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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Bad habits worth breaking (20 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Ben Blau
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I wanted to start a conversation about bad habits that are worth breaking for mentalists. There have been a couple of things I've made a conscious effort to work on over the past year or so, and while they might seem obvious, I believe they have made a difference in the way my performances come across. One is to completely eliminate the often unconscious urge to move my hand to my mouth. This seems to happen to many performers, and is a manifestation of guilt.

Another thing that has benefitted my performances is to learn to relax my eyes, the muscles in my face, forehead, shoulders, and arms. In other words, trying to emulate the physical demeanor of a relaxed person who is not concealing deceit.

I know that these are small things, but I do think they make an important difference.

I am interested to hear about any of your own observations and subtle tweaks such as these, and how you've applied them to your own performances.

-Ben
bond19
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I've learnt to element the phrase 'would you be impressed' e.g. 'So if I could read your mind would you be impressed?'
mastermindreader
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The key to overcoming nearly all of these problems is to have a fully scripted act that you've done so many times that you can do it in your sleep. Then the only thing you have to worry about is staying awake. Smile
innercirclewannabe
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Quote:
On Apr 26, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:
The key to overcoming nearly all of these problems is to have a fully scripted act that you've done so many times that you can do it in your sleep. Then the only thing you have to worry about is staying awake. Smile


Smile This, & make sure your audience stays awake too!
Tá sé ach cleas má dhéanann tú sé cuma mhaith ar cheann.
Dr Spektor
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Actually beyond the script - record and watch yourself, get feedback from peers, and hire a director in many cases - and improve. Also, if you are introducing interactivity - then you will never be able to fall asleep if you have engaged the audience... as you won't know for sure what will happen....!
"They are lean and athirst!!!!"
mastermindreader
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Are you kidding? I can interact, improvise and tell jokes in my sleep, too! It used to drive my wife crazy!
Ben Blau
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Certainly great advice given so far, but I fear that my intended point for this thread may have been misinterpreted. I wasn't looking for advice, specifically, but rather for other performers to share their personal observations of subtle things they see in their own performances (or those of others) that are often not considered, but easily corrected.

I'll give another example: smiling.

I was giving a lot of thought to the use of a smile as a tool. First, I asked myself how often I smile during a performance. This thought extended into reflecting on what is being communicated when I do so. This led further into a realization that there are different kinds of smiles, and the type of smile I use and when I use it can communicate different things. For instance, there is a type of smile that communicates "all of this is silly, trivial, and we're just having fun here." There is another smile that suggests, "I know something you don't know, sucker." Yet another type of smile communicates, "hey, this is working well - you and I are really connecting on some level," etc.

This doesn't cover them all (not by a long shot), but simply being aware of something as simple as the use of a smile (or other congruous facial expression), and being able to control it properly, is something that can make a big difference, seemingly out of proportion to its simplicity.
RedDevil
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There is no doubt whatsoever, with all serious, that a smile is a rhetorical device, and like its cousin irony can be used in kinds of interesting ways. And like a fire, it can warm you or burn your house down. Totally agree Ben that a smile's use, whether randomly or intentionally is having consequence on not only performers, but leaders, workers, lovers, etc.

You want to see the purposeful use of a timed, intentional smile for a rhetorical purpose? Go to a Jon Bon Jovi concert and look at the mega screen. Then look over at your wife. I s*&^t you not.

;o)
F-F-U-L-Ri-F-F-Li-R-U-F-F
D.J. Ayur
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Ken Weber's Maximum Entertainment is something you should look into!
Ben Blau
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I've been meaning to.
George Hunter
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Often, a performer's "bad habits" shows up in his or her speaking delivery.

In terms of speaking style, the worst unconscious offenders are usually speaking impromptu--making it up as they go along. Since the grail of effective presentation favors the prepared mind, the impromptu style probably cannot be fixed or notably improved. One needs to break the Impromptu habit in toto.

The most obvious alternative is the memorized script. Some performers, like actors, pull that off admirably; others, even a couple of well known mentalists, sound mechanical--exactly like they are delivering rehearsed lines.

The golden mean for some of us is an Extempore speaking delivery. It is a planned approach to speaking, typically supported by at least a script treatment, with many lines learned, with some or many lines improvised in the context, always in living touch with meaning of what one is saying. When I speak extempore, I have the most articulate energy, but there is a tradeoff. I can be vulnerable to excess verbiage. The cure, each time, is the discipline of cogency, verbal economy.

