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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Completely Lacking Stage Presence (4 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Winterborne
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Hi,

I apologise if this post is in the wrong place but I wasn't sure where else to put it.

I'm not new to magic but I'm an on again/off again magician. By which I mean that I keep leaving magic and coming back to it. Part of the reason for this (and probably the main reason) is the fact that my nerves (anxiety) always get the better of me whenever I try to perform an effect for someone. I get frustrated with my lack of progress and feeling uncomfortable so I quit...only to come back to it a short time later because I love magic!

I have good technical ability when executing moves, but I look awkward and feel awkward when performing. It's like I completely lack stage presence. I'm the same way in everyday situations as well (I get nervous just walking down a street or taking the bus).

I've stumbled through a couple of little 'shows' in the past for friends and family but it never seems to get any better/easier.

I honestly can't see myself ever becoming a professional magician but if I could just get to the point where I can do the odd impromptu performance and actually hold an audience's attention/interest without shaking like a leaf then I'd be happy.

I've tried joining a magic club in the past and taking part in the performance evenings when possible. It helped a little, but I could never seem to get past the barriers holding me back. Hence the on/off relationship that I have with magic. The worst times are the ones where I 'almost' manage to break out of my shell...but not quite.

I hate to think that I'm just going to be practising moves in front of a mirror in my room for the rest of my life but maybe I'm just not cut out to be a magician. Smile

What would you advise for someone in my situation? Is there any hope for me at all?
Doug Trouten
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Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, "According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."

Fear for performing for others is quite common, but most people are able to overcome it through practice. For public speaking courses at my university, we administer a test of "apprehension" related to public speaking at the beginning of the course and at the end, and almost every student experiences a significant reduction in fear. Very often our fear is based on vivid imaginings of how things could go terribly wrong. With experience you see that very often nothing goes wrong -- and that when something does go wrong it's not as bad as you imagined it would be.

You might want to see if there's a chapter of "Toastmasters" in your area. This is an international organization that helps members develop speaking skills through practice and feedback. Joining a local chapter would connect you with a supportive group of people who are working to improve their own presentation skills. You may find that regular experience in front of an audience helps you overcome your fears -- whether you're doing magic or not. There are Toastmasters clubs all over the world. Their website will help you find one near you:
https://www.toastmasters.org/Find-a-Club
It's still magic even if you know how it's done.
Terry Pratchett
Winterborne
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Thank you for the response Doug. Smile

I was a member of my 'local' toastmasters group for a while but unfortunately it was too far away for me to keep attending. Smile

I think it's the lack of consistency that frustrates me more than anything. Sometimes I can handle the nerves, other times...I have no chance.

I have performed on stage in front of people a few of times in the past (both magic and non-magic situations) and, in spite of my stage fright, I did get good feedback. Apparently my nerves didn't show as much as I thought they did (although I can't help but feel that people were just trying to be kind when they said that).

As much as I'd like to find some sort of 'fix' for this I'll probably always be nervous. I guess in the end I'll just have to decide whether or not it's worth it to me to force myself through them each time. Judging by the way that I keep coming back to this I have the sneaking suspicion that the answer will ultimately be yes. Smile
SvenSigma
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Since I am not nearly experienced as any other people writing here, the following could be both utter nonsense or exactly the thing you need. It is mostly derived from non-magic presentations, but it worked for me with magic as well: Change your perspective on the nervousness. It is not part of the problem, but part of the rewards. A little like the adrenaline kick before a bungee jump (never done that ;-) ). That does not remove the stage fright, but the thrill of having survived yet another challenge is what makes it interesting.
It takes a baby in the belly six months to learn how to put the thumb in the mouth.

The rest of life is essentially the same problem.

