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Profile of gallagher
Confidence, the "big C". How does one develop it? Through practice? ...experience? ...failing? ...from two shots of Vodka before the show?

Any tricks, tips, techniques...suggestions?

Thanks in advance,
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Harrisburg, PA
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Profile of mmreed
All kidding aside, I have heard a number of performing magicians say a shot of whiskey does help!

From a psychological point, confidence comes from only one of three ways:

1. Naturally part of your personality. Some people exhibit confidence naturally from birth.

2. Learned from repetition and experience. The more we do things over and over, the more comfortable we become. Comfort is the foundation of confidence.

3. Faked. Some people come across as confident, but truly are not. They are mentally sweating every move, but the perception is not seen that way. These people are skilled in the art of acting.

I think for many magicians, #2 and #3 are the majority.

For a magician with confidence needs, I think an acting class or two would help greatly. That would allow the perception of confidence while they repeat and gain experience to grow into the real confidence.

Just my opinion.
Mark Reed
Wedding and Event Entertainment
Pete Biro
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1933 - 2018
18558 Posts

Profile of Pete Biro
CONFIDENCE is just what it says... being confident that you know what you are doing and know what to do no matter what happens. Not caring if you fail is good, too (but don't take that as the main route). You will NOT FAIL if you really know your material.

Being in familiar territory helps. When I was working the same comedy club a lot, I could sit at a table with friends and have no thoughts about what I was going to do... Then, when the MC introduced me, I'd say, "I'll be right back..." and would walk up onto the stage and begin.

I was relaxed and confident because there was nothing in the act that I hadn't done so many times I didn't even have to think about how to do them and what to say.

Another time, I went overseas and was in a very different atmosphere and was somewhat nervous about it. It was early in my career, and I "died" on that stage. Partly because (owing to someone ahead of me doing one of my main effects) I had to do some material I didn't really have "down pat."
Bill Palmer
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Profile of Bill Palmer
There are several things that contribute to confidence, but the main thing is a thorough knowledge of your material. This doesn't mean that you know how each trick in your act works. It means that you know how your whole act as a whole works. It means that you know each trick and how it flows into the next one.

You must know every word, every gesture, every move at such an instinctive level that you can, if necessary, ad-lib without throwing the whole thing out of line.

Another thing that contributes to confidence is self-knowledge. If you know that you can perform the material flawlessly without having to think about it, then you can be confident that you will succeed.

There is also the matter of projecting confidence. This happens through your demeanor, your stance, your speech, your movement and the attitude you take when you go in front of the audience.

Some people feel that a shot of whiskey before a show boosts confidence. It doesn't work for me.
"The Swatter"

Founder of CODBAMMC

My Chickasaw name is "Throws Money at Cups."
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NJ, U.S.
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Profile of Jaz
Not much to add here.

Lots of practice and rehearsal should give you some confidence.
Gain confidence while meeting people when not performing. Be friendly and get them to like you.
Realize that there is nothing you do wrong when performing can ruin your life.

Take a deep breath, step up to the mound, smile at the crowd and throw your best pitch.
Scott M
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Profile of Scott M
Courage came to me when I made a decision that I was not going to get what I was wanting from magic...some form of acceptance, validation...proving to others that I can do something that you can't. When another magician did something that I really liked, envy and jealousy DROVE me to do that trick. When I did it, it was more about me proving that I could do it. Like, it was some form of competition.

Now...I just enjoy performing what I feel is a part of me. Original effects and commercial. There is a different energy to it. I am not driven for acceptance.

I still get jittery...heck, I care about what I do. But, that leaves quickly when I get in the flow of performing.

Other than that counseling bit...lots of practice of what I love to perform, and not what others do. As I enjoy being fooled, so I let them do it.

I did get a Dean's Box, though...that one got me too bad! Now, I love performing it.

-Scott M
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Profile of JamesTong
There are different ways to look at developing or having confidence.

Before we can have confidence, we must be prepared in many ways.

