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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » New to magic? » » Overcoming stage fright (3 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

dschmunis
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Hillsboro, OR
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Hi,

Does any one have some good advice, books, resources, courses, exercises, etc to help overcome stage fright? To clarify: by stage fright I mean a general fear of performing. Where it's 1:1 or for small groups.

I've been studying magic for a few years but I consider myself a "closet magician". That is, I practice and only "perform" for myself (not even my kid or my wife have seen me do tricks).

I know some of the common advice is to learn our tricks until we can do them drunk and I have a few of those, but I'm always wondering if they and if I AM good enough and being a bit of a perfectionist I tend to thing that my routines need more work - of course, I know that this is only an excuse that I make up to justify not putting my self out there to perform, and YES make mistakes in front of an audience (probably the best teacher after perfect practice).

So, any advice? Don't have any aspirations to make a living with magic but after all the years, books and money invested in this wonderful hobby it would be great to be able to at least perform for friends and family.

Best,
D
TheMetalMagician
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I have a similar problem. I can practice a trick by myself a dozen times and get it right, but as soon as I get a camera pointed at me my fingers turn into butter-coated jelly.
karnak
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Colorado
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I’m not the most experienced expert to chime in on this, but for what it’s worth: I really think that the answer is, you just have to get out there and do it. Accept that it will be scary, at first. But the next time you do it, it will be a little less scary. And the time after that, less scary still. And so, incrementally, you will ease into a comfort zone.

I say this not just from performing magic, but also from teaching. I teach college courses. For that, there is no training for teaching per se, as in a public speaking sense. You are trained in the subject matter of your academic field, and that’s it. Zero prep or practice regarding getting up in front of a classroom of college students and actually talking to them. For that, you’re on your own — just thrown into the deep end.

The first class I ever taught, straight out of grad school, the first day was like going onstage for the first time. Butterflies in the stomach, a bit of stammering, panic-caused forgetfulness about what to say, and so on. You just sort of power through it.

But the second day of class was better. The third day was better still. Soon I felt completely comfortable in front of an audience.

But I sure didn’t at first.

You just have to sort of dive in. Accept that it may be a bit rough at first, but trust that it will get better. And realize that it will never get better unless and until you go through that little initial baptism of fire.

At least that was my experience. Others may no doubt be different. But I hope this helps. Stage fright is normal initially, but it ain’t forever. Just plunge in, without worrying too much about your initial performance, by realizing that it IS only your initial performance, so no matter what happens you WILL get better.

Come to think of it, my musical career is similar. I’m also a rock guitarist, and the first time I got up on stage to perform in public with a band, I was likewise initially petrified. Practically frozen. But through sheer repetition, gig after gig, that initial stage fright very quickly eroded. I’m normally a rather shy person, but with practice I soon got comfortable coming out of my shell. Now my onstage persona can even be a bit flamboyant.

But it never would have happened, had I not just plunged in.

You've just gotta start somewhere. So try to relax, and go for it.
For a supernatural chiller mixing magic (prestidigitation, legerdemain) with Magic (occultism, mysticism), check out my novel MAGIC: AN OCCULT THRILLER at http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Occult-Thriller-Reed-Hall/dp/1453874836
dschmunis
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Hillsboro, OR
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Karnak, thank you so much for the encouraging reply.

I am (at least I like to think of my like I am) a very logical and rational person. So everything that you say makes perfect sense and I know it to be 100% true. I know that if I just get started, it can only get better... but the fear of going out and doing that very first "trick" is so terrifyingly paralyzing that just can't get through.

Funny thing is that I was a Personal Trainer (1:1 and group classes) and I've taught many vocational courses, from pre-teens to adults and even when I wasn't 100% sure about what I was doing or teaching I was still comfortable and relaxed and never had "stage fright". Even for my job I have to do regular presentation to teams and executives and I'm just like "yeah just another day at the office." Really don't know why I find it so much more difficult with magic.

D
Kanawati
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Australia
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Just over a year ago I started going to an IBM magic club meeting. The first few times I got in front of the group, I was nervous and my hands shook. I initially thought to myself I can stand up on stage and perform for a large audience without too big a sweat but performing for a group of magicians was much tougher! It took me a while to realise that maybe my motive to perform for them was wrong. I was going into the performance thinking I needed to fool them. What if I can't misdirect them, what if I fumble the sleight, what if they keep burning my hands? Once I worked out what the "fear" was I was able to significantly reduce the shakes. It stopped being about trying to "fool" or "impress" them. I shifted to trying to entertain them even with tricks that I knew 90% of them already probably owned. What has worked for me is putting less emphasis on the prop (cards, coins, whatever) and making it about the presentation. If you've practiced really well, the trick will take care of itself. Trust that the prop, sleight, misdirection, will do what its meant to do. Think of the presentation, do you have a script that will engage someone, keep them interested, make them smile, emphasis the magical moments?

