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Gloucester, England
18 Posts

Profile of Mike.Bonner
Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I completed my first performance at a wedding for people I don’t know. I thought it would be wise to provide some reflections on how the performance went and to ask some questions, which people may or may not like to reflect on with me.

Context of the performance:
In order to provide some context, I have been practicing magic for 10 months and have mainly been showing what I learn to friends and family. I was recently asked to do some magic at a friends birthday gathering and one of the people who attended enjoyed what he saw and passed on the message to one of his friends that they needed to book me for their wedding (as they shared that they wanted some entertainment).

Arranging the performance:
I met the bride and her family (the groom was working), prior to the wedding. I spent time getting to know how best I could serve them on the day and what they wanted. I had in mind that I did not want to do any table magic and would rather walk around (as to consider angles and not disturb people whilst eating). We agreed that I would greet guests as they arrive for the evening reception. This was a good opportunity to show the family some magic and get to know them as people. This meant that I could talk to people about them during the routine and help me build rapport with others. This was also an Indian wedding, so I got to find out more about the families beliefs, faith and culture to ensure that I avoided any faux pas.

As I am new to all of this, I agreed to do this for free. However, asked that they write me a review based on their guests feedback and a copy of any photos they might have of the performances.

Choosing what to perform:
I understand from reading the forums that less is more. I had four tricks that I would only perform two of during each encounter with someone (if people approached me for more later, I had some other things I could show them, but my rule was to show two and move on).
To start:
- Chicago opener (I love Whit 'Pop' Haydn's version of this, but I don't have his charisma, so I do a version close to this that is more fitting with my character)
- A Two-card transposition (using the queen of hearts and king of spades, light patter about the bride and groom)
To end:
- A ring vanish using the nest of wallets
- A routine using a phantom deck.

All in all, this meant that I could travel light and had everything in my suite (nest of wallets, phantom deck, 2x Deck of cards), I have a wallet that can be used for card to wallet as well, which was also on me (just in case).

What I felt worked well:
- I felt that meeting the bride and family before the occasion helped me feel at ease prior to arriving at the venue. As I built a good rapport with them, I easily found them on my arrival and what I had shown them also meant that people were aware that I was going to be there. This made approaching people a lot easier.
- I spent some time thinking about what my introduction line would be to people who were mingling / arriving at the reception. Typically, I would introduce myself as myself (not a magician), share that I had been invited by the bride and groom to provide some light entertainment and proceed to ask if they would like to see something magical. I only had one group of people who said that they wouldn't and I politely walked away after stating I hope they enjoy the evening. Magic isn't for everyone.
- I learnt a lot about moments of tension and relaxation. Often when practicing, there are moments I may perceive to be more tense than they are or more relaxed than they are. I guess this is where getting out there and performing can be the best teacher. I was spending a lot of my time watching the audience; where they were looking, what they were saying (and responding to it).
- The routines in my opinion were short and sweet, this meant that I didn’t interrupt people for too long but also allowed for word of mouth to spread (I was surprised how many people came up to me and asked if I could show their friends and family some magic).

What I felt could be improved on:
- My confidence.
Going up to people initially was fairly daunting; I was over thinking whether people would be annoyed that they were being interrupted and not interested in magic at all. I think on a few occasions this meant I was hovering around people too long, most likely making it more awkward than just walking up to a group of people. Next time I will just go for it.
In addition, I messed up on two occasions, one was unrecoverable and the other I improvised a way out. With the unrecoverable mistake, I apologised, said it was my mistake and moved on.

- My double lift.
I had someone come up to me after one of the tricks saying "I saw your double lift" (this was the only instance of this through the night). I imagine either that he is a magician himself or knows things about magic. I wasn't sure how to respond, but I politely commended his observation and shared in a calm jovial way that I would have to work on it some more.
For the record, the get ready I use for my double lift is using a pinky count (in a moment of relaxation or when asking someone a question). I am trying to make it look as natural as possible, thumbing the two cards over as you would if you were with one. I am sure there is much more than my double lift that needs improving - but it was useful feedback.

- Preparing for difficult moments.
There were a few people (so minimal), that would share at the end "know how you did that". I am not certain how to respond in these moments. I know they will always be situational and there may not be a blanket way of responding. I never want to put people down or cause unnecessary tension, but in that moment I just smiled at the person and said "it's good isn't it" ..pause.. "but thank you for not telling everyone else".

