You Cannot Please Everyone All of the Time

The chances are you love magic. That’s why you took it up as a hobby, put in the practice, and now looking to perform it on a professional basis. However, not everyone will have the same enthusiasm for it as you do. Don’t take it personally.

Don’t think you haven’t done your job if not everyone is amazed and enthralled by everything you do. There will be some guests at an event who will follow you around, watching trick after trick and be disappointed when you say you are leaving.

There will be others who will begrudgingly watch a little before getting distracted. Though most will have manners to at least give it a go, join in (and maybe even end up enjoying it), there will be some who don’t.

Yes, try to get them engaged and enjoy the magic, but it isn’t your goal to convert everyone you meet to the Church of Close-Up Magic. If everyone loved magic then everyone would be a magician! The chances are they have jobs, hobbies and interests that would bore you – so don’t take the high-ground and think that you and your passions are superior you theirs.

Imagine a graph showing what people thought of magic and magicians, and that graph is like a bump. It starts low on the left, rises to a peak, then drops away on the right.

The vast majority of people enjoy magic to a greater or lesser extent. Most of the people you will met at an event fall into this group. They’ll happily spend ten minutes watching your magic, enjoy it; and welcome you back to the group later in the evening. The magic you perform will add to their experience of the event, and they may even take your business card and consider you for a future event themselves

The people who love magic will be excited to see you and watch your magic; they’ll be eager for you to return, and will be telling other guests about you and the tricks you perform. They may even be hobbyist magicians themselves.

Finally the group who hate magic will hate it regardless. They may be polite and try to sit it out, but they won’t want to engage. Their eyes will probably be looking around the room.

There’s likely a band or style of music you don’t like (perhaps jazz, heavy metal, opera or pop music), that’s how they feel about magic. Say you don’t like opera, even if someone played the “best” piece of opera by Mozart it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it and suddenly become a fan.

Accept it, and make sure you do a good job for those that enjoy magic.

Linking Tricks and Building Rapport

This really goes hand-in-hand with the preceding Lessons on Body Language and also Working a Room, and applying the techniques to presenting your magic.

The reason why building rapport is so important is that if people are relaxed, enjoying themselves, respectful of you and your magic, and happy to be entertained by you; they will be more likely to react in the way you want them to.

No doubt we’ve all witnessed the same trick performed by two different magicians, perhaps even with the same patter, but get different reactions. Or we have purchased tricks because they get “killer reactions” or are billed as “reputation makers”, but find that the reactions in real life are far less than the magician got on the promo-video.

Even if someone witnesses a magician perform a miracle right before their eyes they are unlikely to give a big reaction (especially if they are a guest at a corporate event) if they haven’t been warmed up first and haven’t any existing rapport with the magician.

On television it may come across that a magician walks up to a crowd and immediately gets amazing reactions, but often that’s more a result of editing. Typically the magician will introduce himself to the group, perform some well rehearsed material to engage the spectators, get rapport and get them reacting, before performing the trick that actually makes the final edit.

Try and have a link between tricks, and not just take out the next trick in your pocket. Choose tricks that are relevant to the group in front of you at the time.

  • The ‘older generation’ will appreciate card tricks more, or effects based on particular card games they may play,
  • The ‘younger generation’ will appreciate tricks with technology (such as smartphones and iPads) more than those who don’t use these items so much,
  • Groups with children (such as a family group) will appreciate tricks that are more visual so that all can be involved,
  • Sophisticated corporate audiences prefer mind-reading or thought provoking effects, rather than prop based material.

It is much more effective if tricks are linked. In a close-up situation this can mean following card trick with another, but not a similar one. Don’t do another signed card to impossible location effect (even if it uses a different method), but build on what they’ve seen. Perhaps saying your sleight of hand with cards can be used in the casino and give a demonstration of a “gambling skill”.

Remember, this linking can also apply over the course of the event. If you are circulating around tables or mixing around a reception there may be people who will see you one two or three occasions. Remembering their names and what you showed them previously will be a tremendous advantage to reestablish rapport, which can then be layered on.