Like you, in my day job I've given many non-business presentations. When you know what you are going to say and that your team will benefit from what you're going to say, maybe even enjoy what you say, it can indeed be just another day at the office...and not too different in approach to doing a magical presentation:) So my advice is to not think of it as a doing that very first trick! Think of it as giving yet another "presentation" and instead of using powerpoints or some other visual aid you're using a prop. Occasionally, despite good preparation, we'll even have technical problems with those visual aids or just give presentations which we think were on the nose. Those presentations are the ones I learnt the most from! Same for the tricks that I completely stuffed up in front of people:)
Russo
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Don't know if this would help -when I was 16 (be 83 in June) was very introverted - babysitting for a Dr. friend - read a book by Carnegy(?) end of a chapter said "tomorrow when you see someone you know -SMILE (not grin) say 'HI BOB' (or?) if you don't know their name just smile and say HI!. At the end of the day, friends (I didn't know I had ) came up to me and said 'what happened to you?' - I came out of myself and thought of others, didn't worry if they liked me - I liked them. ??????????? Have confidence IN YOUR SELF - so what if they ???? You DID YOUR BEST !!!!!!!!and DON'T PUSH YOURSELF ONTO ANYONE> Ralph (russo) Rousseau
WitchDocChris
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York, PA
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I find there are two things that help with stage fright.

One is being properly prepared. Practice, then rehearse, everything you plan on performing. To the point where it becomes second nature - and I think this is where a lot of new performers fall down. They jump to performing too soon.

Practice the moves until they are second nature. It should take no conscious thought to do any portion of the physical method of a trick. Then rehearse it - do the physical moves while also reciting your script, out loud. Pretend to be performing for real people.

Do this until you stop feeling silly while doing it. Then do it more until everything flows from start to finish without any pauses to think of what to do next. Then do it more until you occasionally find yourself thinking, "Did I actually do the move? Oh yes, good."

Then do it some more, until you getting bored with it.

By the time you put it in front of a person, it should be something you've done so many times that you know it will work every time.

The second thing is - you have to perform. You have to get in front of people over and over to train your brain to stop reacting as if it's a life or death situation. This is left over instinctual habit, the reaction that if we don't know what's going to happen we might be something's dinner. That's no longer the case. The more you perform, the easier it is to perform.

Note that the nerves may never go away completely. I've been performing in various settings for a long time now and I still get jitters. One way to help overcome that is to have the first thing you perform always be something that is very easy for you to do, but gets good reactions. Something you're very comfortable with, and my preference is something that involves zero sleight of hand or gimmicks. This way you can basically let your brain know that it's going to be OK and that helps me calm down immediately.
Christopher
Witch Doctor

Psycho Seance book: https://tinyurl.com/y873bbr4
davidpaul$
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Pittsburgh, Pa
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"LOTS" of GREAT advice above. Same boat for me. Hands shaking, dry mouth all resulting from "fear of failure". You are in good company. The majority of people deal with these same issues.

Like karnak posts above "You just have to do it". There is no other way. Start with your immediate
family, then other family and friends. Perform the stuff you know well. Will you mess up? YES!
Will you be afraid? YES. That's the truth of the matter and the ONLY way the get out of your magical closet is to STEP OUT. I will say,that you can practice and rehearse until the cows come home but when you get in front of people for the first time it all goes out the window. I'm not saying not to practice and rehearse, just giving you a heads up.

Here is what really helped me: I had to take the focus off of me and remind myself I'm doing this for the pleasure of others. What I'm sharing will put a smile and some amasement into THEIR lives.
Your first performance will be the hardest emotionally, but the 2nd will be a little easier and so
On. BUT...H A V E..... F U N !!!!!!!!!!

