Nathan contacted the shop to get advice about the best magic techniques to stop a spectator second guessing what is going to happen.
For instance, when you place a playing card on a spectators hand face down, How do you stop them looking at the playing card if they already believe it is their card?
Obviously this can be a bit of a problem. If a spectator second guesses where you are going, it can ruin the moment you are trying to create with your reveal. There are definitely somethings that you can do in order to lessen the chances of this happening.
First of all, we should look at why a spectator may be second guessing you. Sometimes it can be your patter that is causing the problem, sometimes it can be your magic techniques. There are also times when it is neither your magic techniques nor your patter; it is more to do with the personality type of the spectator. Usually an alpha male who wishes to retain control of the group’s attention will be the person to throw you off the most. We will discuss some magic techniques and methods to help with each of these potential problems. The main thing is that you are honest with yourself and don’t kid yourself; it is the only real way to move forward.
There can be tell tale signs that give the game away when performing when it comes to magic techniques. Here are a few guidelines to follow.
Smooth and Natural Motions.
Make sure your controls are smooth and justified. If you are going to cut the deck to control their playing card it must be smooth – as if you were just playing with the cards randomly. Your magic technique should be practiced to prevent you from fumbling with the cards, each movement should look natural and smooth. Your sleights should be fluid, and without thought, this sort of action can only be learned through practice.
Hesitation will kill any belief that you are not cheating. Unlike using silence in your magic tricks, It is like a beacon that goes off in a spectator's mind alerting them to your dirty work. If you can iron out your magic techniques, so it happens without you thinking about it that is really where you want to be, this way it is also invisible to your spectators.
Patter can be a huge part of why a spectator may second guess where your magic may be going. You may inadvertently be giving your spectators too much time to question your actions. It may also be that you are alerting them to funny business just by the words you are saying.
Patter is a great form of misdirection. It can give your spectators something to think about which can be just as distracting as giving them something to look at. A great tip is to give your spectators a couple or a few instructions. For example, you could say; 'please take this card and hold it between your hands, so it is safe' or, 'hold this card face down and stare right at this spot on the back of it'. By giving the spectator a couple of instructions they are much less likely to argue with it, one instruction the brain can argue with, 2 or more instructions and the brain kind of gives in and just does it. You must be fluent with your patter, when you give them an instruction follow it up with something, whether it is another instruction or just more patter that changes the direction of where your spectator's mind is going it must flow smoothly and your spectators will go along for the ride.
Don’t Spell it Out for Them.
It is important that you do not have a running commentary of every action you do. Do not say things like 'if I take the top card', or ‘I will just put the coin in my hand’. Your spectators can see it is the top card you are using, by stating that it is the top card you are allowing the spectator to question that statement. Simply use the top card and say something like 'we will use this card to help'.
Reading your Spectators.
This is something that can only come from experience, but there are a few pointers I can share to help you along your way. You must be able to quickly judge how compliant a spectator is going to be in a short space of time. Now some of these judgements can be made by observation from before you meet up with the spectator.
Identifying the Alpha Male of the Group.
How you assess a group when approaching spectators makes a huge difference. You should be able to view a group and see who is the dominant person within the group. They are usually the centre of the conversation and receive the most attention from everyone in the group, when they speak, people listen. Another way to identify them is if you happen to someone insisting on picking up the bar tab or bill at the end of a meal. Look around, observe people. If you look for the details you wish to see, you will see them crop up all over the place. The alpha male is the shepherd, and the rest of the group are his sheep. If you win this person over, the rest of the group will follow. By getting the group on your side, you will dramatically reduce the chances of being second guessed or interrupted mid performance.
Introduce yourself, shake hands with the spectator and ask their names. Be personable, don’t just go up to people in ‘magician’s patter mode’, many people find magicians annoying when they do that. By introducing yourself properly, you will have a moment to judge their reaction to you. You can then decide if you will take your performance slowly and seriously or make it light hearted and fun. Generally, if I get a stand offish reaction to my introduction I will address that person and let them know everything will all be ok, it is just going to be something quick and fun. Once you break down their barrier you can then go deeper with your performance and leave them with a better experience than they ever dreamt they would have.
These are a few guidelines you can use to help your magic performance. If you practice your magic techniques and patter so that everything runs smoothly, then you will be able to stay in control of your spectators. If you are in control of your spectators, then the chance of them trying to take control by asking questions such as 'can I check the card?' is minimized dramatically. It does take time to master things like this, but if you start now and are aware and analytical of what you are doing when performing then these things will start to come naturally, and that is the goal.
You may also like to read about how to use magic techniques to communicate effort in your magic.