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Topic: Really Nervous When Performing
Message: Posted by: Robert Apodaca (Oct 29, 2006 07:52PM)
Hi, I've been doing magic for a really long time, but I still get very nervous. When I'm practicing I can nail every move, but when I have to perform even if it's for my friends or family I usually get incredibly nervous. My words start to tremble during my patter and my hands begin to shake making a lot of my sleights harder. For example, I have a very good Elmsley Count, however when I tried doing it for the first time I messed up and severly flashed the hidden card.

Do any of you used to feel the same way? Do you have any advice on overcoming this?
Message: Posted by: TannerJade (Oct 29, 2006 07:57PM)
Hi Drizz...
This should help!


Message: Posted by: Brad Burt (Oct 29, 2006 09:26PM)
Dear Drizz:

Definately take a look at the link above. Your 'problem' has been dealt with at great length and you'll find some great stuff on the Café.

Mostly the problem is this: You get nervous because of the imagined horror of making a mistake. Right? It would be terrible 'IF' you make a mistake and that thought becomes the linch pin in a series of thoughts that make you more and more nervous. That cycle is one that only gets worse as you get more nervous.

So, let's consider the following: What is the WORST possible thing that would happen IF you blew a magic trick??? Would more people in the world starve to death? I mean really do you expect a knock on the door from the hunger police with a warrant to arrest you because you blew a magic trick and dang! 1000 more folks died of starvation?

Would world terrorism get worse? Would, and here add any horrible thing you want.

Let's get more personal. If you blow a magic trick would you become impotent? Would you suddenly find you have a horrid disease the root cause of which could be traced to screwing up a magic trick? Hmmmmm.....o.k., maybe....MAYBE you would be embarrassed. Not fun, but it's almost NEVER fatal.

You have to put messing up a magic trick in perspective. Once you do that it makes it possible to shrug your shoulders, say so freaking what and go forth to have some fun and most likely NOT mess up. It's getting nervous ABOUT messing up that causes most of the problems!

Just mellow out bro. Really. Take it from someone who has been behind a magic demo counter for 33 years. You ARE going to blow it. Don't make it worse by worrying about it as if blowing a magic trick is somehow an affront to either God or man. No one cares. Not really. My argument isn't for being sloppy! But, once you DO have your chops down they are NOT improved in any sane fashion by worrying about making a mistake. You will or you won't, but DON'T do it because you are afraid of blowing the trick! That's just wasted effort from every direction.

I have made this recco before: Have 1-2 starter tricks that you CAN NOT blow. Easy, mechanical, self workers if that's what it takes that ARE good, but that you don't have to worry about. Get the experience of 'succeeding' and then carry it over to a trick that is a little bit more demanding.

I guarantee you can beat this thing. Just don't take it so seriously. It's not brain surgery....I wonder if brain surgeons say, "Hey, it not magic..." Best,
Message: Posted by: R.S. (Oct 30, 2006 06:13PM)

You're not alone. That happens to me as well. And apparently many others, according to the posts. In practice sessions, I can perform effortlessly and, for the most part, flawlessly. But when it's crunch time, the adrenaline says "Wait a minute pal - you're not gonna get by that easily!"

However, I have found that the level of my nervousness is in direct proportion to:

A) WHO I am performing for. The more 'important', 'critical', or 'discerning' I view this person to be, the more nervous I will become. If it's for my very forgiving (not to mention easily distracted) mother, then I will do fine because I know my chances of success will be pretty high. But if it's for Ted, the very savvy Engineer in work, then the tension increases.

B) HOW MANY I am performing for. More people means more nervousness. Too many eyes watching my every move.

C) THE DIFFICULTY LEVEL OF THE TRICK. More difficult means less margin for error means increased nervousness.

Mind you, I am not a professional - magic is a hobby for me (albeit something I am quite passionate about). And this is probably something I'll always have to deal with, since as a non-professional I simply don't have enough performance opportunities to reinforce and build on my previous confidence levels. Primarily, my performances are limited to friends and family at holiday gatherings and occasionaly in the workplace, so gaining experience is an uphill battle for me.

Anyway, many thanks to Brad and Jaxon for their advice! I will hear their words the next time I perform. And Drizz, I hope that just knowing you are not alone helps in some small way. Good luck!

