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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » How do you approach people cold? (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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adrianbent
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I am at another crossroads in my magic progress. I have been buying, studying and practicing magic for a number of years now, and started out performing only for my friends and family, who soon peaked in their reactions because every trick was as amazing as the one before it. I then mustered the courage to go out and I now do 4 -5 recurring "shows" a year, small acts for charities and larger groups, but this is hardly enough performing to satisfy me! Also, these are formal acts, and I want to do more 1-2 trick strolling/impromptu/street type of performing. Although I realize that family and friends are the extent that most hobbyists EVER perform for, I now feel that the only way to get better is to perform a LOT more, perhaps daily if possible and weekly at the very minimum. In essence, perform whenever I want to. To do this, I feel I will have to go out there and start performing in an impromptu manner, perhaps on the street, in parks, in malls, … anywhere. Here is my dilemma: I don't feel it is right to assault strangers out of the blue with magic.
How do you do it? What is your approach or opening line?
As I sit in a public place watching people go by, I size them up and think, "…Nah, too old… too young... too scary-looking… too whatever". And I start to realize that the prospect of walking up to a stranger and injecting myself into their world is a little creepy. I think this requires a skillset that I don’t have yet. Should I read a book on how to "sell", as in "the do's and don’t's of making cold calls to sell" because that's the skill that I think I'm lacking, the ability to walk up to a stranger, in a context that isn't like a patron going to a theatre ready to see magic, and warm that person up to me before I prepare them to be entertained by a harmless and ultimately friendly act of giving (performing for them to put a smile on their face)

I need advice. How do you approach a stranger cold? Do you just launch right into it? Do you explain honestly what you want to accomplish?
I have been toying in my mind with an honest approach, let me know if you think it'll work before I try it out:

"Excuse, me… hi, I was wondering if I could ask a favour?" (I think this an honest opening line, because I am doing this for ME primarily, but it might appeal to people's natural friendly nature to help people… also it seems disarming, and not like I'm trying to get money out of the person)
"I am an amateur magician and I'm working on something new, would you be willing to participate in something fun?" (Some people might balk at "magician" maybe… somepeople's views of magicians are shady,grifter, pickpocket types… I don't know, what d'you think?)

Anyhow, as you can see I'm quite turned up about the whole issue. I think its important because if we love magic then we should be considerate and not just assault people with our magic. I think it deserves some thought.

Advice please!
Adrian
Rockabilly
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I had the same problem a few years ago when I first started busking. I had a million excuses not to try and call people over to my table, "They look like they're in a rush, that couple is having what looks like a serious conversation etc", so I wound up standing around looking like a right fool. I know I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know, but the only way to get over any anxiety is to swallow the lump in your throat, take a deep breath and deal with it. You'll wind up getting good at rejection as I'm sure many people will just either ignore you or give you a polite "no thanks", but someone WILL stop, and WILL enjoy themselves. AS soon as it happens the first time your confidence will skyrocket, and that confidence will carry over to your next trick and so on and so on. The only advice I'd offer you is not to ask if you can show them something. When you ask permission you giv the other side an option of saying no. Just a simple "hey guys check this out, this is so cool" usually does the trick. And as soon as you have one or two people watching, more will stop since nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd, so be sure to have a few things ready so anyone joining the group a little late won't just see the end of your only trick.

You're no assaulting people with magic, you're sharing your passion with people who have the freedom to walk away. Don't feel guilty.

Have Fun

Steve
Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That'll teach you to keep your mouth shut.

Quando omni flunkus moritati
wulfiesmith
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I personally don't like street magic for that exact reason. Stopping someone on the street.

As a busker, you are already entertaining. If people stop to watch, it is because THEY want to. Not because you have asked them.

I have sat and just practised my flourishes. Just sitting in a public place. People will stop and watch. After all, you are not asking anything of them at all.

They feel safe that they are in a public place. And you have not asked anything of them at all.