Image
Martin222
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Hi Winterborne , I have always been pathetically shy. I remember when I was in the army during a course that I had to complete for promotion, we all had to give a 20minuet presentation in front of our peers. I don,t think that I slept the night before I was so worried. I got through the ordeal and the feedback from the instructor was quite good. I thought that I was pathetic. Still can remember my shaking and stammering vividly , that was over thirty years ago. In his book You Are Not So Smart David Macraney talks about The Illusion of Transparency. He explains that when we stand in front of an audience and do our thing we may think that it is a disaster and that the spectators know that we are a quivering jelly, which of course just makes us feel worse. Apparently though other people can,t read our inner thoughts and emotions. I know at the time especially when things are going wrong that is hard to believe.
Over the years I have deliberately sought out to take on challenges that required me to put myself into situations that are frightening and difficult. I later became a military instructor, a position where if you weren't,t Goode you would be eaten alive , later I stood in front of people to train them in Food safety. During both of these experiences I never felt that I was outstanding but feedback that I received said different...usually.
I Didn,t take up magic until I was in my fifties, I now stand in a street and busk whenever I can. Again this was absolutely terrifying at first and I could have easily given up. I,m Don,t think for one moment that I am good, my techniques are fairly sound and I do fool most people, however my speech and stage presence leaves a lot to be desired...that's how I see it , but like I said maybe the public see things differently. What I do know Is that I generally feel relatively comfortable standing up in front of people now, I don,t care that much if things go wrong. One thing that magic has taught me is to never give up, these things take time there is no shortcut , you've just got to keep doing it and suddenly it gets a lot easier. That time thirty years ago that I mentioned, I would do that now ad libbing stood on my head if nessesary. Bit of a ramble hope it makes sense, Don,t quit.
Martin222
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I wrote the reply above on my I pad without my glass,s which I have since found. it's an age thing. I apologies for the appalling spelling mistakes.
Dr. Delusion
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I as well was a very shy person when I was younger. When I started out I teamed up with a buddy. We would perform at nursing and retirement places. For me this worked out very well.
having someone with me really took the pressure off and made performing a lot less stressful for me. After a while I had the confidence to set out and perform on my own.
Best of luck to you.
Bob.
MeetMagicMike
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If you enjoy performing then the answer is simple. Perform, perform, perform. You might still get nervous (I do) but you will be able to handle it better with experience.

On the other hand, not everyone is a performer. Good Luck.
Magic Mike

MeetMagicMike.com



I took the Pledge
Ed_Millis
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I was going to say Toastmasters, but Doug beat me to it. And it sounds like you tried it - so sorry it couldn't work for you.

The next best thing would be Bob's advice: go volunteer some place where they don't care how bad you look or feel. Nursing homes can be scary, because you never know how the person is going to respond. You don't always get the mental capacity to follow plots, much less instructions. But you could try the local hospital - I did that for a while, going room to room (under the guidance of the floor nurses, of course) sharing magic and smiles. After a while, *you* no longer care how you look or feel - it's all good because you've left them happier than they were before you came.

Good luck!
Ed
DaveGripenwaldt
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The reasons behind what you describe are personal and so someone else's solutions may not apply, but for what it's worth, I know someone who was much like you and he approached the hurdle of his shyness/fears this way:

This was a bit of a head game for him, but it worked; First, he told himself he was going to be an actor - he would simply play the part of, for example, a confident person, like it was a role he'd been assigned. He literally imagined how that person would act performing a magic trick (smiling, eye contact, speaking up, etc.) and determined to do it that way, no matter how he actually felt because, hey, it was just an acting job.

Next he chose 3 easy, essentially self-working tricks that he could get down cold - not worry about messing up. He worked on presentation, got "mirror confident" and then started his "acting job" as a magician performing those tricks - and then did what mike said; just did them over and over to whomever he could. If he knew the person, he'd lower that bar by saying, “Hey, I am just practicing something – it's a little rough. Could I use you as a Guinea pig?" And the positive feedback he got almost from the beginning helped him at least push through the level of anxiety that kept him from performing at all. He still has nerves - probably will always have them - but he can perform now, where before he could not.
Maybe there is something in that for you. Good luck!
krowboom
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Like the previous comments, no one can tell you how to overcome nervousness. You have to discover how to do it by yourself. It sounds like you are not having fun when you perform because of your preoccupation with nerves, lack of confidence, or whatever else it is holding you back from just acting like yourself. Performing should ultimately be fun and ego gratifying because you are entertaining people with your skill, wit, and personality. My recommendation is to relax, have fun, and not take it so seriously. You are not a professional so who cares if you don't perform like David Copperfield. Just be yourself, tell some corny jokes, laugh at yourself, and enjoy.
DavidJComedy
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The keys I'd recommend are: perform, perform, perform. I too have let nerves hold me back. I've tried scripting, ad-libbing, strict routining, and have found literally just combining it all helps. Being myself. Not trying to be something I am not. This produces a comfort zone for me. The other thing I'd recommend is the use of self-workingeffects. That removes one extraneous component of having to think as you try to perform in a relaxed manner. But, nerves to some degree are good.
David
davidjcomedy.com
AndreaMooreMagic
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Pushing myself going to Open mics and busking on the street consistently really help get used to/ over come my nervousness.
Have a friend film you and be your moral support when you performing its also very helpful.
danaruns
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Quote:
On Oct 6, 2016, Winterborne wrote:
...I'm the same way in everyday situations as well (I get nervous just walking down a street or taking the bus)...