Linking doesn’t mean that you can’t change styles, or even verbally saying so; it can be built upon by increasing the level of perceived impossibility. This means starting with something that could be explained by sleight of hand (though the spectator doesn’t know exactly how!) and progressing to tricks that have no possible explanation. (Remember, this is based on the perception of the audience – not the actual method).

This approach works well for mind-reading shows, where the first item is something that is impressive, but the audience feel that could do it themselves with enough practise at the technique demonstrated. The next item pushes the boundaries, building to a finale that defies all logic. If done well there should be a blurring of boundaries that draws the audience in.

I strongly suggest reading “Mentalism: Incorporated” by Chuck Hickock should you with to put together a mind-reading show for corporate audiences. (This is also discussed in the Corporate Cabaret Lesson.)

This format also works well for close-up, though because you won’t be having a narrative running through (like you would in a 45 minute cabaret show) you can be more lax. You can roughly split a close-up booking into three sections, and the type of tricks you perform in each:

  • Tricks that are easy to follow, visual and don’t require too much attention. They demonstrate skill and give the spectator confidence in the performer.
  • Tricks that require more engagement from the spectators. They may be longer, require more interaction and have a narrative to them.
  • The most powerful magic, that will create memories and elicit the strongest reactions, and demonstrate the most ‘impossible’ skills. This can often be mentalism type of effects.

(You may recognise these phases as the primer coat, paint and polish analogy we used it the Working The Room Lesson.)

Of course, a spectator doesn’t need to see all three phases and they are not of equal length, but is used as a general guide so that if some guests see you three times through-out an event the level of magic builds each time.

Should it be a large event then you can find a balance for the types of magic you perform. Unfortunately the strongest and most powerful effects will be wasted without previously establishing rapport, so you may want to spend most of your time performing tricks from the second grouping once you have initially established yourself.

Body Language (Yours, and Theirs)

Firstly let’s cover the basics, which you are probably already familiar with.

When performing be open and engaging. Plant your feet solidly on the floor, stand up straight, shoulders back with your arms in an open position. This applies when performing close-up magic, not just on stage!

This will give you an air of confidence, and this will help when having to introduce to a group of people or when coming onto stage. It also opens your airways so you are able to ‘project’ when you talk so you are easily heard by everyone around a table, even if there is background noise.

Don’t hunch over, and make sure what you are doing, and the props that you are holding, can be easily seen.

In fact, these ‘basics’ are covered in the book “Magic and Showmanship” by Henning Nelms (a relatively cheap book and definitely a book you should read) when discussing the how to present yourself on stage. This book also goes into more details on stagecraft and the crossover with how your body language is perceived by the audience is clear – even if that wasn’t the intention of the author when the book was written.

Be conscious of your actions and body language when performing, not just on stage but also when performing close-up and around tables.

Lean forward to engage with people, but not so close to trespass into their personal space – you don’t want to be intimidating the spectators. Once people are drawn in you can lean back a little, and this will subtly draw them into the void and focus their attention on you.

When presenting you will want to ‘change gear’. What I mean is changing the style, presentation and pacing of the tricks. This change keeps attention of the audience – go back and see the Lessons about selecting tricks in the Children’s Magic Section as principles are same regardless of the age of the audience.

Add emphasis to this change of pacing by changing your body language. For example, you start with open body language to gain control of the situation; but now you wish to shift the attention from you to the prop in your hand, and build tension and suspense prior to the magical moment. Now reduce the volume of your voice, slow the speed of your speech and start leaning forward. Your eyes go from looking at the spectators around you to focusing on the object, and their eyes will follow; along with their focus of attention.

As magicians we tend to focus on misdirection, getting the spectators to look away from your hands (or prop) so that we can perform the secret move. In reality actually want to give them direction, and make them look where we want them to. It is easier to get someone to look away from one thing if they are given something else to look at.