Let the dialogue take place ....
Erdnase27
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Study the work of pick up artists (Mystery et al) is my advice.
"He must be content to rank with the common herd." - S.W. Erdnase
jake.o
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The best way is to practice your florishing in a public place and wait for someone to show an interest then you can go into performing what you like to someone who actually shows some interest instead of a random stranger who couldent care less.
troppobob
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G'day Adrian

I like your passion for performing and I am sure that the people who get to experience your performances go away entertained.

I do a lot of busking these days - and I recognize that the beginning of my shows is a bit like what you are describing.

The previous input has touched on the busking angle. When I perform on the streets - I am set up with my props etc and a sign that says "magic show" (this does not need to be much more than a simple bag with a sign attached). I commence performing for myself and before long a few people stop - I engage these people with some magic and my audience simply builds from there.

I do these performances when I travel OS as well and do the shows for free - expecting payment from the audience makes it busking but the performance is still the same when it is free - so perhaps you could do some research into the busking style of performance and when you get your "edge" (the beginning of your audience) you could explain that it is a free show because you are "working on something new".

A helpful place to gain some in sights into the busking style of performance is the section here a the Magic Café called "The Side Walk Shuffle". There are a few good books that are suggested and an excellent resource is Jimmy TalksALot's" Blog that is often referred to.

I hope you work out a way to increase your performance time and enjoy the experience.

Bob Latta (aka Troppo Bob)
mrsmiles
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"... Here is my dilemma: I don't feel it is right to assault strangers out of the blue with magic."
Hi you feel this way because you are right... it is not right in my opinion to go up to strangers and perform out of the blue. Trust your instincts. Perhaps you also feel its a bit geeky or you'll be in danger of them thinking you are a bit weird (you're not - you just love magic). Again, trust your instincts. If you are not going to feel comfortable, don't do it. It's hard enough to learn to do magic properly without having to cope with performing to people uninvited in public spaces.
One piece of advice given above is better: do some flourishing and/or pretending to practice with the cards where you think someone will spot what you are doing - if they ask you or give prolonged eye contact/smile - then go for it.
You could try a 10 minute busking; set up a table and just aim to get say 4 people come over (don't try to build a crowd) & do your close up! Some people put up a little board for busking eg 'magic show' you could even try 'free magic show'. Or don't say 'free'; collect a few coins.... might be enought to get yourself a new pack of bikes.
I'm strongly of the school of not performing for people who don't invite you to. Even in restaurant residencies, of which I have had several, I take the same attitude. It's a debate that has come up on 'table hoppers' forum.
I wish you every luck & success - you're ready and keen to get better in the firnament of live performance which is the best place to get better.
mrsmiles
(UK)
stijnhommes
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I don't approach people cold and hit them with magic. I take two approaches. Either I perform for a group of people and my performance is announced well in advance. When people know who you are and what you do, it's easy to pick out those that are interested.

When I'm out on the street, I'm naturally a chatty sort of guy. I strike up conversation. If subject of magic comes up (and I try to steer the conversation), people almost invariably ask me to perform something.

If that's too scary for you, I suggest to learn some card flourishes. I've found that people who are interested in someone who is "messing around" with a deck of cards tend to be people who like watching magic.
adrianbent
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Great insight everyone, thanks!
OK, a follow up: I've already done some card practicing and flourishing in public, mostly while waiting to catch my flights at airports. Unfortunately no interests yet though. The stuff I'm doing should be interesting enough though; One handed fans, popping/spinning the top card off the deck with my pinky (don't know the name of the move, learned it at the club), Charlier Cuts, One-handed Shuffles, Pressure Fans, Butterfly Cuts, Pendulum/ Trinary Cuts, Hot Shot Cuts, Sankey's Illogical Cut, Lennart Green Cuts. Dribbling the cards,... I also Spring the Deck... which could go either way... the noise from the springing cards, if done repeatedly, might either annoy people or get their attention. So I'm busy enough with my hands. Maybe its the venue I'm choosing? The airport might be full of stuffy, older un-fun business types. Any other suggestions, flourishes or otherwise?
Einmaliger
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Whenever someone tries to apporach people cold this way, I get the feeling, he is just a show-off. People are doing their own everyday business and usually have better things to do than watch some kid show his leet skillz with cards. I myself love magic, and still I would be annoyed if somebody approached me like this. My reaction would be "Why?", which is the same question that I would ask if someone asked me if he could, say, sing a song for me. The whole concept seems pointless to me.
Vick
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DON'T EVER!!!

