What if when you are doing magic with some people what if they don’t do what you tell them and they mess the trick up?

Audience control is part of being a good magician. The old saying that “you have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them” might be adapted to magic as “you have to know when to guide them, know when to smack them in the face and just call it a day.”

I must admit that in my youth, while I was still learning the fine points of my trade, there were many occasions when I had an effect ruined by an over-zealous, under-intelligent, or just plain annoying spectator. I quickly found that, in most cases, if a spectator was trying to (for example) choose and return a card at the wrong time (say, in the middle of my cups and balls routine), chances were that I was not being understood.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for making sure that your spectators know what you want from them:

  • Speak in an audible, clear tone, and make sure that the person you are addressing is neither facing away from you nor deaf.
  • Don’t perform for an unwilling audience (people who say “Magic is dumb” or try to knock you over and run away, for example.)
  • If the person you are speaking to is answering but what they are answering doesn’t make sense, check to see if they are actually having a hands-free cell phone conversation and don’t even realize you are talking to them.
  • Don’t perform effects that have complex instructions for people who don’t speak the same language you do.
  • Make sure that your effect is appropriate for your audience (for example, don’t do complex mathematical tricks at a five-year-old’s birthday party, or perform your detailed ambitious card routine during a visit to a home for the blind).
  • Never ask someone with Alzheimer’s to choose a card an remember it. (It just gets embarrassing. I know. I’ve been there. Twice.)
  • Don’t ask someone to assist you with a trick if they look like they might be trouble (if they are a teenage boy, for example)

Even if you follow these tips to the letter, you may run into a spectator who is more interested in ruining your effect than being part of the magic. In that case, you can either be belligerent and risk turning everyone against you, or try and tailor the effect to the troublesome individual by saying something like, “I’m sorry, is this too difficult for you? Here, let me make you a balloon animal doggy.” The choice is up to you!