Some Underlying Causes of Stage Fright and solutions

1. Not fully prepared - There is no substitute for preparation. This includes much more than being familiar with each effect. It encompasses full rehearsals of the show many times over, technical rehearsals, contingency plans, exits and entrances, and so on. Leave no stone unturned as it were. If you can't do that, or don't have the time, it's better not to do the show at that time.

2. Undue concern for the audience - Many performers get consumed with questions such as 'what will they think', 'how will they react', and other such unnecessary paranoia. If you put on the best performance you can, the audience will enjoy it. Remember, they have likely paid to come and see you, so they are on your side, they want you to succeed. Don't get wrapped up in needlessly worrying about the audience. Concentrate on, and enjoy the show, and the rest will follow. Just for you: Your really not doing it for them are you, your doing it for you aren't you!

3. Fear of something going wrong - Get used to the fact that occasionally you will make a mistake, we are all imperfect. When something does go wrong, have a system to get you back into the routine smoothly. Paul has a great system for when things go wrong. It all stems from something Ken Brooke (the first dealer Paul met) told him about the classic force with a pack of cards.

Ken said "always classic force* a card, even when you don't need to. When you need to force a card, and they don't take it, always have a few back up methods of finding out what it is they have taken."

In Paul's words, "I always do this, and that makes me very relaxed about doing the classic force. The audience feel relaxed because they can sense that I don't care, and so they always choose the card I want them too!"

From the invaluable observations of Ken Brooke, Paul subsequently sat down and wrote down every trick, and highlighted to himself the points where the trick could possibly go wrong. Against those marks, he then decided and wrote down what he would do if it did go wrong. By having all these back up plans, the tricks never went wrong!

Plan ahead to imagine what potentially could go wrong, and think about what you would do to overcome it in each case. Usually it's only the magician who knows he has messed something up, and by changing a sequence around he can often get back on track again. If something does go wrong then focus on moving on quickly, and the audience will not be concerned.

*The classic force is the ultimate way of forcing a card on a spectator because the way the cards are fanned out appears to be a totally free choice to the spectator.

If there's obviously no way of saving an effect, and no way back, it depends on the moment as to what you should do. Honesty is usually the best policy. Shrug your shoulders, smile and say something like, "Oh well, that's my mistake for this year." The audience will soon be engrossed in the next item, and forget your error. Be human - don't be afraid to show your feelings!

4. Warm up before the show - Just as athletes spend time preparing for an event by physical exercises, a magician should be no different. Spend time before every show preparing your body for the event. Try slow breathing exercises to calm your racing pulse, and just before you go on, try Paul's suggestion.

Other physical exercises such as stretching and wiggling your hands and fingers can help you to warm up and to be less prone to fumbling with props.

Associated with this is a technique to imagine that you have already finished the show. Visualise the audience laughing and clapping, yes imagine that you were a phenomenal success! Run this through your mind, and you will go on stage in a very positive manner.

The great motivational speaker Anthony Robbins is often seen talking to himself before a presentation doing the same technique, and by the time he hits the spotlights, he is enthusiastic, and oozes confidence.

Ultimately there is no substitute for practice and rehearsal, that way you will greatly reduce your chances of mistake, and potential embarrassment.

So we've covered some specific elements that comprise a successful show, and we now want to put these techniques and principles into practice, formulating some shows.

Your first show might be simply in front of family and friends for experience. That's fine, don't try and run before you can walk. A successful small show will boost your confidence and lead on to greater things, so just take it step by step.

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