Archive for the ‘Alexander Great’s Sorcerer’s Saturday’ Category

Coming off of our last event mistake, Right Tool, Right Job, we’re going to talk about Lack Of Experience.  You might wish to take on the planning of your event yourself.  Experts sure do make it look easy, don’t they?  If you’re too busy, too pressed for time, or if you’re just trying to save money by not hiring an event planner…think twice about taking on this gargantuan task.  If you can admit you need to hire someone to plan your event, be sure not to hire the cheapest planner out there.  Believe me, you’ll end up spending more in the end by hiring a green, self-taught “event planner” rather than a true professional.

Anyone can say he or she is an event planner.  It’s been said, “event planning is the easiest job in the world to do…badly.”  It’s one of the few jobs where one can claim to be a professional, have business cards printed, and begin planning events the next day!  Sometimes this happens when a person gets a small taste of success.  Often he just planned a small company event and it seemed to go without a snag.  “Wow,” he thinks, “this is so easy.”  Granted, some events are that easy to plan because they’re so small.  These little fish are better left in-house.  But large successful events have so many unseen details attached to them; they require an experienced person at the helm to put it all together.  Wouldn’t it be a shame to have the budget, the dates, and the agenda all set, only to have it fall apart at the seams because the person in charge doesn’t know what he’s doing? Read the rest of this entry »

My wife Elena has recently taken up photography.  She is apprenticing with a professional photographer and learning a lot of valuable information.  If you want to become a world-class photographer, you basically have three options:

(1) Teach yourself.

This would involve buying one or more cameras, several “how to” photography instruction books and taking thousands of photographs.  Eventually, if you were passionate enough about it, you would develop your own photographic style which would enable you (hopefully) to produce photos admired by thousands, if not millions, of people.

(2) Enroll in a top-notch photography school such as the Brooks Institute of Photography or the Pasadena Art and Design Center.  My friend, Halstan, graduated from the latter and I learned a couple of interesting things about the place.  Things like:

(a) It is the most difficult college in the world as evidenced by the fact it has a higher rate of student suicides than any other learning institution on the planet.  I saw it firsthand and I can assure you the students of that place are worked nearly to death and are pressured to a degree of which 99.9% of all human beings simply could not endure.

(b) Approximately 80% of all cars on the road in the entire world were designed by graduates of that institution.

This option also takes years.

(3) Your final option is to find an already-established world-class photographer and become one of his personal assistants.  You will be hooking up cables, loading film into cameras, fetching coffee, setting up lights, lugging gear and so on.  But… Read the rest of this entry »

New York Times headline says “Bank of England Cuts Interest Rate to Historic Low, Citing Economic Pressures.”  I guess unemployment in Europe is structural and not cyclical like here in the US. Who’s  making these decisions anyway, I wonder. Personally, I don’t much care.  It’s just mildly interesting. The point, as far as I’m concerned, is to make sure you put the right person in charge of things.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been discussing the event blunders a planner can make.  Sponsor coordination, journal organization, seating, nametags, food, decorations, speakers, and entertainment are just a few of the things that can blow up and cause an event go awry.  Some of these things might seem out of your control.  But with responsibility comes control.  The two are inextricably linked.  There’s a lot to gain from knowing what not to do.  So, our next most common event blunder is: Putting The Wrong Person In Charge.

Everyone is busy. Asking your secretary to take on the added responsibility of planning a major conference means she will need to set aside her other duties. She’ll have to choose between spending time on the party and spending time on her regular work. She may need to be out of the office for meetings.  That can then lead to her working overtime to accomplish what should have been done during regular work hours.  What about you?  Are you equipped to handle the arduous task of putting this event together?  If your answer is, “yes,” then by all means do it. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming off the tail end of last week’s blog on planning, I thought we’d discuss those important little details of magic performance that make the difference.  Keep these in mind as you advance through your magic career and perform more shows.  Consider the practicalities of every performance you do; from the type of venue you perform in to the type of trick you will perform, and everything in between.

Sometimes eager magicians, anxious to make a big impression, fall flat on their faces because they don’t spend time planning every aspect of their shows, thoroughly examining the practicalities of what they want to do, and making necessary adjustments, like MacGyver would.