On a technical (showbiz) level, we need to know our materials thoroughly - being flawless on the techniques and mastering the use of all materials. This means everything must be on 'auto-pilot'. The execution of techniques must be done without even any thinking at all.

On the presentation level, we need to know who we are (our performing character). And everything (gestures, movement, smile, patter, etc.) must be natural with the character. In addition, the application of principles such as economy of motion (every movement must have a reason), audience control, controlling the audience's attention (misdirection), human psychology, etc., must also be used effortlessly.

To me, what is important is OUR PASSION to the art and craft of magic and being a performer. It is because of the passion and the love for this performing art we will automatically want to excel and be good in the performance of every shows. We will want to be prepared and do everything to become better all the time or to develop extra ways to overcome eventualities.

The 'passion' I am talking about does not only lie on our liking towards the art and craft of magic, BUT also as being a very good PERFORMER. The intensity of our passion will bring out the CONFIDENCE during the performance. The ultimate outcome will be your ability to SELL YOURSELF during each performance ... resulting in the audience REMEMBERING YOU and will always want to see your act again because of YOU.

So, it is not just confidence we are talking about. It is the formula of ... the whole is greater than the sum of all its parts. We are talking about developing or creating the WHOLE PACKAGE ... and that means YOU being "THE STAR".
Pete Biro
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1933 - 2018
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Profile of Pete Biro
Re: taking a shot of whiskey... Uh, no... I used to take a shot of Alka Seltzer. That was strong enough. It was for pre-show nerves.

One major item that got me calm before a show was something my Dad told me. (He was a major performer in vaudeville.) He said, "What are you worried about? No one in the audience is going to SHOOT YOU if you screw up. And they are there to have a good time, don't worry about it."
Terry Owens
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Ft. Wayne, Indiana
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Profile of Terry Owens
By the way, Gallagher, you gave me a great thought on a routine about confidence and doing Sidewalk Shuffle...You can have all the confidence in the world, but if it isn't based on the right thing, misplaced confidence is all you have, and you come out looking bad. That really can fit what we're talking about. Enjoying magic, and being driven to perform are 2 different things.

First, confidence for me comes by knowing my calling. I believe that entertaining via the avenue of magic is something I was destined to do, having literally performed for audiences since the age of 9. My family was not my support group in the arena of magic growing up. They thought it was a waste of time and I had to be my encourager. Being my biggest encourager, I was convinced that I could do it, and I was right. When I began to make money, their tune started changing. If there wasn't a drive deep inside to continue on, it would have just been a passing fad.

Second, I've built confidence by knowing my place in magic. Some folks tend to try to force their way into "fitting" into a certain type of effect when it really isn't their style. When I find magic that fits me, and then performing those type of effects, it builds confidence. I love to watch big illusions, great card manipulators, silent acts, but none of that fits who I am.

Thirdly, I find confidence in just being me. I'm the best me there is, and if I feel good about me, I'll be confident. But if I don't feel good about me, well, that is an area I would need to work on. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, how well do you like yourself? If you're a 3 or 5, why aren't you higher? Work on those areas that you feel lacking in, and you'll build confidence.

Finally, time builds confidence. The more I practice, the more I perform, the more the audience is entertained, it gives me confidence.

Just some of my thoughts...
Terry Owens
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Profile of montymagi
Jaz, very well put.
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Agent of Chaos
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Profile of gaddy
The "shot of whiskey before going on" did help me to overcome my nerves, but it also was a big contributor to a burgeoning drinking problem...

Too many magicians have succumbed to alcoholism, be forewarned.
*due to The Magic Cafe's editorial policies, words on this site attributed to me cannot necessarily be held to be my own.*
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Profile of rannie
There are many ingredients to promote confidence. Most of the good advices were already given by the gentlemen above. In my 25 years of performing to the public, the one thing aside from knowing my pieces, my moves, patter, music, scales, etc.... is ENJOYMENT. When I enjoy what I am doing...there is no reason for me to not be confident. When I am enjoying, I am in such a blissful state...I have no time to worry or feel scared. I shall try to break it down the best I can on how I reach the state of enjoyment.