Message: Posted by: Thoughtreader (Oct 31, 2006 02:20PM)

The advice that has been privded so far is the truth so go re-read it. The more sure of yourself, the more sure you are of what you so, the easier it gets. The one thing that helped me the most was remembering "it's a trick, period. Worse case scenario, it screws up. No lives lost, no danger. They are just trying to have a good time and if I am having a good time and relaxed, they will be too." So forget about worrying so much and just do it. Stop concentrating on the trick so much (and if you know it well enough it should just automatically go without you thinking about it) and instead just focus on the audience. Focus on laying back and enjoying yourself and you will find that it not only makes them at ease but relaxes you much more.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
Message: Posted by: Matt Malinas (Oct 31, 2006 06:16PM)
You will find all the advice you need right here.
other than that, don't worry, it happens to everyone and with time you'll be able to overcome it

Message: Posted by: Robert Apodaca (Nov 1, 2006 01:13AM)
Thanks a lot for your advice, guys. I've read all of them and I've read a lot from that other thread. I feel a lot better about performing already and I already feel more confident about myself. Before I wouldn't want to perform for random people but I'm feeling more better about it.

Message: Posted by: Face (Nov 1, 2006 02:07PM)
Run a search here in the Café, I belive you`ll find lot of information about this, cause similar topics has been discussed here many times before.
Message: Posted by: Bob Sanders (Nov 8, 2006 06:43PM)
After forty-eight years in the professional entertainment industry, I can still tell folks that I always shake while I'm being brave!

Welcome to show biz! It's wonderful!

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Message: Posted by: sleightofhander (Nov 11, 2006 02:43AM)
Try sqare breathing right before the performance. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, then exhale for 4 . I've tried it and it helps calm you down.
Message: Posted by: GWSchott (Nov 11, 2006 11:47PM)
I believe that building self-confidence is the best way to combat nervousness. Once I get the first 'ooooo' or 'ahhhhhh' from an audience I feel much better.
Message: Posted by: abc (Nov 12, 2006 01:52AM)
I am guessing from what you said that you only do one or two effects at a time. Although the advice above is very good it may not be applicable if you are only going to do one or two effects.
Find yourself a guinea pig audience. Mother,friend or whatever. Let this be the first person you perform any new effect for. The same nervousness may not apply but the fact that someone else is watching changes how your brain works. If you can do it for them without a problem you should be OK to do it for others.
Message: Posted by: Malchat (Nov 12, 2006 08:23AM)
On 2006-11-11 03:43, sleightofhander wrote:
Try sqare breathing right before the performance. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, then exhale for 4 . I've tried it and it helps calm you down.

Don't ignore this advice - it's excellent. It's called 'tactical breathing' in martial arts/combat shooting.

The reason you're shaking is because your heart rate is too high when performing. The beating of your heart is part of your automatic nervous system which controls all unconcious movements of your body; so if your heart is beating fast, everything shakes and twitches along with it. You can't conciously control your heartbeat, but you can control your breathing, which acts like the volume control dial for your heart beat.

1) Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of four, let your belly expand like a balloon
2) Hold for a count of four
3) Slowly exhale through your lips for a count of four, letting your belly collapse like a balloon with its air released
4) Hold empty for a count of four

Repeat if necessary. It doesn't matter who you are, the above routine will quickly lower your heartbeat and spread relaxation through the rest of your nervous system. Sometimes you'll also feel more focused after (because of better oxygen intake.)

Watch your patter when you go into your routine - try not to pitch your voice and quicken your words, because that will mess up your breathing and get your heart rate up again.
Message: Posted by: Bendy (Nov 16, 2006 07:10AM)
Performing for a few friends or family members is much harder for me than performing for a few hundred people I don't know. I think it's because they know you...REALLY know you. It leaves you vulnerable before you even start. I get shaky when performing for friends and family, too.
Performing for other magicians...multiply the friends and family shakes by about a factor of 10!

As far as larger crowds go, though, I'm always nervous BEFORE going on. Always. I shake, my stomach is in knots...the works. Then, when I'm on...I guess I'm still nervous because I sweat like nobody's business; but the other symptoms fade away into just massive sweating. So I pull off the tricks just fine...smooth as silk most of the time. ...I just need a shower and a trip to the cleaners after! I have an ulcer that never bothers me. ...Until after a performance. Through the performance, I'm okay. After, I'm in pain. I'm guessing the nervousness not only turns to sweat, but produces more stomach acid. Taking antacids before and after the performance do not help. It's just the price I pay to do what I love, I guess. Too much info??

Anyways, Drizz. Read and heed the advice given here. It will serve you well. And know that in your nervousness, you are in good company.
Message: Posted by: Darrendarko (Nov 17, 2006 09:09AM)

I play the drums in a band.. and the first couple of times we played with an audience I was so nervous and my forearms were absolutely killing with cramp or something.. but one nnight we played at a club near my home, and I was on after the opening band.. so I had time to have a couple of pints.. and believe me.. ALL my inhibitions were gone!- And I played like I do in practise!! It was superb!

