I’m here to fulfill my promise yesterday to share my tips on how to keep your audience from getting bored.
I have 18 ways to do that. Maybe more, if I didn’t slack off today.
I hope you will not be bored before you reach the third tip, otherwise I can’t help thinking you are a hopeless case.
1. Find excitement in what you do. Sure, you have performed your act hundreds of times. You can do it with you eyes close and in your dream. You have grown tired of it, though. One more performance of it and you will go crazy.
But most people in your audience are going to see the act for the first time. Make it exciting to them. All you need to do is to take an interest in what you are doing. The idea is to act, look and sound interested to the audience. If you think your act bores you (because you have done it countless times), then people will sense your lack of enthusiasm. They, too, will be bored by your apathetic performance.
Enjoy always your act. See some fresh angle to it. Liven it up with new tidbits, gags, and business.
2. Make much ado about your trick. Fussing over the things you do is the essence of showmanship. Make something mundane look the most important thing in the universe. Pique audience interest by not rushing through your trick. Add panache to your performance. You can touch people’s emotions with a flair for drama, even though all you are doing is just to vanish a red handkerchief with a thumb tip.
3. Involve the spectators physically, mentally and emotionally. If you don’t give them opportunity to react to your magic, they might as well be watching a DVD movie. Don’t allow people (especially children) to sit passively watching you for a long time. Bring some of them onstage to participate in your act. Ask them questions. Challenge their views with a controversial statement. Intrigue them.
4. Let your words crackle and sparkle. Consider your patter outstanding if it can stand alone. That is, if you can deliver the spoken part of your act and entertain the audience even without the magic part, then you have a killer patter. Aspire to have such quality patter.
5. Turn some music on. A good background music can pep up your act. Use music intelligently, and you will keep your audience awake instead of snoring.
6. Move around. Don’t stand transfixed on one spot of the stage—that is, behind a lectern, pulpit or microphone stand. Once you stop moving, you become part of the background. Backgrounds get a cursory look at the first glance but, over the short run, attract no attention except from flies.
Don’t be a fly trap. Give your audience some action. Choreograph your stage movements so that your motions not only misdirect but also please the eyes.
Standing still or listless movements convey lethargy. They bore audiences to tears. So don’t stand still or drag your feet like a refugee from some famine-stricken land. Instead move with purpose, sprite and energy.
7. Add dance steps to your act. Dancing captivates even the most cold-hearted audience. If dancing isn’t your thing, don’t do the ballet or some other difficult gyrations. No matter how lead-footed you are, certainly you can do a 20-second Macarena or Papaya. That would be enough to win people’s interest and get them back into the act when interest is waning.
8. Show off your props. Sure, many magicians belong to the packs-flat-plays-big category. They hate props, so they don’t bring any. They can entertain people with small-object magic.
Since we are assuming you are a bore (that’s why you are reading this article), you are not the minimalist packs-flat-plays-big type of performer. You are the opposite—the propy kind.
So if, during your show, the kids start to stand up to look for ice cream, break out the big props to keep them glued on their seats. Believe me, even adults can hardly resist the allures of big props. When you see signs the grown-ups are growing restless, unveil onstage the buzz-saw illusion.
9. Whip out the strong material. Don’t be contented with sponge ball routines. Do something the audience has not seen before. If you show them something they already saw (like the Wilting Flower), they will be so bored some of them will contemplate suicide.
Show them the Milk Can Escape instead. It’s a superb material to perform at a kid’s birthday party. I guarantee that the birthday boy’s Daddy will be riveted on your performance until the last drop of water on his carpet.
10. Don’t make a lengthy introduction. People don’t care about how long you have been doing magic, or what awards you won. Don’t introduce yourself in the mistaken belief that you will regale them with your biography. Come on stage and get down to business. Perform the first magic trick in the first 10 seconds and blow them away.
11. Don’t apologize for any shortcomings. Don’t tell the audience you were caught up in traffic, that you have not set up your props properly because you are pressed for time, that you are running a slight fever, that you have colds, that…
Stop! Don’t make excuses. Don’t tell them why you are about to fail. Just do the magic. Making excuses is boring!
14. Touch them emotionally. Make them laugh. Make them cry. And they will kneel down before you and adore you like a superstar. People have seen so many boring magicians before, so seeing one that makes them laugh, cry and give them a good time is heaven-sent.
15. Speak distinctly and loudly for everyone to hear and understand you. Don’t mumble or whisper unless for effect or for theatrics. The fastest way to bore an audience to extinction is exclude them from the verbal communication process.
16. Add variety to your performance. Don’t do an all-card-trick show, unless you are Bill Malone. Bill Malone is not boring, but you are (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading an article on how not to be boring like this post).
A Jack-of-all-trade magician cannot be an expert at anything, but he certainly can be more entertaining than a one-dimensional performer. Throw in some manipulation, comedy magic, and an illusion into your act. Remember to do them well, though.
17. Make Eye Contact: Look people in the eyes. Don’t look down at your hands always. That will only show the crown of your head, not your face, to the audience. Your hair, even if it’s done by the number one hair stylist in the Philippines, is not nearly as interesting as your face. So look people in the eyes, engage their gaze, and keep their attention.
18. Close the show before they say, “Enough”. The tricky part is to gauge when they have had enough. Audience members don’t say “enough” verbally. They say it in some subtle ways. When you hear the room rustle, see people squirm in their seats, observe them looking at their watches, people probably have had enough of your magic. If you don’t stop now, they are going to vomit.
I have to follow my own advice. I’d say I have said enough about the subject, so let me leave you some time to digest all this.