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Presentation (A How to Guide)

In many magic books you will see many bold statements such 90% of a magicians success is due to presentation and the other 10% is successful execution of the trick. As getting into such percentages is debatable, it is safe to say that a large amount of a magicians success is due to its presentations. But why is presentation such an important part? Why so much emphasizing is placed on it? And why does it bring success and also how can I make good presentations in the effects I do?

All valid questions and all ones I will endeavor to answer, but first let’s have a close look at what presentation can do for you. Besides the most obvious of things and that of bringing entertainment value to the effects which you perform presentation also brings in an element of utility and versatility.

Strengthen weak points of effects.

To demonstrate my point I will use mathematical card tricks as an example. Mathematical cards tricks usually suffer from two main problems: Mostly, they are not terribly entertaining, and it is often obvious that the method has something to do with mathematics. This in turn creates another problem of reducing the trick down to an intellectual problem.

The answer to this issue is coming up with an interesting presentation and has some emotional appeal and gives the trick some meaning. To prove this I will use an effect that most magicians can relate to, the feared and dreaded 21 card trick. Feared and dreaded because this is the most likely the card trick that layman will show you if they know any card tricks and it suffers from the two previous mentioned points. It’s required the performer to deal three rows of seven cards from left to right and the card the spectator thought of being indicated in one of the three piles. This process is continued one or two more times.

Ed Marlo has done a favor by adapting this effect so the dealing process is required but once, not sure of the name but something like 21st Century card trick I believe so if you have access to his version I would recommend it. Lets continue on and see what presentation can do remedy these problems. Below is a presentation of the 21 card trick. Remember what the presentation needs? To be interesting, have emotional appeal and meaning.

Items required:
Newspaper hat with police written across its front (you know, the ones you made as a kid)
1 pack of cards (naturally)

Ladies and gentleman it’s becoming apparent more then ever that on the news and Current Affairs shows that bad news is good news. Very seldom do we hear a good news story these days.

So in not to be the one that breaks the trend lets keep that ball rolling. HEHE

Watching the news lately or not you may have come to realize a serial card thief has been terrorizing the magic community by sneaking in thru windows during the middle of a performance and stealing cards from the magician’s deck leaving him with less then the required 52. It’s a shocking problem and one that I have come prepared for today.

Could I ask you to be my watchful eye in case he comes? Yes? Great then put this hat on. But its not just any card this thief steals but a particular card. Now I don’t know what card it is as I have not been robbed yet by I figure if we can find out together then maybe we can remove it from the deck.

Like a police line up I will deal these cards in three lines and you are to pick up one and think of the card you think is the thief’s preferred card. (The cards are then dealt in three rows of seven as traditionally required for this trick) To make double sure the card is the one the spectator suspects in the one.

I’ll gather the cards up mister police man and put them in your pocket. Now this is where I need you to act your part by following my directions. Place your hand out and say “stop in the name of the LAW”. Do this a quick as possible (this is repeated a number of times in a fast and quick fashion until an instruction is given to reach into his pocket and pull out a card)

Now what card was it that you chose? The Six of clubs? It looks like we apprehended the offending card. (In the hands of the spectator with the newspaper hat on his head is holding the selected card.


In summery the three things that we needed to achieve are interest, emotional appeal and meaning both as I said before required to fixing both weak points apparent in mathematical card tricks.

The emotional appeal element is achieved in the sense of the magician trying to be serious with a completely far fetched and unlikely explanation of the card thief. Added to that the ridiculous physical appearance of the hat on the spectators head is bound to get a humorous response.

The meaning element is introduced in a number of ways, both in the meaning of the tricks as a whole and elements of the trick. The trick is solely and wholly to remove a card in the deck that may be open to be stolen. Then on another level the dealing of the rows of seven is explained as a police line up which seems natural given the nature of the theme up to this point.

What about interest? Well you’re always going to maintain interest if you keep your audience involved throughout your performance with wise crakes, silly antics or the alike even at the point of the dealing of the three rows of seven. This has been done fully and completely during the above presentation.

Having said that lets look at another thing that presentation can do.


When you hear the word misdirection you closely relate sayings like “the hand is quicker then the eye” which is to insinuate misdirection is a physical action. This is not true as there such a thing a verbal misdirection. To demonstrate lets look at the old and well known cross cut force which can be found in many elementary books on magic.

The deck is put forward towards a spectator and asked to cut a small portion off the deck and place it crosswise on the remainder. The magician says “You had complete freedom of choice as to where to cut the cards. You could have cut off a big pile, a little pile, what ever you chose. Now have a look at your card. You point to the card he is to look at.

The secret to the cross cut force has less to do with the physical action of the cutting process and more to do with what is said. Look at what I have typed is italics, its that part that makes the cross cut force work or anything else you would like to insert at that point. When delivering this line all attention is brought away from the cards and focused on the spectator outlining the conditions that will make this experiment a impossible one. The time the above line also lengthens the time of when the cards have been cut to when the card is revealed further treating the cards as a non-event.

