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William Draven
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Profile of William Draven
As I sit here on my computer trolling the forums occasionally looking for a thread to respond to, sitting on my desk across the room from me is my top hat. There's nothing unusual about it really. It's a standard run of the mill felt top hat, with black ribbon. Nothing unusual except for the slight modification I made to it to incorporate a silver skull and cross bones centered in the front. This top hat has become the center piece of my performance costume, and the inspiration that governed the assembly of my characters "look".

Why do I bring this up you ask? That's a good question. There's no way you would have even known that I'm looking at that hat unless I made mention of it. Furthermore why should you even care? It's just a hat after all. ...or is it? Could it be that it is something more? I don't mean to allude that it's magical in any sense. That would just be silly, but the spell that it does cast on people is something that shouldn't be ignored. If anything, it should be studied, understood, and then re focused to be harnessed into a formidable weapon capable of drawing in mass attention. You see, that hat alone has gotten more complements and started more conversations with people that I probably wouldn't have interacted with on my own. My point is: That hat is a hook.

I'm not certain if a hook is an industry term already or not. I don't know if psychologists all sit around in their offices reviewing case study notes and refer to my observation in the same way I do. However, at this point I am willing to commit to hook as being my term, and perhaps I may even be lucky enough to coin a phrase. With that bit of disclaimer out of the way let me get down to the point. Everyone who entertains should have a hook. But what is it? A hook is a tool, or device you can use to spark conversation with others and provide a natural, interesting, and easy segway into what you do as an entertainer. It can be a hat, a cane, a pair of glasses, a unique looking deck of playing cards, a coat, shoes, it can be anything that sparks an interest in you, and encourages a conversation to start. It can be something rare, unusual, unique, or foreign. It can be something colorful, something exotic, or out of the ordinary. To be effective though, it should be something that stands out or is out of place. Such as shuffling a deck of Ghost playing cards while in line at Disneyland. The Ghost deck isn't what people normally expect to see in a deck of cards so it becomes a hook into conversation. "Hey man, cool cards. Where did you get those?" A hook really is up to your imagination and character. What ever works for you. It's something you'll have to play with to nail down the specifics, but once you've got it it's something that you'll love using!

I've heard it many times, and I never get tired of getting complements on my hat. People will say to me: "Hey man, that's a nice hat! Where did you get it?" To which I reply that I had it made for my show... and BAM! Now I've got their interest. They will want to know more, and the only natural progression in conversation leaves them to ask 'what show' to which I answer I'm a magician. I've now opened the doors to perform some magic, entertain, gather information, and possibly scout out my mark to see if there's an interest in booking my talent for a future gig.

There's a difference between you going up to someone, meeting them, and then trying to impress upon them who you are, and why you are interesting, and someone coming up to you because they think you are interesting! If your the one starting the conversation It's an uphill fight sometimes. Especially if you are trying to warm them up to the idea of working with you. You may not be exactly what they are looking for (to tall, to thin, to fat, to young, to old, etc) so they have you half tuned out the moment you said hello. However, if you use a hook properly now you're the one they are interested in talking with. They want to feel you out which makes your job of impressing them all that much more simple. Actually, you've already finished the job, the only thing left for you to do is reel them in!

It's something to consider. So I ask you, what's your hook?
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Profile of funsway
The concept of a "hook" is common in cold-call sales presentations, but that is mostly verbal. To use a physical attribute as a way to open a conversation might be unique -- but, so is holding a baby. I have long hair and often wear a headband -- so people assume for some reason that I am AmerIndian. I haven't tried it with a magic performance, though.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst

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Johnny Butterfield
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Profile of Johnny Butterfield
The hook also refers to the catchy part of a song - often the chorus.
The current economic crisis is due to all the coins I've vanished.
The poster formerly known as Fman111.
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Profile of 55Hudson

Interesting post. There are two different points that can be taken from what you've written. One is engaging another individual and the second is that they remember you long after you've parted ways. You specifically addressed the engagement, but I'll bet that people remember your hat and refer to you as, "that magician with the cool top hat," or something like that. Everyone needs some style that sets them apart from others. As you mention, it can be the dress, or it can be a signature effect, catch phrase -- just about anything. I've heard of sales people pointing out unusual cuff links so the prospective customer will remember them at a later date (magic cufflinks -- Aces anyone?).

The second on engagement is something I've spent some time thinking about recently. One interesting book on the topic is: The Fine Art of Small Talk, by Debra Fine. A quick read that addresses how to start a conversation with anyone, at anytime. Worthwhile for anyone that struggles to get beyond, "I'm a magician, want to see some magic?" Lots of simple concepts that can be practiced anywhere under just about any circumstance.

Mr. Mystoffelees
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Profile of Mr. Mystoffelees
I have never liked the thought of a "hook". Just sounds so one-sided and harsh. Maybe I was a fish in a previous life. I prefer "magnet". I doesn't drag you in, it pulls you in by some invisible force. I must admit I have never tried to fish with a magnet.

I certainly agree with the premise, as I witnessed it first-hand a few years ago. A lady friend gave me a big stuffed teddy bear at the end of my visit, and I had to carry it all the way home on the plane, which made 2 stops. Talk about a magnet, hook, whatever. She was not thinking when she gave me that bear, and dang that was one fun trip home...
Also known, when doing rope magic, as "Cordini"
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Profile of ropeadope
I have a friend that uses a hook, magnet, etc. that is unmistakable in his line of work/play. He blatantly carries a magic wand in his shirt pocket peeking out from behind his jacket. A regular black and white wand. Makes a lot of use with it while waiting in line at bank, etc. Always has the wand ready for the wand spin & accompanying routine along with a few other tricks & business cards of course.

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Profile of Cyberqat
When I was doign street magic I used a physical hook.

I'd balance my color changing rope on end and do a "snake charmer" like thing with it. Id also concentrate my attention on it. The combination of the unusual sight and my rapt attention pulled other people's attention.

When I had a few people stopped I'd suddenly drop the rope through my hand and let it change color. That "set the hook" nicely and I'd launch into the start of my routine.
It is always darkest just before you are eaten by a grue.
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