Whenever anyone asks David if he believes in ESP he emphatically says yes. ESP is the name of his long established corporate entertainment company, Entertaining Sales Presentations, and the routine to be described now has been a feature of his corporate work for many years. It is a tremendously strong presentation and unbelievably versatile. Anything that can be shown in pictures, words or numbers can be adapted to the routine and he has used it to promote motor cars, holiday islands, chocolate bars, drinks and even medical equipment. In essence it is a series of surprising and baffling coincidences involving no less than six applause pulling moments. The routine described here is just one example of the many different presentations possible.
It starts when David shows six large numbered envelopes. He drops each one onto the stage, number side up so that they are arranged 1,2,3,4,5,6 evenly spread across the floor.
Next he invites six gentlemen and one lady onto the stage. The lady stands by a table to his right. David turns to the men on his left and asks each one to stand behind one of the numbered envelopes. It's a completely free choice; they can choose whichever position they want as long as there is one man behind each number.
Just behind the lady's table is a pedestal. It is covered with a cloth that is whipped away to reveal an impressively, large basket filled to overflowing with fruit and vegetables and decorated with ribbon and bows. It contains apples, potatoes, oranges, cauliflower, melons, bananas, peppers, nuts, dates and much more.
He asks the lady to, "Please pick a few items, all different, and put them on the table." As she chooses six items, David shows six more large envelopes, this time without numbers. He walks down to the front row of the audience and asks someone to shuffle them. As they are doing that David tells the lady to arrange her chosen items in a straight line on the table. Meanwhile he takes the envelopes back and hands one to each man on the stage, dealing them out in the order they have been handed to him.
Turning to the lady he says, "Will you please point to one of the men?" She hesitates, pondering her choice. "Come on now, it's not for life just for this experiment," jokes David. She chooses man number two and he is told to hold his envelope up in the air so that everyone can see it.
She is then asked to select one of the six pieces of fruit or vegetables before her on the table. She chooses the grapes. David recaps what has happened. From a large basket of fruit she chose any six items and of those six finally picked out the grapes. Six envelopes were mixed by the audience and one given to each man on stage. And of those men the lady chose number two. A host of possibilities leading to just one conclusion.
"Would you please open your envelope," says David to man number two. To his surprise he finds a picture of a bunch of grapes inside, the same piece of fruit that the lady chose. The audience applauds. Given that the lady had a free choice of items from the basket and the audience shuffled the envelopes it seems a marvellous coincidence. But more is to come.
"I appreciate the applause," says David, "but I don't really deserve it. Of course I had to make sure she would select the grapes. But I didn't care which man she would choose because they've all got the same picture!"
The audience laughs. Of course, that's how the trick was done! The men on stage start to peek inside their envelopes.
"Ah, I see you don't believe me," says David. "Take out the pictures and hold them up." They do but to everyone's amazement all six pictures are different! The audience applauds again now more baffled than ever.
David looks at the pictures and then at the line of fruit on the table. Puzzled and
surprised he glances back at the table and once more at the pictures. He's noticed something, another coincidence. "You know this is most incredible. Do you remember I asked the lady to put the items in any order she liked? Yet she's got them in exactly the same order as these gentleman."
The audience do remember. Now they look at the line of fruit and vegetables she had arranged - an onion, grapes, orange, lemon, tomato and cucumber. They are in exactly the same order as the shuffled pictures the men are holding. For the third time the audience applauds.
As the applause subsides David says, "And I gave each man a choice of which number to stand behind?" This is true and the audience remembers it well. They wonder what other example of synchronicity awaits them.
"Gentlemen I want you to pick up the numbered envelopes. Open them and inside you'll find another picture. Take it out and hold it up, one in your right hand, one in your left, like judges at a skating competition."
The audience is staggered to see that each man is now holding a pair of identical pictures. It just doesn't seem possible and provides the audience's fourth cue for applause.
The volunteers return to their seats and David walks over to a larger envelope that has been on view throughout the routine. He picks it up and brings it forward. "People always ask me how I do this kind of thing. Well of course I have to know two things. Firstly I have to know which item the lady is going to choose."
David opens the envelope. Inside is a large card and on the card is a picture. It matches the lady's chosen object, the grapes. For the fifth time the audience show their appreciation.
"And secondly I have to know which number she would choose - and tonight it was number two." David pauses for a beat then deftly flips the card over. On the other side is a large number, the number two. The final prediction brings this mind-boggling routine to a stunning close and the audience applauds for the sixth and last time.
Revelations: Why ESPacology? Where did the name come from? It is a play on the word escapology because David jokingly says he has so many outs! That's not quite true but ESPacology can be seen as a trademark Berglas routine. As an effect it develops at an easy, conversational pace and has plenty of production value with its assortment of volunteers and large colourful props. And it is not merely puzzling. It is a series of surprises in which one impossible effect follows another until even well informed magicians are baffled. The routine too is a classic example of David's method of working, combining his uniquely bold strategies and a distinctive handling of the Magicians Choice.
