1 view myself as a corporate entertainer who specializes in mentalism. My main mission is to entertain people. Mentalism is my means to this end.
What follows ¡ire questions I reviewed as I developed my corporate mentalism act. The answers presented ¡ire based on my own experiences over the past seven years.
Why do corporations hire an entertainer for events?
Entertainers arc hired to take people's thoughts away from their everyday worries and concerns, and offer them an experience that is relaxing, fun, and enjoyable. Entertainment is often added to an event as a way of rewarding or thanking people. Entertainers are hired to make events special or memorable. My clients want their employees and guests to say, :"That was fun" or "That was great" when my act is over. Therefore, as an entertainer, 1 constantly look for ways to make my act enjoyable and fun.
Mental ism, Incorporated
Why do corporations hire a mcntalist? Here arc four reasons why 1 believe mentalists are hired lor an event or meeting, rather than other types of entertainers:
Mentalism is amazing and unexplainable.
Mental ism, when done well, is fascinating to watch.
Mentalism allows audience members to share the spotlight.
Mentalism is a form of entertainment thai few people have seen.
My clients also want their employees and guests to say. "That was different and amazing" when my act is over. Therefore, I strive to make every routine in my act. interesting to watch and also as strong as possible.
1 remind myself that I'm an entertainer first... and a mentalist second. I want people to relax and enjoy each demonstration. I avoid the temptation to show off. I wani each demonstration to he more than a puzzle to figure out. I want people to laugh. And I want people to leave amazed.
Achieving all of these outcomes is hard work. Achieving these outcomes takes more than a collection of books about mentalism. 1 suspect many people reading this book already arc familiar with enough mentalism effects lo perform several mentalism shows.
I strongly encourage anyone who wants to perform mentalism for corporations to acquire a basic understanding of theater, comedy, public speaking, and communications. Applying ideas and insights from these allied disciplines will make your performance of mental ism more appealing and entertaining.
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What kinds of events do corporations bring in a rnentalist to entertain? I have been hired to perform at
Recognition and award dinners Communications meetings Celebrations of individual, department, and company achievements Seasonal parties for employees Meetings and dinners lor clients and suppliers Training conferences and meetings
Each of these events has a slightly different purpose. Olten. I will he asked to emphasize or reinforce the purpose of the event during my performance. I accomplish this by modifying my presentation or patter to include and reinforce the purpose of die event.
Ninety percent of the time, I am the only entertainer at an event. J am asked to perform for a specific period of tunc, ranging from 20 to 60 minutes.
It is absolutely critical to honor this time commitment strictly. Often, my act is part of a longer program that may also involve short talks by company officials and the presentation of awards or gifts. If 1 perform for 40 minutes when I've been hired to perform for 25 minutes, 1 will anger most of my clients. I always double-check the length of time 1 am to perform when I arrive at the event.
What is the size of a typical corporate audience?
While menralists can be hired to present mentalism to small groups of people (close-up mentalism), I am hired to present my aci to everyone at the event.
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Audiences range from 20 to 4CM) people. Many of my corporate audiences arc around 100 people. Audience members arc normally employees or guests of my clients. Some guests may be valued customers. Other guests may be important business partners or suppliers.
It is critical to select (and modify) each demonstration so that everyone in the audience can understand, follow, and appreciate what is being presented.
What docs the typical corporate audience expeel from aincntalist? Most people don't know what to expect from a mcntalist. Few people have seen a mcntalist perform a complete show. This gives mentalists a great deal of freedom to create acts that match their performing styles and skill levels.
A mcntalist must selecl demonstrations that can be presented with conviction and excitement. The more comfortable you arc with each demonstration in your corporate act, the higher your chances of success as an entertainer. I have created an act thai lakes advantage of my public speak ing and training background. And I've selected deinonstra lions that are more believable because 1 can present them convincingly. Other mentalists present demonstrations that are stronger or more unbelievable than mine. Ihere are opportunilics for demonstrations of varying impossibility or impact. But, as you plan your corporate act, balance the impact (or amazement value) of each demonstration with its entertainment value.
