Approach

ike most professional magicians, I am asked to perform under a staggering variety Of situations and circumstances. I do formal stage shows. I host meetings for corporations. I work in people's living rooms. I speak after lunch or after dinner. I am often the Master of Ceremonies. I draw crowds to the trade show booth. And yes, sometimes I stroll.

I think that strolling entertainment is the most challenging of all the work I do. It's not that the effects and methods are different. For the most part they aren't. I make alterations here and there to accommodate the lack of a table or an audience rt> O

holding drinks and plates of food. But that's certainly manageable. Once a group is interested and I'm performing, it's no different than any other type of show I do.

No, it's the initial approach of each new group that I find difficult. It's the fact that after each performance I must find a new audience, introduce myself, and establish rapport again. People who generally aren't expecting entertainment must be enticed into watching me for a few minutes. And then, when I really have them, it's time to move on and start from scratch again. It's the live entertainment equivalent to cold calling in sales. Breaking the ice, gaining their attention, and generating interest with each new group—that is the challenge. And by the way, you have to do all that without seeming intrusive. It takes a considerable amount of charm to do well.

In my experience, there isn't one sure-fire answer that will work for every group in any situation. I need a variety of skills and tools at my disposal, and then it's largely a matter of sizing up each group and deciding which are appropriate.

That said, I'd like to discuss one of the approaches that has worked well for me over the past few years. It is only applicable when you have plenty of time to spend with each group you entertain. If you have to cover a lot of ground and work for many people in a short time, this approach goes out the window. But for those other occasions, when you don't have to hurry, this is my favorite.

It begins with a change of attitude. I behave as if I am not working, but just attending the event like everyone else. I get a glass of cranberry juice and mingle. I find a nice group that I'd like to work for, and I join them and talk as if I am just another guest. I ask them about their work and their lives. I make friends with them.

Eventually (and usually this is less than ninety seconds into our meeting), they wrill ask about me. To which I respond by telling them that I am a professional magician and am here tonight to spend a couple of minutes informally entertaining everyone. Then I shut up, and I smile, and I wait.

Without fail they enthusiastically ask me to do something for them. I have their attention, their interest, and already some measure of rapport. It's easy to begin.

holding drinks and plates of food. But that's certainly manageable. Once a group is interested and I'm performing, it's no different than any other type of show I do.

No, it's the initial approach of each new group that I find difficult. It's the fact that after each performance I must find a new audience, introduce myself, and establish rapport again. People who generally aren't expecting entertainment must be enticed into watching me for a few minutes. And then, when I really have them, it's time to move on and start from scratch again. It's the live entertainment equivalent to cold calling in sales. Breaking the ice, gaining their attention, and generating interest with each new group—that is the challenge. And by the way, you have to do all that without seeming intrusive. It takes a considerable amount of charm to do well.

In my experience, there isn't one sure-fire answer that will work for every group in any situation. I need a variety of skills and tools at my disposal, and then it's largely a matter of sizing up each group and deciding which are appropriate.

That said, I'd like to discuss one of the approaches that has worked well for me over the past few years. It is only applicable when you have plenty of time to spend with each group you entertain. If you have to cover a lot of ground and work for many people in a short time, this approach goes out the window. But for those other occasions, when you don't have to hurry, this is my favorite.

It begins with a change of attitude. I behave as if I am not working, but just attending the event like everyone else. I get a glass of cranberry juice and mingle. I find a nice group that I'd like to work for, and I join them and talk as if I am just another guest. I ask them about their work and their lives. I make friends with them.

Eventually (and usually this is less than ninety seconds into our meeting), they will ask about me. To which I respond by telling them that I am a professional magician and am here tonight to spend a couple of minutes informally entertaining everyone. Then I shut up, and I smile, and I wait.

Without fail they enthusiastically ask me to do something for them. I have their attention, their interest, and already some measure of rapport. It's easy to begin.

Eric MEAD

Admittedly, this is a very slow and informal approach that's not suited to some situations. But look at a few of the strong points of this technique:

I never ask them if they would like to see something. I create a situation where they are asking me to show them something. Psychologically it puts, me in a position of strength from the beginning.

There is no sense that I am interrupting or intruding. More direct approaches always have an element of that in them, no matter how charismatic you are.

This affords a better opportunity to size up the situation and decide when not to do anything for a particular group. Sometimes it's better to visit with them for a few moments, and then excuse yourself to find a more receptive crowd. Most magicians have been in the situation where people are being polite or accommodating but secretly don't want to see magic right now. I usually realize this in the middle of the first effect. They aren't warming up, they aren't into it, and there is the feeling of "get it over with." The worst! I want to go away. They want me to go away. But three coins are being examined and we can't stop now...

Getting to know everyone a little bit allows me to provide introductions between people who wouldn't interact otherwise. This is a powerful strategy and is one of the most overlooked aspects of strolling entertainment. It was a revelation when I read in one of Eugene Burger's early books that part of strolling magic is bringing people together and providing a cohesive feeling to an event. So, while I am working for a group, I try to bring in other people and introduce them. It helps a lot if I have spent a little time with them earlier and know them by name. "Hey, have you guys met Bob Hathaway? Let me introduce him "

I always feel awkward when I am not working in strolling situations. I never want the organizers to see me resetting or standing around between sets. Because I'm spending more time with each group, my down time is cut dramatically and I always appear to be working—even when I am not actually performing.

This is a professional approach.

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