"How do I choose a magician?" you ask. Good question -- and one I think few would think about until it comes time to do that very thing. So, here is my professional opinion. Yes, professional. Because I've been entertaining clients in a variety of venues full time for more than 15 years. And that has given me a good perspective on what is needed. What follows are my top 10 things to look for when trying to decide who should entertain at your event.
Amateur or Professional?
The obvious question is "Do I hire a professional or an amateur?" At first blush, you would think professional is the best. But then you think about the cost. It makes sense that pros are more expensive. So how do you strike that balance between cost and professionalism? The truth? That is the wrong way to look at it.
A professional by definition is one who earns a living at a specific activity. It is not merely a pastime or a hobby. It's a career. Though, in truth, there are many amateurs who put a lot of time into the art of magic. Technically, they know how the 'tricks' work and can adequately perform the mechanics. Some are extremely proficient at doing the 'moves' and executing the tricks. However, there is no substitute for actual, real-life performance. And that is where the professional will shine. After performing thousands of shows for countless numbers of people, working in almost as many different situations, dealing with every conceivable problem, it has a way of smoothing out the rough edges. The chances of getting a bad performance dramatically drop at that point. Having something unexpected happen at an event is still going to happen, but the pro will have 'been there, done that' and should be able to rise to the occasion and overcome the obstacles -- most times without you even know a potential problem existed.
Along with that, a pro has worked out routines that will seem effortless and can add in subtleties that make a performance shine. The show is more than a series of tricks, its a well-honed and polished event. The focus is on entertainment -- amazement and laughter.
How much should you pay for a magician's services? That is a question which is top -of-mind for a lot of hosts or organizers looking to book a magician. The answer really depends. Strategies vary based on budget concerns and quality concerns. There are some who are strictly price conscious. I've actually had phone calls where the client's first words are "How much do you charge?". In those cases my price is typically . . . too much. There really is a lot to consider before getting to price though. Where is the venue? If there is a lot of travel involved, the price will necessarily be higher. But if the performance is top-notch, that extra expense may be worth it to you. Another question is who is the audience? Children, adults, families -- they each have different needs and requirements. Corporate events, cub scout banquets, schools, and birthday parties also have different needs and different shows and performance styles. How a many are expected to attend the show? Size of venue can determine the size of the show to some degree also. A good professional will be able to walk you through the process of deciding what type of show will work best for your event. Based on that information, both a price and the best quality show can be arranged.
Basically, if your magician doesn't ask you some of these basic questions, you should move on. A pro will want to understand your needs.
What type of event are you hosting?
That is an important question. It will determine the type of show and to some extent the cost. It can also determine the best fit for a magical entertainer.
If you are planning a child's birthday party, but the magician doesn't do many birthday party performances, you may want to look elsewhere. Trust me, entertaining children is not for amateurs. You really need to know how to engage children at their level to grab and keep their attention for a 30 - 60 minute time span. A pro can make this seem effortless. But experience is the key here. I think back on shows I did when I first started out and realize they were . . .adequate. Now, after years of performing and hundreds and hundreds of birthday parties for all age groups, I know what a specific group will enjoy. A group of 4 year olds vs a group of 8 year olds or 10 year olds are vastly different. Boys vs girls -- also different. Now days the trend is for the parents to stay for the party. So, my show needs to work on two levels -- silly for the kids, but with just enough wow factor and humor to impress the adults in the room. You want your magician to be able to entertain everyone -- even if the show is 'just for the kids'.
Along with that, can the magician add anything extra? Balloon creations are big with children. Most of the parties I perform at have me twist balloons after the magic show. This really doesn't have to be a major part of the performance, but it should be entertaining. Again, the adults like to see the clever designs that a balloon can be twisted into. Add in a some clever patter and this is a nice addition to a show. How about add-ons. Some magicians have a tiered pricing system. Basic show, longer show, additions etc. Its a great way to fit a show to your budget. Maybe you don't want the balloons. No problem, Maybe you like the magician. You've heard great things about him, but the price for the show is just a bit much. Well the basic, shorter show may suit you better.
