On Guarantees

You see it in advertising and marketing copy in big, bold print with extra-exclamation marks: “Money-back Guarantee!!!!” or some such wording.

Before I go on, let me say that of course businesses should keep their end of a bargain and refund money when customer expectations are not met. I would. Any quality business partner would.

Entertainers owe you more than promises to refund your money if they fail. An entertainer, for example a magician, must never let your company down. The key is entertainment focused on your company and your goals.

Message entertainment is the seamless integration of great entertainment with your message. Message entertainment is the key element of excellent corporate entertainment.

Entertainment, especially message entertainment, is a time and place event that creates and sets a lasting impression of you, your product and your event. When the entertainment is great, the attendees remember the fabulous event that your business sponsored. When it is terrible, the most you can hope for is that they remember that your event was good, but the entertainer was not. The worst is that your event is forgotten altogether, along with your hard work, time and money. The return of a performer’s fee cannot make up for that.

So how can you guarantee positive a lasting impact?

I start with your message. What important idea do you need to communicate to your audience? Is it a new product? an employee program? your brand? your appreciation? establishing thought leadership? Whatever you need to communicate, I make it a part of the fun.

Next, I research. I use your website, your marketing materials, and most importantly your goals to understand your business and message. I pull all this together to create an approach that incorporates your message into the performance. We then schedule a brief (phone) meeting to discuss and confirm the approach.

Once you approve, I rehearse and deliver a great show, with your message as the center piece.

There is more to corporate entertainment than pulling rabbits out of hats, reading minds at the front of the room, or coin and card manipulations at a table. Of course, corporate entertainment must be fun, but why not make it so much more? Magic entertainment can create lasting good impressions and memories. It enables community and customer engagement. Most importantly, magic entertainment is message entertainment.

When the audience is entertained, and your message is front and center, success is guaranteed.

Get our White Paper on Message Magic.

Master of Ceremonies: USD Robotics Contest, part 3 (Game Day)

This is the last post in a series exploring what an EMcee can bring to an event using my recent experiences at the University of South Dakota (USD) High School Robotics Contest.

Game Day: The preparations are complete, and all that is left is execution of the perfect plan.

Game Day Reality: Stuff Happens.

The key is to execute as much of the pre-planning as possible and improvise the rest. Here are some key points where the plan needed to be modified:

  • I spent some time before the event talking with the attendees. Interacting with the audience before any show is a core part of any public appearance for me. It gives me a chance to gauge the interests and mood of the group, and to pick out good prospects for volunteers if needed.
  • While talking beforehand, several of the students recognized me as a magician and asked me to perform an effect. I declined, saying that we were here for robotics, not a magic show. But once the event started, I used an ancient (and previously exposed) gag to involve every student. This served two purposes. First to get them thinking collectively, and second, to make a point about bad assumptions in technology.
  • I announced and shook hands with each keynote speaker. Since university job titles and duties are unfamiliar to many high school students, the shaking of hands is crucial as it passes the attention and credibility to each person before they speak.
  • Sticking with the agenda, we moved from phase to phase quite nicely, but the preliminary rounds took longer than expected, so the team and I worked out a way to keep the competition moving and adjusted the scheduling accordingly.
  • Several times during the day, I made announcements about our faculty, student clubs, etc. to keep the students not currently competing interested.

By the end of the day, winners and runners-up were announced and given prizes, new friends were made, and the event ended on time. As EMcee, I helped to keep things moving. The following week I sent a copy of all my materials to the USD Computer Science Department, with suggestions for the next year’s event.

Next week: Some insights to building new routines.

Master of Ceremonies: USD Robotics Contest, part 2 (The Agenda)

This is the second post in a series exploring what an EMcee can bring to an event using my recent experience the University of South Dakota (USD) High School Robotics Contest.

The Robotics Contest is very complex. It is a very real technical competition, with detailed rules and an unusual preliminary and play-off round format. It also introduces the high school students to USD and the USD Computer Science department. A lot of competition is packed into a very few hours, so the event must be kept on schedule.

Many of the students competed in previous years, so they expect a first-class competition and improvements to the experience.

The USD Computer Science team planned a great event. In addition to the competition, they arranged for the student clubs related to the discipline to staff information tables. CS department faculty displayed their research, so the competitors (and their advisers) could learn more about the department. They arranged for dean-level representation from the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School and more, to address the students. The key was to present it all in a logical, efficient, fun fashion.

As EMcee, I needed to create an agenda to keep things moving. This agenda was based on the original schedule of events created by the department, but much more detailed. It contained:

  • The Original Schedule Outline,
  • The links to a USD Marketing Videos,
  • A description of the USD Computing Clubs,
  • An introduction to Computer Science Faculty,
  • The name, position and introduction for each of the keynote speakers,
  • A review of the rules, and tournament format (with diagrams),
  • The actual schedule for the preliminary rounds, and outline for play-off rounds,
  • The announcement, and awarding of prizes,
  • Correct pronunciation of all presenter’s names.

For this event, I created a projected presentation in PowerPoint, so that all attendees could follow the progress. For this event, it was a good choice. Sometimes, a projected presentation sets the wrong tone, and I work from notes. This decision depends on customer’s goals for the event.