More subtle effects can be achieve by shifting your balance and what leg you are leading with. You may be standing with you left leg forward of the other and that one is taking the majority of your weight, and you simply shift you position by swapping legs. This is should be done not randomly, but between smaller changes; for example between phases of an ambitious card routine. It’s not something that will consciously noticed by the audience, but will aid to slightly break up the flow. (Imagine that the individual tricks are the scenes in a film, but the change of position is like changing the camera angle within the scene).

Although I recommend keeping as ‘hands off’ as possible when performing, with close-up magic there will be occasions when you will need to make physical contact with spectators. Do this once you have rapport, and select someone who is already having fun and getting into the magic.

Avoid invading someone’s personal space, and be aware that even just the simple act of placing objects in someone’s hand and holding their hand shut (for example loading sponge balls into their hand and positioning it into a closed fist position) may make some feel uncomfortable. Also be aware that though the person involved may be fine with it, it’s possible that their partner may be feeling a little over protective.

On the subject of touching, it is sometimes beneficial to very lightly and briefly tap a spectator on the upper arm once you have established rapport with them. Without getting to psychology, it helps confirm and strengthen rapport, but in a non-overt way; and if the rapport is genuine it will likely go unnoticed by the spectator on a conscious level.

Be aware of the body language of the group, and individuals within the group. You’ll notice that spectators will visibly relax as they get to know you, which will not only make them more willing to join in with you, but will also make them enjoy the performance more.

Observing body language is also beneficial when approaching a group of people, and working out who will be best to approach to initiate dialogue with. You can also spot if there is a dominant person in the group, and now know to take them into account.

Working a Room

A few years back I attended a lecture at a local magic society. The lecture was given by Gregory Wilson, a very well known and respected American magician. This was an interesting lecture, however it was spending a couple of hours in the pub with him afterwards that was truly valuable and made an impact on how I view my magic.

Instead of just talking tricks and moves, the conversation turned to the presentation of magic. There were a few of us magicians showing our routines and discussing the psychology behind what we do, and why we do it. There are elements of my repertoire that I can trace back to the lecture and the following discussions.

However, it was a comment that someone said (and I didn’t really take much notice of it at the time) that affected my performance the most.

The conversation turned to the subject of Derren Brown and someone said they saw Derren performing close-up magic at an event before he first appeared on TV. Although he couldn’t remember what tricks and effects he performed the event, he did remember that Derren involved everyone throughout his performance, which is quite a feat as all the guests were sat around tables.

I’ve attempted to interpret this, and try to effectively “work the room”. Instead of spending a set amount of time at each table I try to adapt what I show each group to make the most impact. Whilst doing this I’m finding out guests names (and remembering them), their interests and what type of effects they like. I can then use this information when I see them later and ensure my next trick makes a real impact.

This may not be what Derren Brown used to do, but I find it makes a great impact on the guests. I know this works, not just from the reactions, but the way people call out “bye, Robert!” from across the room when I leave.

The best way to explain this is how I try to build layers, like how plain steel is painted to glossy finish on a car’s bodywork. First a coat of primer is laid down, then a layer or two or paint, finishing with a lacquer that is polished to a shine.

So, applying the primer. This is best done to metal that has been prepared, and in my analogy this means I introduce myself and perform what I consider a solid trick to demonstrate I have a good skill level and the magic I’ll be performing is fun and entertaining. These tricks aren’t going be the stuff of legend, but a good solid ‘worker’, creating a good foundation to be built on

I’ll come back the group later (and will hopefully have remembered their names) and now I’ll be welcomed back. They’ll know who I am and will be looking forward to see more. My skill has been accepted so I can now take more risks as they won’t be burning my hands so much. Now I can start having more fun with the guests – this adds colour to the performance. This represents a layer or two of paint.

And now the polish. This is when I can take the risk and try the things that may not always work, and if they don’t then the guests will have seen enough go right that they’ll soon forget. However, when these things go right they create the memory that stays with them for a long time! This is the extra shine, what lifts the paintwork and captures the eye.

It can take multiple visits to a table but ratcheting up the magic with each visit lifts it higher each time.

