Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Influencing behavior does not require overt actions—in fact, you can actually alter human behavior dramatically using simple, subtle cues. This is the theory in Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein's recent book, "Nudge."

"Nudges" can be used to influence people's eating choices, for example. In a recent experiment on Good Morning America, a camera was set up in the break room to observe employees eating from a catered spread of doughnuts and fruit. The first day, the majority went for the doughnuts (only a third went for the fruit).

The next day, the fruit was elevated on a pedestal dish—and more people opted for the fruit. When signs were posted citing that the average American consumes fruit for breakfast, and even more people went for the fruit.

What nudge that made the biggest difference? Mirrors! Mirrors were hung on the wall behind the food, and the group consumed far more fruit than any other day. Hardly any went for the doughnuts. See clip here.

While the book primarily focuses on influencing people's decisions regarding health and wellness, the theory can certainly applied to magic. Simple cues can be used to influence action in your participants. What types of "nudges" have you already used or can develop for future use to influence audience behavior? How might this be used intentionally in an effect?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stronger Connections

I've had some enlightening discussion this week, with both fellow magi and business colleagues. Here are a few things that resonated with me. They all revolve around connecting with your audience in more powerful ways.

Be you
How does your audience get to know you—not just your magic, but you? What's your opening line, opening gesture, opening effect? Are they all genuine expressions of who you truly are? Shoot for authenticity both on and off the stage, and you'll create stronger connections with others.

Parts in a play
Instead of treating your audience as strangers who are simply observing you, try this cool approach that a magician friend of mine uses: Treat your audience as cast members in a play whose parts you have not yet written. Throughout your performance, live in the moment, respond, react, and transition to the next scene based on what they say and do. Make them an integral part of the entire experience.

It's about the journey
Knowing where you want to go is great, but there's more than just getting from point A to point B. It's about making the most of every "sub-point" along the way and doing everything you can to create several extraordinary moments. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

Time to breathe
Sometimes it takes a few moments for genuine reactions emerge. I've mistaken people's initial silence as a sign that they were either bored or detached—but learned that fantastic reactions were just percolating and on their way to the surface. Next time you're waiting for a response of any kind, wait a few beats longer than you normally would before stepping in or moving on. Give your magic time to breathe. Watch David Blaine at the end of an effect. He remains quiet. He lets the audience replay what the heck just happened and allows them to react and respond at their own pace. Often this leads to some amazing expressions of astonishment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Does every magic effect have to contain a "magical moment"? Can it be equally as strong if instead of magic (as in defying rules of nature), it resulted in something that is in fact possible in real life?

Let's explore Triumph, a classic Vernon effect where a deck that's been shuffled with half the cards face up and face down "magically" straightens out. In most variations, there is a magical moment (casting a shadow, a mystic wave of the hand, a quick riffle of the cards, etc.) that causes the condition of the deck to change. But how connected is the audience in this process? Are they truly involved in the "hey, look what I can do" demonstration? Yeah, they selected a card, but are they genuinely part of the experience?

What if Triumph was presented with the spectator unshuffling the cards? Imagine hopelessly mixing the cards up and down, then simply handing the deck to your participant. They place the deck behind their back and turn groups of cards up and down, stopping whenever they want. They bring the deck back out, the cards are spread on the table, and they are all now face up, except the card they named before the trick started. The participant somehow defied all odds in unshuffling the deck—something that is in fact possible, but utterly unbelievable.

This approach is a reminder that not all magic has to highlight the magician's mystical powers, but rather the true magic is often in the audience doing, seeing, feeling and experiencing something rare and incredible. In these moments, I am not a magician in the traditional sense; I am a mere catalyst sparking remarkable and extraordinary experiences within the audience. They create the impact.

While this approach is not new and can be seen in many classic effects, it would be worth applying the idea to effects that aren't typically "participant-induced." By transferring the wonder from your hands into others' hands, I think you'll find them talking more about extraordinary possibilities, and how they play a role in it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Marketing 101

What does Marketing have to do with magic? A lot, as it turns out. We are ALL marketers in many levels of our lives. In magic, marketing is more than hiring a booking agent. Marketing means having an acute understanding of our very essence. And the classic "Four Ps of Marketing" are a good starting point to help us gain focus.

This is what you're selling. Duh! But think about it...what ARE you selling? What is your product, your brand? Why your product over someone else's? How do you ensure consistent quality? What need are you filling? For more about this, see my earlier post, The Napkin Approach.

What are you worth? What value do you provide (value in the sense of meaning and importance)? If you charge lower than others, is this a smart thing, or does it diminish your perceived value? If you're priced higher than average, why? What is it that you bring to the table? Utimately, does your price do justice to your brand? (Study other brands like Hyundai or Rolex to see how price works into their branding strategies.)

Place typically refers to how the product moves from the factory to the shelf. And are you on the right "shelf?" What does it look like when your perform? What's the ambiance, the vibe? Is it dark and mysterious, or loud and boisterous? Would you do a kid's show, a Renaissance fair, a cabaret act, or a stage show? Why? Ultimately, is the place consistent with your brand?

Who wants your brand? What are people saying about you? How are you targeting them? How are you delivering the promise of your brand? What are new trends? How are you tapping into people's interests? Do you focus more on reach (number of people) or frequency (the times of exposure)? Does you promotion adequately reflect the promise of your brand? And how are you ultimately delivering on your promise?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March of Progress

What an exciting month of magic March is turning out to be...

Magic Magazine
March marks my debut in Magic Magazine. My effect, "Intro-Verted," is published in Joshua Jay's "Talk About Tricks," column. Magicians get to learn the trick step by step and read a brief interview with Josh and I.

The Notebook
Will Houstoun's, The Notebook, just arrived. In this superb book that sheds light on 81 card tricks performed in the latter half of the 18th century by some of the greatest magicians of the age. I had the pleasure of meeting Will during my recent trip to London, where he showed me around the legendary Magic Circle and the library where he did his research for the book.

True Astonishment
I just received Paul Harris' long anticipated 9-DVD True Astonishment project. Paul's a hero, and I'm honored to have my effect "Color Blind" (Brainstorm DVDs) included on the set (as an intro to Caleb Wiles' "Reswindled"). Very cool!

TFD Convention
I'm looking forward to sessioning with some of the best minds in card magic at The False Deal Convention in Oklahoma City, March 26-28. I had the pleasure of lecturing at last year's convention in Dallas.

Team Magic
I'm leading a team for philanthropic support at the YMCA, and we're calling ourselves, "Team Magic." We're using magic to inspire our team and make impact in the community.