The basket of fruit presentation is just one of many routines that David has created using this framework. Any objects can be utilised and David has used it for many different product launches and sales presentations using a variety of items. But let's start at the beginning and dissect each element of the routine as we come to it. The cards in the numbered envelopes are unprepared but David knows which card is in which envelope. He uses a mnemonic to help him memorise the order of the different items.
At the beginning of the routine the numbered envelopes are dropped in a line across the stage. The men can either be invited to choose their numbers en masse, on a first come first served basis or they can make their choices one at a time. In that case David keeps the men together as a group and then asks one of them to choose a number and go stand behind it. Then a second man, then a third and so on. This presentation takes longer but it also emphasises the free choices that are made and that, after all, is a major theme of the presentation.
When the lady is asked to choose some items from the fruit basket her choice is not as wide as the audience believes. The basket appears to contain a wide assortment of fruit and vegetables but in fact there are only six different items she can easily choose and these are the items represented by the cards in the envelopes: the onion, grapes, orange, lemon, tomato and cucumber.
There are two of each of the 'force' items in the basket. There are also some larger and more unusual items, a melon, cauliflower, pineapple, lettuce, bag of nuts and dates for instance. But the lady never chooses any of these. Why? Because they are fixed permanently to the basket! The larger items are at the bottom of the basket and held in place by wooden skewers. The bags of nuts are tied to the handle. When David asks for six different items to be chosen the lady takes the easiest route and lifts out the only items easily available to her.
David also goes a little further in his preparation. There are several other small items (a carrot, a peach, a pear, a potato, an apple, a corncob) that she could choose but there is only one of each of these. If she added one to the pile David would encourage her to add even more items until there are twice as many as required. In that case David arranges the items in a line himself, the force items alternating with the other items, and uses Magicians Choice to whittle the number back to the required six. This is done by asking the lady to count the items and then nominate odd or even. As explained elsewhere in this book he will always end up with the onion, grapes, orange, lemon, tomato and cucumber. See Magician's Choice for details.
As the lady chooses the fruit, David picks up six more large envelopes. These too contain cards and the envelopes are marked so that David knows which envelope contains which card according to his mnemonic system. David uses nail nicks but recommends that you use whatever marks you can easily see under dim lighting conditions.
He walks down to the front row of the audience and, so that everyone can hear, says, "Please shuffle these envelopes." But that's not quite what happens. Large envelopes are difficult to shuffle and so it appears that David is doing the spectators in the front row a favour when he says to them, "These are rather awkward, perhaps you'll shuffle these," and splits the six-envelope packet into two. He hands three envelopes to one person and three to another. The first person receives envelopes marked 1, 2 and 3. The second receives the envelopes marked 4, 5 and 6. And they mix them. The majority of the audience is completely unaware of the shuffling procedure.
The advantage for David is that the spectators can't really mix three envelopes very much. When David returns to the stage he wants the envelopes in numerical sequence. After the shuffling he takes the first packet of envelopes back and casually examines the nail nicks. With one single cut he can bring the three envelopes back into numerical order. Then he takes the second packet and repeats the process. By placing the two packets together, and perhaps turning one over in the process, he can always finish with the envelopes in order. David doesn't make a big thing of the cutting. No one questions it and few probably even notice. It's a casual action that does not look out of place in the context of shuffling the envelopes. The important thing is to rearrange the envelopes before he gets onto the stage and is once again in full view of the audience.
David takes the envelopes to the men on stage and openly deals them out, one at a time from the top of the stack, as he walks along the line. Despite the shuffling each man now has an envelope containing a card that matches the card in the numbered envelope at his feet.
David turns to the lady who by now has six items from the basket in a line on the table. He asks her to arrange them in any order she likes and then push any two forward. He deliberately doesn't look in her direction as she does this because he wants the audience to know that it is a completely free choice.
When she has pushed two items forward, a choice that David had absolutely no control over, he suddenly apologises, almost as if he had forgotten something, and asks her to choose one of the men in the line. It seems like a tiny, instantly forgettable error of procedure, choosing the items before the man but it will become important later on.
The lady has a free choice and this is the moment that determines how the rest of the routine will proceed. Let's assume she chooses man number two. David knows from his setup that this man holds the grapes card. The next task is to force the lady to choose the grapes from the six items laid out on the table and here again Magicians Choice comes into play.
Now, if you recall, David has already asked the lady to push two items forward. If one of those items is the grapes, the selection procedure is almost at an end. If the grapes are one of the remaining four items then the Magicians Choice is continued in the usual way. Either way David concludes by getting the lady to hold up the grapes saying, "I am sure no one could have possibly known which of these items the lady would be holding."