The line also adds a number of conditions to the force that really have no bearing to the effect as we know but further misdirects the spectator from the truth that the card he is looking at is really the original top card of the deck. This is why this force is so effective yet appears so simple.

To give another example try this, take out a match box and place a five dollar note inside it and ask a friend to match it. After both notes are in the matchbox draw, close it and make the following offer to your friend.

Offer to your friend that you will sell the matchbox and it’s contents (the ten dollars) if he pays 7 dollars to you. You further say that he is making good on this offer because he is getting three dollars more then the seven dollars he paid for the matchbox and the money inside it in the first place.

What your friend is neglected to relies is that half of the ten dollars was his in the first place and what he is giving you is two dollars more then what you contributed. But this point is lost on your friend because of the misdirection given by directing your friend from this to another fact on how he will benefit. You will find this will work majority of the time. The only draw back in this little con is that it sounds to good to be true, which it is, which may bring a little hesitation in your suspecting victim.

NOTE: Don’t use this to con people but as an educational aid only.

Appealing to Different People

To this point we have shown two examples of utility that presentation can bring. So now I won’t to show how presentation can bring versatility. I think that value of a magician’s room of props would increase ten fold if more magicians looked in how they can use what they already have but in different ways. I have proven on more then one occasion that the same effect can appeal to two different types of audiences. As I sure that most of us are familiar with the normal adult presentation of the cards across effect, I wont to present a children’s version of the effect.

Presentation: "Hello boys and girls, my name is The Wizard of Aus, and I won’t to ask you guys a very important question." With these words a very serous look graces the face of the performer. "You see, I want to know what the first letter of the alphabet is, do any of you know?" a number of children soon tell the performer what the first letter is. "Yes, that’s right, ‘a” is the first letter of the alphabet, but do you know why “a” is the first letter of the alphabet?” "It’s because it’s the fastest letter in the alphabet, but many people think “f” is because it's the first letter in the word fast".

“Who would like to see how fast the letter ‘a” is?” After a varied response from the audience the performer picks two children who stand to each side of the performer. The performer hands the deck to one child and asks him/her to deal seven cards, which when finishing, the magician hands the remainder of the cards to the other child who deals ten into the magicians other hand. "Now if we need to show how fast the aces are, we need the aces", which matching the actions to words the performer extracts the three aces from his pocket. "We will place them in this pile here", which he places the aces in the pile containing seven cards making the total ten. "To make the first ace travel, we need this", upon his closing words the performer takes a flag gun from his case. "Could I please have another person come on stage here and hold this in the air, and on the count of three pull the trigger", following the magicians instructions the helper does so and the flag pops out of the barrel of the gun with the word BANG. To the humour of the children you count the cards to reveal there are but nine there.

"One has left, now we need to get the next ace to go, but this time I want everyone to pull the most ugly face they can so we can scare the next ace to the next pile", "Ok on the count of". After the laughter has died down you recount the pile you counted previously to show there is only eight cards there now.

Now we have to make the last ace go, boys and girls, now how should we make the last ace jump to the next pile, does anyone have any suggestion?” no doubt at this stage you will hear a number of suggestions which can be very humorous sometimes, but the performer takes one of the suggestions and then uses it to make the final ace go over to the next pile, repeating the count to show seven cards this time. Its worth for backup reasons to have a third humorous way to make the final ace jump in case the situation occurs where no good suggestions a made. One such example is to find a queen from the remainder of the deck and say to the kids that this queen is the final aces girlfriend, so all the kids are to wolf whistle, to make the final ace jump, but I leave this final part to the performers own discretion.

In summery

Now presentation can help so much in this area but is can also be limited depending on effect you’re performing. Dealers have this habit of giving effects out with fixed presentations with prop fixtures that have floral pattens or cartoon characters. This means that your presentation has to fit the physical description of your props, because theirs nothing I hate then seeing a hard man act using a blooming bouquet. This also I feel contributes a lot to the cookie cutter image some magicians get as the work is already done for them and in turn stifles creativity.

Having said that what value would you place on an effect that pack small but plays big, appeals to more then one type of audience and has many more possibilities? It’s a no brainier really. So I hope that I have answered three of the four questions I posed at the beginning.

Why is presentation such an important part?
Why so much emphasizing is placed on it?
Why does it bring success?

If you wont to explore the power of presentation and what it can do I recommend you read a number of publications on magic theory as there are many great titles.

Having that being said, that leaves use with the final question. How can I make good presentations in the effects I do? Stay tuned I will answer that in the next installment.


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Now, the final question, how can I make good presentations in the effects I do?