I have a feeling this will apply to the routines I do with the cards too.. though I havent had a chance to test it yet! Will post once I have!!!!
Message: Posted by: Chatterbox41 (Nov 17, 2006 09:35AM)
I performed for years and still occasionally even though I think of myself as a magic hobbyist these days. I always try and open with a very simple, but still high impact trick/routine. Once I get good response, the nervousness seems to disappear and as I progress through a routine I relax.

Of course, that being said, I'm assuming you know your tricks to do them fluently at home for yourself and you have your script down so you're only dealing with performance anxiety instead of trying to work on the "moves".
Message: Posted by: Malchat (Nov 19, 2006 06:22AM)
On 2006-11-17 10:09, Darrendarko wrote:
so I had time to have a couple of pints.. and believe me.. ALL my inhibitions were gone!- And I played like I do in practise!! It was superb!

I'm not being funny as I say this: I have seen performers go down [i]very[/i] dark paths because they followed this advice.

Don't even go there.
Message: Posted by: mouliu (Nov 19, 2006 08:10AM)
There're already plenty of useful advices, I'm going to add a minor one.

When you practice, try to do it as if for real. Speak out the patters, wait for a few seconds for those moments you know audience may respond. If you have a videocam, record your practice and it really helps.

Just my 2 cents.
Message: Posted by: MagiClyde (Nov 19, 2006 08:16AM)
The scary part is when it starts becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more scared you become about screwing up, the more likely it is to happen. After a while, it can turn into a full blown phobia.

Do the relaxation techniques that others have listed here. they can really help. Another thing that you may want to do is practice performing the trick in front of someone who is already familiar with how magic is done. If you blow it, you will not be revealing the secret to a layperson. Believe it or not, I am the opposite of most beginners. I have almost no fear of performing in front of other magicians, but get really nervous in front of laypeople. The real trick is to put oneself into autopilot and DO IT. There is no substitute.
Message: Posted by: Robert Apodaca (Nov 21, 2006 11:01PM)
I would like to thank everyone here again for the excellent advice. I plan on doing my first actual show in a couple weeks for a local nursing home and I feel really confident about it.
Message: Posted by: magicbean (Nov 22, 2006 02:31PM)

One of the greatest magicians of all time, Dai Vernon also suffered from stage freight, nerves, anxiety or whatever we want to label this feeling. One thing is for sure, that Vernon's love of magic did not deter him in anyway from enjoying this wonderful art. He practiced until pefection and became famous among the magic community for his contributions. We as magicians admire vernon, yet the lay public probably never heard of him, in comparison to other magicians that perfomerd regularly.

Some of us may never be performers, some of us simply enjoy reading , collecting or experimenting with magical effects. Magic offers so much enjoyment that it really doesn't matter if we perform or not.

My point is simply that, in yuor heart you are a magician because you love magic not because you feel comfortable performing. I do hope that eventually you overcome this so you can enjoy magic even more!

Good luck!
Message: Posted by: Andy the cardician (Nov 23, 2006 05:01PM)
A little bit of nervousness is actually very good, as it keeps you focused and able to perform at your peak.
Message: Posted by: robert bianchi (Nov 26, 2006 07:39PM)
I recently posted this to another person in the Café that was having the same problem. I hope that it helps.

"Being nervous is a natural defense mechanism that many performers, sports people, trial attorneys and many others have. It is a chemical reaction in your body, but it can be controlled once you first learn that it is a natural response that many if not most expierence.

You have to learn to put it into perspective. First, recognize that it simply is the way that it is, and that things are rarley as bad as you think they will be.

Also, realize that there are relaxation techniques that you can use, and readily find on the internet. Rather than dwelling on the fears and nervousness before a performance, visualize yourself doing the tricks well, and feel the satisfaction that you will have for a fine performance, and the joy you will give to others.

You will make mistakes, we are all human. But, the nervous, yet accomplished performer, will move on as if nothing bad happened and most will not even see the error.

Lastly, (and this list is not exhaustive at all) when I am nervous, it is helpful to me to realize that there are many other people and situations in the world that are truly sad, dangerous, and lifethreathning. Most of us are very lucky compared with the plight of others. Performing magic is not one of those things that are tragic, life altering, or deadly. It is important to enjoy the things in life that you choose to be a part of. Save the overwhelming feelings for those things in life that are truly sad, and for which you have no, or little, control over."

