The One Step Process for More Engaging Performances

Wait... can a single step be considered a process? 

I don't think it can. Well, whatever, I'll just add another step. Now it's the two step process for more engaging performances.

Step One: Uhm... wash your hands. 

Step Two: Eliminate confidence.

In the world of amateur magic, I've found the more confident you are in what you're showing someone, the less interested they are in seeing it. When people see a magic trick, we'd like to think they're thinking, "This is impossible!" But it's more likely that they're thinking, "This is fake." You can't blame people for thinking that way, because it's completely true. And confidence actually emphasizes the fake aspect rather than the impossible aspect. 

Not only that, but confidence makes things look easy. 

When you're on a date or a job interview, you want to speak confidently. You want your conversation with this other person to seem easy to you. You don't want interacting with someone to seem like a struggle.

But what if you're walking a high-wire?

Person A walks the high-wire and he eases himself onto it and throughout his journey he pauses and wobbles and has to repeatedly center himself and seems to be on the verge of falling off once or twice.

Person B walks confidently across the rope to the other side with no more difficulty than you or I would walk down the sidewalk.

Most tight-rope walkers could walk across the rope as Person B does, but instead they choose to do it as Person A does. 

That's because an audience member seeing Person B doesn't think, "She's really good at that!" What they think is, "I guess that's easier than I thought."

You might think, "Ah, but I want it to look easy. I want to be the guy who makes the impossible look easy." But you won't make the impossible look easy. As I mentioned above, people's default reaction to a magic trick isn't that it's impossible, it's that it's fake. So you'll make the fake look easy. When things seem easy and fake they're essentially pointless.  

So how do you apply this idea practically? 

Well, this whole site is essentially an exercise on the principle of removing confidence from your presentations.  

The Distracted Artist style involves the magic happening with no preamble. The spectators never get a sense of your confidence because there is no build-up to the trick.

The Peek Backstage style is lack-of-confidence as presentation. It's simply you saying, "I need your help with this because I don't know if it's working right."

When I talk about removing yourself from the role of the "magician" behind what you're presenting, it's because that puts the magic outside of your control. And you can't be confident about something that's outside of your control. 

When I say "remove confidence" I don't mean you should be an awkward, mumbling, sweaty mess. It's not your personal confidence that I think you should eliminate. It's your confidence in what's about to take place. Eliminate certainty. Certainty doesn't make for compelling experiences.

This is why overly-scripted patter tends to be a turn-off to people in a casual performance. "He's so certain of what's going to happen he made up a dumb little story about it!" This doesn't feel organic or personal to them. It feels like you might as well be replaying a video of the trick as you did it for someone else. 

A lack of certainty suggests that you and your spectator are going to discover what happens together, in the moment. What happens when we try this gypsy good-fortune ritual? What happens when we follow these weird instructions I found crammed in the seat crack of the bus? Does this new technique for cheating at cards really work? Why is there this big warning on this website not to view this optical illusion three times in a row, what could be the harm?

Presenting without certainty pushes you to come up with alternative contexts for tricks. It removes the one big weak justification magicians use most often: "I'm going to do this because I can."