I sat in my home office performing magic for myself…again.

It was a lovely summer day in the middle of July. Clear blue sky, sun, and just the right temperature. But yet, I felt frustrated. I have just completed a practice session on my own, going over two new tricks for the fiftieth time that week.

I knew the moves, I had the script memorized, but something was lacking. Somehow I didn’t feel satisfied. I silently knew what it was, but I was too nervous to admit it to myself. The cold hard truth was that I needed to practice my magic in front of strangers.

But how? I had been struggling with how to approach people to practice in front of a live audience. I had been thinking about busking, working for free at restaurants, walking up to people “cold” and “just do it “…but nothing had felt good. I never really felt ready performing magic for strangers.

You have to practice your material at home, but there is no practice like doing it in the real world, with real people…and for too long, I hadn’t had any ideas on how to do it and still feel comfortable.

But then it struck me. It was like lightning struck, and I quickly packed my props and went outside. I now had an idea of how to practice in public.

That day, I went to town and performed for over 50 people. More than I’ve ever done…ever!

Since then, I’ve repeated the process every time I need to learn a new trick.

The magic secret when performing magic in public

That magic secret (for me, at least) is to be brutally honest. I tell people that I’m a beginner and want to practice my material. But I do it in kind of a sneaky way.

The WAY I lay this out to people is the real secret, and it’s elementary.

My exact words when I approached people are: “Excuse me, could you help me with something? I’m trying out new material for an upcoming show of mine, and I need to test it on “real” people in the real world.

Practicing infront of a mirror doesn’t do it anymore. It will only take a minute, costs you nothing, there are no hidden charges, trap doors, or dangers involved.

Afterward, you can tell me if it was something I should put in my show or if it should go in the trash. Ok?”

Considering that I’m not a native English speaking guy, the wording may differ in your language. But you get the point.

The advantages of this approach

The advantages of this approach are many;

  • you come off as a nice person in need of help (people often like to help others)
  • they immediately realize that the only thing they are risking is a few minutes of their time
  • you don’t say that YOU are a beginner, but that you are working on new material (big difference)
  • talking about an upcoming show gives credibility (which doesn’t need to be a complete truth. In my case, the “show” is my walk around tricks)
  • you can relax since no one hired you
  • I learned more in the 2 hours of doing tricks for strangers than practicing at home in the last year.

The 80/20 rule when performing magic

The best thing I learned?

The tricks are just 20 % of the show. It’s your interaction with people that make the show fly.

It might be worth suggesting that your first trick doesn’t have to be a new trick to beginners. You can perform a trick you know well, then say to them, “let me try one more”.

The 80-20 rule when performing magic
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

It’s always good to perform the stuff you “know.” You’ll learn how to make it better.

You could even perform a self-working trick and focus on presentation and interacting.

When you complete your first trick, you then say, “would you like to see something else”.

Most people say yes since they’re blown away by your opener. Remember, people have rarely seen magic performed in real life. They will like almost everything.

Continue with a trick that you’re not as comfortable performing. If you screw it up, simply say that it’s something that needs a little more work.

Find the best place to start

When you leave, people have witnessed at least one miracle, which is more than the average Joe get to see in a lifetime.

If the weather is ok, I would recommend parks and streets. Anywhere that people are hanging out and relaxing.

I have found that strolling around in parks, approaching people who are just sitting there work well.

Use a solid opener

As noted above, you should start with a simple yet impressive opener. I highly recommend you download my free opener “The trick that never works”. It’s almost self-working, fun and easy to do. It’s a great start when you go out performing magic for strangers.

Download the free opener here.