So, you got your first magic gig? Nervous? Don’t be. As you’ll see in this article doing a magic gig at an event is a lot of fun.
But, I get it if you have some questions. The first magic gig is something every professional magician remembers. If your first magic gig is a success, you will continue to perform for many years to come.
In this article, I want to give some advice that I wish I knew when I first started.
Understand why you’re at the magic gig
First things first. Why are you even there?
“To do magic” might seem like a reasonable answer to that question, but I hate to break it to you…that’s not why you’re there.
You are there to help the host impress the guests (and sometimes the boss or CEO). The host has hired you because he/she thinks you could help make the event memorable.
Your vehicle is magic, but your goal is to make the event a success. You are NOT there to show off your magic skills.
How to handle nerves
Nerves are a natural part of any magic gig, especially the first one. The most effective way I know of to handle your nerves is to be as prepared as possible.
- Know your tricks inside out.
- Practice your scripts.
- Learn where you have all your props etc.
The navy seals have a great motto; “train hard, fight easy,” and it’s applicable for magicians as well.
How to approach people
When doing strolling or tableside magic, a big part is how to approach people. You have to interrupt them while they are doing something else, and that can sometimes be tough.
The worst thing you can do is to walk up to a group with cards in hand, and say “pick a card.” That screams “amateur” and will most likely ruin your evening.
A much better way is to approach people and ask if everything is okay. Remember, you are there as an asset to the host. I always try to imagine it’s my event, and I want to make sure everyone is having a good time.
So, I walk up to the group and say something like, “Hi, is everything alright? Are you having a good time?”. People will often think I’m part of the staff (which I am) and answer my question.
Once I get the conversation started, I introduce myself. “My name is André, and I’m the house magician. It’s my job to interrupt people and give them an experience they will remember for many years. Can I show you what I mean?”
This simple approach accomplishes a couple of vital things.
First, it shows that I genuinely care about them. I want the evening to be great.
Second, I tell them I’m the house magician. I’m not some creepy guy who tries to make new friends. It also means they don’t have to pay for anything.
Third, it sparks an interest in what I’m about to do, and I ask for permission to perform.
Sometimes, people don’t want to be interrupted. This approach gives you the option to back off if needed.
Know the venue
If you take on the role of a co-host (which you should), you need to know the venue. If someone asks you where the toilets or the emergency exits are, you should know the answer.
If possible, visit the venue a couple of days before the gig and get a feel. If that’s not possible, at least try to scan the site an hour before the guests arrive.
What tricks to choose for your magic gig
Depending on the type of magic gig you’re hired for, the tricks you choose will vary. No matter the event, the key is simplicity
You need tricks that are easy to understand and follow, even if people are drinking.
Pick tricks with minimal reset time and few props.
Finally, pick tricks you know well. The time will come when you can use paid magic gigs to test out new material. But, do not try to be fancy at your first magic gig.
Pick six tricks you know inside out and stick with them.
How to structure your sets
Since we’re on the subject of tricks, let us talk about how to structure your sets.
Many in the magic community recommend the 3×3 method. Pick three tricks for three sets.
That way, you can show one set to the first group of spectators, the second set to the nest, and the third set to a third group.
You can then repeat this process over and over again.
For your first magic gig, I recommend you go with six tricks divided into two sets.
If possible, keep one or two extra tricks in reserve to be safe. For the most part, six tricks will be enough to last the whole evening.
What to wear
Clothing is a big deal. Remember the old saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? That’s certainly true when it comes to performing magic.
You want to look professional, but without looking overdressed. I usually think about the event and what others will be wearing, and then I try to take it up slightly.
You don’t want to wear jeans and a t-shirt at a wedding, but you don’t need to wear a full tuxedo at a business Christmas party.
And please…throw away the ties with all the playing cards printed on them…
What to do before the magic gig
Try to be at the event at least one hour before your scheduled starting time. That gives you time to check your props, inspect the site, get dressed, etc.
Eat something light before the gig. You don’t want to be hungry during your performance, but you don’t want to feel like a balloon either. Avoid spicy food and food with garlic (see next tip).
Go over your tricks and make sure you’ve set everything up as it should be. Do you have that sharpie in the right pocket? Are your playing cards ready to go?
As for personal hygiene, there are some basic things every performer should know. Even so, it’s amazing how many smelly performers I’ve had the “pleasure” of watching.
Before any magic gig, go over yourself from top to bottom.
- Take a shower.
- Fix your hair.
- Brush your teeth.
- Shave (or trim) your beard.
- Cut and clean your fingernails.
- Use hand cream.
- Use a deodorant.
- Wear clean clothes.
- Polish your shoes.
- Take a breath mint.
- Pro tip: use a translucent powder on your face
How to pack your props
Before leaving your house, make sure you have everything with you. It sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to forget things in the heat of the moment.
I always put on all my props, in the right pockets, at home. Once I’m confident I have everything I need, I remove the props and put them into a special bag. This becomes my gig bag.
As a backup, I also pack a case with more props. I keep this second case in the car as a backup. That way, I know that if my gig bag gets lost, I can use the props in the case.
Talk to the host during the event
When you arrive at the event, take a moment, and look for the host. Introduce yourself. Tell him/her that you’re there, that everything is okay and that you’re excited about the event.
During the evening, check in with the host from time to time (if possible). All sorts of things can happen at an event, and you need to be able to adapt.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to ask if there is someone special that the host wants you to perform for. It could be a VIP or a company executive.
All in all, make the host aware that you have the situation under control.
Last but not least. Have fun! I understand if you’re nervous, but please try to enjoy the ride.
You’re doing magic, not performing heart surgery. If a trick fails, it’s not the end of the world.
Laugh a lot. Spread joy!