Best of luck. Bob
Message: Posted by: SeaDawg (Nov 26, 2006 08:17PM)
I know this may seem dead simple, but make sure the first trick is dead simple, stunnig and something you hit with 100% accuracy. The confidence of knowing the first one will get a positive sresonse will help get you into the show. From there, hopefully all your practice kicks in and you are rolling.

Good luck. ( And I think just about every performer gets those butterflies)
Message: Posted by: The Amazing Noobini (Dec 6, 2006 11:40AM)
I don't personally believe in all the supposed cures for nerves that can be found in these forums, a' la "think that you are the greatest magician in the world" and other attempts at self-deception. Nerves is not solely a rational thing that can be cured by telling yourself that there really isn't anything to be nervous about. Of course there isn't. You already knew that. But you are nervous anyway. That is the problem.

Some people are more nervous than others. We are simply wired differently. Some of us are mammoth hunters with spears and race car drivers. Some of us are designed to be afraid of mammoths and speed and stay at home in the cave instead. If not the human race would have died out long ago. Unfortunately magicians and other creative and artistic people can be found among those who sit at home in the cave and practice while the cool and popular cavemen are out being wild and taking risks.

Many of the most legendary actors and musicians throughout history have suffered badly from nervousness. Most performers do to some extent, regardless of if they are magicians or country singers.

The cure: There is none. By all means... Try fooling yourself with a nice pep talk and some breathing excersizes. If you are gullible you may fall for it and relax a little. Probably you will just believe that you are more relaxed and feel better, but your hands will still shake. It is normal. Live with it. For some people it becomes easier with experience. For nearly all it becomes easier a bit into the act. Maybe your juggling of 58 slippery balls-routine should be at the end of the act and not at the beginning. So be it.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Dec 6, 2006 02:29PM)
I agree with what the Amazing Noobini just posted. Nervousness affects people differently, and for different reasons. I do not believe in most of the "cures" that performers like to give to younger, inexperienced performers. For myself all it took was performing through my nervousness for years until eventually the nerves do not last long. That isn't to say that I don't get nervous anymore - I get extremely nervous just before beginning a gig, be it table-hopping or my stand-up show. What you'll realize over time is that the nervousness just hangs around until you get about half-way through the first trick/effect/routine. By the time I am finished with the first table of the evening I am warmed up, feeling good, and ready to go. In fact when I do my stand-up show the nerves now usually disappear by the time I am done introducing myself and exchanging some pleasantries with the audience.

So basically just stick with it, perform with shaky hands and a sweaty forehead, but overtime these things ought to at least minimalize and you will be left with an even stronger performance because your talent will be the same (or better), and yet there will be fewer obstacles to overcome. The most important thing is don't let it discourage you from performing!
Message: Posted by: DJC (Dec 6, 2006 03:45PM)
I have a large background in coaching professional ahtletes. I would like to share some thoughts on this subject. Nervousness is a result from a lack of confidence. Now what is confidence and how do you create it? Confidence comes from getting predictable consistant results from an action carried out. Confidence allows a person to perform at their highest level. This is becaues the movements and decisions are made with hard certainty. If confidence is lacking movements become undecisive and inconsistant. So say you are home practicing: you get routine down in front of the mirror. This builds confidence in this environment because it is very controlled and predictable. If then said performer goes out in front of people he is now in a somewhat uncontrolled situation. Now he doesn't know what the audience is thinking or how they will react if he messes up or whatever. Now nervousness and adrenaline kick in and here we are in performance hell. OK. so heres what you have to do if you really want to deal with this. You have to start by performing in front of a few people with simple things that get good reactions. The more times you do this and get a good response the more confident you will be and the more you will want to do the routine. So what Im saying is build on successes. don't put yourself in a tough situation at first. You need to get some easy small performances that will insure good responses before you move on. A wise man once said " I don't try to find a 10 foot hurdle and jump over it. I find 10
1 foot hurdles and step over them. Hope this helps
Message: Posted by: bizjak (Dec 6, 2006 05:04PM)
I don't think it can ever be stressed (haha no pun intended) that confidence comes with familiarity. Practice until the manipulation becomes second nature. Then you will no longer become concerned with the effect but just with the performance...and overcoming that fright that my friend comes with doing it. You will always be nervous...use it to your advantage.
Message: Posted by: Darkfrog (Dec 7, 2006 06:30PM)
On 2006-12-06 18:04, bizjak wrote:
I don't think it can ever be stressed (haha no pun intended) that confidence comes with familiarity. Practice until the manipulation becomes second nature. Then you will no longer become concerned with the effect but just with the performance...and overcoming that fright that my friend comes with doing it. You will always be nervous...use it to your advantage.
I would like to point out though that not everyone has problems with shaky hands with manipulation. I myself, find that I have trouble with my patter, my voice cracks, I forget lines,etc. I also am very self-conscious that my voice is shaky or I'm pausing too long in some areas and flying through parts of my patter that should be strong and slow, with dramatic pauses.
I guess what I'm saying is that it isn't always the 'moves' that get you, it is the whole stage fright package that needs to be addressed.
I will practice my patter until I
Message: Posted by: bizjak (Dec 8, 2006 08:52AM)
Very true Dark...I apologize if I wasnt completely clear. If you become very practiced in your manipulation then the only thing you will need to manage will be the "stage fear" and the overcoming of that comes through practice in the forms of in front of a camera etc. but truly the only way to overcome it is by getting out in front of an audience and doing your program. I think as performers this will always be the greatest obstacle and one will truly never conquer it ...just be able to utilize it more to our advantage. I hope that makes a little sense and good luck in your future endeavors.
Message: Posted by: Robert Apodaca (Dec 9, 2006 06:14PM)
Thanks for everyones great advice.

