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I’m sure you’ve seen TV specials where magic superstars like David Copperfield or Lance Burton go to the audience to pick a volunteer. With just a charming smile plastered on his face, he gets a beautiful lady in the audience to go with him to the stage to help in a routine.
The spectacle looks like magic…
I don’t know why. I think it’s because the old saying “Smile and the world smiles with you” is overrated.
I tried wearing the same charming smile when asking gentlemen to help. Mercifully, in most cases they agree to play the part of assistants.
I think there are more men who find me charming than women. This thought scares me.
In most birthday party shows, I have no trouble finding children volunteers. Children usually rush to the stage when I ask for someone to help. In fact, the trick is to ask children first who wants to help (I get them to raise their hands) before inviting them to the stage. Failing to do that sometimes creates a stampede of kids eager to be part of the show.
However, bringing adults to the stage can sometimes be as much a struggle as a tug-of-war. Some people are reluctant to help because they might have seen magic shows in the past where the volunteers were made fun of by the magician. They want to join in fun activities but not at the price of their self-image. Taking part of a fun activity and being made fun of are two different things. Most audience members know the nuance between the two.
In corporate shows, asking audience volunteers to help in the program is not a problem. Everyone knows everybody. When you pick someone at random, his friends will usually clap their hands or egg him on to go to the stage.
However, in mall shows and other public performances like fiestas, where a big part of the audience comprises strangers, bringing an adult volunteer to the stage can be an exercise of futile diplomatic persuasion. Not always but some of the time.
Some of the time is, of course, not good enough for me. Once I invite an audience member to the stage and he or she hesitates, takes time to think whether to accept the invitation, freezes in his seat, or flatly refuses the invitation, then that is not good showmanship.
It slows down the show. It creates a stage wait, because nothing happens on the stage while I’m in the audience wooing someone to come with me. All this time, the rest of the audience waits for the show to resume. A stage wait is often boring, if not potentially boring. I eschew it like I eschew obfuscation.
You will not find many resources on the topic of bringing audience volunteers to the stage. That’s why you will find it useful to come back here tomorrow, when I share my own techniques for inviting audience members to help in the show. I learned these techniques first-hand over the years, by trial and error, and by getting a lot of “no’s”.
I still get occasional “no’s” today, but not as many as when I was still starting out in magic. You may find some of my techniques helpful—if not, then you are a hopeless case.