If a certain group is unreceptive to the magic I am performing then I’ll limit how much time I’m at that table. I won’t ignore them, and I’ll add the colour, but won’t waste effort buffing up the shine, as this is better spent working another group. See the Lesson called “You Cannot Please Everyone All Of The Time” for more discussion on this principle.

Approaching Groups and Tables

Lots of amateur magicians often ask the best way to approach a group of people to show them magic.

It can be quite daunting.

Imagine a group of friends and family that haven’t seen each other for a while. They’ve all got together to celebrate an event and are all enjoying themselves. They are chatting away; laughing and joking, and telling stories and catching up with each other. And your job is to interrupt that in order to show them a trick.

It is for this reason magicians look for a way to interrupt a group without it coming across as an interruption. This may be something of interest to arouse curiosity, or a way to get into a conversation and start doing magic without overtly introducing yourself as a magician.

Others suggest that when you do introduce yourself as a magician you don’t ask people if they want to see a trick because it gives them the opportunity to say “no”.

Let’s take these points in turn.

Don’t just go bounding up to a group and butt in to a conversation. Look to see if there are people on the periphery who aren’t so involved that you can approach and start engaging with. Apologise for interrupting, introduce yourself that you are a magician and ask if they would like to see a trick. If you are polite and upbeat people will normally say ‘yes’.

You can improve these odds further by nodding as you ask, and be fanning a deck of cards in preparation to have one selected. By social conditioning they’ll agree, and be picking a card before they know what’s happening. Once you get the acknowledgement thank them and apologise again for the interruption. Manners cost nothing and will be respected.

Once the first couple of people are engaged the others in the group will have picked up that something is happening and turned their attention to you. At this point you start talking to the whole group, making sure you re-introduce yourself so you they know who you are and what you are doing.

Avoid any gimmicks, or gimmicky ways to get attention – your personality as a professional magician should be enough.

One famous magician suggests introducing yourself as a “kind of magician”. The idea is it has a sense of ambiguity which piques the interest. I tried it once, and immediately a spectator retorted, “the kind of magician that goes away”. It was said in jest, but was the last time I tried that tactic.

Interrupting a group of strangers and gaining their attention is one of the biggest stumbling blocks amateurs face when trying to become professional.

If you have manners, are polite and show genuine interest then people will reciprocate and extend the same to you.

As long as the interruption was worth it (meaning the magic you show them is entertaining and fun) then they’ll appreciate it, and welcome you back to the group later on as you mingle around.

Once you have worked around a few groups or tables, other guests will be aware there is a magician circulating the event and will be expecting you to come to them soon. Not only will they be anticipating the interruption, but will welcome you into the group so they can see what everyone else has been watching.

Art Vs Entertainment

When I made the decision to turn professional I decided that I needed repertoire of tricks that I could perform for my close-up act, but I realised that I couldn’t just do a pile of card tricks, or just do the tricks that I liked doing. I would need to shortlist tricks, and then have those practiced constantly and work on the patter, knowing that as they got performed to real live paying customers they could be developed. As the tricks developed I could add new ones and take away the lamer ones, but I needed something to start things.

So I looked at what I already performed, what I liked performing, my character and the way my magic had already naturally evolved since I started learning.

I mainly thought of myself as a mentalist, and started to pursue that direction and learnt mentalism tricks and routines (probably due to Derren Brown sparking my latent interest in the art). However, I had come to realise that although it looks cool on TV, no one is going to book a moody arrogant mind-reader who wear’s a black trench-coat at their summer wedding. However, they are more willing to pay to have someone come along and tell their guests that black ink is heavier than red ink!

Personally, I don’t really like this type of trick. I’ve got sponge balls, I’ve learnt a sponge ball routine, people actually LIKED my sponge ball routine; but I just didn’t feel comfortable performing it. It just didn’t feel magical to me.

What I decided was to hit on a compromise, well, at least for the time being. Basically, I essentially dumbed down my magic for the mainstream audience. One way to describe what I mean is that a band wants to create their own music their own way, but writes pop-songs to get noticed and sell records; once they’ve got a fan base they can then ‘go back to their roots’.

