Eight Guidelines for Performing Mentalism to Corporate Audiences

ISole: in this book. I will use the word act to describe a series of demonstrations with a common theme. My corporate mentalism act has between three and six demonstrations depending on the amount of time I'm given. (By the way, I use the word demonstration in this book the way others use Uic words effect, experiment, or routine. This book describes nine demonstrations that 1 have performed for corporate audiences.)

Almost everything 1 do in my corporate act is based on a set of core beliefs.

My core beliefs about performing mentalism for corporate audiences come from over twenty yea is' experience as a fan of mentalism. as well as my own experiences as a performer.

Mental ism, Incorporated tion in my act involves a specific mental ability I learned lrum reading the Dunninger book.

Like most good stories, part of my story is real, pan fiction.

Yet everything in my act is built around this story. As 1 begin each demonstration in my act. I talk about Dunninger, his abilities, and what I learned from reading the book given tu me by my grandfather on my tenth birthday.

This story makes my act more than a collection of random demonstrations. It allows me to present an act that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Interestingly, less than ten percent of my audience members recognize Duiuiingcr's name. In some ways, that give-roc; more freedom to be creative in niy ¿lories .ibuul him.

Quick Check:

• What theme rims through your act?

• When is your theme communicated to your audience?

• Is your theme interesting or appealing lit your typical audience?

Guideline Two: Believability for a corporate mental ism act to hold the audience's attention, each demonstration should deal with a believable mental ability. In most cases, audience members al-

Eight GaiJdinc.s ready believe. That is. most people believe ihc human mind has untapped abilities. In addition, many people believe they have had a "psyehic experience" at some point in their lives The mentalist is responsible lor connecting with and building upon these existing belief's.

This ¡s mental ism's advantage over magic. Magic is too incredible. People just don't believe that coins can move invisibly from one location to another. Corporate audicnccs may marvel at a magician's skill, but most audience members realize '.bat they are witnessing a demonstration of misdirection and manipulation.

On the other hand, most people accept the existence of extraordinary mental abilities such as enhanced memory, intuition, telepathy, and clairvoyance. Corporate audienccs might not use these exact terms, but most people believe that some untapped mental abilities exist.

As I present my corporate act, 1 build upon those be-heis. At the start of each demonstration, 1 introduce my audience to the next mental ability 1 will explore. I try to be clear and specific in my explanation so the audience knows what to expect. And 1 tie each demonstration back lo my unifying theme.

In The Art of Mentullsm, Bob Cassidy suggests, "Don't claim too much." To remain believable, a mentalisl may be better off demonstrating perhaps three to five mental abilities during an act. I .ess may be more convincing than more.

Mentalism, incorporated

The mental abilities 1 demonstrate in my 45-minute corporate act are:

• Enhanced mathematical ability

• Psychological persuasion, or mentally influencing people's choices

• People-reading skills

• Telepathy, or thought reading

• Precognition, or the ability to forecast future outcomes

Each of these is a mental ability that some audience members already accept as real. Of course, some abilities are more believable than others.

Quick Check:

• What mental abilities do vou demonstrate in vour act?

• How believable (or unbelievable) is each demonstration?

■ 1 o what extent do you introduce or explain each men tal ability before you demonstrate it?

• Is your explanation of each ability as clear and complete as necessary?

Guideline Three: Exclusivity

For a demonstration to be easy to understand arid follow, i: should focus on a single mental ability. Don't confuse an audience by displaying two different mental abilities in the same demonstration.

Here, 1 suspect, you and 1 may initially disagree. In fact, for many years, 1 ignored this guideline and performed demonstrations that displayed two or more different mental abilities.

But consider this example: The mentalist begins a discussion about telepathy or the ability lo read thoughts. A •..ick of postcards is given to an audicncc member. That person is asked to look at any postcard and remember the scene on the postcard. The process is repeated with two other people; each person selects and remembers a scene, liach of the three people is asked lo concentrate on his or her scene. The menialtsL demonstrating his ability to read thoughts, accurately describes two of the scenes.

