I am about to tell you something that may make you mad, jealous or upset. My fee for performing is quite high, much higher than I ever thought it would be. It is not based on what effects I do, how long I perform or what kind of show I do. I make the same money for a performance of walk-around mentalism as I do for my full evening show! As a matter of fact, if someone wanted to fly me in to do nothing more than talk to their guests, my manager would charge the same fee. No one else can take my place even if they do my stuff. If they want Richard Osterlind, they have to get me! Am I making the point?
At the risk of sounding really conceited, let me try to illustrate this with another story. There is a trade show I have been doing for the same company for almost 20 years. I have become established at this show and many people look forward to coming by our booth to watch me perform. Last year I was doing a number of new effects and I would ask some of the regulars what they thought of them. They would laugh and say, "Yes, that was great, but I expect you to do stuff like that!"
Now, if you're a reader of my other books, you know that I take comments like that seriously and examine them. I believe what they are saying is, "We have watched you time and time again and know that no matter what you do it will be really amazing and we love it!" I don't think that is stretching the meaning too much. Since they continue to come by, that means they want to see more. Since they don't really care what particular effect I do, that means all of my material has a certain feeling, or flavor, that they really like. Obviously, that comes from me and not the material. Sure, I try to choose the most powerful material I can find or devise, and that is part of it, but it my manner and my presentation that makes it work for me.
One year, my manager made a mistake with our dates. He booked me for a show during the same time as the trade show. We got another very qualified magician to fill in for me. The next year, when I went back, I asked everyone how the other guy was. The answer was always the same. "He was very good, but it wasn't the same!" That translates into, "He wasn't you!"
You is the magic word. You must be unique and different. You have to stand out from the rest of your competition. You have to be distinctive and polished. You have to make them forget about what you do and just think about who you are! You won't accomplish that by buying the newest trick or learning a difficult sleight. You will only get there when you examine who you are, what qualities you have and then capitalizing on them.
You can't be false in this business, but don't worry who you are. We each have within us all it takes to succeed. The first step is to believe in yourself. No one else will believe in you if you don't first. The most damaging appraisal of another performer I ever heard was, "He lost confidence in himself!"
I consider myself to be a pretty average guy. There is nothing remarkable about me and I don't possess any special skills that could have helped me along in my career. I am not particularly good looking, my voice is not deep and resonant and I don't feel as though I have any physical qualities that help me to stand out.
Still, I have been successful in this business for over 35 years just being me and trying to make me as good as possible. The only times I have faltered are those when, as mentioned above, I lost confidence in myself.
That is the one downfall of being an entertainer. Most of us are pretty fragile underneath and it is not hard to start doubting oneself. The only remedy is to keep moving forward and never rely on your past achievements to get you through, but rather on what you are still capable of accomplishing!
More than anywhere else, a performer has to be well-liked to be successful in the corporate market. Your personality is your most important asset in succeeding. Unlike the public entertainment arena where success is measured by how well the box office did at your last show or how many people bought your latest DVD, success in the corporate world is usually governed by how well the CEO or a division head likes you! If he tells his meeting planners that he wants you at an event, you will be there! This may seem to imply that the road to success would be an easier one, but it is not. I have found these people to be very shrewd indeed when it comes to sizing up someone. You have to remember that they spend their professional lives making decisions that are worth millions, if not billions, of dollars! They make these decisions by negotiating with other very shrewd people. If you make wrong decisions at that level, you are out of the game. The very fact that they are still in the game should tell you they know what they are doing. They can read people and they will be reading you!
To win over the confidence of such a person is not an easy task. Besides being a thorough master of what you do, you must display honesty, integrity and a very likable nature. At this level of business, these are the kinds of qualities that are most appreciated and understood.
You see that I keep coming back over and over again to the word you. It doesn't really matter what kind of show you do, how elaborate your apparatus is, how many laser lights you use or what kind of sound system you have. What it all comes down to is how much they like you. Perhaps it is the fact that these main decision makers don't have stuff themselves! They don't need props. Their value is measured by their communication skills and knowledge. They achieve with their ideas alone. They judge others by the same values. If you can demonstrate these same traits, you will be like them. And they will love you for it!
It is my hope and desire that the words I have written may hit home in some way. Perhaps just one sentence or phrase got you thinking in a new way or solved a problem you have been experiencing. Whether it is in the corporate market or the performing world in general, the opportunities are huge and there is plenty of room for everyone. Never think there is too much competition. Never think you don't have what is necessary! There is always room. Be yourself and make you the best. Success!
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