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Topic: Approaching kids at a carnival
Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 23, 2005 04:43PM)
I have some carnival walk around to do, and I just wondered how you guys approached children specifically. In the past I do something along the lines of "My name is Stephen and I'm the plumber! Oops, I mean I'm the magician!" Just something for a little giggle and to set the mood.
Message: Posted by: Brian Lehr (Sep 23, 2005 07:14PM)
I just walk up to a group of kids and say "Hey, would you guys like to see some cool magic?"

I was working at a Penny Carnival today for several hours (three combined schools: elementary, junior and senior high). No one said no to my offer except a little girl of six years old. So I asked her if she would like to have a balloon puppy dog. She gladly said "yes" as her eyes lit up!

Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 23, 2005 08:04PM)
Ha ha, I was working at a carnival too! I ended up saying basically what you said. The only problem (that I found) when performing for children in a situation like this is that if there is only 1 or 2 of them, the reactions aren't as good and the enjoyment level goes down, for me and them. I'm going back tomorrow to do more, so any other advice for approaching is appreciate.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 23, 2005 09:41PM)
I work a lot of festivals and fairs each year and my wife and I work them constantly from mid March to mid October. Perhaps I can shed some light on what has worked for me in the past and what things I have tried. Hope they may be of help to you.

I often find that the greatest way to build and attract a crowd is with a crowd. Sounds weird does't it? But it is true. The key here is that a crowd can really be only 3-5 people. That can be considered a crowd. So if you want to build a bigger crowd to watch you, then you just have to attract that first initial few people.

How does one do this? Well there are many ways and some of them have been mentioned above. One technique I have always relied a lot on is the sheer fact that humans are curious creatures. Their curiosity will always get the better of them.

With this in mind, one festival I tried an experiment. Something I wanted to do to see if what I had read about curiosity really would indeed work. What I did was simply set up my walk around table and myself dressed up in my street performer character. I then stood near a high traffic area in the festival. What I did next was to simple roll up my sleeves and take a ball out into my hands (billiard ball) and look upwards into the air.

Now I would do this several times paying no attention at all to anyone walking by or watching me. My main goal was to really make it look like I was up to something big. The sheer motions of me rolling my sleeves up and looking into the air always always got people to stop and watch without me ever having to say a word. Curiosity did indeed get their attention.

Once I knew there were folks watching, I would simply do a toss vanish into the air and look around as if I am trying to find it. I am still not saying anything yet but I am acting upon the situation at hand. I always spot a kid watching who has a hat and I look at him and smile. I then would look one way at one side of his head and the other as I slowly walked towards him or her. Slowly as to not startle them at all but more as if saying hmm could the ball be here.

I then lift up a baseball hat they are wearing or hold up their arm gently as I let the ball drop from the hat or from the arm into my hand. I shake their hand for helping me but as I turn to go back to my table. I pretend as if the kid has glue on his hands. I turn and aknowledge the kid and walk back and we are still stuck together but getting closer to my table area. I then realize we are stuck and smile some more. I finally get us free as this gets a bunch of laughs along the way.

But here is what really is happening through all of this.
- I am stopping a small group of people simply by curiosity alone and I am not forcing them to watch anything. They are making the choice to watch me or not all on their own.
- I am building this small crowd. Once I see this small crowd, I know a bigger crowd will form if I can draw these few folks in.
- I draw them in by interacting with them on a personal level.
- The stuck hand gag after shaking their hands both gets laughs and shows that I am a fun guy and a performer but more importantly, as I walk towards the table (performing area) I am automatically draing my small crowd in towards my working area. This creates the initial crowd I need for the bigger crowd to form afterwards.

Now it is just up to me to perform a few great routines in my strolling show and to constantly interact with the crowd. It is the interaction with the crowd that is key to keeping them there longer.

Another key is that I try to involve those watching from the back who are not yet a part of the audience but are curious as to what is going on. I can do this through getiing their attention and having them interact with me in a comical way and also in a way that helps them actually perform the magic themselves. Once they are engaged and doing the magic, they to become a part of the audience I now have watching me.

It sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. It just is an example of a way in which to build a crowd at a carnival, festival or fair in a fun and easy way that always seems to work well.

Now this is certainly not to say this is the ONLY way to build a crowd or to approach kids at a festival. There are many many others. It serves as just one simple example of what can be done and the reasons and logic behind what is really happening. I hope it may be of help to others.

