Do More with Less - Dilbert

“Why don’t entertainers list their prices?”

You want to impress and delight your guests, but you’re on a budget, and the budget is always less than it should be. So you think, I’ll head to Google and see what it costs to hire a magician, or a DJ, or a Bill Clinton impersonator (don’t laugh – I know a guy).

 

Much to your frustration, not one entertainer lists his/her prices on the website. What gives?

 

Entertainers don’t list prices on our websites because our rates are flexible and depend on a variety of factors. Some of these factors are:

 

Type of service – Generally speaking, strolling magic is less expensive than a stage show, due to less overhead, equipment, time to set up, etc.

 

Day of the week – Friday/Saturday are generally more expensive than weekdays, due to demand.

 

Time of the day – Evenings are generally more expensive that mornings/afternoons, due to demand (except in the case of children’s entertainment).

 

Time of the year – Depending on the market, different months are busier than others, and therefore more expensive. You should expect December rates to be at least 20% higher than other times due to the influx of holiday parties.

 

The type of event also greatly affects the price, i.e. corporate events cost 10-20x that of kids birthday party shows.

 

Here are sample rates for professional magicians:

 

Private Events: $300-800

This includes local bar mitzvahs, weddings, adult birthdays, house parties, etc.

 

Small Companies: $500-1500

Locally owned businesses that host employee appreciation days, holiday parties, etc.

 

Corporate Events: $1500-5000

Again, there is a huge range depending on many factors, including travel cost and time.

 

 

The Real Value of Hiring a Professional

The service industry is littered with amateurs, weekend warriors, and semi-pros. Doubly so for the entertainment industry. Many of these people are passionate and, in fact, many of them are very talented. Some of the finest magicians who have ever lived were not full time professionals.

 

But there is a huge difference between a great magician and a professional event entertainer.

 

Professional entertainers provide value to their clients way beyond hiring a magician, or a DJ, or an impersonator. You are getting years, and sometimes decades, of experience in event situations. Professional entertainers improve your event in ways that you will never even know.

 

EXAMPLE 1: The Approach

As a strolling magician, approaching a group of people is a honed skill that requires finesse. More importantly, there are always a few people at any event who would prefer to be left alone. The pro has developed a fine-tuned sense of who not to approach.

 

EXAMPLE 2: Appropriate Material

Every audience laughs at different kinds of things. A professional will read the room and tailor his humor to your guests’ particular dispositions.

 

EXAMPLE 3: Control

As an audience, it’s very uncomfortable to watch a show where the performer isn’t sure of what he’s doing, or where he’s going. Professionals are polished and confident. They guide the audience from beginning to end, taking complete control of the room and giving everyone an amazing experience.

 

EXAMPLE 4: The Unexpected

Something usually goes wrong at an event. Whether it’s on or off stage, professionals are ready for anything, because they’ve seen it all before.

 

 

In Conclusion

As consumers we often get hung up on price. I check Amazon before buying my new tablet at Best Buy, because they might have a lower price. Why should I pay more if I don’t have to?

 

The difference is this: in the above ‘tablet’ scenario, you are getting the same thing for a lower price. That’s how it works with physical products. But entertainers provide a service, not a product. When you hire an amateur, you get a lesser service for a lower price.

 

Before you book an inexpensive entertainer, ask yourself this: is it really worth the savings if you end up with someone who doesn’t have the experience to deliver an amazing performance to your guests?

 

In that way, it can be much more expensive to hire an amateur.

 

Brian Miller HeadshotAbout the Author: Brian Miller is a full time private & corporate event entertainer. He combines world class magic with laugh-out-loud humor into a show that your guests will rave about for days if not weeks on end. His TEDx talk is one of the most popular of all time. With over a decade of shows for thousands of audiences in 25 states, Brian has the experience and winning personality to make your event a huge success. Call 716.982.9510 or use this contact form to get a free, no obligation quote and event consultation.

DP15 - Corporate 2 OP

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 5: Take Control

Too many people operate under the assumption they deserve respect rather than making a conscious and consistent effort to earn it. Magicians, like mimes, clowns, and ventriloquists, know all about lack of respect. The prevailing public opinion is that magicians are self obsessed know-it-alls who are constantly pestering their friends and family to “pick a card” and showing lame tricks at inappropriate times. According to commercials, sitcoms, and movies, magicians are friendless losers with nothing better to do than pull colorful scarves out of their sleeves and coins from little kids’ ears.

 

Likewise, salesman have a reputation for being sleazy and deceitful. Given that reputation, how could you ever approach a group of strangers and command enough respect to take control?

 

The first and most important thing you can do is simply: smile. You won’t believe how far smiling goes to erasing preconceived notions and winning people over. Too many magicians are so eager to dive into their tricks that they forget to connect with their audience. Similarly, too many salesmen are so focused on the potential sale that they forget to shake the snake oil stereotype before starting. What’s worse: when you launch into a trick (or pitch) without properly introducing yourself or connecting with your audience, it plays right into the self-obsessed stereotype, confirming the audience’s worst beliefs and putting up brick walls before you’ve even begun.