Well below is what I would consider guidelines rather then rules, as I believe that rules suggest ridged instruction that must be followed with in its parameters. This sort of mind set stifles creativity and the only the true rule is that you should be only limited by your own imagination. With this sort of boundless creativity you can stray in many directions and bring about many results and that’s fine if you hope to just perform one effect to friends or family. In unison with other effects however, this may seem to your audience as a crazy mixture. So the guidelines I suggest are rather to bring focus to your presentations and your creativity, not to restrict them in any way.

Let’s not forget as well why we are doing this exercise, and that’s so your audience is entertained. That being said lets start delving into the guidelines.

What to Choose?

I’m not going to suggest that you should choose one presentation over another but rather try to explain external factors that may influence your choices. The most obvious factor is your audience; an audience of children is going to influence your presentation as apposed to an audience of adults. Mannerisms, body language, words and jokes need to be in the realm of understanding of your audience. There is no point in putting an adult joke in a kid’s show or the other way around.

That being said there is common ground presentations that appeal to both types of audience. Not on the same level necessarily, but appeal none the less. An example of a common ground presentation is one where the fun and physical antics of your presentation may find itself entertaining to the children element of your audience but the under laying message or theme may hit home with the adults. School show performers with stranger danger, anti bulling and other such themes find them selves in this common situation.

Another influencing factor in presentation is where method is combined, as in my first post where I described the reason why the cross cut force works, it’s the element of misdirection provided by way of your presentation. With that line removed from the force, it would simply not work. This is a fixture in your presentation that you will need to work around. The secret in doing this is trying to make your modifiable presentation elements blend seamlessly in to the fixed ones.

A close relation to presentation fixtures is Physical Fixtures, things like pictures on props like what is often seen in children section of you local magic shops. These need to be catered for in your presentations, other wise they are simply meaningless distractions to your audience that will arouse questions. If you got a picture of a fluffy rabbit on a prop and all you talk about is ducks then what the hell is the rabbit for? You’re manner of performance will be effected as well by physical fixtures. If you’re going to be a super hero Mandrake (DC Comics) style, then you don’t won’t to associate your self with cute and cuddly animals.

The above things this far have been straight forward elements of presentation that a magician should consider. Not all things are as straight forward however. Henning Nelms (Magic and Showmanship) states quite clearly that his stage show where he has had great success in most cases has fallen flat in some situations among different audiences. I believe this is has a lot of what Jay Sankey calls, gauging the level of the room. There are a lot of magicians that are very adult only type performers using very four letter word in there vocabulary and also the English gentlemen type performer that never steps on the side of profanity or rudeness. Yet I have seen both, and both work extremely well. Why? This is because of the very first point I made at the very beginning, it’s the type of audience you have.

To further demonstrate my point let me relay as little story to you. In 2004 in the city of Melbourne I attended the 2004 Australian Magicians Convention Hosted by the renowned Tim Ellis and his wife Sue and one of the guest lectures was Aldo Colombini. Also attending was a Phil Cass one of the most successful professional magicians in Australia today. The lesson I learned here was not at any lecture or talking to magicians as going to the next event on our busy schedule, but long after when the convention had ended for that day. Some after those days’ events retired to the convention hotel for refreshments and to mingle.

A conversation broke out between Aldo and Phil about Phil’s performing style. For the record Phil and Aldo and there styles of performance are on different spots of the spectrum. Phil is the more adult performer and Aldo the more English Gentlemen. Phil style was along the sucker trick line where his presentation was at the expense of his helpers or assistance and the many funny situations that they find them selves in.

Aldo I believe was trying to make the point that through his style clearly brought him success here in Australia, it would not always translate to other comminutes in other country’s. Phil was clearly trying to understand this as one time he had traveled overseas and had the unfortunate situation of being banned due to some magicians not liking his approach.

The conclusion I had drawn is that you can’t be all things to all people. The cloture in that country was not of the Australian way of not taking yourself too seriously and able to laugh at your self which was most likely why he is a hit here in Australia and not there overseas.

But how do you gauge this sort of thing?

Jay Sankey said it best, he says to perform an effect that sits on the fence line where you currently are and deviate ever so slightly too where you hope to go. Did it get a mediocre reaction? Did it get a bad reaction, or did it get a great reaction? These will determine what will fly and what will not.

Also the element of routine creation will affect your presentation choices. Below is a basic routine structure I follow (taken from my Routining How-To Guide).
Gets attention
Must set the tone of your act

Body of Act

Fits theme
Uses variety
Maintains interest


Must be your best effect
Leave them wanting more
Leave on a high note

Stated in that How-To Guide I give many points on how to fulfill these elements of routining but presentation can aid greatly as one of these points. To demonstrate, Bridging words and phrases can make effective transitions—such as “of course,” “in addition” and “consequently”—can show that you're moving on. Transitions help that unified look of an act and not a thrown-together bag of tricks. It also helps your viewer to move nicely from one effect to the other and make that connection that we are obviously trying to make.