On another occasion, one particular gentleman who was part of the “I know how you did that” crowd called me over. He asked me "can you do the one..." and listed several tricks at me at once. He then asked me to "do the one where his selected card goes into his pocket". This was perhaps the most difficult part of the night for me. My on the spot reaction was this: "If you all already know what's coming and how it's done I wouldn't be providing you with something that is truly magical.. pause..would you like to see something magical?". I then did a very simple trick with a signed card that changes colour (double back card that I palmed at the end and gave him the deck to inspect). He became silent after this and perhaps I was lucky. If it wasn't magical for him, then we could have been going around in circles. In my part, I judged him and didn't think he knew much about magic at all, so felt I could get away with it. However, if I was wrong, I probably should have moved on some how, but I didn't have the confidence at the time.

- I ended up staying 3 hours in total. Overall, I had great feedback from the guests and the bride’s mother who I met before I left shared about the overall positive response. I wonder how long others typically stay at weddings or booked occasions?
- I wonder whether I am ready to perform or not. I know that generally people say to get out there and go for it. Yet, I wonder about how we know when we are ready or not?
I know I am not ready for paid gigs etc. but what's the best way to gain experience outside family and friends?, my local magic scene is non-existent.
- What do you do when you 'mess up'?
- Do you have any tips on dealing with difficult moments?
- How do you go about choosing your routines?

Overall, I enjoyed my time performing. I have much to reflect on and continue practicing. I appreciate you taking the time to read this post. I know most of you are further down the road than me. Yet, hopefully I can learn something from you all.

All the best,

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Regular user
103 Posts

Profile of servant

I wish I had more recent advice for you. I haven't actually performed for money since my teens (and that's been 20 years!) I'm trying to work up my courage to perform again. You're an inspiration to me!

I appreciate you sharing your experience. First off, if you've only been practicing for 10 months, you're very brave to have taken advantage of this awesome opportunity! I applaud you. Lesser magicians would have bowed out for fear of failure.

I'm probably not the best person to answer all of your questions, but I'll give my 2 cents on some of them.

Are you ready to perform? Abso-freakin-lutely! You just proved that. I've decided in life that you'll never feel entirely ready for most things. You've just got to go for it. Certainly, prepare yourself as best as you can, to do anything else would be foolish. But then go for it, just like you did! Performing is an art that you'll only truly learn as you experience it. You can practice to the ends of the earth, but you can't prepare for many of the experiences you just had. You can only learn those things by getting out there and doing it.

What's the best way to gain experience? You seem to have figured that out just fine so far. Do what you've already done. Keep building up word-of-mouth gigs. If your local magic scene is non-existent, then you've got no competition. Even better! That's how I made my name as a teenager. There were no other magicians in my area, so my dad booked my gigs for me. My act wasn't fancy, flashy, or the best thing ever, but it was the only act in a huge mile radius. I'd actually encourage you to charge something next time, even if it's not a lot. Just tell them you need to charge something to cover gas and materials. When people have to put a little money into something, they value it more.

What do you do when you 'mess up'? Depends on the situation. Salvage what you can, and keep moving, trying not to draw attention to your mistake. Most people won't know the difference. If it is a total screw up though, just admit it and move on. Something like, "If that would have worked, how cool would that have been?" Play it off as a joke. In some cases you can double back and do the same trick again with the correct outcome, in some cases you can't. If you do it right, they may think the screw up was part of a comedy routine.

Tips on dealing with difficult moments? That's really hard to say because they vary so much. Some people are quicker on their toes than others. Having some flash paper handy might break the tension. Hahaha...

If someone says they know how the trick is done, I wouldn't worry about it. If you want to take a more friendly approach, you could tell them you're working on something new, and you'd love to get their feedback before you leave. "Can I catch you a little later on?" Make them feel special or on the "inside", rather than it being them against you. I wouldn't ask them not to tell. That just seems to give them an upper hand. They'll tell if they really want to.

When I did birthday parties, I had a pair of removable sleeves under my jacket, so if someone tried to heckle me and claim something went up my sleeve, I could rip my shirt sleeves off. It was a funny way of dissolving the situation. Try to think up some funny gags or tricks to dissolve uncomfortable situations. When people are laughing, tension leaves the room.

Hope I've helped talk some things out. I'm confident you're going to do just fine as a magician!

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63 Posts

Profile of Laughing
Mike, well done for having the confidence to do a gig, paid or otherwise.

I started in magic about 2.5 years ago and have done a few paid gigs so I may be able to help a little with early screw ups and some ways to deal with them.

