“They always want to look at my cards…”
“She kept trying to screw up everything I did…”
“…there’s always some jerk in the crowd…”
Anyone who has done shows has encountered a difficult spectator - it’s simply a part of the business. But it’s the exception, not the rule. If this happens every time (or even most times) that you work then you need to realize there is only ONE common element in each of those performances. You.
Most enthusiasts perform close up magic. It’s intimate and personal. If you’re not aware of your audience or conscious of their needs in the moment then you’re establishing that you don’t respect them. If you don’t demonstrate respect, it’s unlikely you’ll get it. There’s no iron clad checklist to insure that a difficult spectator never arises, but here are three things I guarantee will reduce the numbers:
- Look at your audience, not your hands. No one wants to watch the top of your head and it’s no way to engage people.
- When you ask a question, listen to the answer. Don’t deliver questions like a machine gun in an effort to get to some punch line. Remember they’re people, not props.
- Be genuine. That’s the hardest but also the most effective rule. “Turning it on” too much can put a big barrier between you and the audience. The more people perceive they are speaking to a real person, the less likely they are to be rude.
Of course, no strategy is fool proof. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “The young man knows the rules but the old man knows the exceptions.” Both are important - and both start with the rules. The only way to grow is to pay attention and learn from each moment.