Lets not limit ourselves ether to think that the spoken word is the only form of presentation. Go to any stage production and generally things a have clear start, middle and end. When everyone has taken there seats and the theater lights start to dim and music starts to play, it’s a visual and sound queue that things are about to start happening. This gains effective attention, one of the points in my list above.

Now I think I have given many examples on things that could affect you decision making of what presentations you should use, lets now move onto our next Guideline.


Think of any day significant in your life, whether it be the day you said “I do” to the love of your life or the birth of your first child. It’s not surprising to hear people saying “It was the proudest moment of my life” or “I remember it like it was only yesterday”.

I don’t know about other magicians but I think the recipe for long lasting performances in the minds and hearts of your audience can be found in these sentiments. The key to all of them is how they felt at that time, proud, sad, happy, in love etc. So why wouldn’t you inject emotion in your performances? The tricky part is trying to apply emotion. The first place to start is your self, making sure that you act projects that emotion in the most convincing way possible. Make sure that a clear connection is made. Look at ball room dancers for example. Doing dances like the tango, foxtrot and so on it is clear that a connection between the male & female dancer is there, staring into each other eyes intensely to an equally intense piece of music.

They also tend to relay emotion in a more hidden way; more happy songs tend to make the female dancers wear brighter and free flowing clothes where the more serious dances more dark and sharp garments. How things are said as apposed to what is said gives a whole new perspective on your presentation. When something is said in jest or in fun or in all seriousness adds to conviction of your presentation. If you ever ask a good joke teller or comedian what makes something funny is the delivery. It’s what comes before that makes the punch line or climax of the joke twice as funny. So don’t rush to the end so fast but make each spot in the road a memorable one.

What some magicians do is script their acts, and all though doing this has its advantages and disadvantages one of the main disadvantages is emotion. Emotion does not always translate well on paper then as if you had seen it or heard it, and if you would describe each detail of how a line was meant to be said as detailed as a romance novel your script would be blown out to many more pages.

Scripts also lend them selves to latent memorization which zaps all emotion out of the performance. I liken this to someone who politely laughs at a joke they clearly didn’t find funny which despite best intentions just comes across generated and insincere. There is of course people who can memorize a script well still having emotion and conviction in what is said. People like this are professional actors or people that have taken acting lessons and if your one of these people then you could probably do well not to take this advice. I’m thinking however that the majority of my readers have not had this experience so I will depart this advice for them.

The secret of reading a script well maintaining emotion in what’s said is by not memorizing everything but memorizing sign post points and gaining a general outline of what’s required in the in-between points. Gaining general gist of what said means that you now know what needs to be said but not bogged down with memorization which frees the mind to concentrate on other things. If you’re into comedy I recommend Billy Connelly’s Tour of Newzland. He goes on stage each time without a set routine and plays things of the cuff. But where ever he goes he delves into the cloture and history of the region, add a funny perspective which constitutes the content of his shows. Nothing is written down, just an outline in his mind as to what needs to be said. The bonus of Billy’s approach is that his audience will be able to relate to his comedy and there is really no need to feel the level of the room as discussed earlier.

Having said that as I finish this post I will say that next time you consider presentation of your effects, that you place a bit more consideration on aspects that may influence what you choose, as I hope that I have outlined here today. I wish you well.


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If I recall, there's also a section on presentation towards the back of Expert Card Technique
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Aus, I'm glad you posted a link to this in another topic since I hadn't seen it before. Thank you for putting into the time to write that up!

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Must have taken forever to type that out. Still, in the Australian sunshine with a beer or two it probablywwouldn't seem so long. B-)
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It's been some time since I wrote this How-To Guide discussing the virtues of good presentations and I felt that many great points where out lined in my initial post but I never really actually told anyone HOW to find and make good presentations for tricks. In an effort to remedy that I felt a good addition to the guide would be me sharing with you my techniques of presentation construction.

So without further ado here is part 2 of the Presentation (How-To Guide).

When I’m look at creating something I look at it in three stages which are:

1. Analytical

2. Operative

3. Synthetic

The analytical stage is where we define our requirements and ask the necessary questions which in our case are simply being able to find a great presentation. When you get into magic on a deeper understanding you will find that situations and preferences will dictate others. An example of this in a presentation aspect might be a theme presentation angle for a trick that needs to be part of a live event like a Christmas Party or Gospel teaching. Presentation also facilitates a multitude of different functions some of which has already been discussed in my earlier half of the presentation how-to guide. To keep matters simple I'll simply focus on the requirement of finding a presentation that suits the effect, so lets move on to the next stage.

The Operative stage is where the exploring for ideas begin, but how do we explore for ideas? The essence of creativity is perspective. A different perspective sheds a whole new light on the matter, introducing new ideas. Here are some techniques I use.

