What Can Public Speakers Learn From A Comedy Magician?

Over the years of being a professional Comedy Magician, I've had several people ask me for advice on presenting upfront. It's known as one of the UK's most feared activities. It causes many to be pushed right out of their comfort zone and weeks of stress in the lead up to the event.  

Whether it's entrepreneurs and business owners required to pitch their products and services, charity CEO's looking to communicate their message and impact, or church pastors who are expected to deliver a transformational sermon, week in, week out. The truth is, many of us have opportunities to speak to an audience, but many either resist it, or don't seek to improve the art of presenting upfront. 

Whilst I'm not a typical 'speaker', those who have asked me for advice, recognise that there are lots of transferrable skills from the arts. In fact, many professional corporate speakers look to Comedians and performing artists to develop their craft.

There's good reason for this - Any performing artist with experience, knows exactly how to; 

  • Hold the attention of an audience 
  • Manage their nerves to avoid being crippled by them 
  • Engage their audience in the presentation 
  • Deal with a non-responsive audience 
  • Craft a performance that evokes a response 

Now, just imagine what it would be like to transfer these skills into your next presentation...

Imagine being able to hold the attention of your investors, prospective clients? 
Imagine presenting with absolute confidence, (despite how you feel!) that engaged your audience from the minute you walked on. 
Imagine your audience being able and willing to participate, moving away from that non-responsive, slightly threatening face of boredom that so many presenters get distracted by.
Imagine crafting a presentation that not only engaged them, but evoked a response - to buy, to sign up, to give, to engage, to act on. 

A presentation like this in the right context, would be an incredible lead generator, an additional income stream, an extension of your charities / faith message, and/or an opportunity to see significant increase in sales of your product or services. 

So what can I share with you, from my experience, to help you deliver a presentation like that?  

Here's some thoughts; 

Your First 30 Seconds 

Sure, it's much easier for a Comedy Magician, to bounce on to stage, with a mild arrogance in his step, arms extended and an exaggerated greeting as he approaches the microphone. However, that's not to say that the same principles cannot be applied to those who give presentations in more formal settings. 

The energy you bring to to the audience in your first 30 seconds, determines the energy they return for the remainder of your presentation.  If you walk slowly, avoid eye contact and read out a scripted greeting. You can't expect much in return. 

Next time you present, try entering the stage with a slight spring in your step, eye contact with the middle rows and be sure that your arms aren't covering your stomach. Know exactly how you will begin your presentation and do so with confidence, pulling your audience in. If using notes, do not refer to them for the greeting, be sure to stand away from your stand / lectern as you greet the audience. 

Doing this will communicate to the audience that you have confidence in what you are about to share, that you are interested in them and that you have authority within your industry or context. 

Engage Your Audience  

Having an audience watch your presentation is one thing. Engaging them takes you, as a presenter, to another level. 

There's nothing more exciting for an audience than when the actors engage with audience members, when people are invited onto stage, when the audience has to participate in an activity, or when the show or presentation breaks the '4th wall' and allows for the audience to speak out. 

There are ways you can do this in a keynote presentation too; 

- Get the audience to repeat a key phrase to the person sat next to them.
- Perhaps give them a question to explore for 30 seconds 
- Use a visual demonstration with audience members on stage 
- Have the whole audience stand to complete an exercise from which you make your next point 

Engaging your audience not only draws them in, but it gives you space to think. It gives you a connection point. 

Ditch The Script 

 I want to encourage you to not only ditch the script for the the actual delivery, but to consider getting rid of it all together. Here's why;  The secret to a brilliant presentation is not to remember and deliver a script, word for word. The secret is actually to overflow with passion about your topic, in a way that the audience can relate and connect to.

Therefore, a script can be hindrance. It might just be the very reason you are nervous.

You can get so caught up in remembering it word for word, that it actually brings more fear and anxiety than necessary, preventing the passion from overflowing. 

What you really need to do is to INTERNALISE the message.

When I create a new routine for my show, I don't sit for hours writing a script. I stand in my rehearsal space, endlessly talking to a wall with the props in my hand. The more I do this, I stumble across phrases that work. They seem to fit in the flow of the routine and in doing so, I begin to internalise the structure. The lines for the trick in development come naturally. The key to internalising a message is repetition. 

Here's an example of structure, comparing my development of a routine to your keynote presentation. 

My Routine: 
- Borrow ring from audience member       
- Vanish the ring under a tea towel 
- Make the ring, reappear inside of a Kinder Egg 

Your talk: 
- Communicate the problem I solve `
- Share how my work solves that problem 
- Invite them to engage, outlining the next steps 

Use that structure and work back from here. Begin repetitively improvising the talk around those points, until you find phrases that flow. Then do it again, using those same phrases. 

Here's what happens; You begin to internalise the message. As long as you remember the structure, the clarity of your message will remain in place. There's no word-for-word script to remember, but instead, the freedom is there for you to overflow with passion and naturally share about your work. 


Want to explore further? 

If you would like to invest in and hone your presentation skills, then I have an opportunity for you. I'm no sales technique expert or business coach, but I can help you utilise transferrable skills from the arts, so that you become more confident in public speaking, present with personality and engage your audience in such a way that evokes a response. 

I'm currently working on a monthly membership, for a very limited number of people, who I would coach weekly to become excellent public speakers, on an ongoing basis. 

If that's of interest to you, send me an email at [email protected] to register your interest. 

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