David's handling of the Magician's Choice is clear and direct. There is no hesitation in his commands to the spectator and each step seems not only logical but also part of a necessary elimination designed to achieve the fairest possible choice.
Perhaps the boldest part of the routine comes at this point. David walks over to the table and acknowledges the lady's choice. He also points out the other items that the lady could have chosen. In fact this is the first time that the different items have been mentioned by name. It seems appropriate that David should pick them up and tell the audience exactly what the lady took out of the basket, especially if working a large venue where items may be difficult to see. He lifts each item up, names it and then puts it back on the table. It is all done quickly and casually. The audience do not notice that he puts them back on the table so that they will finish up in his memorised order; the onion, grapes, orange, lemon, tomato and cucumber.
He does not pick up the items in the memorised order. That would be too obvious. He picks them up and displays them as they come to hand, saying, "Now remember the lady could have chosen the cucumber, or the lemon, or the tomato..." mentioning each item by name. He replaces them at their appropriate spot in the set up. A slightly wider gap is left at the second position for the grapes that the lady is now holding. That's very important because when the lady is asked to put the grapes back on the table she will inevitably put it in the space that David left for it! He also casually asks her to move them closer to her. Once again this reinforces the audience impression that the lady was the last to handle the items before their order was known.
He then recaps that the lady chose man number two, who opens the envelope in his hands and discovers the picture of the grapes. David jokes about the pictures being all the same which prompts the men to open their envelopes to check if the cards really are all identical. He walks along the line and collects the empty envelopes leaving the men free to display the cards properly. To the audience's amazement the cards are all different.
David does a double take as he looks from the line-up to the table and then reveals that the items happen to be in exactly the same order. The routine appears to be over when the men pick up the envelopes from the stage and find a duplicate card inside. By this time the applause should have reached a peak and yet there is more to come.
The volunteers return to their seats and David reminds the audience of the extra large envelope which seems to have been in full view throughout the presentation. In fact the envelope was only brought into view once David knew that the lady volunteer had chosen man number two, the one holding the grapes card.
There are six extra-large prediction cards which cover every eventuality and they are already on the stage, in envelopes, yet the audience cannot see them. They can be hidden behind a table, stacked in numerical order, and David can simply go up to it and bring out the right prediction. But if there is a band available David will distribute the prediction envelopes to the musicians before the show. The drummer will have one envelope behind his kit, the pianist another lying on top of the piano, a clarinettist another next to his chair and so on. When David knows which envelope is required he walks up to the appropriate musician. He has been instructed to hand the envelope over as David approaches him. It's a totally disarming method of bringing in the prediction late into the routine and is just one example of how David likes to use the stage as a sort of invisible index. Having got the right envelope David
An early version of ESPacology, a sales presentation for Ford in 1975.
sets it in full view of the audience.
It's important to note that there is no set point at which the prediction envelope must be produced. It is a matter of timing and maintaining the natural rhythm of the routine. David may feel it is right to bring out the envelope soon after the lady has chosen the man. On the other hand he may wait. In either case no great play is made of the envelope being given to him. Other things are happening. The envelope is just there and placed in view and its importance will not be made known until much later.
David may move the envelope into a more prominent position in stages, first bringing the prediction envelope into view and placing it on a nearby chair. Later, as the routine proceeds, he may move the envelope again. It is done with such nonchalance that on occasions David has even produced the prediction after both the item and number have been chosen and yet everyone was convinced that the prediction was on view from the very beginning.
The routine is almost at an end when the prediction envelope is opened to reveal that it contains a picture of the grapes. This gets a lot of applause but the audience know that David mentioned "two things" and they are ready to applaud even more for whatever the second thing turns out to be.
It is the chosen number and it is printed on the other side of the card. David needs to flip the card around with the minimum of fuss for the final revelation and to facilitate this the number is printed upside down. All he has to do is rotate the card around a horizontal axis to smoothly bring the number into view and take his sixth and final round of applause.
As mentioned earlier, ESPacology is ideally suited for Sales Presentations and Product
Launches. David has adapted the routine many times for many different companies. He begins by finding six sales points that the company want him to make. They may relate to six different products or six features of a single product. They may even be six points of strategy or promotional messages that the company want to put forward. Somewhere, in the sales literature or during his discussion with the client, David will find the magic six he can incorporate into his routine and transform into memorable images.
The six applause points provide the presentation with plenty of mystery but the bold images combined with the inherent repetition of the routine are also designed to make it memorable. This is a routine that people pay great attention to. It is a presentation that audiences always discuss after the show. Naturally they are curious as to how such a bizarre set of coincidences could have taken place. But more important from a corporate point of view is that they can also recall all the sales points that have been put over. Even people on the periphery of the event, waiters and audiovisual technicians, have come up to David after the show and been able to recollect all the sales points he had made. It is a memorable routine. What more could you want?
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