IT IS UNSPEAKABLY RUDE, SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE, IN POOR TASTE AND EXCEEDINGLY BAD MANNERS



FIND OR CREATE A REAL AUDIENCE
LEARN TO BUSK, DO VOLUNTEER SHOWS BUT NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER
JUST WALK UP TO SOME ONE AND FORCE YOUR MAGIC ON THEM

YOU LOOK TERRIBLE AND INJURE THE ART IF YOU WERE TO TRY

TO EVEN CONSIDER SHOWS BAD JUDGEMENT

FIND SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO SEE OR WILL ENJOY YOUR ART


DO ARTISTS TRY TO STOP ANYONE TO FORCE THEM TO LOOK AT THEIR PAINTINGS?


MAGICIANS ARE ARTISTS (OR SHOULD BE) ACT ACCORDINGLY



When the British Embassy hired me do you think it was because I forced myself on them?
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Metatron
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I disagree with Vick on this one. There is occasion to just perform for strangers, and I'm not talking about Busking, or a full fledge show. Just a few tricks for strangers.

I for one wouldn't have been involved in the field of magic for the last 40 years except a stranger approached and performed Magic for a group of children waiting to go to summer camp. I was one of the children, and it changed my life. I will be forever grateful to that stranger.

If done properly such activities can be very helpful to an amateur magician.

Aiding in confidence building, proper social interaction, and the all needed performance time with a real audience. Besides what you learn can be applied later in a professional setting, such as approaching a table when table hopping, or your crowd gathering skills when busking. The skill of approaching strangers with confidence and tact, can be beneficial in a lot of ways outside the field of magic.

Remember it is not a Taboo to interact with people you don't know. There is nothing creepy about social interaction. You may gain new friends and acquaintances. Those that wish to participate may even have a more enjoyable time while they are waiting for their plane or bus. You may just start someone else on a very magical adventure.

First don't make it an "assault"! The proper way is get permission first. Use tact.

Simply ask, "Excuse me, Would you like to see some Magic?" or as you stated, "I am an amateur magician and I'm working on something new. Would you like to see it?"

If they decline, then say something along the lines of, "I understand." and go on your way.

The trick is to be polite and respect their wishes. If they say no, or ignore you, don't take it personal, just respect them and move on. Use your knowledge of manners and further develop your social skills. Be sure to smile. Smile

Have fun,

Metatron
adrianbent
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Metatron, that was a wonderful post. Thank you, you've given me faith in decency and civility again!
I guess even US, as magicians, have had good and bad experiences with magic. It makes sense that it just boils down to who you are as a person, whether you are polite and empathic... or not.
DWRackley
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I guess I split the fence here. I agree completely with Vick that it shows incredibly bad taste to ambush someone with “Hey look what I can do!” A two year old gets away with it (sometimes) because he doesn’t know any better. We should.

On the flip side, I always have something with me, and there ARE occasions (notice that “occasions” occur only OCCASIONALLY) that a little magical something is completely appropriate and even welcomed. While I’m waiting for a table, making a match levitate draws the attention of other bored patrons. Bang! I’m in! When a child is crying because of a broken toy or lost balloon, my “being astonished” at the magical appearance of a Spring Flower can usually distract them, and the parents are grateful!

But if I was just someone minding my own business, headed for a meeting, or just strolling with friends, being accosted by Chris Angel and his camera carrying cadre would NOT be appreciated, in the extreme!
...what if I could read your mind?