I. I try to connect with my audience.

a) Even before I stand in front of my audience, I already have planted "energy balls" without them knowing it. I envision my energy being planted in front of them. Pretty hard to describe, but I have been doing it for many years.

b) I try to get a general "read" of my audience's profile...e.g. are they conservative? Are they rowdy? Etc., etc.

c) I try to find a common denominator. This could be anything like language, cultural stuff, current issues, etc.

d) I try to make them comfortable with me. ONLY then can we be comfortable with each other. Just the right amount, of course, so you still have control.

e) Try to involve your audience as much as you can. By nature...people wants to be part of the show.
With them working with is sure to be a fun and enjoyable experience even for yourself.

II. Have multiple outs!

a) I always make it a point to analyze my routines and find ways to save my neck should something untoward happens. Perhaps a heckler, an accident or a real error on my part. I practice several outs for these things. Knowing that you have other ways out of a possible mess gives you great confidence.

b) I do mental rehearsals of possible situations that may arise in a live performance. I do this in the shower, in the gym, flights. I use this before I sleep. It's the better alternative to counting sheep.

III. Master your routines to the point that you can perform it backwards, literally. "Nuff Said" in this dept.

IV. GO OUT and MEET people. Travel if you can. There are no short cuts in developing confidence. By doing will get to meet different folks.....with different strokes. So the next time you are asked to pretty much have a supply of "PEGS" for any given situation.

If you give these ideas a shot..... I am pretty "CONFIDENT" that you will become a magician with great confidence.

ON a side note...there must be a check and balance of things. Too much confidence may actually cause complacency.

Mabuhay from Manila!

"If you can't teach an old dog new tricks, trick the old dog to learn."

-Rannie Raymundo-
aka The Boss
aka The Manila Enforcer
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The Holy City of East Orange, NJ
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Profile of Spellbinder
This may sound strange, but "acting" is my source of confidence on stage. I know we are all actors pretending to be magicians, but for me it goes a step further. I am acting the role of a wizard when I perform, someone who lives in a different world that follows different rules. When I "become" this persona, I take on the confidence that my character has in himself. As the old Hammerstein "King and I" lyrics go: "Make believe you're brave, and the truth will take you far; you can be as brave as you make believe you are." It also helps if I have practiced a lot, but if I flub up, I have no doubt that my wizard character will get me out of trouble by using magic.
Professor Spellbinder

Professor Emeritus at the Turkey Buzzard Academy of Magik, Witchcraft and Wizardry

Publisher of The Wizards' Journals
Dennis Loomis
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1943 - 2013
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Profile of Dennis Loomis
Lots of good thoughts have been shared already. I would say this: you are probably not going to gain confidence just from practice. There is a tension to an actual performance that does not happen at home or in your rehearsal studio. So generally, the truly confident performers are the ones that perform a lot of shows. Pete Biro emphasized that, and I think it's correct.

Having said that, I still get tense over two things after lots of years and lots of shows. The first is performing for other magicians. The second is when I break in a new effect or routine. So, when I want to break in something new, I make sure to sandwich it between two old reliable routines. So, while I may be "out there" saying new words, handling new props, and doing new moves, I come into it from a place of strength, and I know I'll be getting back there soon.

If you are not confident about something, two things will help. First, your skill at acting. If you can "act" confident and do it well, then the audience will not know that you're not. And, nervousness produces stress. So, do things to reduce stress. A brief period of meditation, accompanied by breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. At the beginning of your act/show, always have the same introduction given by the M.C. or other person in charge. (That means having it ready on a piece of paper for them.) When you hear those words and feel yourself in your regular costume, possibly hearing your usual will feel at home. If you can at least be calm, you can cover your tension. Just before you go out, say to yourself: "I love the audience. We're here to have fun. I'm going to show them a great time."

