As a teenager I thought that a career in magic would be glamorous and exciting, with big stages, spotlights, beautiful girls, and exotic travel. As it turns out, it’s a little more like running a business. In fact the time I spend performing feels like a vacation, because in reality I work an 80+ hour week outside of doing a single card trick or pulling a coin from anyone’s ear. In this blog series I discuss tips and techniques I’ve learned as a professional magician that you can use in the business world.
Tip 4: Address Concerns First
Are you prepared when someone raises concerns about your pitch, argument, or presentation? Harkening back to Public Speaking 101, most of us prepare responses to potential concerns so that we aren’t caught off guard. It’s a good practice and one that will serve you well, but there’s a better technique available: don’t allow the concerns to be voiced in the first place.
As a magician I am tasked with convincing people to believe something that they know isn’t true. It is a lofty endeavor to say the least, and there are many potential objections to a magic trick. One of the most popular topics for ‘newbies’ on online magic forums is:
What do you do when somebody guesses the secret?
There are a host of standard answers ranging from “laugh it off” to “deny it” to a more subtle “Say, ‘That would be one way to do it.’ ” These are all reasonable ways to get past the uncomfortable moment when somebody guesses how a trick works. My question: Why give them a chance to guess?
Great magicians and indeed great speakers know that one of your best tools is to address the concerns before the audience has a chance to. In my opening trick during a strolling (social) magic set, I say:
Many people think that magicians use our sleeves, but you can see that I don’t. Instead, what I do is…
I don’t use my sleeves to do magic (most magicians don’t). But many audiences, when given the chance, will convince themselves that we do in an attempt to explain the trick in a logical way. The fact that their objection is wrong doesn’t matter. It is very hard to persuade someone to ignore their own concerns, even misplaced ones. Once somebody says, “It’s up your sleeves!” all I can do is deny it, which makes me look guilty, even when I’m telling the truth. The seeds of concern, once planted, can grow into a very large problem.
If you’re giving a sales pitch to a potential client, or a board room presentation to your superiors, don’t just prepare for objections. Address them yourself! Two things will happen:
- Acknowledging potential problems within your own argument makes you look honest and transparent, and people like working with honest people.
- By addressing the concern yourself you get the chance to frame it however you want. Don’t allow the audience to create the story for you! It’s your pitch, your argument, your performance – you create the story.
Near the beginning of my show I use the phrase “I know this might be hard to believe, but…” to great effect. It may sound like a throwaway line, but it puts me on the same page as the audience. They’re thinking to themselves “This is pretty far-fetched, does he really expect me to believe it?” and then I say “I know this is hard to believe…” At that point the audience feels like I understand what they’re going through, and it breaks down the audience vs magician vibe.
Addressing concerns before they are raised is one of the best tools available to you in business. Don’t take the easy way out by only preparing for objections and hoping that they don’t come up. Take the initiative and put them to rest yourself.
Brian Miller is a nationally acclaimed variety artist: magician, comedian, musician, and speaker. He maintains a schedule of 250+ events per year nationwide for corporate events, college campuses, and high end private functions. Visit www.BrianMillerMagic.com to learn more and view videos.
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