Customers should expect a full and detailed plan from the EMcee. Whenever possible, I like to review plans before the day of the event.

Next week, the series continues with a discussion of the actual event, and ways to keep an audience interested.

Master of Ceremonies: USD Robotics Contest, part 1 (Before the Event)

In April, I acted as Master of Ceremonies at the University of South Dakota (USD) High School Robotics Contest. It was a great experience. This blog post is the first of a series exploring what an EMcee can bring to an event through the example of the competition.

When most people think of an emcee, they think of someone who keeps the event moving while interjecting a quick quip or joke. As far as it goes, this is a great job description. But an Emcee can do much more.

The USD event was a series of robot runs through a maze. The best times from the early rounds competed in a semifinal and final playoff. I worked closely with the event planners to develop a checklist of items to enhance the event. A key aspect of this preparation step is to seamlessly work with the event planners to streamline the progess on day of the event, while freeing them to execute on the other aspects of the day.

  • I created a PowerPoint to control the progress of the event. To that end, before the contest date, the school provided:
    • Team list,
    • Mascots/logos for each team,
    • USD spirit videos,
    • Prize list,
    • Names of presenters,
    • General Agenda,
    • Rules and Rule explanations,
    • Tournament format,
    • List of other activities.
    • FAQs
  • We also determined the audio-visual and logistics of the event and determined that we needed:
    • A Sound System (with hand-held and stationary microphones),
    • Projection method to attach to a Laptop Personal Computer,
    • Stage.

Next week, I will discuss my behind the scenes planning and preparation for the event.

USD Opera Production of “The Consul”

I had a great time working with the USD Spring Opera program and thei production of The Consul. The performers put on first rate show, and the director, orchestra, cast and behind the scenes crew were professional–and fun.

Here is a photo from the show and a link to a thank you from the director:

Water from Newspaper USD Opera Spring 2018


Scripting “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”

After outlining the show, we write scripts for each illusion.

We use the proper script formatting to capture each scene from the audience’s perspective, including speeches, set, movement, etc.. We do not consider method (how the magic will be achieved) while writing. The entire focus is on presentation. Krissy and I split the scenes and write independently. After the first draft, we print them out and critique each one together.

During the second and subsequent drafts the illusion becomes independent from our previous research. We introduce humor, emotions, movement and narrative to make each one new and exciting. We seek to expand the basic idea to its ultimate limits. This is when concept drawings start.

From concept drawings, we make shop plans and start to build. But more on that next week

Developing “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”: The Concepts

Moving from research to a performance-ready show is long journey.

Even before Krissy joined Jim Perry Magic, my notebook was filled with illusion ideas. Pictured here is an quick sketch from September 2016, which ultimately did not make the show.

Maybe someday, we will build and perform this one, but for now, it will wait. It is one of dozens of ideas that we looked at in the concept phase of the show.

As we moved from concept to planning, Krissy and I agreed that we prefer magic that has a lot of comic moments. So we started to list effects that allowed that type of interpretation and to exclude those that didn’t (for me that meant no sawed-in-halfs, feigned dismemberments or body penetrations). We drafted several handwritten lists.

Eventually, we made an overall outline that details the general flow of the show. This basic framework allows us to focus on the specific performances of the individual effects. From there, we began scripting and sketching. We continue to plan and work towards our premiere in Crofton, NE on March 11 for the Shannon Trail Promoters.

Next week’s post will focus on the scripting and concept drawing process (and maybe a few work-in-process workshop photos).

Developing “Laughs, Wonders and Illusions”

It is the reason I started.

Lots of folks thought I was crazy when a left a great job at a great university (University of South Dakota–Go Yotes!) to return to full time magic. It was hard for them to understand leaving a secure, well-paying, fully-benefited job to perform. Those who know me best knew that it wasn’t really a choice. I need to entertain and inspire audiences to escape into a world of laughter, wonder and illusion.

So we dove right into the deep end. I hired an assistant (Krissy Leitru), and first we redesigned the stand-up magic show. We made great progress, and we are very proud of that offering. But, we have never lost sight to the end goal: an illusion show for all ages! Between writing and rehearsing the stand-up show, we started to brainstorm and research the full illusion show. We spent weeks reading and re-reading books in my magical library, watching hours of videos on the internet, and just tossing out ideas.

The ideas started to come together, and several things became clear:

  • We loved the adventurer magician idea, but decided to table that idea for later.
  • Individually and as a duo, we prefer magic that has a lot of comic moments.
  • We wanted to build our own illusions.

So we outlined a show and started to write scripts for each illusion. After a week, we had strong first drafts of each illusion script and some concept diagrams. We are in the process of refining, expanding and improving these illusions as we go into the shop to continue building them this week.

The show includes a Portal Appearance, a crate escape, the suspension in mid-air of an audience member and much more.

More next week…

Ringing in the New Year with a Little Card Magic

Finally, 2018.

We ushered the new year in with some magic at the Yankton Historical Society’s Mead Masquerade Ball, at the Mead Cultural Education Center. It was lots of fun, and we will post some images and video in the coming weeks, but here is just a taste of the fun we had:

Next week: a look behind the scenes at the development of our new Illusion Show!