 

Once you have connected with the audience, the next most important thing you need to do is establish the rules and context of your performance. Whether you are a magician or a salesman it is your performance, your stage, your rules. Where most people get into trouble is trying to control a situation when they haven’t first connected with the audience, as discussed earlier.

 

I am constantly reminded of a magic lecture I attended as a teenager from a world renowned performer named Max Maven. He performed a feat with playing cards during which at one point he handed a card face down to an audience member. Unbeknownst to the audience, he has switched the card they thought it was for a different one. When he later explained the workings of the trick to this room of magicians, one magician asked, “But what if they turn the card over and see that it has been switched?” Max replied, “They don’t.” And the magician continued, “But why not?” To which Max replied:

 

They don’t turn the card over because I don’t want them to.

 

Max had so won over the crowd and established the rules of his performance by that time that no one, even though they were free to do as they wish, would have even considered doing something that wasn’t explicitly asked of them. That is control.

 

Thus taking control is about two things, primarily. The first is being kind and friendly, thus making people feel comfortable enough with you that they are willing to hand over the reins. The second is establishing the rules and context of your encounter. This is done largely through actions, rather than words. Acting confident, but not arrogant, is the key here. Much more could be said on that, and will be addressed in a future blog.

 

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.

 

Raising hands.

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:

 

  1. Acknowledging potential problems within your own argument makes you look honest and transparent, and people like working with honest people.
  2. 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.

 

People talking on a plane.

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 3: Talk to Strangers

 

This week’s tip is a simple one. Talk to everyone you meet, because you never know where the next sale, gig, opportunity, or referral is going to come from. Let me offer you a story instead of advice.

 

—–

I sat on a plane in Hartford, CT heading to Minneapolis, MN en route to North Dakota for a one-night performance at a college campus. It was very early in the morning and I was already exhausted, and more than annoyed at the looming prospect of flying/driving all day to do a show the same evening. A middle aged gentleman sat in the window seat next to me wearing a tweed jacket. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked the standard, “Business or pleasure?” He replied that he was going to a convention, and that he was a philosophy professor at Connecticut College. I perked up because I have a philosophy degree, and we ended up chatting the whole flight. By the end of it I had been invited to speak with his senior seminar on the philosophy of humor.

 

Fast forward to the seminar, where I met the chair of their philosophy department, who then invited me to give my interactive presentation “Magic, Philosophically Speaking” to the entire humanities department.

 

Fast forward again to that presentation, a standing room only event that went exceedingly well. After it was over a kind lady approached to tell me how much she enjoyed it. She then informed me that her husband is the director of an acclaimed museum, and asked if I would be willing to customize a similar interactive philosophy lecture specifically about The Wizard of Oz for the museum’s annual Wee Fairy Village. I was delighted.

 

Later that year, weeks prior to the museum presentation, I found myself sitting next to a sharply dressed woman on another very early flight. Despite my usual chatty demeanor, I had no interested in talking to anyone. I was basically asleep when I hear, “I like your hat.” I looked up and barely replied, “Oh, thank you.” She said, “I noticed it in the terminal but didn’t want to be awkward. But since we’re sitting next to each other, I thought I would tell you.”

 

I introduced myself and soon discovered I was conversing with Dr. Zoe Chance, a Yale University professor and renowned marketing expert on influence and persuasion. In a crazy twist of fate, she is a lifelong lover of magic, and we talked the entire flight. I invited her to the museum engagement.

 

Dr. Chance did in fact show up to the museum presentation and followed up by inviting me to give a performance and speak to her graduate seminar “Mastering Influence and Persuasion.” It was a resounding success, and has since become a recurring engagement. My involvement with Dr. Chance and Yale University has put my reputation in a new class of elite respect that I had never imagined.

 

Additionally a different Connecticut College professor also attended my museum presentation and has since invited me multiple times to speak to his senior seminar on the topic of Secrecy throughout history.

—–

My point should be crystal clear: talk to strangers! You have absolutely no idea who you’re talking to or what might come of it. My above story took place over the course of 4 years. Networking should not be reserved just for “networking events” and it doesn’t need to be blatant. I did not go into any of those conversations with the intention of making professional connections or advancing my career. It happened due to a combination of friendliness, open mindedness, and circumstance.

We often hear that “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” My former manager used to say, “Luck happens by design.” I say talk to everybody. You will be amazed by what comes of it. Worst case scenario: you have a pleasant conversation with a fellow human being. In the best case you might find yourself in new career positions that were never previously available.

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.

Neil Patrick Harris briefcase prediction at the Oscars

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 2: Get to the Point

 

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.