Ever see a pretty girl, a hot guy, or even a celebrity on the other side of the room, and wish you could engage them in conversation? It takes confidence to approach a stranger, especially if they are part of a group. Yet, it is with these individuals and groups—even when they are our own social circles—where our magic blossoms.
Magicians are probably a little more comfortable than the average person when approaching total strangers. With practice, a magician can inject themselves into any situation, then steal the show. Magicians are the Higgs boson of homo sapiens sapiens.
In fact, for many of us, the attention received during a performance is a vital part of why we enjoy magic. We have this urge, an addiction to perform. It makes us feel special. Complete. We are the most honest version of ourself when we are lying our pants off to an audience. Stage actors have a similar experience. I’m told musicians do too. It’s the instant gratification of a live show.
But not all of us were born with this impromptu charisma. Not everyone is extrovert supreme. We have to fake it. No matter how natural it looks on a professional to the untrained eye, in most cases, they worked hard for it. If you’re a beginner, this skill might still be awaiting development.
So how’s it done? Specifically, how do we inject ourself into a situation?
Before we get into it, I don’t want you thinking I was one of those guys born center stage.
I am shy. Hide-under-the-table shy. When we had company over to the house when I was a kid, I would literally crawl under the kitchen table and watch my parents interact with our guests.
You would never know that from meeting me today. I doubt you could find a person on this planet to describe me in this way. Regardless, I am shy. When it’s time to perform or speak in front of a group, I flip a switch and become the life of the party. Shyness is replaced with a confident character I developed through years of performing on sidewalks and in lobbies. I can get in front of a group of people I have never met, and in no time become the center of attention.
Better yet, I can stand in the middle of nobody and draw a crowd of people. A paying audience.
Looking back, I can remember a time when drawing a crowd—injecting myself into the lives of people I had never met before—meant the difference between eating a warm meal or going to bed hungry. While traveling in my youth, failure to draw a crowd assured me a night of sleeping outside in the nook of a building, protecting my props from theft and rain with my body in fetal position wrapped around ragged backpack.
Overcoming shyness and finding opportunity is, for the sake of theSTUDY, called injection. This category is dedicated to performing in impromptu settings. Exploiting social circles to better your craft. You ought to be able to perform anywhere, anytime, even within an unfamiliar klatch.
Injection is an important skill for the sake of practice—technique, interaction, real-life rehearsal—and to build your clientele via networking. It can also be your primary venue in which to earn your living—busking.
Even if you’re not already performing regular for friends and strangers, I know you want to. Or if you already do, you want to do it more. It’s an addiction. An addiction every magician should feed. You want to perform, but nerves and opportunity are holding you back. Eventually, you hope the urge overcomes the restrictions, and then you will be a great performer. Maybe that will work. It’s a haphazard plan.
Actually, it is no plan at all. There is a better way. You don’t have to let yourself go mindlessly. You can develop confidence like any other skill, with perfect practice, strategy, and help from others.
It’s important to understand “nerves” are something a performer has, not something the character has—the character doesn’t know its performing. The character might have nerves, but not performance nerves unless for some reason that’s the character you created. If so, you probably have all the confidence you need!
Nerves are not a bad thing. But if they don’t go away when you start to perform, it means you aren’t prepared. You haven’t rehearsed enough—character development, blocking, lines, technique—are required to build your confidence. Nobody has confidence without preparation.
The next step is recognizing opportunity. Opportunity is a state of mind. We create opportunity by identifying openings in which we can inject ourselves, our services, or our products. Sure, you may not have the opportunity to develop your multi-million dollar Las Vegas grand illusions show without some means, but for the most part, street shows, social shows, guerrilla performances are all waiting for YOU. It’s not the other way around.
An easy way to practice injection is by telling jokes. Especially if you’re not usually the funny one in your group. Talk about something you know, yet are a tad uncomfortable injecting into conversation. There are some parts of my act where, honestly, if you laugh you should be committed. I say my lines with authority, and the group—no matter how conservative—comes with me.
Once you’re comfortable telling jokes to friends, tell a complete stranger a joke. Perform it. From there, engage a group of strangers. Tell jokes to a small crowd. See if you can get them to laugh at a funny story. Right before you begin, you’ll have nerves, but if you trust and know your material, you’ll have no problem entertaining your impromptu audience.
The next step, is performing a trick instead of, or in addition to telling jokes. Do this until you feel comfortable. Perfect our approach. Eventually, this can evolve into a full-time career.
Injection is subtle. It’s engaging your audience, whether that’s one person or one thousand people. Injection is turning an ordinary moment, into a magical moment. What works best for you? How do you inject yourself into situations that might not call for a magic trick? Or did you give up . . . have you decided not to feed your addiction? Let us know in the comments.