The Engagement Ceremony

First, some terminology.

Presentation - A context and patter for a specific trick. 

Universal Presentation - These are presentations that aren't limited to any one trick. I guess "universal" is a bit of a misnomer, because they can't be used for any trick, but they can be used for many tricks. Some examples:

Word-Processor of the Gods from the JAMM #1 is a triumph effect, but that same presentation can be used for a number of other effects as well. For example any torn and restored effect, or any effect where an item reverts back to its former state.

In Search of Lost Time is a handling for the invisible deck, but you can use the identical faux hypnosis presentation for almost any other trick from the Hot Rod to color changing knives to a Zig-Zag. 

The Passion of Donny Ackerman is a word reveal, but could be used for any trick you apparently achieve through stopping time (and that too is something of a universal presentation).

The Little Idea is a universal presentation for many Tenyo tricks.

Presenting gambling tricks as a rehearsal for an upcoming gambling con you're working on is a universal presentation for those types of effects.

Universal presentations are ones that can be used for multiple effects, but you would not limit yourself to one of these presentations for all your tricks, of course.

Performance Style - Is a broad manner of presentation that encompasses some or all of your material. 

I've codified three of these in the past:

The Peek Backstage: Presenting an effect as "something you're working on" where you're looking for the spectator's input.

The Distracted Artist: Presenting effects without presentation as if they're something you're doing absentmindedly.

The Romantic Adventure: Immersive presentations where the effect is not performed for the sake of the effect, but where it serves as a demonstration of some bizarre aspect of the universe you're temporarily inhabiting with your spectator.

You can read more about these in JV1 or earlier on in the history of this site.

If I wanted to, I could limit myself to only one of these presentational styles. While doing so would limit my opportunities to perform, it wouldn't be odd or redundant for people seeing me perform over and over again in that style because these are broad styles that contain a whole universe of effects.

I believe thinking in the context of "performance styles" for the amateur performer is one of the more beneficial things you can do. At least it's been one of the most beneficial thing for me in my growth as a performer because performance styles are all about two things: the relationship between you and the spectator, and the spectator's experience of the effect. And how you handle those two things will have a greater impact on your performances than whatever material you choose or sleights you work on.

In JV1 I write that there are "hundreds" of other performance styles one could adopt and recently I have started using a few more regularly which I will be discussing here over the course of time.

The first of these is called The Engagement Ceremony and this was laid out in this post, Presenting the Unpresentable. And essentially it's just a style for process-heavy tricks that focuses on the process.

For a long time I bought into conventional magic wisdom that audiences hate "process." But then I started really paying attention to audience reactions. I think it's true that people hate boring people presenting a boring process. But if you're an interesting person presenting an intriguing process, you will find great interest from people.

People don't go see a psychic and want a lack of process. They like process. If they walked in and the reader just said, "Look out for your health. There is good news coming on the job front. See you later." The person would be like, "What the crap?" They want the process of the cutting and the shuffling of tarot cards, or using a pendulum, or tossing tea leaves or whatever the hell you do with tea leaves. People like the process.

Yeah, but that's for people who believe in psychics. Is it though? I'm not sure that's the case. I think if you believe in psychics, then you're fine if one just spits out the information. But if you don't believe then perhaps the process and the ceremony is the interesting part of it all. Again, I'm not sure. But I'm positive you can frame process as an interesting part of an effect, so long as you put your focus on the process and away from you. 

Process is like foreplay. Both in the sense that it builds anticipation for the climax, and in the sense that magicians avoid it as much as they can.

If I ask you to think of a number between 1 and 4, and I guess it, that's a pretty weak effect.

However if we go through some multi-stage ritual that, at the end, has you thinking of a number between 1 and 4, and it turns out that is the number the ritual predicted, then that's inherently much more interesting (as long as it's not an obviously mathematical "ritual").

If I predict what number you thought of between 1 and 4 that could be luck, or it could be the world's least consequential super power. But if I have you invest time in a process of ending up on a number between 1 and 4, then you're unlikely to think it's "just luck" because I wouldn't have taken up a bunch of your time with something that relied on luck. And if you're inclined to give me credit for what occurred then you don't just give me credit for predicting the number between 1 and 4, you give me credit for knowing the steps all along the way.

Anyway, this all is to say that I have been incorporating more process heavy tricks into my repertoire, as I just enjoy the low-key nature of that sort of interaction. "Let's follow these steps and see what happens." There is a passive element of this type of presentationIt that is very pleasant for both the performer and spectator and it's an nice change of pace from some of the other performance styles I employ.