Dennis Loomis
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Profile of IAIN
Start small...know your material, script and so on...

Having faith in the practice you've put into each effect...

Learn by doing!

And as others have said, ultimately, if you perform even (or maybe especially) in an impromptu environment, so what if it all goes wrong? What's going to happen?

If someone is genuinely interested in seeing you do something, they'll want you to achieve it, even if you do blunder around whilst doing so. As long as you never fall into the trap of "Oooooh, look what I can do," then you'll be fine.

Have fun...
I've asked to be banned
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Profile of Magic_Steve
I'm not sure if this can relate too well to your question, but what the heck?

Anywho, not long after I got my first restaurant gig at Red Robin did I start hating to go to work. Hate might be a bit strong, but while getting ready to leave, I'd always much rather be doing anything else. Once I got there, though, I'd be fine, and the night would go great. I started a thread in the table hoppers section and got some good advice. Rich (aka Paleo_Magi) helped me out greatly. To an extent, it was definitely a confidence issue. That, and not knowing how the night would go bothered me.

How I got over it? I just kept on keeping on. Performing more and getting into a pre-show routine helped immensely. I got into certain habits before a show, and then I was good to go. 1.5 years later, not nervous at all anymore. Smile

Larry Barnowsky
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Profile of Larry Barnowsky

You'll gain confidence as you have more and more successful experiences performing magic. Your experiences will more likely be positive if you are well prepared. Below are some notes from a recent lecture I gave. The lecture consisted of performances and explanations of about two hours of magic from from my two recent books, KOTR and 21st Century Coin Mechanics. During that lecture, I talked about the keys to good performance. Here are those notes:

• When performing- Present magic in a polished and professional way. To do that, do what professionals do. Have everything planned in advance with a detailed map of your intended actions and dialogue.

• A magician is like an actor working with special effects. Magic performed badly can resemble a movie whose principal plot consists of car crashes, explosions, and endless gunfire. Special effects woven expertly into a film can enhance the entertainment value. Alone, they fall flat. A magic routine that fools but does not connect with the spectator will not be a memorable experience.

• Write out and follow a script, or at least an outline. Why? Virtually all the entertainment we watch is scripted. Why should magic be any different? Some say that scripted magic doesn’t sound natural. It doesn’t if you don’t know your lines well. Everything that Lance Burton says on stage and every word that Ricky Jay utters during a performance is scripted. If you can ad lib like Robin Williams, then maybe you can do without a script. Few can.

• Remember you are an entertainer. This is not “show and tell,” nor should it be “show off and “turn off”. Treat your audience with respect, and they will want you to succeed.

• Be prepared. Rehearse until you can do it in your sleep. The audience won’t care how adroit you are with your hands, if your presentation is flat and uninspiring, or you appear in anyway unprepared. They should remember you as the star in the spotlight and not the deer in the headlights.

• Goals: As mentioned in the preface to Kingdom of the Red, the goal of each performance should be to make the experience for the spectator one that they will vividly remember for the rest of their life.

• When you perform, if you communicate, connect, and capture the imagination of your audience, they will know without a doubt that they have seen a professional performance in every sense of the word.

• Control your audience’s perception of you as a performer. The character you create, as well as the style and attitude you project, will influence how your audience comes to view you. You need not create the same character for every performance or even for every effect. You can switch from the serious miracle worker to the lighter role of situation comedy reacting to the funny things that the magic brings like Aldo Colombini does.

• Focusing attention- As you begin, you want to get the audience’s attention immediately. You want to win over the audience, getting them on your side, so they want you to succeed. The best ways involve an emotional hook- something that makes them care about what you are saying or doing. If they don’t care, they won’t watch, and if they don’t watch, you won’t succeed. Here are some specific examples which will help you to better connect to your audience:

1. Raise a provocative question such as, “Have you ever thought that you could read minds?” or a bold statement like, “I’m going to show you how to win at poker every single time.”
2. Create a surprise where fire appears and it changes into a dove or a cane.
3. Enter with an unusual costume, prop, or setting which arouses curiosity.
4. Built up anticipation or suspense such as stating, “By the end of this performance, I am certain you will have no doubt that ghostly spirits exist."
5. Offer a storyline or magical narrative which is personal, emotional, and/or dramatic. Emotional responses to the magical narrative can include, laughter, fear, empathy, awe, and relief of suspense.
6. Synchronize your dialogue so that it synergizes with the action.