Magic is FUN now go out and spread the fun. Start with your wife and child T O D A Y !!!!!!!!!!
If you can't help worrying, remember worrying can't help you!
WitchDocChris
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Personally, and I have no idea if this is common or not, I find it much easier to perform for strangers. Chances are I'll never see them again so any time I mess up it's gone into history forever. Performing for people I know has a much higher chance of being brought up again later.
Christopher
Witch Doctor

Psycho Seance book: https://tinyurl.com/y873bbr4
dschmunis
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Hillsboro, OR
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to read my post and provide so much encouragement and great advice. A lot to think about and digest.

I really like the idea of starting with a mistake proof trick.... may be extend that idea a bit and come up with a 3-4 trick routine where all the tricks are fool proof. I know this won't stretch me as a performer, but perhaps a good approach is to separate "fright and comfort" from "effects" from "presentation" in a way that you can focus on one area at the time while the other two are taken care of at other points in your development.

Stay safe and stay healthy!
Diego
Brent McLeod
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We all get a few jitters before shows but as mentioned if your properly prepared with a foolproof effect first up your confidence will grow,
then its a matter of performing as often as you can for an audience
Pepsi Twist
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Pretty similar situation for me too, I mostly just feel like I'm hassling someone if I'm showing them a trick and it's super scary.
For me if I HAVE to do something for a stranger I usually mess up first - ask them to think of a card, upjog one card and get them to name it and if it's wrong then, well that was a high bar to start with, try something else to get on the same wavelength first. I find getting that failure out the way and having it not be so bad helps ease me into the rest of it.
halestorm
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What would you think about a New Performers "Support" Group on Zoom? I don't know if it would work or not, lacking the physical presence, but maybe it could be helpful. One would still have to perform "live", at least in front of a camera and for real people, so maybe that would help get some performance time in. I'd think you'd want to limit it to relative "rookies", less-experienced, less-confident people needing to get over performance anxieties. It could be open to experienced people willing to watch and critique, but I think you'd want to somehow limit the performances to those who are in their early stages so that it doesn't become a place for people already comfortable with performing to just show off something.

While not a perfect substitute for performing in front of a live "real world" audience, something like this might be a start, a way to ease in to it, especially in light of the current state of quarantine.
David Hale
Mr. Woolery
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An idea I haven’t tested: get a magic buddy. Both of you, in regular video calls, will learn the same trick together at the same time. This eliminates the performance jitters, as neither of you is performing. At first. Both of you go through the same instructions to the same trick at the same time. Once you both have it pretty solid, you show it to each other, not to perform but to let the other look for flashes or mistakes. Purely diagnostic.

Once you have been on Skype for an hour, doing the same trick with the same person, you should be ready to start playing with the presentation aspects. Now, having shown each other the mechanical aspect of the trick over and over, you should be ready to brainstorm how to present the trick. This is the point where you take turns actually performing this one trick to each other. Try out 3 presentation styles. Maybe do it in pantomime (not easy!), again in a silly voice, finally very formally.

When you hit two hours with one trick, you’ll have learned a trick, practiced it with critical eyes watching, and then experimented with presentation. All from the safety of an online meeting with a practice buddy who is in the same place you are. Next time you get together, start by showing the same trick again. This builds toward the idea of performing for people. You know the other person is a safe audience, so you have less worry (note: I didn’t say “no worry”) about performance anxiety. Baby steps. In time, show your buddy’s spouse the trick. He will show a member of your family. Again, safe audience.

It really is true that we have to be willing to be bad in order to get good. Starting in the same place means you both expect and accept being bad. At first. In time, you will get the emotional distance you need in a trick so your family can offer criticism without it hurting your feelings. Because it DOES hurt when someone else is critical. At least at first. It gets better in time, if you work at it.

As said, this is untested. But it might lead you to a possible solution. Good luck!

Patrick
dschmunis
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Hillsboro, OR
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Hi Patrick,

I love the idea. I started a magic slack group (https://themagichall.slack.com/) and we've been getting into regular zoom session calls. Part showing what we are working on individually and part to pick tricks to work on as a group. Tons of fun!

Stay safe and stay healthy!
D
DaveGripenwaldt
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For many the fear came from messing up during a performance, "What if they catch me?". I like Gregory Wilson's approach to that fear. If he messes up a trick or gets busted and exposes the secret, he just says, "How Else?" and moves on.

If you go into a performance....especially close up where all the reaction is immediate and personal...accepting that you will at times get busted prepares you to handle the situation in a real and non-embarrassed way. Acknowledge the person who got you....even congratulate;ate his perceptiveness and try to nail him with the next trick.

Greg says the "How Else" line freed him to fail, which in turn made him better because it's the bad performances that teach you the most.
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