Remember that show?  Secret agent Angus MacGyver, played by Richard Dean Anderson, who works as a troubleshooter for the Phoenix Foundation, was resourceful and possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences. He solves complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. He preferred non-violent resolutions and preferred not to handle a gun.

Since “MacGyvering” is such an important factor in magic, much of this blog will be devoted to helping you ask right kinds of questions of yourself (and others) when performing your shows.  Pay attention to these points.  They will save you the embarrassment and frustration of making the same mistakes so many others have over the years. I want you to avoid having to go through that sometimes unpleasant learning curve. Read the rest of this entry »

“What plans would you have on your drawing board if you knew you couldn’t fail”? –Robert Schuller

It’s been said, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  You’ll find that when it comes to event planning, truer words were never spoken.  Over the past month we’ve been discussing the top 25 event blunders.

You made the decision to do this.  You’re the one responsible.  And what a big responsibility this is!  Event planning is harder than it looks.  There are so many elements involved in it.  To name a few: sponsor coordination, journal organization, seating, nametags, food, decorations, speakers, entertainment, and, of course, the look and feel of the event.  So why would any sane person take on such a huge responsibility?

One possible motivator is recognition. If the event is a hit, the person or committee in charge gets credit and kudos.  A more pragmatic reason might be the desire to save money on your event by doing all the planning yourself.  Or maybe the decision wasn’t even yours.  You might have been “assigned” to plan this event and simply have no choice in the matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Every year I do a fair number of events, and whenever I do these events I usually fly to them.  A great benefit of my job is getting paid to see all the parts of the world.  Most times when I do an event, I am flown to Scottsdale, Miami or New York. A hotel I’m very familiar with is called the Miami Airport Hilton.  It’s very nice and beside it, connected to it, is another hotel…The Courtyard Marriott. Connected to that hotel is yet another hotel called the Fairfield Inn.  While I was staying there last at the (main) Marriott, I decided to check out the other two hotels.  The Marriott Courtyard had rooms which, as far as I could tell, were exactly the same as the main Marriott…except…they cost less.  The Fairfield, also as best as I could tell, had rooms exactly like the main Marriott, except those room cost even less than either the Marriott main hotel or the Marriott Courtyard.  This seemed strange to me so I asked the desk clerk at the Fairfield about it. He was stumbling around trying to explain it in a rational way to me, but not much of what he was saying was making sense. Then, a wisened and seasoned old businessman standing at the same counter spoke up, “I’ll tell you what the difference is,” he said. “There is none. The Fairfield Inn is the biggest secret in Miami. You get exactly the same thing you get at the Marriott or the Marriott Courtyard…only the Fairfield costs about half as much.”

That businessman was almost 100% correct. But he had overlooked something. When you stay at the main Marriott Hotel, the USA Today newspaper is waiting for you outside your door every morning when you wake up. However, the other two hotels don’t deliver USA Today. Does that explain the difference between $68 per night and $178 per night?   Perhaps not, but as Van Der Rohe said “The drama is in the details.”  When most people quote that, they focus on the word details, but I want to focus on the word drama for a minute.  I think the difference in these two hotels is in the drama.  One of my favorite quotes came from my marketing professor at USC, Michael Dore.  He said, “Marketing is not a battle of products or services. It’s a battle of perceptions!”  You’ve probably heard it said, “Perception is reality.”  In other words, it’s not important that McDonald’s be any better than In-N-Out.  It’s only important that people perceive it to be.  In my blog Story In Magic, I discussed the importance of putting story into your magic presentations, which can help put perceptions across. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t know when you will be reading this, but I am starting to write it on December 9, 2017.  For the next several weeks I’m going to try to alert you to the most common event blunders and how you can avoid them, because your corporate event, award dinner, sales kickoff, or party is coming, and you’re in charge of it.