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adrianbent
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I think I agree with and completely understand the previous post. As has been said before, its less about where to perform and a lot about WHEN to perform.
... so here it is, time for a follow up. I went out and did it! I'm travelling currently so I arrived at my hotel tonight, checked in and got comfortable. I decided to go down to the bar for a bite to eat and a beer.
The place was not very busy at all, and after the waitress took my order, I asked her I for a favour, that I was practicing a magic trick to show my nephew and needed to try it out, and she obliged. I showed her Crazy man's handcuffs, because its quick and visual. I performed it well I believe. Here's how it went: my last line is "... and they just seem to melt ... right through... each other..."
her response:
Nnnnoooo (in a playful way) you just worked them out somehow! ... but (and here I think her tip-radar kicked in) but I'm sure he'll get a big kick out of it! I smiled, and she was kind, and then left to place my order. I know IN GENERAL you shouldn't take advantage of waitstaff in this way to perform magic on, but in context IN THIS PARTICULAR TIME and situation, as I assessed it - it seemed OK.
So, all things being equal... it went OK. Not great mind you, but not bad. I think I did many things right, and that this person probably wasn't that receptive to magic, but 1) I chose something quick, NOT a card trick, 2) I didn't insist of even "fish" around about doing a second trick. and 3) I sized the situation up carefully before going into it. But I just dropped the subject after that.
I'll have to try a few more times using the same key points (Namely finding the right TIME to perform) before I make a judgement on the whole thing. In the meantime I've been eyeing over the "sidewalk shuffle" forum... I think busking might be a better way of doing things, as was mentioned by a few others here.
More to come!
adrianbent
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And now for follow up #2!
I went back out again tonight and in similar circumstances.... but this time I couldn't believe how strong a reaction I got! It was my best performance ever! Of course, this time the waitress was much younger, probably in her late 20's, a friendly sort with a playful heart. What a difference. I did the CMH again, and like I said, it went over so well, so I followed up. I did an ungaffed version of Color Monte, which floored also. When she later came back with my order, she wanted to see the "rubber band trick" again, so I did the CMH with her holding the rubber band (hooked on her thumbs), followed by a single rubber band finger penetration phase using a "bight" principle (picked up from Dan Harlan).

Absolutely Killed it tonight.

I'm so stoked, and the learning curve is steep! There is a great piece of wisdom I picked up over on the sidewalk shuffle forum that goes "a person in a way shouldn't be congratulated on hitting the streets their first time... they should be congratulated for hitting the streets the SECOND time..."
I'm totally proud of myself for going back out and trying again after a mediocre experience the first time around.... AND getting my strongest reaction ever.
Champagne on me!
troppobob
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G'day Adrian

Congratulations on doing that 2nd performance. It sounds like this "crossroads" experience is an enjoyable one for you and your audiences.

Bob Latta (aka Troppo Bob)
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Whoa, maybe I should try busking then. I always bring a deck of cards and a small plastic containers with my gaff cards inside. As I'm ready for any performance, but then something always changed my minds. It's too crowded. It's a bad angle. It's too noisy. I don't have enough time, and other zillions of reasons that swarm into my head.

How to overcome it? I sometimes want to talk with the guys at the petrol station here and perhaps making some conversation then if they're interested, I can show some tricks. However, same things happen all over again.
Magic comes through perception. -HS
Metatron
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Adrianbent,

Well done! And thanks for updating us.

Share the MAGIC! Smile

Metatron
adrianbent
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Failed Magician, if you and I are in similar situations, consider this... over at the sidewalk shuffle forum I caught on to what is called a "trickle show" or a "rotational show". Jimmy Talksalot is a respected busker in that forum and he has an awesome blog that one of the threads links to. I did a trickle show last year (I didn't realize that's what its called... I called it "booth magic" because I was working like a stationary "booth") but not for tips, it was for a Children's hospital fundraiser and I had a blast! I've since wanted to do more of them but didn't have it in me to do one outside of a "charity" environment. (I have a full time job, it just didn't seem right for me to hawk for tips) I may have a change in attitude on that one soon though. I'll still continue to do magic for charity.

Good Luck!
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