The only opener that works

The only opener that works
One of the most common questions we get asked is, "How do you walk up to strangers and perform to them?" This straightforward question has a lot of weight behind it that generations of magicians continue to ponder.
 
Combing through decades of forum posts and advice found in books or lectures provides a wide gamut of tips:

"Open with ‘fast and visual’ so you intrigue them and make them want to see more."

"Do something they don't need to touch or commit to."

"Be mysterious and give them something to hold."

"Start with a light-hearted joke."

"Be sure to let them know you're serious and not joking around with their time."

"Is this your pen-knife/rubber band/specially-machined ball of sponge/guinea pig/will to live?"

"A fire wallet lets them know you're interesting."

Do we need to go on?

We seek easy answers to unlock a hidden confidence to perform for strangers. However, no shoe fits all sizes—except maybe Crocs, but we refuse to acknowledge that particular fashion atrocity.

Every performing artist is unique, but we all face this problem. Magic is an act of sharing, yet how do we go about those critical first moments? Whether you're walking onto a stage in front of hundreds of people or a group of strangers on the street, the weight of internalising expectations quickly rears its head. Am I deserving of their time? What should I say? How do I respond if they don't like me?

"Hello."

That's all it takes. That's all that matters. Starting with a simple greeting opens all the doors ever needed. It doesn't matter how much you've practiced and prepared; all you can do is embrace someone with genuine openness. Every performing artist is unique, but what it boils down to is… we’re all still human. "Hello" is a true Magic spell. It sparks a connection between two strangers—the potential to build a strong bridge.

Yes, it's nerve-wracking, and things can go wrong. It's okay if they're not interested. It's okay if you sound nervous. It's scary. But there is no trick or ‘social hack’ that truly works. Worry less about what you show them. Instead, focus on sharing an authentic connection with another human being. That's the start of real magic.

Your best opener is you. Does the effect matter? Yes. But not more than being yourself and being interested in creating a moment with someone else. Is there more to be said on the subject? Absolutely. In the future, we'll touch on specific ideas for different settings: stage, close-up, friends and family, etc. For now, focus on something more simple.

After all, if Obi-Wan Kenobi can face down the cybernetic monstrosity of General Grievous with nothing more than a smile, skill, and a "Hello there…" then we can all greet our participants with significantly more cheer.

Hello There

"We suffer more often in imagination than in reality." – Seneca

We trap ourselves in our minds, analysing and trading different approaches and workarounds. When the inescapable moment approaches, and you walk up to someone, all that falls away. Trust yourself and find comfort in knowing it all starts with "Hello."
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1 comment

Great article! It reminds me of some of the things that David Mamet, who of course worked with Ricky Jay, writes in his book on acting, True and False. He says that the reason would-be actors take so many acting classes is the fear of being in the moment on a stage and mostly they need to just get on and do it. Good acting is responding authentically to events on a stage as though they are happening for the first time. Not easy to do so the fear is justified.

Stuart Nolan

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