George
IAIN
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People that over look writing a script, even for a in a bar with friends of friends, are missing out... just because you have a script, doesn't mean you stand there stiffly, trying to "act", the script is there so you can map out everything clearly - and focus on what you want to say, when you want to say it...just like knowing when to gesture, when to make something important or unimportant by physical behaviour and language... scripting supports everything...

you might have something you can do at a moment's notice - but challenge yourself, write it, script it, and re-rehearse it and you will always find something to tweak and to make better...

i have evidence to support this...

each and every top pro, each and every top actor does this...we can certainly do it our own way, (just like some actors like to method act and others don't) - but you need a backbone to work from...scripting does that, and more besides...
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C.J.
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Smiling is a good one. When I started performing, I loved it so much that I would grin from ear to ear the whole time I was on stage. I suppose it wasn't a "bad" habit, but it limited me in how much I could take my audiences on an emotional journey. Learning to change my facial expression (at deliberate times) raised the game considerably, without affecting the overall sense of fun and friendliness.

A big one for me was the word "Okay", which slipped through even after I developed scripts. With a background in acting, I'd never struggled with the dreaded, "Umm...", but the process-ive nature of my effects led me to start overusing the word okay as a comma between stages of an effect: "Can you face the audience, please. Okay, you've been thinking about the name of your childhood sweetheart? Okay, I think..." etc.
Connor Jacobs - The Thought Sculptor
Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur
Be fondly remembered.
sandsjr
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Completely agree with the idea of a well thought out, tweaked, rehearsed, performed, tweaked again etc., etc. script. Know it like you know your name. One very important point I've found to really matter... make sure the words and actions you write into the script are 100% YOU! I personally believe this is HUGELY important. (So to the original post, I might review my scripts and replace anything contrived with something that is me.)

Compare it to playing an instrument. If you barely have a piece memorized you'll be more concerned with playing the notes right than with making the piece "say something." Now, if the piece isn't something you relate to deeply, how can you put your whole self into it?

Ken Weber talks about showing the audience who you are in order to connect with them. Again, that's something I feel is extremely important. I also believe contrived words and actions serve to put a barrier between you and the audience and have the effect of disconnecting. (You might call that an "Illogical Disconnect") Smile

Because I feel it is such an important concept, I will once again refer back to Bob Cassidy's comment on a question about stage freight from another thread. He said something to the effect of, "Remember how much you love your audience and how much they love you." That's not just a throwaway cornball line. It's a very "wise" idea! That's what performing is all about... making a connection with others and sharing a little piece of time.
yachanin
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Hi All,

One behavior I've had to adjust is the speed at which I speak. A student came up to me after my very first guest lecture as a grad student (many, many years ago) and indicated that he thought my topic was interesting, but that I spoke much too fast and it was difficult to understand everything I said. I thanked him and began to monitor how fast I spoke when lecturing. It took some time, but I was finally able to get that under control. I've heard many performers who speak too fast... whether it's out of nervousness or that they simply aren't aware of how fast they speak.

Regards, Steve
mastermindreader
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Smiles, gestures, etc., should all be in the script as well.

And watch the pitch of your voice. It is common to hear nervous performers speaking too fast and their voices usually rise in pitch. (Think of Don Knotts as Barney Fife.)

Another bad habit that has developed over the past decade, at least here in the US, is a tendency to end every statement with a rising inflection as if it is a question. It's "I'm doing a show tonight," not, "I'm doing a show tonight?"

Whenever I hear this verbal tick I usually respond, "Are you asking me or telling me?"
Syndrome
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I used to say, "For the first time, please tell us ..." I always felt weird saying it, but I get a chuckle if it comes to mind.
Live well,
Laugh often,
Love always.

"Illusion is the first of all pleasures." -Voltaire (1694-1778)
Heka Siosiri
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Quote:
On Apr 26, 2014, mastermindreader wrote:
Smiles, gestures, etc., should all be in the script as well.

And watch the pitch of your voice. It is common to hear nervous performers speaking too fast and their voices usually rise in pitch. (Think of Don Knotts as Barney Fife.)

Another bad habit that has developed over the past decade, at least here in the US, is a tendency to end every statement with a rising inflection as if it is a question. It's "I'm doing a show tonight," not, "I'm doing a show tonight?"

Whenever I hear this verbal tick I usually respond, "Are you asking me or telling me?"

Totally agree with the inflection matter. It's very accentuated in the west coast. I hate it.
Amirá
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Great theme of conversation Ben and I congratulate you to be conscious about your mannerisms and communication to feel improvement and reminds us to be critical about ourselves.

Verbally, I tend to talk too much and I am working in trying to be synthetic and let the silence speak.


Best
Pablo
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Anthony Jacquin
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Delivering jokes with comic timing and space for laughter rather than scurrying past the punchline.
Anthony Jacquin

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