Thursday, December 29, 2011

Here are six tips that I find are the"secret" to effective close-up magic presentation (and most any interaction in life). And it's easy to remember using "SECRET" as an acronym.

S - Smile
A smile has more power than you think. More than naturally raising your likability factor and opening up an extra degree of connection with your audience, it is a useful tool to camouflage your moves. Think about's hard to concentrate AND smile at the same time. Just look at Auguste Rodin's famous statue The Thinker. So, enjoy yourself and smile through your magic, and it will diminish the perception that anything sneaky is going on.

E - Eye Contact
Please don't stare at your cards the whole time. Lock eyes with everyone in your audience and you'll "touch" them.

C - Commit
Don't just recite your lines; stand behind every word. David Regal is one of my favorite performers. He makes even the simplest items shine. The secret? He "COMMITS." Every word & action is used to make the impact as clear, compelling and entertaining as possible. Great rules to follow

R - Respond
Listen to both verbal and non-verbal gestures...and look for opportunities to respond and interact. Magic is about dialogue - not monologue.

E - Express Yourself
Don't let your props upstage you. Create opportunities to be YOU and express the wonderful, unique qualities only you have.

T - Transport Them
Magic is about taking your audience to a different place...a different state of mind. If your magic does not transport them, that it falls flat. Look for ways to elevate presentation and meaning in your magic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Website -

I'm excited to announce the launch of This website highlights my work as a professional magician and my love of the arts overall. I hope you have fun exploring. Let me know what you think and how I can keep the website fresh, informative and a fun place to visit.

HOME - The homepage is designed to be uncluttered, easy on the eyes, and give you quick access to anywhere on the site. You'll be greeted with a random photo each time you visit. You'll get a visual overview of the five latest news headlines, and you'll find one-click access to my Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and magicians blog sites.

ABOUT JOHN - Learn more about me, my approach to magic, how I got into it, and what others are saying about my magic.

BOOKING - What sets my magic apart? What can your guests expect? The Booking page describes my brand of magic and how it can help make your event as memorable and effective as possible.

NEWS - Read about my latest magical adventures, and explore other topics such as tips on hiring a magician and magic history. You can subscribe to the RSS feed, leave comments if you wish, and easily share any article via Twitter, Facebook or Email.

GALLERY - See the magic in action through photos and video clips. And if you'd like to see more videos, my YouTube page is just a click away.

PRODUCTS - For magicians, the Products page features my professional DVDs, lecture notes, books and more. Explore the contents of each product, read expert testimonials, and easily add items to your cart.

ARTS - In addition to the art of magic, I am dedicated to the art of design and music. Go "beyond the magic" and explore my art portfolio and listen to some of my original guitar compositions.

CONTACT - Have a question or comment, or just want to say hi? The contact page connects your inquiry directly to me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I'm on a kick lately about infusing CHOICE into my magic presentations and structure. Sometimes the choice requires no change in handling, such as "What four-of-a-kind shall we use?" or "Should I find the red or black Queens first?". Other times, it my require two alternate endings. I'm working on a triple card to pocket routine now. For the last card, I'm working out a way to ask if they'd like their card to melt from the inside of my pocket to the outside OR from the outside in. Of course, I'll be prepared either way, and depending on what they say, they'll never see the alternate ending.

This train of thought has me thinking about every effect in my repertoire, looking for opportunities to add choice. Why do I think this is important? I think it's a great way to: 1) Engage my audience in the experience; 2) Let them play a genuine role in where the magic takes us; 3) Shift the experience from being predetermined to "in the now;" and 4) Raise the perceived impossibility by being able to deliver on their choice.

Give it a try. I'm curious to see what you come up with.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Designing Reactions

Have you ever gotten a reaction that surprised you? Of course you have; we all have. Whether performing magic, conducting a meeting or just sharing a story with someone, the reactions we get are not always what we expect. It might be silence, or an off-topic remark, a delayed response, or any number of emotions.

To Clap or Not to Clap
I remember showing my wife Debbie a trick when we first started dating. There was group of people. They all clapped...except Debbie. I was curious, so I asked her about it later. She said, "I didn't think magic was something you clap at. I loved the trick, but clapping just didn't feel natural." Hmmm, I learned that clapping is not a standard indicator. I'd much rather have a genuine reaction of wonder than a forced applause.

Sometimes, audiences react in a quiet, contemplative way. Other times, they are loud and boisterous. They might challenge you, laugh at a serious part, heckle or chuckle. The trick is having strategies up our sleeve to design reactions we are aiming for.

It's Our Role, not Theirs
It is NOT the audience's responsibility to guess how to react. It is not their burden to align with your expectations. It's not their duty to give you 100% of their attention or bring the applause meter to fever pitch. Rather, it is OUR role to design effects toward a desired outcome. It's about being intentional in everything we do to the audience to a destination and ultimately build an experience that leads to genuine reactions that are aligned with the premise of the trick. It starts with the question, "How do I want them to feel?" And while the reaction we get is impossible to script ahead of time, it IS possible to make choices in presentation that create reactions tied to the emotion of the effect.

Fast forward. Same girl, different trick. I showed Debbie a trick where her signed card vanished. Not only that, she as now sitting on it! No clapping, but a surprise reaction nonetheless. She ran around screaming to others in the room, "OMG, John pulled a card out of my butt!"

Yeah, could never have scripted that one, yet it was purely genuine reaction of utter astonishment...exactly as I had set out to do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Your Opening Line

What's your opening line when approaching a group during a strolling magic performance?

Let's face it, while the approach opens the door to an amazing experience for your audience, it can also be quite awkward to invade their current experience to introduce them to a new one.

The trick is to make them curious, not defensive. (It's difficult for one to feel defensiveness and curiosity at the same time.) I often do this with a very simple question: “Excuse me, can I borrow your imagination for a moment?”

It's polite, non-intrusive, inviting, and most importantly, different. (“What does he mean, ‘borrow my imagination?’”)

It's now important to follow up with something that does indeed draw in their imagination. I usually continue with, “I'd like you to imagine that I'm holding an invisible deck of cards” or “I'd like you to imagine that instead of these two rubberbands, I am holding the very handcuffs used by the great Houdini.

So, that's my tip for today — a simple question that heightens curiosity.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What did YOU learn?

As a marketing professional by day, I recall a presentation I led a few years back. I gave a marketing 101 course to colleagues in the non-profit sector—and the day after, a mentor I greatly respect asked me, "So, what did you learn?"

I was a little thrown off. I asked myself, "What does he mean what did I 'learn?' After all, I gave the presentation. Shouldn't the question be 'What do THEY learn?'"

Vince asked be again, "What did YOU learn?"

I get it now. It's about being consistently curious and learning something about ourselves in everything we do. From that day forward, "What did I learn?" has become a question I've asked myself countless times - nearly daily. It's applicable to professional work, family life...and yes, my career as a professional magician. It's especially revealing when you ask this after you TEACH someone something, because even when we are on the teaching side, we are learning too!

Try it. Be curious. Learn on the go. Grow.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What a Bunch of Tools

Magicians: The members of your audience are a bunch of tools.

Wait, I don't mean that in any sort of derogatory way. They are literally part of your magic toolbox, and you should utilize them just as much as any sleight in your arsenal.

How many times do we, as creators, factor in the audience into the method, not just the presentation? Sure, we design effects that entertain and tickle their magical funny bone, but in terms of intentionally focusing on the intricacies of audience interaction and psychology as part of sleight execution is something I think we can and should do more of.

In my work, which you can see in action on my Brainstorm DVDs among other places, I focus the timing of sleights during audience Action, Interaction and Reaction (A.I.R.). As a result, the moves come across as "airy"—and in many cases, virtually invisible. And while it might all appear casual and off the cuff, make no mistake about it—it is ALL very intentional.

The paradox here is that it is hard to make things appear simple. It takes many hours of practice, preparation and on-air time with real world to make it effective. The reward of all this is that you gain an extra tool (in the form of your audience) in making your sleights appear...well...sleight-less.

So, while your audience comes in to be entertained, little do they know that they are playing a secret vital role in actual the execution of your methods. It's a shift in our thinking. No more laboring over how they might burn our hands; instead, strategically weave them into the construction of the effect so the moves become background noise—and the entertainment factor takes center stage.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's Your Story?

Magicians: Think about a routine or a set you usually perform.

Now describe the entire set in about 50 words. Wait. Here's the real key; avoid listing the names of the effects or directly describing what happens with the props. Instead, describe it as a STORY of the journey experienced by the audience.

So instead of writing down your routine as a list of 4 or 5 effects, you might describe it like, "The audience experiences the power of subliminal advertising, then are shown how their own actions could subliminally broadcast their mere thoughts. Then, in addition to predicting the future, the future is actually altered! Finally, the audience sees what it's like to have something vanish up close, then repeat with a powerful twist."

Why do this exercise? 1) It often unveils misplaced effects that interrupt the flow of an cohesive and advancing story; 2) it focuses your view through an audience lens; and 3) it helps to answer the ever important "So What?"about particular effect(s) - such as "So what if I find the Aces?" or "So what if I find their card?" The latter examples can often transcend into experiences that touch your audience in profound ways IF the story and premise are presented as such.

So, what's your story?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Okay, so Paul Harris' classic effect has always intrigued me. I'm quite proud of the variation I use, not so much for handling touches, but for the the "moments" I create through simple one-degree shifts. The most notable of these is placing the cards ON the card box during the time they change. It's a hands-off magical moment. Enjoy!