Looking for a simple presentation for a trick I often look at the effect itself and see what way it can be seen by others. At the beginning see where your effect sits in the list below:

1. Production (appearance, creation, multiplication)
2. Vanish (disappearance obliteration)
3. Transposition (change in location)
4. Transformation (change in appearance, character or identity)
5. Penetration (one solid through another)
6. Restoration (making the destroyed whole)
7. Animation (movement imparted to the inanimate)
8. Anti-Gravity (Levitation and change in weight)
9. Attraction (mysterious adhesion)
10. Sympathetic reaction (sympathetic response)
11. Invulnerability (injury proof)
12. Physical anomaly (contradictions, abnormalities, freaks)
13. Spectator failure (magicians’ challenge)
14. Control (mind over the inanimate)
15. Identification (special discovery)
16. Thought reading (mental perception, mind reading)
17. Thought transmission (thought projection and transference)
18. Prediction (foretelling the future)
19. Extra-Sensorial perception (unusual perception, other than mind)

Take that effect or if applicable more than one that may apply to your trick and type it into Google, as an example let’s use Invulnerability.

Typing invulnerability into Google usually just brings up the dictionary definition so let modify our search terms. If we search for “invulnerability in mythology” you will find an interesting story of Achilles which in Greek mythology tells the story of Achilles being a baby, it was foretold that he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, and dipped his body into the water. But as Thetis held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a man of war who survived many great battles. But one day, a poisonous arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him shortly after.

Just looking at that info I can think of many ways to adapt that story as a context for any cut and restored or penetration effect.

Going back to lord Google for a minute we can take Invulnerability and look at it in a metaphorical perspective we can find invulnerability can be seen in another light.

One of the search results came up as someone talking about their upbringing, that they were taught, either by experience or words, to be strong, look like they had it all together, hold their emotions close to our chest etc., and the price that comes with that choice.

If you wonted your magic to rely a meaningful message as often Gospel Magic does then I can see ways to adapt this perspective to an effect of a trick to help do that same thing.

One final example for effect type; I was looking for a presentation for a chop cup routine which was Dan Tongs (look it up on youtube), I didn't want to copy what others were doing so I did what I asked you to do and break down the routine to effect classifications. As the routine was a multi-phase routine it had many things that fitted into more than one of Dariel Fitzkee’s effect categories.

I started to search for each individual category when I suddenly hit what I though was the best presentation. In Wikipedia I ran across a list of comic heroes and villains and their various superpowers. From that I looked what superpowers I could use from that as context of my chop cup routine and the following presentation was born:

X-men Chop Cup routine:

(Danny Tong Routine)

As magicians we have a natural tendency to explore abstract and unusual concepts. One of my favorite shows on TV when I was a kid was X-men, which is a cartoon of superheros and villains each with their own unique powers and ability’s.

When I was a kid I dreamed of what would everyday life be like if I had these ability’s, how would I do everyday things if I had superpowers to do it. What if I wanted to simply put this ball into this cup (the magician throws the ball into the cup, then tips it back out into his hand again), with all these superpowers how many ways could I do it?

For example if I was someone like Emma Frost who is a telepath I could simply place the ball under a cup beforehand and simply cast the illusion in your mind that the ball is invisible when in fact it’s still there (the magician place the ball under the cup looks into the spectators eye with a wave of his hand then lifts the cup to show the ball Invisible, the magician picks invisible ball off the table to show it well replacing the cup on the table).

To bring it back into view again I just need to break the illusion in your mind (click your fingers as to insinuate the action of breaking the illusion then simulate the action of placing the invisible ball under the up turned cup which is then lifted to show the ball visible again).
Another approach could be the ability to teleport from one spot to the other like the x-men character Nightcrawler. Let me show you. I’ll place this ball into my pocket and teleport it from my pocket in this cup (the magician takes the ball and places it into his pocket then out again and throws it into the cup to mime the process).

Ok, let see if this works, (the magician tips the ball out of the cup and places it into his pocket and inverts the cup on the table) and just like that it happens (the magician clicks his fingers over the cup then lifts it to show the ball visible under the cup).

Of course the x-men aren't the only ones with ability’s, the villains have their ability’s to, like the villain called Vision who has the ability of controlling density. If I had this power I would simply make it so the ball could pass through the cup as if it had no bottom (the magician throws the ball into the cup and the ball is seen falling from the bottom of the cup).

Of course bringing things back to its original density is just as important (the ball is thrown back into the cup but it doesn't penetrate the cup this time).