So how do you do this? Pick about six or seven tricks that YOU feel comfortable doing, practice them. Also come up with patter and script the trick. Each time you practice you should perform like you are performing for an audience; so practice the lines, not just the moves. I personally chose tricks covering many styles of magic, so my style and short-listed tricks could be refined using the Darwinian principle of Survival of the Fittest.

I came up with a set of rules and criteria to help me shortlist the tricks that make up my professional repertoire:

  • Have variety – not just card tricks,
  • Can be carried in a jacket pocket for close-up,
  • No re-set (or at least very quick),
  • Something that doesn’t need lots of explaining,
  • Easy to follow (especially if it hard to hear the patter),
  • Visual enough to be seen by everyone round a large table,
  • Multi-stage (ideally, so that if people miss the beginning/end of the trick they’ll still enjoy what they did see),
  • Involves spectators.

As time went on I found my style and dropped the material that didn’t fit the direction I was wanting to go in (such as sponge balls and rope tricks), but it gave me a solid foundation to build on with a repertoire that meant from the moment I turned professional I had good tricks that worked and got positive reactions.

I still perform many of the effects that went into this original set, and have added more that fits this criteria; as well as added some that don’t. These tricks are perhaps more artistic and aimed to illicit a more emotional connection. It is sometimes tricky to walk the balance between being artistic and being a corporate whore!

Having a routine that is new, fresh, touches emotions, takes risks but may occasionally fall flat, not work or not engage everyone fully; versus a solid routine that will even entertain those that have been at the free bar since 3 in the afternoon. These latter routines are normally the ‘workers’, tried and tested a million times by every working magician.

My aim is to have tricks and effects that fall into both criteria. Some will be biased to the artistic, and some may lean more towards tried and tested worker; and I varying what I perform and how I perform depending on the type of booking and the audience in front of me at the time.

The point of this Lesson is really to say that to be inspired you should look beyond the magic books and DVDs, see a bigger picture and not just focus on adding another trick to the repertoire for the sake of it.

I hope this gets you to think about what tricks you perform, and why you perform them; and when is the best time to perform them.

Giving Reason Vs Just Doing a Trick

This may be a little bit of a rant, but it drives me mad when magicians feel they need to justify the reason for doing a trick. Sometimes the preamble will add context to a trick, but the phrase “let’s try something” seems to be used more and more by magicians.

I think this had become more popular in recent years by magicians on TV (and YouTube) performing tricks on unsuspecting members of the public where they will “try” something. In this case it kind of works if the spectator doesn’t realise they are watching a magician about to perform a trick, and are drawn in by curiosity. But when a magician says “let’s try something” it is often because they are trying to make something they’ve pre-planned appear to be spontaneous and not set-up.

On television programmes this it is lazy script writing. The magician, magical consultant, producers and script-writers for the show have worked out the premise to set up the background for the trick; then worked out the method for the trick, scripted it and rehearsed it. The reason for going into the trick should be more than just “trying” something!

What really makes me mad though are magicians who then use this phrase when performing a show, or even worse, when performing close-up magic. If a magician is booked to perform at a function, they ask someone to pick a card (or borrow an item of jewelry, or write something down, etc) then they really shouldn’t decide to “try something”.

All the audience knows they are a magician, so the fact they will be performing some magic shouldn’t be a surprise. And why would a magician who is being paid to perform suddenly decide to “try something”, shouldn’t they be doing a trick they know, and not (appearing to) improvise a trick on the spot? Especially if they are repeating the trick at multiple tables during the course of event!

How to get round this?

Well, if writing a show (or even a television show or YouTube video) then think a little more about how you’ll link from the set-up into doing the trick itself. Have some motivation behind the actions. These actions can still appear to the audience that they haven’t been planned, and will be more believable (and therefore some across more powerfully) than simply stating that you’ll “try something”.

In the case of close-up magic where you are mingling around groups or circulating around tables you don’t need to give a reason. Of course, if you have worked out another way to get from the set-up to the trick then great!

It may be that some magicians say this to take the pressure off, and if the trick does go wrong they have ‘covered’ themselves as they said they were only going to be ‘trying’ something.