Remember, corporate audiences expect whatever is presented to be interesting, fun, and fast-paced. They want an act that is enjoyable and amazing. Corporate audiences iinfertaiwienf and MvniaUsm for Corporate Audiences will become restless if a mentalism acl is slow, boring, or too predictable.
Can a menlalisl influence the audience's expectations before the act starts? Yes. 1 ask my clients to list or advertise me in their program as an "Entertainer" or :iCor-porate Entertainer." More importantly, I give my clients the following description to use in their publicity: "Chuck llickok has traveled the world, helping people better understand and use the untapped powers of the human mind. You will be surprised and amazed by what you sec and hear during tins unique entertainment experience." Ninety percent of the lime, audience members are exposed to this description before 1 perform.
I -lis description tells my audience that my act will be i'jo auo uiifeiciit. let i; suit leaves them wondering what specifically will happen. Tins is deliberate. I want people guessing what will happen when I walk on stage.
Remember, I am trying to shape audience expectations. 1 also don't want people worried or concerned before 1 start. Therefore, I avoid using the words "psychic," "ESP," or "mind-reader." 1 believe these words may cause apprehension in tile minds of some audience members. 1 also don't use "mentalist" because most audience members have never heard this term.
My sell description works for me. It matches my style and my show. Yet 1 know this description isn't appropriate for every menlalisl.
Remember: Since most audience don't know what to expect of a mentalist. consider pulling together a brief, clear description of you and your act that tells your audience
Mo it a! ism, t ncorporated what to expcct. Then, encourage your clients to use this description when promoting you and your show.
What do corporations expect of a inentalist beyond a great show? I lere arc a few other things I've discovered my clients also expect of" me:
Clients expect me to confirm all details in writing and to arrive early enough to be ready to perform well before I'm scheduled to start.
Clients expcct me to shorten or lengthen my act as their schedule changes.
lie Approachable Clients cxpeet me to mingle and talk with people before and after my act. If Fm asked what I do. I say, "lt:s a surprise, but I think you will be amazed." 1 do not perform any close-up mentalism before or after my act.
Profanity doesn't go over well at most corporate events. Personally, I avoid sexual and political humor.
Clients don't want malerial that is shocking or controversial, or that makes fun of people.
Clients don't want their people becoming restless because a routine is too long or complex.
Entertainment and Mental ism for Corporate Audiences
I low do you develop new material lor your corporate act? When considering a new demonstration for incorporate act. I go though a two-step process.
The first step involves seeking out feedback from knowledgeable peers. To be a successful corporate mentally. a performer must be open to feedback from others. In 1990, I put together a group of "fans of mentalism" in the Minneapolis-Si. Paul area called the Minnesota MindPsi. We meet monthly to discuss and pcrfonn mentalism.
What makes their feedback invaluable to me is that Ihese people understand my style of mentalism. They have all seen my corporate act. They have a solid knowledge of mentalism. And a few are full-time entertainers. So when someone says, "That sucks/' or "That isn't you," or "You c-n di> better," his or her feedback means something to me. It's frustrating to receive this kind of feedback. Bui in the long run :t has helped me develop new material lastcr.
The second step involves evaluating a live audience's reactions. It often takes me between three and ten performances to determine whether a new demonstration complements and strengthens my act. Many times, I discover 1 can perform the demonstration effectively, but the demonstration just doesn't generate the audience reaction I had hoped for. Either it isn't as strong as I wanted or it isn't as entertaining as 1 thought it would be. In the last five years, 1 have put aside over twenty demonstrations that seemed entertaining to me but failed the "live audience" test.