Another cool ability I could use is astral tapping which is the Ability to cause an astral projection of an object to appear, usually in one specific place. Let me show you. I’ll place the ball in my pocket and project the image of the ball under the cup. [The magician places the ball in his hand into his pocket and places a finger to his temple as if projecting an image under the cup. The magician lifts the cup up to show the ball]

Of course using all these powers do come with a certain amount of risk, like physically distorting the object your using your powers on (the magician lifts the cup to show of the first final load) as well as seeing double (producing the second load). So be warned, use your superpowers responsibly. (End of routine)

You could also search for information relating to props used in the effect itself; let’s say I’m looking for a presentation for a coin matrix so a search for information on coins might be the starting point. Searching Wikipedia I found two interesting bit of coin related history:

“The earliest coins are mostly associated with Iron Age Anatolia, especially with the kingdom of Lydia. Early electrum coins were not standardized in weight and in their earliest stage may have been ritual objects, such as badges or medals, issued by priests”

“Some convicted criminals from the British Isles who were sentenced to transportation to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries used coins to leave messages of remembrance to loved ones left behind in Britain. The coins were defaced, smoothed and inscribed, either by stippling or engraving, with sometimes touching words of loss.” “These coins were called "convict love tokens" or "leaden hearts". “A number of these tokens are in the collection of the National Museum of Australia.”

So using that information could create a presentation of coins being used as ritualistic objects and the matrix itself as a demonstration of the unusual ways the coins act when used in conjunction with powers we don’t fully understand or how coins were used to smuggle secret messages from convicted criminals to their loved ones and the covert sleight of hand used to smuggle these coins past the prison guard.

Just by taking some interesting information and some creative licence you can create some unique presentations that nobody else would have even thought of.

Another idea generation technique is random inputs. Random inputs can be very useful for generating ideas because they are … well… random. The very random nature enables us to jump out of our train of thought into new and potentially more productive areas.

The random techniques are particularly useful when you feel yourself getting stuck, when no more ideas seem to be forthcoming. When this happens, the tendency is to try harder, which just leads to our thinking becoming even more stagnant and makes it hard work. It should be fun! If it gets hard try a random technique.

Random techniques are also useful in “green field” scenarios where you have no ideas at all to start with. A random input can easily generate a number of ideas which will get your thought processes working.

You may also want to use one of these techniques just because you want some additional ideas in a certain area or just when you’re thinking gets stuck totally.

To start this process here is a link to a random word generator which buy clicking on the numbers 1 through 8 will generate random words in the quantity of the number you press.

Simply think of the word or words and see if you can find a connection to the words to the creative problem you have in mind.

For example I had the Cups and Balls in mind when the generator came up with the word “pride”, thinking of how the word could be related to the cups and balls I suddenly came to the realisation that “Cups” have had a symbolic roll in many prideful pursuits. Pursuits that I refer are a cup-shaped trophy is such events as the “World Cup”, “Davis Cup” or “League Cup”.

Its simple linkages to associations with random inputs like these that may spark a seed of inspiration that might just lead to you going down a unique thought process.

If you’re interested in further approaches to creatively coming up with ideas then I recommend “Beyond Deception” by Tobias Beckwith from your favorite magic dealer.

The final stage is the Synthetic stage which is where you take your pot of ideas and turn them into a presentation for the trick which will be stay tuned for the next installment.


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A lot of very good information. While not a huge fan of Xmen, that routine is really well done. One minor suggestion would be with the 'physically distorting' the object, the balls become another foam object, such as a foam rabbit. It seems to me like a more powerful change, and it is something that many people are unlikely to have seen.

Other than that, amazing reading. Keep the guides coming.

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Wow thank you for taking the time to write all of this down. There are some real gems of information here that I can't thank you enough for sharing and I really look forward to your next installment.
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Thanks everyone, glad people are finding my ideas helpful, I just hope it goes part way to answering the question on how to create presentations which seem to be the topic that new magicians seem to ask all the time around here. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to honing my presentations so for the average Joe just wanting to perform for family and friends my process may be a little excessive so use what ever part you find most helpful.To create great presentations you first need to understand presentation and the early part of the how-to guide helps establish that to some degree.

When you start magic in a vacuum as I did with no magic shops, no mentors and no magic clubs to air ideas and problems, necessity becomes the mother of invention and procedures like these are found and pieced together over time and through trail and error. I hope people reading these ideas value and take them as seriously as I do because God knows I'v paid my dues for them.


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That was a LOT of reading.... I definitely agree though. Magic is practically all about the presentation. If you have a good trick, but present it badly, it does you no good. Whereas even if you have a simple trick, but you present it well, it can do wonders.
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Hey Aus, any more updates. I love your writing and sharing.


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Wow Steve

You really dug in the past to find this one buddy, I'm glad you liked it. I have given some more commentary on presentation on other threads more recent then what has been said here so what I might do is consolidate them posts on this thread if you want to hear more of my thoughts. Also I might post some presentations on particular items that highlight my previous points.

Here is a repost from 2020:

I think firstly it's important to acknowledge that performing magic and creating it falls in two respective categories, one being a craft and the other an art. Each on a broader perspective are simply the opposite sides of the same coin and both are not exclusive to the other but rather complementary. I personally see both in terms of the chicken or the egg dilemma, nether existing without the existence of the other.

