The Law of First Introduction

This is a pretty simple concept in execution, but I'm going to have a hard time explaining it, I think.

The basic idea in one sentence is this:

For the social magician, instead of offering to show someone a trick, and then going into the presentation, you should instead go into the presentation and then, at some point, offer to show them a trick.

This is something I call The Law of First Introduction.

Whatever is introduced first—the premise or the trick—is what the audience will see as most important. And what the audiences sees as most important will define the potential impact of the interaction.

If I offer to show you a trick, then I've already put a ceiling on your expectations for the interaction. This interaction is now about a magic trick. And any presentation I lay on after that is really just there as an excuse to show you that trick. So you're not going to get too caught up in any of that. In fact, you might have the feeling of "let's just get to the trick," because you realize the presentation is nothing more than window dressing.

It would be similar to if I said, "Do you want to hear a joke?" You wouldn't get too wrapped up in the particulars of anything I said after that, because you would be putting it in the context of a joke.

For most people, a magic trick isn't a super consequential thing. It's something of a "minor wonder." So if a magic trick forms the boundaries of their experience, it might be fun and impressive, but it's probably not going to be very profound.

However, magic premises are often deep wonders. They may be things like: fate, luck, the power of belief, mind-control, etc. The space these concepts can take up in someone's imagination can be vast as long as they're not seen as just an excuse to show them a magic trick.

I have a feeling I'm not explaining this well. The concept is kind of ethereal, even though the suggestion I'm making is purely practical.

Let me try and phrase it another way.

Imagine these two scenarios.

Scenario One

We meet up and I have a deck of cards in my hand. I ask you if you'd like to see a trick. You say, "Sure." I have you shuffle the deck and I ask you if you think coincidences are meaningful. Have you experienced a big coincidence? “Well... get ready for another one,” I tell you.

You would correctly interpret this as a card trick with a coincidence theme. And that's going to fit in the "card trick" sized space in your imagination. Let's imagine that space as being the size of a baseball.

Scenario Two

We're hanging out and I tell you I've been reading up on coincidences. I ask you the biggest coincidence you can remember from your life and I share a couple too. Then I say, “I was actually reading an article that said some people attract coincidences. Like there are coincidence-prone people, apparently.” You suggest it’s probably not true. It’s probably just that certain people have their radar up for coincidences and others don’t. The ones that do would tend to see more coincidences. “Yeah, good point," I say. "The article had an experiment you could try that would supposedly tell you if you were a coincidence-attractor. It uses a deck of cards or a handful of change… or… actually, hold on a minute.” I step out of the room for a couple minutes and come back with a deck of cards. “Here… we’ll try it out on you.”

Now, because I've introduced the premise first, the interaction is not limited to being just "patter" for a card trick. Instead, the limits of the experience are defined by this bigger concept of "coincidences"—what they are, if they have meaning, when does something go beyond coincidence, etc. Let's say this concept takes up a basketball-sized piece of your imagination. Then, at some point during the interaction, when I show you a trick related to coincidence (whether I call it a trick or a demonstration, test, experiment, or whatever), that baseball-sized chunk of mystery is just part of the larger basketball sized concept.

Is that just more confusing? Shit.

I'll tell you when this concept really solidified for me. There is a trick in The JAMM #8 called The Deja Vu Method. I was performing the trick for a while and getting great reactions, but then I made a change to the presentation and really dialed the responses up a notch.

Initially I would just ask someone if they wanted to see a trick and then go into the effect. In that case it's just a card trick with a deja vu theme.

Then I changed how I would get into it. I'd walk into a room and be like, "Oh... weird. I'm getting super strong deja vu." This would spark a short conversation on the subject. And then—as an afterthought—I would mention this trick or "psychological game" about inducing deja vu and I'd go off to grab a deck of cards so I could show them. And the reactions were consistently much stronger this way.

The key is we had a genuine interaction about the subject first.

There's a big difference between, "I'm talking about this so I can show you this trick," and, "Since we were talking about this, I'm going to show you this trick."

I started doing something similar whenever I had a trick with a naturally intriguing premise and I found that it worked really well. I wouldn't "subtly" guide the conversation to the subject. I would openly mention I was reading up on a certain subject, or I'd have a book about it on the table. We'd have a real conversation about it. Then, as if it just occurred to me, "Oh... can I show you something related to what we're talking about?"

The connection between the trick and the premise at that point is incredibly strong. The presentation is clearly not just lip-service. If we just had a 15 minute conversation about intuition and then I say, "This reminds me of this thing with cards I read in a book once that I've always wanted to try." Then you are really going to see this "thing with cards" as being related to the topic we discussed.

Certainly much more so than if the extent of my presentation is "Do you believe in intuition? I thought you'd say that! This is about intuition. Deal 10-20 cards."

Obviously this is a concept I’m still piecing together, but I’m confident in the main point, that introducing the premise first and eventually working your way to the trick, is much stronger than asking them if they want to see a trick and then bringing up the premise.