Evaluating my impact on an audience is a very subjective process. Being honest with myself is difficult for me... particularly when il involves being honest about something
I created or developed. However, the more I perform for people, the easier it becomes for me to honestly gauge the impact of a new demonstration on an audience.
1 ree shows arc a wonderful testing ground lor new material. I believe in the mission and purposes of our local United Way. Lach year, I appear 20-30 times as a United Way spokesman. At these events. 1 review the mission of the United Way and also present a few quick demonstrations of mental ism.
I consider myself to have truly mastered a new demonstration when I have discovered all the mistakes a person could possibly make. The first time f do a new demonstration isn't normally my best effort. But by my fifteenth at tempi, I normally have made most of my mistakes. These free shows have been a safe (low-risk) place lor me to leam from my own mistakes.
1 hese free shows arc a win-win situation for everyone. The United Way gets the services of a professional entertainer to support its fundraising. And these shows help me grow and develop faster as a corporate entertainer.
How do you get started doing free shows? Identify* a cause you believe in. Meet with the local executives. Explain how you, as an entertainer, can make theii events more lun, at no cost to them. This works best with organizations that need you for multiple appearances.
How does a mciKalisI gel hired by corporations? I
am not an expert at marketing myself as an entertainer. Most of my work comes as the result of contacting corporations directly. I contact tneir Meeting Planners or Human Re source professionals.
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1 or me. marketing is the hardest part of being a corporate entertainer. Professionally designed marketing materials arc very helpful. Most potential clients will expect to receive a promotional kit with a video and letters of recommendation.
I strongly recommend the marketing materials by Randy Charach and David Dec, in the "Books and Supplies" section in the back of this book, for practical suggestions on marketing mentalism to corporations.
In addition, 1 have watchcd many of the best mental-ists present their acts. More importantly, I've had the opportunities to talk with the performers about the thinking behind their acts as well as how and why they selected their style of performing.
Also, for over thirty years. I have given presentations to corporate audiences of all si/.es on the topics of communications. leadership, and living your dreams. These experiences have helped me understand what it rakes to com municatc with a corporate audience.
Reflecting on these experiences, the first thing I discovered about performing entertaining mental ism lor corporate audiences is that there are no absolutes. That is, there arc no guidelines or principles that apply to every performing situation or every mentalist. In the end. each performer must carefully decide how he or she will present mentalisin to a corporate audience.
Ciiven that disclaimer, in the next few pages I present the guidelines I've developed for planning and performing an entertaining corporate mental ism act These guidelines represent those ideas that work best for me. These guidelines have helped me entertain corporate audiences of all sizes.
Understanding these guidelines will help you better understand why I perform my act the way I do. These guidelines arc also presented to gel you thinking about how you are currently performing your mcntalism act.
I suspect that you may disagree with a few of these guidelines. Remember, 1 said there are no absolutes. Uut before you dismiss a guideline, 1 encourage you to re-read the guide! ine completely and then think very carefully about wljv vou disagree.
If your disagreement is driven by your desire to continue performing your act "the way you've always done it," your act might be improved by making a few simple changes. I encourage you to keep an open mind as you think about each guideline.
At the end of each guideline. I offer one or more self-assessment questions. These questions are designed to help you determine the extent to which you are applying each guideline in your current act. 1 hope that reviewing these questions will help you discover specific changes you can make to become a better entertainer and mentalist.
These guidelines are presented 1:1 no purlieu I at order. I view each as equally important to creating and performing entertaining mental ism for corporate audiences.
Guideline One: A Unifying Theme l or a menuiiism act to capture the attention of a corporate audience, '.here should be a unifying theme that connects or links together the demonstrations in the act. The unifying theme becomes the foundation that the act is built upon. li may involve an interesting story or an overview of what the audience can expect. The audience should be introduced to this theme near the start of the act.
My act hegins with a brief story about a book my grandfather gave me on my tenth birthday. The hook focuses on the mental abilities of Joseph Dunninger. bach demonstra-
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