• A trick presented with no meaningful context or connection to the spectator becomes reduced to a puzzle or challenge to their intellect.

• The “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants” school of magic should be avoided. Meaningless patter which is descriptive and boring is amateurish. Use a script. It's hard work, but you will be rewarded by your efforts with a more polished and professional performance. There are books out on scriptwriting for magicians. Both of my own books contain fully scripted routines.

1. A script is a guide. You need not recite it word for word as in a play.
2. Writing a script will improve the construction of your routine. If it doesn’t makes sense as you read it, how will the audience follow your words? Remember, as Vernon has said, confusion isn’t magic.
3. A good script can help you better clarify the effect to the audience. Cues, punch lines, and important points of misdirection are detailed.
4. An outline of important lines can suffice.
5. The script should evolve (and be updated) based on your performing experience with it. Lines can be added or removed based on what you find what works and doesn’t work.
6. How many times have you heard a joke told where they forgot parts of it, laughed at the wrong time, and botched the punch line? I doubt they had a script.
7. Think of a script a movie director would. It includes the dialogue, the opening, middle, and ending, as well as the setting, mood, actions, and events divided into scenes.

Confidence: You have to believe in yourself in order to successfully perform. Positive thinking is a necessity. Visualization of a successful performance is a technique which many athletes and performers use. A lack of confidence will show up in your speech, body language, and the rhythm of your performance.

I hope that helps.


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Profile of pepka
Great question, and lots of great answers. Pete, Bill, Rannie, Gaddy and all of you guys really know your stuff. This question should be posted in every single area here. I really have no idea what I can add; but since I like to hear myself talk, (or type) here goes.

When I walk into a room before I perform, I establish early on that I am important. I often make rounds and greet several regulars and employees. The person who booked me, the bartender, the band, etc. I think a lot of people would be curious who the smartly dressed guy greeting everyone is. Dressing appropriately certainly helps. So does being 6 ft. tall and 350 lbs. In fact, at my restaurants, when I approach a table that does not know that I'm the entertainment, I occasionally get asked if I'm the bouncer. I tend to have a bit of a commanding presence that demands attention and respect. I'm never rude, demanding "Look at me," but to me, it seems to be that way. You must also be comfortable talking to people. My performing style is very conversational. Pausing occasionally and asking them a question that seems unrelated to the matter at hand. (Where are you from, what do you do?) And then, making it relative to what I'm doing. This also works to really disarm someone, and they let their guard down a bit. Think Mac King coming on stage in this goofy plaid suit and his big "Howdy". Do you really think most people would guess he is really a world class sleight of hand artist? I think even a lot of magicians are blinded by how funny he is and don't realize he's got such killer chops.

Of course, on top of all this is what these other guys said, practice, practice, and practice some more. Know every single move and line cold. Bill also mentioned ad-libbing. I am a HUGE fan and practitioner of improvising. I'm not sure if this really comes naturally or has been learned. I have been performing in one form or another since I could walk and talk. Yes, the Dr. said, "Congratulations, Mrs. Pepka, you had a 7 pound ham." If you really want to learn the art of improvisation, I suggest some combination of theater, speech and music classes. I've been listening to and playing jazz since I was 13. I seriously think this has had a huge impact on my performing style.
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Profile of Dynamike
1. Prayer
2. Start little and keep adding piece by piece.
3. Spend time on the Café listening to Gallagher's advise.
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Naperville, IL
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Profile of Chezaday
There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. I think confidence only comes with years of experience on stage. There is no substitute for the time spent before and audience.

All in good time ...

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