The moment to approach a table to perform table magic tricks, you should be looking out for some signals that the time is right.
I often get asked how I approach guests that are sat around a table. Table magic is one of the most common types of magic that professional magicians get booked to provide. However, it has several issues that are not found in more traditional styles of performance. Stage magicians have it easy! They get to perform in an environment that they fully control, their audience is sat quietly waiting for them to start, and it’s unlikely that they are going to be interrupted. That's not a luxury you will get during table magic.
Lifes a bit more complex for table magic magicians! We walk up to a table without introduction, and interupt a meal in progress. We compete with so many other activities and distractions. How can we pick the right moment to approach a table, and what should we look out for in those few moments before we start performing?
The right moment for a table magic approach.
At a dinner table, it’s wise not to start performing table magic whilst the guests are eating. Wait for a natural break such as the time before empty plates are cleared, or after guests have ordered and are waiting for the first course to arrive. If you are performing in a restaurant, it’s not wise to approach after the guests have asked to pay. The resturant will want to clear the table as quickly as possible, so you don’t want to delay the guests leaving after the meal has ended.
Pick a moment when you are going to be able to perform for a few minutes without interruption. It’s easy to spot those times so you can break down your performing plan for the room. This will allow you to have an equal amount of time at each table.
The secret is to approach a table without demanding everything stops to make way for you.
Area overview for table magic.
As you scan the room and plan out how you will visit each table, make a note of the following:
- Which tables have been served first and which tables will be next?
- In which direction are the waiting staff working through the room?
- Will there be presentations or speeches starting soon?
- When will the live music start, and which section of the room will be hard to perform in once it begins?
You can ask the event planner of the client about any of these details once you arrive at the event.
What to look out for as you approach a table to perform magic.
As you approach a table, you should make a quick note of the following:
- Are any of the guests still eating?
- Has the wine been served yet?
- Do the guests have bread on their side plates?
- Have the tables surrounding this table been cleared yet?
- Are there quiz sheets on the tables?
- Are all the guests seated still, or looking like they are about to leave for the restroom?
- Is the table located near any large mirrors that could make sleight of hand an issue?
- Are the guests drinks running low (Could you tell the waiting staff)
- Is there an obvious alpha spectator at the table.
- Are there elderly guests at the table?
- Do the guests have name tags?
- Do guests have jackets on their chairs (could you slip a playing card in?)
- Can you easily move around the table or is part of it out of reach?
- Do the guests look relaxed?
- Is there an involved conversation in progress?
- Are there table decorations in the middle of the table?
- Is the noise level of for the whole table to hear you?
- Is there an idea position
Taking a moment to double check these points will help reduce nasty surprises once you start your magic performance. Over time, this becomes second nature and you will automatically notice if one of these points is an issue. Until them, relax, slow down, and survey the table for a few moments before you rush in.
From Simon Caine – Food. Be aware that in restaurants, you are at the will of the waiters. As an example, if they have just finished a starter, likely you'll have 10 minutes to do your thing before mains are served. Be prepared with a routine with multiple stopping points, so you can end strong is food comes out sooner.
Couples. If two people are out together, getting in the middle of that is tricky business, especially if they look particularly intimate. If you do go for it, get them both involved as much as possible.
Children. Unless you are a childrens magician, avoid tables with children on. Invariably you will be asked to do something for them, and it's unlikely any 'grown up' (if that's your bag) magic will fly with them.
From Martin Jones – Don't forget the tables are not always in restaurants. I do lots of wedding reception type of venues and the food comes in waves! Keep out of the way of waiters and always have a quick ending if they arrive mid effect… you can always come back later!
From Nigel Carr – One of my main factors in assessing the table is the availability of space, this will be my stage for the next few mins so it is essential my audience gets the best possible view. how are the guests seated,can I perform sat down or is it more appropriate to stand, is it a long table, in which case can I involve the whole table or split the table in to 2 shows. The main point here for table magic is Showmanship and Presentation.
From Josh Gooding – I just start flourishing and small displays, eventually someone will ask if you do magic. If I'm hired and at the place doing table magic, then look for angry expressions and messy tables, if i see either, I avoid it. As far as kids, I interact better with them than some adults, so they dont affect my table magic.
From Chris Curley – It depends on how quickly you can adapt to your audience, by this I mean if as some have mentioned you see children at a table I would put the cards away and do some coin magic and if I see the people I am approaching are intoxicated I would do tricks that don't leave them any chance of messing the trick up. As for the food situation mentioned by Simon, I used to be a chef and from starters to dessert you get between 40mins to an hour, 10mins for starter and dessert and 20 to 30mins for main give or take. Also your style of performing during table magic is something to take into consideration.
If you would like to learn more about approaching tables you may find the free ebook 'Approaching Tables' worth reading: