How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
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The Striving Mentalist
I was on a cruise ship recently and went to a show by a young man who goes by the stage name of 'Phoenix'. He was good, but he could have been better.
He started with a memory display where he remembered the sequence of cards in a deck. The set up to this was messy, with getting various audience members to split and shuffle cards. He dropped a couple of cards along the way. Was this a part of the act? It didn't add anything so was just a minor irritation.
I got dragged up on stage for the prestige (serves me right for sitting in the front row) as the shuffled pack was split in two and he pointed to the person who had each card. Frustratingly, the other person got confused and didn't remove one card, hence messing up the end of the trick ('I've got a card left over!'). I thought this a little unkind. Don't expose the performer even if you can see the trick. And if you are the performer, handle such events with elegant grace, perhaps even turning into another amazing event.
He also did a good 'psychic' mind-reading trick, telling members of the audience marvellous facts about their lives. It worked well as the people seemed genuinely startled, though the hand-to-head 'It's coming to me' stuff was a bit over-cooked.
The main illusion was a complex show that involved guessing words that members of the audience had put in an envelope. The overall trick was again done well and I've no idea how he did it. Yet again, it could have been more coherent, talking more and being clearer about what he was 'doing'. Audiences need a strong story they can follow.
I think he is good but is still learning stagecraft. He made an impact on Australia's Got Talent and is now stepping up. He referenced the UK's Derren Brown and is clearly influenced by him. I've seen Derren who is very polished. An illusionist friend noted that he knows how Derren does most of his tricks, but what impresses him is the way Derren turns a relatively basic illusion into an amazing performance.
There's an important point here for all of us. Whether you are performing or just chatting, a key task is guiding what your audience thinks and feels. In this, do not expect them to understand everything you say, and do not expect them to remember what you said a minute ago. Always be clear and expect to repeat yourself. Notice how rapt or distracted they seem as you steadily reel them in. Only when you have their expectant attention should you deliver the knockout punchline.