If you’ve contacted several different performers, choosing the right magician for your event can be tricky.
It’s OK for us Magicians. We see other magicians all of the time! The good, the bad and the … erm … let’s be polite and call the last category ‘odd’. Most people don’t have a social network made up of magicians. How will you be able to pick the rare charismatic performer from amongst the endless average Joe’s with playing cards in their hands and cheesy grins on their faces?
If you have seen a particular magician before, or have received a personal recommendation, then you have a head start. Even so, no magician is right for everyone. With this in mind, below are some tips to help in your search for the best performer for you and your event.
Time saver – Cut to the chase
If you don’t want to read this full document now, skip to the Score Sheet section. This will help you to assess and compare any magician you are considering. You can refer back to this guide if there are any areas that need clarifying.
First, I’ll outline how to judge the quality of the magician. I’m going to assume that you want to hire the best quality that you can afford. The first section will help you to evaluate the quality of any magician.
In the second section, after we have established how good the performer is, I will help you to decide which magician is the best match for you.
Finally, at the end, there will be a handy score sheet. Use this to compare up to 3 different magicians.
Quality of the Magician
Nothing correlates with the quality of a magician more than the amount of experience that they have had. The more events they have performed at, the more confident they will be with people. That confidence leads to an ease with an audience that is very reassuring. It also gives the magician an ability to deal with all eventualities. Those unexpected twists that would throw off a less experienced performer.
So, how can you tell if someone really has lots of experience, or if they are trying to blag it?
One way is to look at their video footage. Do they have lots of video footage on their site? If you’re considering a magician who doesn’t have performance video on their website, dismiss them instantly!
An experienced magician will have at least two types of videos on their website. Well edited promotional videos, and examples of entire tricks, filmed from start to finish.
Look carefully at the edited promotional videos. Do they show clips from lots of different events? Or are they using different angles from one or two events? If it’s difficult to tell based on the background, take a look at their tie. If it’s the same suit and tie in every clip, they may be pulling your leg!
In all of the videos, does the magician seem at ease? Is he comfortable performing?
Finally, look at their reviews/testimonials. Do they have lots of feedback, or just the odd one or two comments? Do the testimonials seem real? Do the previous customers offer useful insights?
After experience, the next thing to examine is the skill level of the magician. Again, a good place to start is the videos on their website. Whether they are using cards, coins, rope, rubber bands or whatever, are they handling the items skilfully?
Next, watch the audience. How are they responding? Have they seen a miracle, or just been mildly amused? Are they having a good time? Are the quieter people just reserved, or do they seem disinterested or bored?
This is also where the unedited videos are relevant. As well as the professionally edited promotional videos, a good magician will also want you to see a couple of tricks performed from start to finish. These may be done directly to the camera, or filmed with an audience, but should not involve editing. You may need to hunt around the website a bit more to find these videos, but they are perfect for you to assess their skill level.
Awards are also relevant in evaluating someone’s skill. Has the magician you are considering won an award? Several awards?
Finally, head to the testimonials again. Do previous customers comment on the magician’s abilities?
Last, but not least, in evaluating a magician’s quality, is how well they run their business.
- Did they respond quickly to your enquiry?
- Do they have a good telephone manner?
- Do they sound like they know what they were talking about?
- Do they listen to you, or are they just trying to sell themselves?
- Can they answer your questions reassuringly and with confidence?
- Is the magician a full-time professional, or supplementing their day job?
At first glance, performing magic as a supplementary income may not seem important. However, for a full-time professional, your event is their top priority! For a semi-professional, you and your guests are much lower on their list. I occasionally hear of magicians pulling out of performances at the last minute. The ‘extra cash’ they make from your event is not as important as their day job, or the friend’s party that they’ve just been invited to. Imagine the stress of trying to find a replacement entertainer, with only days to go!
- If the magician is not a member of The Magic Circle, dismiss them.
And I mean THE Magic Circle! This is not the same as being a member of a local magic society. Many of those are called ‘circles’, but there is only one ‘The Magic Circle’.
- If the magician is not a member of Equity, dismiss them.
Although it’s true that someone could be a good performer and not belong to The Magic circle or Equity, not belonging to them is a sign that they are not taking their business seriously. Someone who doesn’t take their business seriously is not treating their customers with respect.
- Do they have PLI (Public Liability Insurance)? If not, dismiss them.
Many venues will turn a performer away if they do not have this insurance!
Good match for you?
Style of magic
Different people want different styles of magic. Some want the magician to perform mind-reading stunts that get into people’s heads. Other people want to see their guests hypnotised. Some want a stage entertainer. And some people want a magician who specialises in up-close sleight of hand. What do you want?
Then there’s the style of the actual performance. If you imagine a scale running from cheesy to sophisticated, where would you like your magician to be on it? There are magicians at every point on the scale. And a mismatch can be embarrassing. Choose carefully!
Another possible scale has a ‘three jokes per minute gag-smith’ at one end and a ‘serious practitioner of the dark arts’ at the other end. Where do you want your magician to sit on that spectrum?
Once you have received a quote, bare all of the other factors above in mind. Then ask yourself,
“Does the magician’s service and performance
seem to be good value for money?”
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. With magicians, the price tends to indicate the level of experience and professionalism.
If your budget is low, expect a performer with little performance experience. They may be nervous. They may be clumsy. Your guests may be able to see exactly how the tricks are done. The worse outcome of hiring a cheap magician is the entertainment being simply embarrassing. The second worse is an unprofessional last minute cancellation.
If you have a healthy budget, you will be hiring a magician who has performed at hundreds of events just like yours. Maybe thousands! They will keep you informed at every stage of the booking process and will arrive at the event with plenty of time to spare. On the day, an experienced magician will not be thrown by delays in timings, an over-eager guest grabbing something out of their hands, or a smart arse comment. An experienced magician takes all of these things in their stride on a regular basis.
My advice is to invest as much money as you can when choosing your magician. You will be able to relax, in the knowledge that your guests are in the hands of a professional.
One more thing to consider is the possibility of any negotiation on the fee. Maybe something extra could be included in the package? Or a simple discount? Some magicians won’t budge an inch. Others will. See what deal you can reach.
Personality and appearance
Some people’s dream would be to have Meatloaf coming to their event. Others would prefer James Bond. What would you like your magician to look like? Does the magician you’re considering tick the box?
Do you want crude humour or family friendly entertainment? Even if all of your guests will be adults, you may still want the humour to be clean. Some magicians use gags that some would find offensive. Watch videos carefully, speak to them on the phone and get a sense of their humour.
When you contact the magician, how do their emails and telephone exchanges make you feel? Is it a sales pitch, or are they answering your questions? Do they make you smile? Do you feel confident in their ability? Do they seem likeable? Do you trust them? Will you feel comfortable with them interacting with your guests?
Finally, head to the reviews again. A great magician will have lots and lots of testimonials. If you can read them all, they don’t have enough! Randomly pick a few. Pay close attention to the words that are used. Are they describing someone that you would want at your event?
If in doubt, ask to speak to some of their previous customers.
Finally, never underestimate your gut feeling! What is that telling you? You probably know best, deep down.
Still not sure who to choose?
No problem! I have created a simple score sheet where you can compare several different magicians. Simply download and print the document below, then follow the simple instructions to find your entertainer!