Get a trick wrong: Depends on how you got it wrong. If you loose control of the card for example, carry an ID and introduce that as a get out. If you don't have one to hand I often scan through the cards with the deck facing me and ask their card. They tell me I cull it to the top (bottom) of the deck then palm it off. Hand them the deck and say "That's odd, you couldn't have picked the x card, here look for it, it was never in the deck". Now produce the palmed card from your pocket and say "because it was in my pocket all along"

If you cannot recover, or segue into another routine have a joke or two ready. "I have been working on that for months, but my wife is right, I need to work harder", or "My eight year old daughter can do that one, I knew I should have brought her"

If someone calls you out on a particular sleight, DL for example you probably reacted in the correct way. I have had people say "I know this one" as I am opening a deck. For this I responded "Fantastic, I know who to use in the mind reading section later". Another thing that lay-people do, or uncle bob who knows one trick, they exclaim they know how it was done, chicago opener for example, they suspect a double lift and declare they know how it was done. That is just laymen, if they spot one thing, they assume they know the whole method. Magicians funnily enough, can detect a DL but still love a trick for delivery, or a new twist. A magician did a simple top change on me. I didn't see it but knew at the end how he had performed the effect, I loved it because, at the moment I was suckered, and I laughed.

Some more general advice, I always encourage folks to film me if they want to and ask to be shared so I can go back and get a perspective from someone elses viewpoint . Also if it goes on social media it can generate interest too. Don't worry any one not at the performance is unlikely to play the video back in slow mo to figure out how it was done. The spectator might, as they were there for the moment of magic, so are invested in it.

Also do charge, as servant said, at the minimum you are putting petrol in the car, the event shouldn't cost you money. If you want to volunteer go talk to your local hospital. You set expectations. In the small village I live in, if I go to our local Café or bar, I get inundated with requests to "do some stuff", which I often do, but occasionally don't. Some don't like it when I say no, they don't value what I do.

Best of luck for the future, and again well done, you clearly have plenty of confidence - nerves approaching strangers is perfectly normal.
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New user
Gloucester, England
18 Posts

Profile of Mike.Bonner
Hi Servant and Laughing,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. It is encouraging to hear from other people and take on board their advice and guidance, all of which I will take on board, reflect on and use for the future.

Servant: I like the idea of asking them for feedback before you leave.

Laughing:I love the mind reading response line.

There is indeed some form of psychological barrier I have. Firstly, I always assume if they saw one thing that means it's all over, when in fact that isn't always the case. So keeping my cool and remembering that is going to be key (whilst also working hard to ensure things aren't seen in the first place. I also have the barrier of knowing the method and what I'm doing and remembering the magic; the best way to explain this is remembering the old famous quote by Robert Houdin - A conjurer is not a juggler; he is an actor playing the part of a magician. A hard thing to figure out/get comfortable with in our early days.

Thanks again both, I am grateful for your help and guidance.

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Veteran user
New York, NY
345 Posts

Profile of TeddyBoy
Hey Mike. I have nothing to contribute other than to tell you how impressive an individual you are. Delving into magic for only about 10 months and already performing (not to mention palming cards) in public is awesome. I would expect that you are endowed with a far-greater-than-average amount of which case don't forget to thank your parents.

I am also awed that you engaged this wedding with only 4 tricks in your repertoire. My impulse would be to tattoo volumes 1-2 of Card College on my body for quick reference. Congratulations again!

By the way, the responses by Servant and Laughing were also very interesting.
So many little time.

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Victoria Australia
16 Posts

Profile of lizzard_king
You have done what I haven't done yet. Big congrats man and keep on going! I have been told in other threads that one stage is the education of the effect another is the practice of the slights i.e. (dirty work) and the third is to rehearse all the script the prattle with the performance then preform for video.

Review it and then go for it by then your confidence should be up and you should know by then your time, blood, sweat, and tears is worth pay. No turning back now I sure look forwards to reading about your upcoming gigs. Also get and hand out business cards even if you're doing it part-time.
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Profile of TomB
I would think a wedding would be difficult as you do not want to take away the center of attention. Getting feedback is hard the night of, as the bride and groom want to run off with other things on their mind. They do have some online surveys, but unless you are giving them something people do not fill them out.

In the end, you were looking for some future advertising pictures. Did you get any?
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New user
Gloucester, England
18 Posts

Profile of Mike.Bonner
Hi Everyone,

Thanks again for your responses.

Those are very kind words.

I am always practicing my (limited), repertoire with friends, family and work colleagues (I work as a mental health nurse in paediatrics so also (where appropriate), get to practice on the kids/teens. I think I have gained confidence from doing things over and over in these circumstances. However, after meeting the family before hand, I met not just the bride and groom but some of the close family who I was able to engage with. I think I was lucky with the family as they did a lot of work for me regarding introducing me to others.

I have met up with a magician who is in the magic circle (London), on two occasions. He taught me that less is more and to focus on making a small number of tricks great, rather than knowing loads that were average. In our first session he spoke about Vernon, Ramsey and Slydini and helped me with my focus and the philosophy and psychology behind performing.
I always show my appreciation to my family.

