid, get feedback from your spectators. They probably would not be able to offer you an exact account of why (as they won’t know the method), but they may be able to offer indication of when or during what moment, and this can sometimes be invaluable. In whatever case, try not to stress too much when things go wrong, it's not healthy and may lead you to focus on the wrong things.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Until next time Andrew Smith