Maybe price isn't your concern. Quality is. You want the kids entertained for as long as possible. You also want to off-load as much of the hassle as possible. For instance, I offer goodie bags for busy moms who want one less thing to do. Plus I don't load these up with candy. They have a magic book and a couple other items included that will make a birthday mom look good to the other parents. Your magician should have options such as these to fit your budget and time requirements.
Whether you are planning an in-home party, wedding, corporate banquet or other such event, you want a magician that can add some fun yet sophistication to the event. Sophistication doesn't mean a tuxedo-clad guy speaking with perfect diction and sporting a top hat. It does mean he will be able to relate on an adult level with the guests. Fun and friendly. A bit playful, but not recklessly crazy. And in most cases -- clean humor. Personally, I never work 'blue'. Everything I say at an adult venue could be said in front of your child. Clever is the key to this. If you want entertainment for every adult, make sure your magician is an adult too -- in every way. Enough said.
Wedding Reception Magic
Many engaged couples want something special in the line of entertainment for their guests during the reception. Strolling magic fits very well into this special event. A good closeup magician will be able to move from table to table during the reception and keep everyone amazed and laughing. Sometimes, guests won't necessarily know each other at wedding. His family or friends try to blend with her family and friends. First meetings can me awkward at times. So some tableside magic can get everyone involved and sharing a common experience. Before long everyone is laughing and sharing. A good magician -- one with years of experience working with this type of audience will know how to facilitate that mingling and help make your wedding reception a success.
There may be a need to keep the kids entertained as well. So ask if your magician works often with both adults and children. You want the kids to have a good time -- and give the adults a little break as well. While not a babysitter, a good magician will be able to entertain the kids for about and hour -- which usually gives enough time for that special, uninterrupted presentation you may have planned.
Corporate / Business / Award Ceremonies
If you are planning a special business meeting and want after-dinner magical entertainment or cocktail hour entertainment, then you want to be assured that the magician you hire has experience and good qualifications. Nothing is worse than hiring a performer and finding out his or her show is not geared toward a corporate audience. How does he dress for these events? Proper business attire sets the mood. So ask. Will any special setup be needed for your performer. I try to be as easy to work with as possible. Obviously, a magician's needs aren't something you want to add to your bucket list of things to do the date of the event. So, ask what special requirements he may have. Modest arrangements should be expected. You do want the best possible performance after all. Lighting, sound, curtains -- Will the magician need any of these? Will he provide his own?
You may want something special to happen prior to or during the performance. Magically produce and award, saw the CEO in half -- whatever it is, find out how feasible it is to have your performer add this to his preshow or show. Reasonable requests shouldn't be a problem for a pro.
What type of Show do you need?
Here are the two primary options that are available for magic. Both work well for adult venues like business awards banquets, wedding receptions, charity fund raisers etc. Not every magician is proficient in both areas. Closeup and Stage magic are not the same and require different audience interaction skills. But a good professional will ask you the questions needed to determine the correct type of entertainment needed. Listen for those questions.
There are a couple standard options for magical entertainment. If you are hosting a gathering where people will come and go, or will be gathering for cocktails prior to the main event, you may want closeup magic. This goes by several names -- mingle magic, strolling magic, but it all describes the same thing. During this performance, the magician will stroll throughout the venue and performing for and entertaining small groups with 'pocket' tricks. This is magic that happens in the audience members' hand or right under their nose. That really is a great way to get everyone involved in a common experience without having to gather everyone together into one place to watch a full show.
Later on, you'll hear people from laughing and talking together about the magic - even though they didn't experience the performance at the same time. Bingo, Instant conversation starter.
Do you have a stage, or a 'stage' area and want to entertain all your guests at once? This is the type of show you want. But what makes a good stage magician? Experience, experience, experience. The more shows performed, the better and more polished the show will be. Plus you want someone who gets has lots of interaction with the members of the audience. Working 'clean' is good too. Some magicians like to add in innuendo or other 'comedy club' techniques. That may be fine for your audience, but it's my feeling that a clever comment can be more entertaining and certainly less offensive to every member of your audience.
How do you determine the quality of the show? Testimonials on the performers website certain help. Video should be available as well. And of course, if you have a recommendation from someone you trust that helps as well.