However, for this tactic to work you need to ensure the spectators are aware you are ‘trying something’, perhaps for the first time. The knock on effect of this is you may come across as amateur – even if you are a professional. You can lose the respect of your audience before you’ve even started your first trick.

The mere fact you are a magician is justification enough that you about to perform magic. It won’t be a surprise to the spectators, so just get on and do the trick!

Why Pack Small and Play Big?

This is a little bug-bear of mine, but why do magicians seem to be driven by the line of “pack small and play big”? Why limit yourself? By doing so you are limiting your repertoire, and ultimately sacrificing the quality of your entertainment just so you can carry your act conveniently.

I was speaking to a magician a few years ago who said that his aim was to have a 30 minute cabaret act that could fit in a briefcase, and he was disappointed because one of his tricks was slightly too large and needed to be carried separately.

It begs, the question; why?

When he arrived at the function he was performing at he wasn’t just carrying he briefcase in one hand and this prop in the other. He has a change of clothes, close-up case, audio equipment and even some food. He travelled to the event in a four door car with a large boot.

I could understand if a magician regularly works in London and therefore travels on the underground, but I’m talking about the average magician who mainly does close-up but performs the odd cabaret here and there. Why restrict yourself? You’re having to carry all the other paraphernalia and it’s not like there’s not any room in the the car!

For example, I use a large sketchpad during my mindreading cabaret act for writing on. This is too large to fit in a briefcase (or regular sized close-up case) but writing on an A4 pad is just too small to make much impact – even in small venues.

I also perform a book test which has evolved to use a selection of books which would hard pressed to fit into a briefcase and have much room for anything else.

This is not to say that you need to turn your cabaret act into an illusion show, just don’t restrict yourself and your material to the size of the props.

Although my cabaret act is mainly mentalism I also use a flip chart, projector and projector screen. Talk about playing big! I also have a small 300 watt PA and microphone (both headset and handheld with a stand) and though it doesn’t all pack small it fits easily into a standard four seat car; and doesn’t take much more effort to unload, set-up and re-pack afterwards.

On occasion when I know there will be limitations I can be selective with my material, though this is rare. Personally I’d much prefer to travel to a gig knowing I have the equipment to put on the best show I can, rather than walk through the door and see the venue is much larger and wonder if the guests at the back will even be able to see show.

I propose a new mantra: Pack a bit more and play even bigger.

Theorists Never Practice What They Preach!

Around 2005 I saw a lecture a magic society, it was a very good lecture by a very prominent magician and it made a great impact on me as I was starting to think about turning my hobby into a career; and realised I was wanting to do more than just the standard ‘classics’ in my repertoire, but to illicit a feeling or emotion in my spectators.

The lecture split the lecture into two main sections, one about theory and performance, the other showing tricks and methods. I noticed how polarised the room was, with many liking one half but not the other. Personally I found both parts enjoyable and learnt much from each.

During the first half the magician talked about magic presentation, creating the impact and such things. This was done using theoretical models and discussing the psychology of the audience. I asked the magician afterwards how he implemented his theoretical models of presentation into the tricks he presented in the second half. It was interesting to note that he had no answer for this. Though it is one thing to “talk the talk” – it is quite another actually put this into the repertoire of a working magician who works at corporate events and weddings.

I’m not knocking this magician, I’m using this as an example and something I have seen replicated many times since.

It’s very easy to talk about how spectators must be involved, how we must give our magic an emotional connection and envelope our spectators into the story as it unfolds. Try doing that at the corporate Christmas party where they’ve been at the complimentary bar and Mister Hotshot says, “Come on Magic Boy, show us your best trick!”

One phrase that turns my stomach is “The Art of Astonishment”. In the introduction to Paul Harris’s book of the same name we are treated to an essay where our magic should illicit some sort of childlike state of wonder in our spectators. Really? I must admit in the hundreds of pages that follow (spread over three large hard-backed volumes) I have yet to find any of Paul Harris’s tricks that do create this astonishment we should all be aiming for. I have found plenty of clever card tricks and moves, and plenty of routines that follow some sort of cheesy story, but none that naturally pulls the spectator into the effect so they can lose themselves in the magic.

