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Working with and Picking Volunteers can be Tricky Business

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Having volunteers assist the magician is a key element of many magic shows but you need to make sure you have the right person up with you to maximize the audience experience and minimize problems for you. Here are some general guidelines when selecting volunteers and some others about working with volunteers:

Kids as Volunteers

  • Shy Kids - I find that children who are a little on the shy side often make excellent volunteers. They are not as likely to interrupt your show with their own agenda. You don’t want to drag a completely reluctant volunteer on stage but getting someone who is not dying to be there is often a good idea. In general, you don’t want a performer up there with you as they will want to perform their own act, which may not jive with your own.
  • Smiling and Happy to be There - In general, look for volunteers who are enjoying the show and have smiles on their faces, rather than those who are pointing things out, interrupting, chatting with their neighbor, and making faces.
  • Don’t be Afraid to Correct your Mistake - You may not realize that you made the wrong selection until you have started to work with the volunteer. If you think it is bad enough to abort the volunteer, you can try this “Let’s give our volunteer a big round of applause for helping out with this first part of the trick.” Wait for the offender to take their seat and round up a new volunteer.
  • Get a Cross Section of the Audience – Try to pick volunteers from all over the audience (front to back) and of all sexes, shapes, and colors
  • Acknowlegement - When finished with the trick, always instruct the audience to give a big round of applause for the volunteer. This is good on many levels. First, it makes the volunteer feel appreciated and at the same time signaling the trick is over and it is time to return to their seat. It also is a signal to audience to applaud and for kid’s audiences this is good since they generally will not applaud on their own. A small token of appreciation is also a good idea such as a magician’s helper certificate.

 

Adults as Volunteers

  • The Special Guest – It is often a treat to the audience to see the special guest or executive at a work related gathering selected as the volunteer. Nothing is more entertaining than seeing the CEO with his head in the guillotine.
  • Impaired Volunteers – Exercise caution from the audience members who have had too much to drink or are senile. When working with an audience of seniors you may wish to have some conversations with some of the guests ahead of time and pre-select some volunteers.

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Our valuable member Matt Ruetz has been with us since Thursday, 08 May 2008.

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