I find filming myself a difficult thing to do. It doesn't feel as authentic and in some ways, it doesn't give me the audience feedback or answers (just my imagined responses). Yet, I imagine you could mean filming the performances themselves, as in a live video! This is something I will give a go.

In fact, I am performing at a friends wedding in November (I am the best man), which I will get someone to film. I am hoping to add cards across (or three cards across as the royal road to card magic would name it), the anniversary waltz (for the bride and groom) and an effect developed by Nic Einhorn which he uses for the nest of wallets (see his at the table lecture).

Regarding the review, I haven't yet received feedback from the bride and groom. There was no way I wanted this on the night as that was not the focus.
I have arranged to get the pictures when they return from their honeymoon.

In regards to 'three cards across', I like the version by Hannibal in regards to the spectators handling the cards and counting into his hand and the illusion that he isn't handling the deck based upon how he gets them to shuffle and count, then gives the cards back. However, I will not be using his 'patter', which is not in my tastes. I mean no offense to him in any way, as he is a skilled magician; I'm sure that people who have seen his version may understand why I said it's not to my liking. Does anyone else do a version of this effect?
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Victoria Australia
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Profile of lizzard_king
I find filming myself a difficult thing to do. It doesn't feel as authentic and in some ways, it doesn't give me the audience feedback or answers (just my imagined responses). Yet, I imagine you could mean filming the performances themselves, as in a live video! This is something I will give a go.
Hi Mike the recording of your performance is a sort of step three before the gigs. Rehearsal tools back in the day before video recording became so easy, magicians used mirrors to practice in front of and rehearse. The disadvantages were that you tended to focus looking only at your hands, with video like even a phone cam set up you can stand look into the camera and preform the routine along with your script or prattle, then review it.

Repeat working out angles and body language etc. This is a large part of rehearsal and different from the practice of the effects, shuffles, flourishes etc. But as you said you could also ask any hosts that maybe you could get copies of any video taken of your live performances as well. Again wow! Good job on being courageous and doing it man. I wonder if the more gigs you do, you just find it easier to do?
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New user
Gloucester, England
18 Posts

Profile of Mike.Bonner
On Sep 8, 2019, lizzard_king wrote:
Hi Mike the recording of your performance is a sort of step three before the gigs. Rehearsal tools back in the day before video recording became so easy, magicians used mirrors to practice in front of and rehearse. I wonder if the more gigs you do, you just find it easier to do?

I still use a mirror to practice!

I imagine it will in time, I am still going to take all things slow. I know I have much to learn and master. I am going to put some time into recording and see what I can learn!
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Perth, Western Australia
36 Posts

Profile of Jonmaddgician
What a mature reflection from a first performance in less than a year into magic, well done mate! Big it up yerself, mad respect.

First feedback, never perform for free again. Even if you just charge a hundred quid. Especially at a wedding event.
Well, not a full event, & 3hrs at that too! Maybe if it was clown doctor or something, I'm not a big fan of charity gigs myself...
Maybe don't take this piece of feedback too seriously, but you know, don't undersell yourself, or undercut the industry.

Your reflection on what went well is so important. "Magic isn't for everyone", tension & relaxation, short & sweet (especially at a wedding, cuz sometimes people's egos forget that they're not the main event at a wedding... =P).

Your sticking points all seem to stem from confidence. What I find really important, are the first 2 or 3 sets or groups that you kick off with. I try to scope out for a bit, & if my first audience is a bit cold, it really throws me off. Even worse if they're the "not into magic" kind that just brush you off. Over the years, I've come to realise that "not into magic" often just means "seen one too many bad magicians" =P But I digress. Generally you wanna have a great (not just good) first audience group to give you that high that will power you through the rest of the gig. If you get one in the first 2 or 3 groups, even stay with them for a bit to milk that energy.

The out-lines you used are great! Sometimes just a cheeky smile & a subtle nod is also enough to address the more mature spectators. Over time, as you get a bit more familiar with mixing & matching & making things up as you go, you will develop "disproving" moves to discredit what someone said they saw, into something they thought they saw. Smile Depending on how much they seem to know, sometimes I even openly share things with said person on the side, get them to feel like they're in the know, so they gossip less. =P

Start a facebook page, get some namecards, maybe a website, the word of mouth is already spreading about "that magician I saw at a wedding".

Now you just gotta give him a name & more audiences! Smile
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Profile of mentaldiego
Something similar to you happened to me but differently I had been in magic for about 9 months when a partner offered me to do a small performance of 3 games in his repertoire in pub, the thing went quite well and I even congratulated several spectators when the show ended, so I encourage you to follow the path you take and work hard to get your reward, just as you did not charge anything that day
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