Having said that, you need to understand the important difference between the two.

A craft is a pastime or a profession that requires skills and knowledge of skilled work. Art on the other hand is a diverse range of human activities involving the creation of visual, auditory or performing artifacts (artworks), which express the creator's imagination, conceptual ideas, or technical skill, intended to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

In other words, the end result of craft is art.

When it comes to the craft side of magic, I think it's prudent to be pragmatic by following guidelines or magic formulas. These are well tested paths that others have followed in the past and have achieved a level of success by using them.

One of the first aspects of crafting a presentation in establishing a premise, this is essentially the why of it all. From my experience this usually extends from a trick needing a presentation or a presentation needing a trick.

If I need a presentation for a trick, I dissect the physicality of trick both is terms procedure and outcome. The reason for this is to make sure that the presentation in congruent to the trick I am performing. What is this trick trying to achieve and how is it achieving it?

Sometimes the answer to this is not always black and white as many things can be interpreted in many ways. For example if I close my hand around a coin then open it and find it no longer there, it could be interpreted as vanishing into thin air, melted into the flesh of my hand or simply turned invisible to the naked eye well physically still being present. In such situations where there are multiple streams of possible interpretation, you as the magician need to CHOOSE one as the context of the trick.

Once you have contextualised the outcome/climax of the trick, you need to contextualise the procedure it took you to get there. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes this is hard. Magic has a tendency in the name of methodology to introduce some obscure procedures such as down under deals, mathematical calculations, spelling of people's names etc as a means to an end. A lot of this can be avoided of course by simply picking versions of a trick that avoids all this obscurity in the first place but on occasions where this is not possible you may need to contextualise these obscure procedures.

If you want to see an example of this check out how I did this a few years ago for a magician on the Café looking for a presentation for the "Piano Card Trick" which can be found in many elementary books on card magic.

I guess the next aspect that I encourage magicians to do is make the trick your own, don't go and perform the latest trick by Shin Lim like Shim Lim expecting to be like Shin lim. Instead try to create something unique to you.

Creativity depending on who you talk to can ether be a clearly defined process or an abstract concept depending on how they define it. For beginners I tend to steer clear of the Hippie psychedelic interpretations for the more structured and clearly defined definitions of creativity. Not only does it give clear direction and focus to your creative efforts, it clearly avoids the risk of confusion resulting by things falling into the realms of abstraction by less rigid interpretations.

I think it is also important to consider creativity as a constant work in progress which involves refinement, changes, alterations, additions and cuts. One of the important questions I always ask magicians if given the opportunity to talk to after watching their show is what their creative process was. Nine times out then I have found that it's starts as a seed of an idea that grows over time with the evolutionary process I talked about previously.

Like the parable of Stone Soup, you might start out with something bland and uninspiring but with the gradual addition of other ingredients things soon become heartier and more flavourful.

One way I often prescribe to magicians in thinking creatively is to think about things through different lenses of thought by asking questions such as:

Can I substitute something in it?

Can I combine it with something else?

Can I adapt something to it?

Can I modify and magnify it?

Can it be put to some other use?

Can I eliminate something?

Can I reverse or rearrange it?

I also believe inspirations can come from the most obscure moments and at the most inopportune times and it is for this reason I highly recommend you have some sort of medium to capture your ideas. Many magicians have notebooks for this very reason, but also, I think there is merit to maybe carrying a digital voice recorder as part of your everyday carry for those informal moments which you can take back later and transcribe to your notebook at a later time. Many smart phones have this recording feature as part of their many included apps, so unknown to you, you might already have the capability to start doing this.

After some time has passed and you have remained vigilant in this process, you will start collecting a bountiful crop of ideas as sources of inspiration and creativity.
Also researching a presentation idea can prove beneficial and open nuances to a presentation that you might not have considered.

Maybe I have a packet trick that involves six cards, do a google search on how the number 6 manifests itself in the real world.
Here is what I found with just a quick cursory look:

Six Degrees of Separation (The theoretical idea of all things being connected with six connections or less)

The Devils Number (The idea that 666 is the devil's number. A possible Halloween presentation maybe?)

Six pack is a common form of packaging for six bottles or cans of drink.

Extrasensory perception is sometimes called the "sixth sense".

A standard guitar has six strings.

...and the list goes on. Just by looking at loose associations with the number 6 you can extrapolate possible avenues of creative inspiration that might just lead to a creative presentation.

Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts on the matter, if your interested in my any of my other thoughts let me know.

Until next time...


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Superb and valuable post!
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Terrific material, Aus! - a most helpful guide to the creation of good presentation, or even an "after the fact" check on an favorite routine for new audiences that may have different expectations or experiences compared with decades ago. As noted, this should be a continuously evolving process with considerations of other factors than "It really kills!" or "guys at the club like it."