It sounds like this is more than mere stage fright, for you. Larry Haas recommends a beta blocker. Have you tried that?
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Mr. Woolery
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Okay, this might be totally stupid, but at least think about it. What if you were to make your performing character a person so nervous he can't do anything right and the magic sort of happens TO him instead of because of him?

You have a handkerchief, right? You stammer through telling people that you are going to make it vanish because that what a magician is supposed to be able to do. But you never manage to get it right. It always goes wrong. And that makes you even more nervous than usual and you are always nervous in front of people anyway. You keep trying to straighten it out and suddenly it changes color. (This is a standard dealer item.) You are so shocked, you start waving it around and saying "oh my goodness!" over and over. Then it vanishes. (Look for Lamp Chimney Vanish for this one, but it can be preset so you only have to be holding the hankie at the start.) You look around the ground for it. You don't get that it vanished, yet. Everyone else saw the nervous guy make it vanish, but you (the nervous guy) can't figure out what happened to it.

The trick is self working. No sleights to mess up. As long as it is your first trick, you can't mess it up. Your presentation is to totally exaggerate your real feelings. You can lead into other stuff by looking for the hankie and then palming out an appearing cane (I'm making this up as I go along) when you check your pockets for the hankie. You can get away with this move easily. It isn't a move. You just check one pocket then another. Then as your hand comes out with the cane, you do a half turn and look at the ground. In your mind, have a script going "what just happened to that hanky? This is going to ruin the trick! I can't figure out where that silly piece of fabric just went. Oh, no!" Trigger the cane. Let it surprise you so much that you let out a yell. Clutch your heart. Show real fear. Sob once or twice. Set it down and back away slowly.

If you think about it there are plenty of tricks that can happen TO you. If you are a decent actor and willing to be a bit of a clown, just show your fear and make it bigger than it really is. But try to make it look like you are afraid of the magic, not of the audience.

If this won't work for you, understand that it really isn't shameful to love magic for itself and never perform it. Most of us want to perform, at least casually, but that isn't for everyone. I have met musicians who are really quite good and only play for themselves. You can do magic the same way and it is okay. You are doing something that makes you happy, so don't let a fear of sharing it in public ruin the beauty of the art for you.

-Patrick
Mr. Woolery
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Another presentation that can be rather fun is what I call the "I have no personality" presentation. I do this with a Bob Hummer card trick. I actually have every step of the trick written on note cards. I hand a person the four cards and hold up my stack of note cards. The first one says "A pointless card trick." The second gives the first step of the routine. I don't have to speak at all. I just have to shift cards from the face of the stack to the back. In the end, the trick works. You can do this with almost any self-working card trick that happens in the other person's hands. It is actually sort of funny and I still get credit for the trick, even though it is obviously just a puzzle when you get down to it. You can have the last card say something like "Holy smokes! I can't believe that actually worked!"

Do you have trouble just talking to people or is it only when performing that you get trouble?

-Patrick
danaruns
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Quote:
On Nov 27, 2016, Mr. Woolery wrote:
Okay, this might be totally stupid, but at least think about it. What if you were to make your performing character a person so nervous he can't do anything right and the magic sort of happens TO him instead of because of him?



That's actually a brilliant idea, and reminds me of Woody Pittman. Woody loved to perform comedy magic, but was so nervous on stage that he crashed and burned every time. His solution was to embrace his nervousness, awkwardness and missteps by creating a character that emphasized all those traits and looked out of control in his performance, so when he exhibited them on stage it just made his performance that much more successful. And he was brilliant at it. Of course, he was very skilled, too. He even wrote a book about it, which I read in one sitting because it's small, and I think there were some DVDs too. The book is called The Big Picture: Character Development for Magicians. But emulating Woody's approach might be a great idea for the OP.

CLICK HERE for a short video of Woody Pittman
"Dana Douglas is the greatest magician alive. Plus, I'm drunk." -- Foster Brooks
Mr. Woolery
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I had forgotten all about him! Maybe I was unconsciously remembering his presentations, but I think he was one of the all-out funniest performers ever. The hamster routine!

Thanks, Dana, for reminding me.

-Patrick
Russo
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See infor on a GREAT (miss-tricks magi) Carl Balintine (sp?) - -I remember on effect where he cut a rope in half threw it in to a Hat- booga-booga- when he pulled it our - first half (then a thin line invisible) then the second half - another time he'd put his hand into the HAT - all the way to his elbow-- FUNNNNNY Ralph
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