I will share some other ideas with you if anyone would like. It would be my pleasure.

Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 23, 2005 10:46PM)
Wow, I'd love to hear more ideas! I'm doing more table type stuff, walking up to them and saying I'm Steve the Magician doesn't cut it for me. I ended up creating a small way to approach people when I stumble upon a mint candy box thing. It gave me an idea. I walk up to a person asking if this is their candy. They say no, I say "Lets see whats inside then!" I open it and pull out my super sized wand. Then I act startled and exclaim " That's MY wand!!.. I was wondering where it went. Since I finally found it would you guys like to see some magic?

Its simple and practical for now, I'll edit it over time but it has promise.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 24, 2005 09:20AM)

You are most welcome. With my wife and I doing as many carnivals, festivals and fairs as we do each year, I am often doing walk around style magic between the bigger stage shows. This has given me a ton of time to really try out different approaches to how to approach people and how to approach them in such a way that is not overstepping my bounds. I have also figured out ways to approach children at these events without causing them a sense of fear or wanting to hide behind mom or dad. A lot of what I now do, comes from this experimentation process and learning the pyschology behind the way people react.

I will say that your own venue will provide some of the answers in regards to the dos and don'ts of approaching people. How you approach people at a restaurant setting will be vastly different then how I approach them at a festival or outdoor carnival. The venue in these cases, dictates what I can and can not do.

May I ask what your main venues are and what markets you are working whereby you want to learn how to approach people? Are you doing festival type of events or a lot of table hopping at a food establishment? You answers will help me to better direct my answers to what might work best for you.

For a food place, your apprach to them has to be different. Why? Unlike festivals, at the food establishment, the crowd opr your potential audience is already seated and not going anywhere. Your job then becomes one of you having to approach them directly instead of the other way around. However, you must realize that serving the customer and having the waiter or waitress do their own jobs is 100% more important and critical then your performance.

This means that at any point in your approach or your entertaining the table, that a waiter or waitress comes over, you MUST be willing to stop what you are doing and come back later. You never want to stop the normal flow of how the place operates. You want to be a benefit to them and not a hinderance.

One way to approach a table in a food place is as follows. First, meet with the owner and the waiters and waitresses that night ahead of time and find out their process of how they wait tables. Not every place does it the same way and it is important to find out their own policies. Let them know who you are so each waiter and waitress knows you by site and why you are there. Let them know that you will perform magic for the tables and work the time between them first getting there and taking their order to the time between the order being taken and the food coming out.

One way I used to use was a method in which I approached the table as a waiter would. To the audience at the table, I was the waiter and I did not let on to the fact I was a magician until I am well into my quick but simple and effiecient routine. Now because I did this, it became very logical for me to approach the table.

After the meal has been ordered, I would approach the table and state my name. "Hi my name is Kyle and I will be the other waiter helping you out tonight. If you have any needs or concerns during your stay here tonight, I hope you would bring it to my attention so that we can make your dining experience a magical one."

I then notice a spoon on the table. "Oh I am so terribly sorry. I must apologize. You see they just bought these new silverware from an outlet store and I am afraid they are just not up to (name of the palce) standards of quality. You see if you just hold it right here.. sooner or later you find the spoon simply wants to bend on its own. That just will nto do. Because here at (name of palce) we want every dining experience to be just like magic" I then restore the spoon.

Now this is a very simple idea for a food table hopping type of approach. It works well for me becuase I have a reason to go over there. It is quick and easy and I can sense in that simple minute of my routine, whether or not they are tuned into wanting to see more. If you notice, I also am really hyping up the place I am performing at. I am really letting the table know about the great things at the place and the quality of service they should expect. But, I am doing this in a fun and magical way.

Hope this helps. If you are looking for more ways to approach people or children in an out door setting like a festival, let me know and I can share some more ideas with you. It would be my pleasure.

Message: Posted by: Starrpower (Sep 24, 2005 01:42PM)
I have some candy, little girl. Sweet, sweet candy.

