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.
How many words does it take you to make the sale? How much of your most precious commodity, time, do you spend making a point?
Amateur magicians love to collect things: props, tricks, books, DVDs, and one-liners. To be fair, hobbyists in almost any field enjoy the process of collecting new ‘toys’. There is nothing inherently wrong with amassing a collection of ‘things’ when you are learning a craft. The problem begins when you try to enter the professional world of your former hobby and take all that baggage with you.
The same is true in business. When you first start out giving board room presentations, or sales pitches to prospective clients, you spend way too much time talking in an effort to hide your insecurity and inexperience. As you gain confidence and flight time, however, you find that you can make your point or make the sale with fewer, more carefully chosen words and actions.
Comedians know that the punchline of a joke must be proportional to the time it takes to set it up. A very quick setup can withstand a mediocre punchline, but a joke that takes 5 minutes to set up had better pay off HUGE. Magicians know the same for tricks: the longer it takes set up a trick, the more incredible the resulting illusion must be. Neil Patrick Harris, a respectable magician by every account, should have known this going into the 2015 Academy Awards. Yet he allowed his briefcase prediction trick to take over 3 hours to pay off, at which point the live audience and viewers around the world collectively sighed, “Who cares?”
There was a time as a budding close up magician that I would take 100 tricks to every gig. Now I show up with 5 tricks, and probably only perform 3 the whole night. I am no longer weighed down, literally or figuratively, by all the baggage of insecurity and inexperience. My end goal is to entertain the audience, and I can accomplish that goal with less than ever before.
Take this idea and put it to work in business. If you focus your energy on finding the shortest, most efficient route to your end goal, you will surely reap the rewards. You will make more sales, better arguments, and waste less of that limited resource: time.
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.