Now. what does the mentalist do with the third sccnc?

The mentalist could point to an envelope that has been in plain tight since the start of the show. Someone from the audience opens the envelope. Inside the envelope a prediction that describes the third and final scene. This is very strong.

Or the mentalist could ask the remaining person to concentrate as did the others. I ken the mentalist could describe the final scene using his or her thought-reading abilities.

iiien to!ism. f>n orporatad

In my corporate act, I believe using my thought-reading abilities to reveal the linal scene is the more logical and less confusing way to end this demonstration. People expect that they are watching a demonstration of telepathy. 1 finish by giving them what they expect

And I save any predictions tor my prediction demonstration.

Exception: These are guidelines for building or planning a corporate act. If 1 were asked to "do just one tiling"' in a variety show. 1 might he tempted to construct a demonstration (or routine) that displays more than one mental ability.

Quick Check:

* I low many of your demonstrations focus on a single mental ability?

• Which demonstrations focus on two or more different abilities?

Guideline Four: Increasing Impossibility

To hold people's interests during a corporate act, each demonstrated ability should be increasingly more difficult to believe.

My inspiration for this guideline is Pascal dc Cloimon: s Pyramid of Believabtfify. Pascal suggests starting an act with a demonstration that ii, very believable. Make each following demonstration just a liulc bit more unbelievable.

Light Guidelines

Lnd with your most unbelievable demonstration. This clever approach for organizing an act has worked very well for me with corporate audiences.

This guideline is closely related to Guideline Three, Lixclusivity. By displaying just one mental ability in each demonstration, I am able to increase the impossibility of my demonstrations by increments.

What mental abilities are believable'.' What mental abilities are unbelievable? Again, there are no absolutes. Bach nudiencc member will have his or her own belief system. Combining Pascal's perspective with my own experience^, here is one ranking of the many mental abilities a menlalist could display (listed alphabetically within each level):

Level One (\3um peopie believe tnese mental abilities ex is: and can be learned or developed.)

• Enhanced mathematical abilities

• Enhanced memory skills

• People-reading skills, or truth detection

• Psychological persuasion, or mentally influencing people's choices

Level Two i.Some people believe that these abilities exist and may be possible to learn or develop.)

• Aura reading, or other kinds of reading

• Clairvoyance or intuition

Psychometry

• Telepatny, or reading other people's thoughts

MchUiUmh. fn< orpontU'ii

Level Three (Most people have doubls that these menial abilities cxisl.)

• Precognition, or the ability to consistently predict future outcomes

• Remote viewing

• Telekinesis i metal bending

• Sightless vision

Believable doesn't mean boring! I have seen many men-uilists amaze corporate audiences with demonstrations of Level One abilities; hi fact, I believe it's the menlalisl's responsibil-ity to make each demonstration interesting and amazing.

My corporate ael begins with a rapid mathematical demonstration ("Einstein's Demise"). 1 use the simplest inath to accomplish this fast-paced, stunning demonstration. People actually believe 1 have trained my mind lo do rapid math.

Bui the hardest part of creating and performing this opening demonstration was discovering different ways to make it fun and entertaining to watch. I experimented for months to discover the right mix of humor and mathematics.

As each demonstration becomes slightly more unbelievable, il is important for Ihe menluhsl lo display excitement when it is successful. Remember that most of what we do as menialists, it done well, should he amazing to our audiences. Yet. when Pm performing a demonstration for the three-hundredth lime. I occasionally forget U) display genuine excitement when il succeeds.

I wish 1 knew more about acting and drama. I believe more theater training would make me a better entertainer. Currently, to prepare to play the role of a mentalist, i often think about how 1 would act if] really could read minds or predict the future. Damn, that would be exciting! I have a l'ost-It note iii my carrying case that rends "Show Amazement/- to constantly remind myself of this critical point about entertaining people.

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