Building People Up and Tearing Them Down

Magic is very powerful. It can build spectators up and it can tear them down. It can also build magicians up and tear them down. What do I mean? Read on and find out!

Building spectators up

As magicians we hold a lot of power. We choose how we want to use that power. Either we can use it to empower the spectator, by letting them feel that the magic is happening because of them. We can also make spectators feel that they mean more to us than just a vehicle to show off our skills. We can create a rapport with them, learn their names. I mean actually learning their names, not just “Hi, I’m Greg, what’s your name? Oh hello Mary” then you walk away and think “Oh what a lovely spectator…umm….ummmm… she was” Taking time to remember their names, even if you only say their name once makes that experience for YOU as the magician more meaningful and it will rub off on the spectator(s) as well.

Another great way to show spectators they actually mean something to you, is to talk to them on a non-magic level. Ask information about them: What they do for a living etc. It really enhances the relationship.

Treating spectators with respect and really being a mensch (a well-rounded, well-mannered human being) not only makes your magic more enjoyable but it makes the time that you shared with the spectator more meaningful.

Tearing spectators down

All you have to do is the opposite of building spectators up. Be arrogant, egotistical, rude, and selfish and please if you are going to tear a spectator down, don’t forget to make them feel this tall:an inch tall

You don’t want to remember their name or treat them like they have any purpose other than to show how incredibly talented you are.

Building magicians up

Yes, it is important to perform magic where you are building yourself up. Perform effects that you are comfortable with performing. When you do magic well, people respect you. When you build them up and perform awesome magic properly, people will recognise your skill and will think you are incredible. That is important for a magician. It’s important for anyone really – if you have a skill and you do not get positive feedback from it, how long will you continue with that skill? Seriously? Probably not very long. It is important (and this was the beginning thought of this post) to practice your magic before performing.

Tearing the magician down

I thought about this as I bought a new effect and I wanted to perform it but I haven’t perfected it yet and I was imagining what would happen if I had to perform this incredible effect and mess it up – I would not get reactions such as: “Wow!” or “Incredible!” In fact I would have let my audience down because they are expected to be swept away to a place where the impossible seems possible. And that will lower my credibility as a magician. Messing up to an extent lowers your credibility as a magician.

Magicians are humans. They make mistakes but you don’t want to use that as an excuse to not practice your magic properly before performing.  You do not want to ruin your reputation on making a silly mistake. And making a mistake during an effect is embarrassing, regardless of how you clean-up or cover it up. But as they say: “shit happens” and so as a magician you are sometimes confronted with making a mistake – it all depends on how you handle it. Here are some tips I have learned over the years:

1. Own your errors.

Accept the fact that you made a mistake. If you can cover it up without the audience knowing then great, do it. But be sure to go over the effect and work on the error.

2. Honesty  

People don’t like to be lied to. So if you make a mistake and you can’t cover it up or side-step it, then be a man, admit it and move on. Don’t lie to your spectators. They will respect you more if you treated them like adults and just admitted it.

3. Don’t let it get to you

How you react to the fault, will ultimately determine how the spectators’ react. For example: If you drop a TT and the spectator sees it, looks at you and you display a look of loss because your bill change is now ruined; you can either act like a fool and lie to them “nope, I never dropped that. Na-uh” or you can keep going at the mistake “I’m so sorry, this never happens, please forgive me, I practiced hard, my mom loved this trick, pretend you never saw it, I really am a good magician” or you can say something funny like: “Boy who turned gravity on today? Or “Golly, even magicians lose their thumbs sometimes!” Pick it up, put it in your pocket and move onto another effect. If you chose the last option, the spectator will know you made a mistake, but you are confident and funny and so they will not let it ruin the effect.

2 personal stories:

  1. I was performing for some matrics in Israel in January of this year and I was doing my cups and balls. Now I have done the cups and balls for years and as it so happened I dropped the ball (magicians know which ball I am referring to), the matrics knew I had cheated them, I laughed at it, told them I’m continuing whether they like it or not; I resumed my performance and in the end when I revealed my final loads my audience completely forgot about the error and clapped their hands off!
  2. In 2004, I was at Bnei Akiva camp and I was participating in a talent show. I was going to an awesome effect where cards from two decks of different colours were going to swap places and there were signed cards… it’s beautiful. However when I called my spectators up they shuffled the decks without me knowing and when I got to the part where I needed to use the decks – my setups were ruined. I was seventeen years old, so embarrassed, apologised and walked off the stage. I had a spare pack of cards but I was so embarrassed I never even realised.

We learn from mistakes. Try not to react how I did in example two. Be confident, move forward and remember how you react will determine how your spectators react. Mistakes happen but try to avoid them, practice until you can do it blindfolded.


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