On second thought, that one might get you arrested.
Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 24, 2005 03:03PM)
Well, the type of area I'm performing in will be where people are sitted and eating. There won't be waiters because they buy food and get it directly at a stand. I decided not to approach people waiting in lines or walking around the carnival area because its extremely crowded and more teen hang around there. (I refuse to perform for them, which is why I volunteered as a children's magician ;)) The rides part is in a very tight place, so its often shoulder to shoulder in people. Also, I like to perform at table and the kids seemed to pay more attention and enjoy it more there. I also do a lot of card magic for adults (since I did volunteer I decided I could test some card tricks on the adults) while they are standing or sitting around.

A little recommendation to carnival workers, if your looking for something that makes the parents amazed, the kids laugh and will be a fun time for everyone, check out fiber optics. With a little routine work the trick fits all ages and is giving me great reactions.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 24, 2005 03:34PM)
Stephen this helps me to be able to better help you. Thank you so much for posting here and allowing me to help you and givge you some advice if that would be ok with you. I have performed for this venue so often in the past 5 years that I really feel I can help you by giving you some sound advice and some things you can try when working a festival.

If I understand you right, you are working festivals and carnivals where there are food vendors, craft venors, tables to sit and eat and rides and the like. If this si the case, then you are working the festival market like I am doing. I can try and give you some advice based upon what has and has not worked for me in the years I have been doing this.

I think the problem you are having is that need or fear that you must approach them. However, that does not have to be the case, As mentioned above, you really can learn to have them come to you. This is through the art of audience gathering and audience control. It is a means in which you provide the proper setting so people will want to stop and watch you and then by that time, you have a crowd willing to see everything you are doing and do so gladly not because it is forced upon them. It just takes getting used to and the willingness to try this method out.

First you will not want to try and stop people in line waiting for food. They simply have one thing on their mind, and that is not watching you do magic. They are hungry and you doing magic is a nuisance to them. Not your ideal audience type.

Also, be aware of where you are at a festival. do not try and perform next to a band stage or a rides area. Too much volume of noise unless you have a portable mic system, shich I do have and can tell you about if interested.

Find and select an area that you can perform in, that is highly visible, has a good traffic flow and can proivide space for an audience to gather without causing problems. You can find these places at the festival if you look ahead of time when you do a walk through.

A walk through is what I do first thing when I get to a festival. I go around the grounds and search for the areas I feel are most beneficial to my success of my strolling magic. I make notice of these posts before I set up and begin.

Another thing I do is personally introduce myself to the vendors, shake their hands, introduce myself and what I do. Why do I do this? Several reasons 1) when you are performing and a crowd gathers, a vendor might get upset that you are blocking their area or they may feel you are stealing their crowd. By introducing yourself, you are leting them know who you are, what you do and that you will be performing and will work hard at beinging the crowd to them if you can. trust me if you do this they will love you for it.

When I pick a spot, I will pick a spot to the side of a vendor. This way I can do my magic and mention that venbdor a lot in the routines I do. I use their name as a magic word or I get their people to help me out. All this gets me working for them and helping themget business. They will not only let me perform there more often, but now I made a valuable friend who can help me out and often times get free food in the process of doing this. Make friends with the vendors.

I would also hesitate to walk up to people eating at the tables. You can but your approach has to be different. In many times, they are laready eating and you really become a bother as you prevent them from eating their food. When working for food places, the idea of an entertainer is that you are working with them between the time their food isd ordered and the time they get it. As soon as food comes, you are not to perform any longer to them. So keep that in mind.

I can understand your reluctance to not perform for teens. That is a hard group to perform for. However, I alays told myself never to avoid an audience as that can only work against me instead of working to my advantage. I perform for anyone because I have faith in my skills that I can entertain.

See I tell everyone at my strolling shows that I am not there to fool anyone but my job is to entertain them, so if they are entertained all I ask is they get involved in the performance by clapping, laughing, smiling or simply throwing money at me. It gets a laugh but gets the point across to them that my reason for being there is not to fool but to entertain.

If you like performing at a table because of the table surface, then I would reccomend going with a strolling magicians style table. I use an A-frame table with my logo on front. It has a stand and handle and a base and can be carried easily to any area without taking up much room at all. This allows people to know who I am , what I do without ever having to ask. Also always dress better then your audience. This way you stand out from the rest. A table also allows you to be able to do your table type effects in a much more controlled environment you are used to.

Hope this helps you some. I will add more tips and advice if you find that may be of help to you. Let me know.

Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 24, 2005 03:43PM)
What about the basic approach. I'm definitely using all the tips you gave me, but how do you walk up to them and what do you say. I think I'd rather have a good opener than just saying I'm Steve the magician. Thanks so much!
Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 24, 2005 03:47PM)
I also forgot to ask, how do you leave. That seemed awkward to me too.
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 24, 2005 04:39PM)
Well the answer to question number one is this. Do not always feel that YOU have to gp to THEM. You can, but when working festivals you really do not have to. You can create it so that the audience comes to you without you ever having to walk over to them. There are mthods for doing this that I can share with you. I would be happy to.

In ending the show, you need to have a clear cut ending and it should be something that you feel is a strong point in your repitiore of magic. It needs to have a nice visual ending that really is powerful to the audience and gets a great repsonse.

Then the rest is a matter of you being a true entertainer and building up the closer through verbal word. I change mine up a lot from time to time but can give you a few ideas that have worked for me.

Examples based upon style of performance and what character I am playing:

- " Thank you so much for taking the time to watch me perform. If you liked me my name is Kyle .. if you didn't I am David Blaine. Thanks and have a great day!"

- " Before I go I would like to share with you one final thought... I hope I have amazed you.. I hope I have amused you ... but most of all I hope I have put a big smile on your face. Have a great day here at the (such and such) festival."

- " As I stated in the beginning of my show, that my sole purpose is to entertain you... and I hope today that I have done just that. so I would like to leave you all with a simple applause from me to you. Thank you and have a magical day!"

- " It has often been said that an entertainer is only as good as his audience for without them we would be nothing. So if an audience is a guage to how good I did, then I must have done fantastic. Thank you so much for watching. have a great day here at the such and such fair"

- " Well now comes for the hardest part of my entire show...... (pause) ..... the ending .. (look up and smile at them). So I will leave you with a simple thanks for watching."

There are others but you can get an idea of how a verbal eneding can work for you. But it has to fit your own personal style and your own character. I can not say what is right for you as a performer as you must find that out for yourself, but I hope these are food for thought.

Message: Posted by: Fiddling-Steve (Sep 24, 2005 09:13PM)
Thanks again!

I think I learned 1 thing above all else by doing this carnival. I like doing shows much better. I feel guilty interrupting people, and I don't quite have the guts to Yell Watch the magic of So and so, and if I sat down and did something (which I experimented with) no one stopped, I'm assuming because I was too young and they didn't take me seriously (14). Well, it was a great experience and I learned a lot about the strength of my effects (red hot momma blew everyone away, from 15-75) and what to do or not to do. In the future I'll stay away from these though, at least until I have more guts. ;)

Thanks for all the help Kyle,

Message: Posted by: Brian Lehr (Sep 24, 2005 09:48PM)
At least you gave it a shot. That's how we end up finding our niche, by experimenting with different groups.

However, I would suggest not to give up on carnivals entirely. Try doing several, and you may be pleasantly surprised how different the responses can be.

Yesterday I had a wonderful time doing the carnival. Today I did three hours of strolling magic for a large picnic (500 people). Well, I was supposed to do magic. After doing some magic for the kids at the beginning of the event, I decided to leave each person in the small group that was gathered with a balloon animal. Needless to say, I spent the better portion of the next three hours making balloon animals, as the crowd kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger (with swords being the weapon of choice). I enjoyed the day, but had a much better experience as a "magician" yesterday.

So try several groups several times (if possible), and you will soon find your own niche.

Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 25, 2005 08:42AM)
We always must remember that failure is only failure when we FAIL to learn from the experience. If we do learn from the experience, then failure really is a stepping stone for success. The important thing is that you went out there and you tried new things. That alone can teach you plenty. Just do not give up. Use the experience to build from.

Message: Posted by: honus (Sep 27, 2005 11:05AM)
Check out the "Side Walk Shuffle" section of these boards and ask or search for tips on "building a line." Those guys have to attract crowds all the time and have some great ways of doing it. (Adapt for kids, of course!)
Message: Posted by: magic4u02 (Sep 27, 2005 07:03PM)
The guys at the side walk shuffle section have been a big help to myself when it came to really study, learning and espanding upon my busking style and strolling style magic I now present at festivals. They can share a wealth of information to you on ways to attract a crowd, how to approach children and how to keep a crowd once you have them. Wonderful guys and very much worth looking at and reading up on.