I do hope that readers realize this approach if for the creation of, or modification of the "presentation" of a magic based routine. The creation of a new Sleight or Sleight Sequence can follow a different course. It can be derivative or non-derivative as to source of inspiration. The "seed" can come from Inspiration, Collocation, Emergence, Synergy or Divergence. The danger is that such creativity mess with the organized and systematic approach to refining a Presentations as you offer here. Especially for beginners, there may be temptation to substitute a different Sleight they have fallen in love with for the one offered by the crafter of an Effect. This is often a problem when the performer thinks they have "invented a new sleight" without understanding the Framing and Premise logic of the entire Effect that took the crafter decades to refine.

In other words, just because you can create a new routine does not mean that you should. Your check list above can serve as a means of avoiding unwise changes for the sake of being different - and allow for a focus on audience engagement or congruency of character and style. "Change" does not equal "Improve," yet nothing can improve without change. Is this a dilemma or a challenge?

Kudos for providing a reasoned process for 'considering' changes to a mastered routine, or building a routine from mastered building blocks of sleights, performance modules and effects. Following your process might even result in the performer validating their original approach and holding the inspiration for later. Creativity can be its own reward and rest comfortably in your suggested notebook for decades before use.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Since this topic has been brought back to life, I'd like to thank you Aus for your effort!

These are really valuable suggestions, much appreciated!
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Here is a piece I wrote in 2015 on transitioning from one trick to the next during the course of an act that I thought might of interest to some people:

Firstly we need to understand transitions.

Transitions in my opinion help maintain the continuity of an act by making all the tricks seem to be in a progressive order and a coherent whole as opposed to just a mixture of random elements.

The second point to transitions as you point out is to maintain momentum in keeping the audience interested and entertained in what would otherwise be the weakest part of the show, the dead time between tricks or dead time necessitated by unavoidable preparation and procedure.

Now addressing these things can be done in a few ways.

To illustrate many stage shows streamline setting up one grand stage illusion to the next by interval performances. They take a less upscale trick like linking rings, vanishing bandana or an audience interaction bit and move to the front of the stage as the stage curtains close behind them.
Well the magician is at the front of the stage performing his interval piece, his stage assistants are busily working on setting up the next illusion behind the curtains before the current piece the magician is performing is finished. Doing things in this manner eliminates or reduces the dead time well maintaining momentum. Alternatively seeing if any of the preparation of a trick can be prepared beforehand avoiding the need for such strategies in the first place is another option.

Another strategy is to incorporate the dead time and uninteresting bits as entertainment itself. The best illustration of this I’ve found is David Copperfield’s dancing tie routine which you can find here:

Notice how he makes the selection of the audience member and the tie funny and how he turns the examination of the clear box as a tap off competition. All these elements would be in normal situations mundane and boring and simply procedural, but because David is a master performer in every respect, this is never the case as this example shows. If you find yourself with an unavoidable situation that you can’t eliminate or minimize you should strive for the same as David has shown by incorporating it.

Now we have addressed momentum lets address continuity.

Making something appear seamless and as part of something bigger is as much to do with how you present something as is how we handle logistics as we have previously outlined.

Some ways we can do this is by Bridging words and phrases which can make effective transitions—such as “of course,” “in addition” and “consequently”—can show that you're moving on. It also helps your viewer to move nicely from one effect to the other and make that connection that we are obviously trying to make.

Another form of transition is prop usage, to illustrate this lets say we are looking to transition from glass walking to fire eating.

After just completing your glass walking you take a shard of glass from the pile you just walked across and hold it high in one hand above head level for all to see. As you draw focus to the shard you say that the dangers of a piece of broken glass are not always apparent and sometimes go beyond the obvious.

With those words you take a piece of flash paper in one hand well you hold the glass shard in the other just above it as if your trying to focus the suns light through the shard and onto the flash paper.

In a few second the flash paper ignites (there is a gimmick that achieves this) which you toss immediately into a duck pan with some lighter fluid which provides a consistent flame to ignite your fire eating batons.

Also consider segueing, the best way to observe segways is watch a news reader throw to the weather man. The news reader will find some strong or even tenuous link in the last story he reported and relate it in some way that involves the weather man responding or associating it to his subject matter.

News Reader: Over 60,000 people attended the fourth and final day of the battle of bands concert and was the biggest crowed in the events history. The event will windup into the last hours of the night.

News Reader: That a lot of people Peter, let's hope the weather holds up for the event.

Weather man: Let’s hope so Tracy. Let me check the weather to find out.

Let's not limit ourselves ether to think that the spoken word is the only form of transition. Go to any stage production and generally things a have clear start, middle and end. When everyone has taken their seats and the theatre lights start to dim and music starts to play, it's a visual and sound queue that things are about to start happening. Think of how you can use theatrical elements to facilitate transitions.


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I need to figure out the transitions, I think this should help me.
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