I’ve even witnessed a magician approaching a table, introduce himself and with all seriousness ask everyone to remember what it was like to be a child and what it was like to experience wonder. And then say, “Now sir, pick a card, any card. No, not that with hand, the clean one…”

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the sentiment behind it, and whole heartedly agree that it is something we should to put into our magic. But to think that a little card trick – usually wrapped around some childhood story, including some hack lines and bad puns – will bring a spectator to tears as real magic happens before her eyes is nothing more than jumped up pretentiousness.

It’s much more important to have effects that fit your persona and build a rapport with the spectators. Learn their names and find out a little about them through regular conversation as you perform. See if you have anything in common with them and essentially try and be their friend for the time you are with them. They will respect what you do and are more likely to open up. Then, and only then, do you even have the remotest chance getting this sense of wonder.

One of the experts of this is Derren Brown, and I highly recommend you read “Absolute Magic” – preferably twice – for his take on how to make magic stronger. There is plenty of other material out there, and I recommend it all, but don’t think that every card trick you do will (or even should) create a state of wonder.

Remember, a trick is just a trick, no matter you dress it up. No sane person will think that you really do have superhuman or magical powers, they will think that you are using some other sleight of hand, gimmick or clever technique to give the illusion you have. This is evident because after seeing magic people will ask “how?”

Once you realise this short coming you can happily perform your tricks and use them to build a foundation on that will hopefully take the natural route to the strong magic that can hit those emotions we are striving for.

Magic Theory and Presentation – Introduction

Although the bulk of this Course is focused on setting yourself up as a business, and marketing it effectively. However, I decided it is important to have a section on Magic Theory and Presentation.

As a professional magician the magic you perform is more than just the selection of tricks in your repertoire, and I don’t just mean the patter that goes along with each trick.

When I sent a feedback questionnaire out to my clients asking what style of magic they liked I gave options for genres such as close-up magic and mind-reading. The answer most selected was what I considered to be the joke option, “It’s not the trick Robert does, but that it’s Robert that does it”. Suddenly I realised that people booked me for being me, not for what tricks I did, or even how I performed them.

This can’t be done by just learning the instructions for a trick, or even copying the patter and style of other magicians performing similar tricks; but understanding the theory behind the presentation of magic.

Imagine a musician; though they may have a good ear for music and intuitively know what chord sequence will make a good song; an additional knowledge of music theory will allow them to open new doors and to explore new ideas in their songwriting. They’ll know which scales will work over certain chords, and those that won’t.

Ever seen one magician perform a trick and it absolutely kills, and another magician (maybe yourself…) perform it and barely get a reaction?

Having a grounding in what makes the performance of a magic trick work for an audience will help you work in new material.

Like I’ve said with other sections of this Course, this isn’t a definitive guide to magical theory and presentation, but a should give you a very good starting point and it’s application will lift your performance. Further resources are plentiful from magic dealers, and I recommend you continue your education in this area. (See the Recommended Reading at the end of the Course).

I won’t claim that I am right in any of this, and this entire section is just my point of view. It is called theory because that is exactly what it is – theory. And by definition that means it can’t be proved as fact, but a theory is a guide (I won’t use the word “rules”) that if followed tend to gives results that back it up.

What works for one person won’t work for someone else. A serious presentation given by a mind-reader won’t work for a comedy magician, and vice-versa. However, fundamentally they can be performing exactly the same trick.

Use this “theory” as a guide to develop your style. If it makes you analyse your own performance and you promptly think that all I’ve said it wrong and you are right, then it has succeeded in it’s objectives!

No matter how good your marketing is you must be able to back it up by performing professional and entertaining magic. Having “that’ll do” attitude will mean that your career as a professional magician won’t be as successful as it could be. You may get bookings off the back of marketing; but referrals, recommendations, reviews and repeat bookings are fundamental to expanding your business into a long-term, viable and successful carer.

Be the best magician you can be.