How to Be a Smooth Operator

I hate to be the one to say it, but the recent proliferation of videotapes have revealed a lot of secrets -- some of which I'm sure the creators never intended. I've noticed that a lot of fairly celebrated performers come across as awkward and nervous on videotape.

For the strolling performer this can be deadly. When circulating among a group of people, poise, grace and ease should be your three most important skills. You may have a billet switch that Randi couldn't catch, or be able to write long passages from Shakespeare with your Swami Gimmick, but unless you know how to mingle you might as well stay home.

Social awkwardness is bad enough for a magician, but for a

mentalist or psychic it can be deadly. In the mind of the sophisticated audience (and if you want to make money at this game, these are the audiences you should be targeting) if you come across as a bumpkin you'll be dismissed. Nobody will take you seriously. Consider this: If you're portraying yourself as a person who has harnessed the various powers of the human mind, why can't you even speak English correctly? How come you don't know how to approach a group and introduce yourself?

Here are my pet complaints, gathered from watching both live and recorded performances:

• Giggling nervously.

• Tapping or touching audience members who obviously didn't invite such intimacy.

• Tight or over-rehearsed presentation.

• Arrogance and condescension.

• Bad, contrived and/or overworked gags.

Constant repetitions of meaningless phrases, like "What we're gonna do is, we're gonna . . . ," "Check it out, " "Tellya what. . . " Sometimes silence is better than these phrases. But mea culpa! I personally am guilty of saying "Uh" a lot, try as I might to break myself of the habit. I'm considering electroshock therapy.

Alright Johnny, you're thinking, enough bitching -- what can we do to become that suave, James-Bond-Like performer you're talking about?

One of the problems is that as a performer, you sometimes feel as though you're an outsider (or worse, an intruder). In most social situations, you're accustomed to someone introducing you to strangers. It takes a lot of interpersonal skill, not to mention self-confidence to walk over to a group of strangers and introduce yourself. The odds are very good that you'll have to interrupt a conversation in order to do your job. Overcoming this programming is the hard part.

This is where most fledgling magicians fall down. Often they use a corny line to break the ice, and the literature is full of ice-breaking strategies, most of which follow the formula of walking over to a group with an unusual object and asking, "Does this belong to somebody?" The objection I have to this approach is that its very easy to lose control of the audience if some smart-alec happens to be in the group. Or maybe a helpful person, missing the point, begins trying to locate the owner. At any rate, this is a weak beginning for your performance. It doesn't tell anybody anything about who you are and why you're interrupting them.

The ideal solution, to my way of thinking, can be found in a wonderful book entitled How to Work a Room by Susan RoAne. Very simply, she suggests that you go into host mode. Simply adopt the attitude that you're the host, and it's your responsibility to assure that everyone is having a great time. First, practice a brief introduction. This can be either humorous or serious, depending on your personality. Since I usually dress in black, I can say "Excuse me (always start out with this). How do you do? I'm the priest; I'm here to listen to your confession." This usually gets a laugh, so I can follow with the serious intro: "I'm Jon Saint-Germain, and I'll be your Palm-Reader (Psychic Entertainer, Juggler, Magician) tonight. May I borrow somebody's hand to read for a moment?" Or, "Do you have a couple of minutes to see something very, very interesting?"

Once you've introduced yourself, it's time to move into host mode. Hosts are concerned with the comfort of the guests; guests are concerned with waiting to have their needs met. Follow your into with "I'm really glad you came tonight; are you having a good time?" Wait for responses, then continue, "I'm here tonight to read your minds, so if you have a couple of minutes, would you be interested in seeing something very, very interesting?

"Very well, would you . . . " and go into your routine.

You get the idea. Pretend that you're the host and that your primary concern is your guests' comfort and entertainment. This simple strategy will help you smooth over the rough spots and provide you with a way of dealing with every situation from drunken guests to outright hecklers. Basically guests have nothing to do and hosts have something to do. Your job is to make sure that something is entertaining!

Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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