For this blog I’d like to share with you seven bad habits to avoid as a magician. Take a close look at your performances to see if you’re making any of these mistakes:
1. Be aware of using technical terms in your patter. I have heard magicians use these actual lines: “I’m not holding any breaks,” and “I didn’t force that card on you,” and “These are real shuffles.” Your audience doesn’t know what these terms are and you’re also educating them on what these things are. “I’m not holding any breaks” will probably just confuse your spectator. However, “I didn’t force that card on you” is teaching them that that’s something you could do. It’ll be hard to convince your spectator that they had a free selection when you have to tell them to take your word that it was a free choice. “These are real shuffles” is implying that the opposite may exist. Each of these examples can be reworded to avoid bringing up methods. Better examples would be: “Your card is lost somewhere in the deck and I couldn’t possibly know the exact position,” and “You could have selected any card in the deck,” and “You can see how thorough this shuffle is, correct?”
2. Avoid constantly shifting weight while performing. I see this one all the time from new performers. Chances are they’re not even aware of it. So, if you’re reading this blog and you’re a beginner, now you’ll be more aware of it. It’s a huge distraction for your audience and it telegraphs that you’re nervous. Imagine trying to watch your favorite movie on a television that rocks back and forth. Distracting, right?
3. Stop winging your patter and saying lot’s of “um’s,” “er’s,” and unwittingly using word echo’s. I’ve addressed this already in a previous blog. But recently I saw a video from another well-known magician and the patter was all over the place. Let me know what television commercial you saw where the voiceover was filled with um’s and er’s and the ad copy just rambled on with random words and was filled with repeat info. There’s no such thing. Each word was carefully chosen so the listener gets the exact message that was intended–every time.
4. Make sure you’re not performing in a bubble. While on stage performing for a large audience or even for a small group of people, I’ve seen magicians only performing for themselves. Their head never comes up. Their eyes are locked on their hands (or whatever prop they’re holding). There’s no eye contact with any spectators or they never even address any spectators. Those people are gathered around you to watch your magic. Make eye contact with not only the spectator involved in the effect, but also with everyone there. Call people out by their name. This will make for a stronger performance because you’ll have a stronger connection with your audience. Pro Tip: Remember your spectator’s names. It’s never a good thing to ask people their names again after they’ve told you once.
5. Stop asking questions that are only asked to give you time to do something. For example: “Name any card in the deck. Any reason that you named that card?” Does that follow-up question have anything to do with the effect? Usually the spectator just replies, “Um, because you just asked me to name a random card in the deck.” After they name a random card, your next patter line should be something related to the premise of the effect. For example: “Bill, name any card in the deck. Bill, it’s important to realize that this box has been on the table in full view before you named your card.” Another bad version of this is to ask a question and then completely ignore their answer. A spectator may give a detailed answer why they chose the card and the performer ignores this because he’s finished with the sleight he needed to do. Go off script and interact with your spectator when they contribute to the conversation.
6. Please stop asking the audience for applause. This is such a cringe worthy moment. “C’mon people I’m working hard up here.” Or, after not getting any reaction, “There are two ways of doing this, with applause or the way we’re doing it now.” Yes, you’ll get applause. But the audience will give you pity applause and then feel obligated to continue that type of applause after each trick as you continue performing. If you’re not getting applause, it’s the material or your performance that needs work, not the audience. Could you imagine a comedian asking his audience to please laugh after his next joke? Pro Tip: Never ever ask anything of your audience.
7. Watch out for bad posture when performing. Here’s another bad habit I see in most beginner performers. They have very poor posture. They’re slouched over. The audience will certainly pick up on this. Audiences like confidence and power. So, stand up straight and present to your audience. My good friend Michael Vincent is a master of this. He owns the room before he even opens his mouth by how he walks out on stage. It’s a beautiful thing to watch Michael do this and it’s a simple adjustment to make. Again, like the shifting your weight problem, the first step in fixing this problem is just having a greater awareness of yourself on stage.