Previously we discussed the number three blunder, the importance of Confirming.  Assuming you’ve jumped that hurdle, the next step in the planning process is directly linked to it.  It is Having Clear Deadlines.  Any happening has many separate details connected to it, and all these details need to come together before the confirmed date.  After confirming this date, you’re one step closer to a great event, and have a focal point where you can direct all of your efforts.  Now you want that day to shine like the sun.  The date is in reality a deadline, made up of several “mini-deadlines” leading up to a big goal. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m returning from a set of shows in The Caribbean on The Celebrity Eclipse today.  I’ll give you a full report in a few weeks.  As I board the plane I’m overcome thinking about how responsive our audiences were and how the magic shows being presented where we’re flying to, Las Vegas, have moved out to sea.  In the 80s you could see loads of variety acts in Las Vegas.  The reason for this was the large shows with show girls.  Producers needed an act to fill the time it took the showgirls to change costumes, and many of us worked a lot.  Now that that need has changed, variety acts are all out on cruise ships.

Learning and practicing magic and sleight-of-hand is a solitary vice, much like chess or mathematics, but more pleasurable and rewarding in the long run.  Verily, I say unto ye that he who taketh up magic in the hope that it will make him popular is a fool.  For a bore who doth card tricks is still a bore; nay, he is oft times more boring than ever.  And he shall be shunned, e’en unto the fourth and fifth generation.  If it were not so, I would have told you.  Beware the Magician who tells you that he knows his act so well that he can do it in his sleep.  For he just well may. Or worse, he may do it in yours!

Why is it that so many Masters of Ceremonies think that the job entitles them to do their full evening shows in ten-minute segments between the acts?  I think that one who does not feel that way should be called “An M.C. without compere.“

Most Magicians are of royal birth. They must be: so many of them use the royal “we” when performing, as in “We take this perfectly ordinary Set Of Linking Rings…” or perhaps each has a mouse in his pocket. Read the rest of this entry »

The event is just around the corner and you’re in charge of it.  You know that your decision will make the difference between an enjoyable gathering and one that leaves people staring at their watches the whole time.

In fact, maybe you’re staring at you watch right now.  Two weeks ago we discussed the event blunder that is Procrastination.  Assuming you’ve jumped that hurdle, the next step in the planning process is directly linked to it.  It is confirming the dates.  Just because you’ve identified the dates doesn’t mean that they’re set in stone.

Not having clean, hard edges on the dates can hinder you.  There may be disagreements about the date of the event among people involved with planning it.  Several things, such as the company’s nonnegotiable commitments, a sales meeting, quarterly reports, or personnel being away for the weekend, can cause this.

What’s the solution? The key to confirming the dates is communication, and it’s up to you.  Call, fax or email to make sure everyone is on the same page.  If there are pending circumstances like checking the availability of a venue, don’t delegate this.  There will be time for delegation later.  If you delegate at this stage you’ll be stuck waiting forever.  The old adage holds true; “if you want something done right do it yourself.”  Having said that, make sure the people on your team are all the best. Read the rest of this entry »

As a kid growing up amongst the clean air and foothills of Newport Beach, I was haunted by the notion that everyone else knew things I would never be privy to. Then one day I watched MTV at my friend Rich’s house and I was suddenly offered proof there was this “party” going on that I wasn’t invited to.  This seems to be a recurring topic in my long running conversations with Lorenzo Clark, who also performs on Princess Cruises.  We both came up through The Magic Castle’s Junior Magician’s Program.  As young men we were mesmerized by rock stars like David Lee Roth, actors like Jack Nicholson, and magicians like David Copperfield.  The lyrics to the song “Rock Star” by Nickelback sum up our angst nicely. Also Fight Club Here.  “How in the heck,” we wondered obsessively, do you go about getting invited to “that party”?  In a very significant way, this frustration formed the paths that our careers took.

Anyway by the time that invite to the “Party” was within reach, I had already worked for people like Don Wayne, behind the David Copperfield machine and seen that it was all an illusion…quite literally.  What I mean is that Don didn’t sit in a cushy office on Sunset Blvd., pontificating about illusionary concepts.  No!  It was blood, sweat and tears, Baby.  I began to see that we were in the business of “furnishing glamour” not “experiencing glamour.”  Hence, being so well-connected in Hollywood that you could get a table at Spago’s with an hour’s notice, really doesn’t count!  Only hard work combined with talent and creativity counts. Read the rest of this entry »

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