I just came back from my first show ever! It was for a local nursing home. Although I was pretty nervous doing a show for the audience. I remember not to long ago I would be even more nervous for one person.

I kept my patter up and my voice didn't squek. My hands however were effected. I found it MUCH more difficult to do an Ascanio spread with people watching. I even flashed on my Invisable Palm but I don't think anyone caught on. I almost died when spreading the Invisable deack but that went smooth.

I want to get as much performing time as I can.
Message: Posted by: ToasterofDoom (Dec 9, 2006 07:40PM)
Congrats! A professional performance! It's more than what I did, anyways.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Dec 10, 2006 12:46AM)
"I even flashed on my Invisible Palm but I don't think anyone noticed."

Further proof that sometimes we really can get away with murder, and it seems as though years of work on the perfect "invisible" move may not matter anyway. That isn't to say that it shouldn't be invisible though, for that off chance that someone is burning your hands! Now that is a nerveracking feeling; just last week I performed 2 hours of table-hopping for some company's annual dinner and got to the highest, richest executive in the house, who decided he would burn my hands and never look away or even blink. Needless to say that when the joker and his signed card switched places instantly, visually, and under his hand...that $20 tip he handed me I would say was well-deserved :) .

"I want to get as much performing time as I can."

That's the spirit! The easiest and most surefire way to become more comfortable is by doing. Congrats on a solid first event, and best of luck in the future!
Message: Posted by: rmoraleta (Dec 10, 2006 04:10AM)

Being nervous also keeps you up on your toes, so it's not an entirely negative situation.
Message: Posted by: bizjak (Dec 11, 2006 07:10AM)
Congratulations on the performance...soundslike things went well for you. Good luck in the future.
Message: Posted by: Bill Thompson (Dec 12, 2006 09:45AM)
I used to get the flutters when I first started actually performing for others. As a beginner I was using the standard beginner effects with simple methods. A lot of time I was scared the methods would be too obvious or the effect would be too over exposed (as in a lot of commercially available kids magic kits, etc.) I found this to be not as true as I first thought... The tricks wowed, they were easy to do and hard to really screw up, and built my confidence.

There is a good reason that these effects should be learned and used when beginning magic. They are part of the learning process in my opinion and learning them and doing them for others is a step that shouldn't be skipped.

As far as the exposure of methods with kiddie magic kits, that doesn't matter either because I have fooled people with apparatus that they knew about from their own magic set. One example of this is the Prayer Vase. I give it out for examination at the beginning and end of the trick and have people wonder how I did as the one in their magic set didn't work like this...
Message: Posted by: mkiger (Dec 15, 2006 09:44PM)
For me the toughest part was the opener, getting the rythm of the audience. The way I found was to use either a trick that I knew cold (that means one I have performed hundreds of times for real people) or one that was as close to self workng as I could get. I used to slip a few like that in between the tougher ones to give myself a break. It is a very secure feeling to have them burning your hands when you are not doing anything, they get bored and then you do the sneaky bit. Unfortunately you have to perform to get better at performing.

The trick is not to be the best, it is to keep getting better. I can do things now that I could not do twenty years ago, there is a lot more I still cannot do. A good deal more I will never be able to do, it is one of the things that make this hobby so rewarding.