Magic & Speaking

Dear Friends:

Here we are, entering what I always think of as the dark part of the year. Halloween has come and gone, and the days grow ever shorter. Although the winter holidays seek to brighten our spirits, this can be a daunting time. I generally have found it to be a time that is creatively productive, but challenging.

For our Magic & Mystery School, November will be filled with classes, most of which are already overflowing. We’ve had a good year, and the school seems to be thriving. And yet… this is a time of reflection and introspection—where do we go from here? Are we really doing as well as it feels we are? Does that mean we’re in danger of stagnation? I wonder.

Tobias with Book

For the purposes of this Museletter, I thought you might enjoy a section from my last book, The Wizard’s Way to Powerful Presentations. As Jeff, Stephen Shapiro and I prepare to teach “Magic for Speakers & Presenters,” this weekend, I’ve found myself reflecting on just what speakers and magicians have in common, and so this segment on how we design experiences to achieve a particular purpose, came to mind.  Oh… and we DO have a single space left in the class. If you’re interested, go to now and grab it!

(from The Wizard’s Way to Powerful Presentations)

Create Experiences

Basic data and bare-bones logic all by themselves make for boring presentations. Tell stories in order to draw your audience in and to bypass their logical, linear objections. Stories provide vicarious experience, and, as all true wizards know, experience is what changes people. Actual interactive experiences can be even more powerful than vicarious ones, so the best speakers find ways to include those, too.

Once Upon a Time

Using the Power of Stories

Some people theorize that we can only think clearly about experiences once we have distilled them into words. Others tell us that we only make sense of events once we turn those words into stories. Stories are the way that our minds make sense of the world. Stories evoke our emotions, and they tend to be what we remember.

Create Mild Trance

A little-known effect of listening to a story is that the experience puts us into a light trance. You’ve experienced this type of trance if you’ve found yourself deeply involved in a great book or a show on television and failed to hear your family members talking with you. If you’re like me, you might have to be called to dinner several times before you even hear the call. You are so buried in the world of the story that you’re no longer really conscious of your everyday world. That is trance, and you’ll find that your audiences are often in a mild trance state.

One of the things we know about trance is that under its influence, we become suggestible. When we are in a trance state, we accept and do things without the interference of our rational mind. Though it is true that a hypnotist can’t make you do something you really don’t want to do, you have to not want to do that thing at a fairly deep level in order to resist the hypnotist’s command. As a true wizard power presenter, then, it’s important that you realize you have the ability to issue commands, and have your audience just accept them, to a degree you might not be used to experiencing in everyday life. If your cause is just and important, this is a power you’re completely justified in using.

Engage emotions

The best presentations are designed to change those who experience them. People are changed and people make decisions through emotion. Ninety-nine percent of decisions are purely emotional, with the rational mind only kicking in to justify the decision after it has been made. Stories stir the emotions. Audiences identify with the protagonist of a story, and if something great happens to that person, they feel great. If something terrible happens, then they’ll feel terrible—or outraged, or whatever else your telling of the story is designed to make them feel. Your presentation, (and we’ll come back to this) can use imagery, rhythm, vocal dynamics, and other elements to enhance that emotion.

So, if you want your presentation to be remembered, use stories to make your points. If you want your logic to be accepted, wrap it in a story!


Creating Interactive Experiences

Even better than a story we hear is one that we actually participate in. These are interactions. When a speaker involves audience members directly in their presentation, making them characters in the story they are creating for them, they find themselves much more deeply attached to and emotional about that story, than one they have only heard, rather than participated in. The story becomes more immediate. Instead of something that happened to someone else sometime in the past, it is happening to me, right now. It’s hard not to be engaged in that!

Another thing that happens when people have experiences together is they begin to feel more like a group. Rather than an audience made up of lots of individuals, you begin to create a kind of tribal mind. Great speakers at political rallies and in large religious groups make use of this group feeling to great advantage. You can use it, too.

One way to generate direct interaction is just to ask for it.  “Whenever I ask ‘Can we do it,’ I need you to shout ‘Yes we can!’” Another is to ask people to stand in the audience or come to the stage, and take a role. “If you could just stand here and hold this, and whenever I say X, you’ll do Y. Got it?”  When you do enlist the aid of an audience member, it’s important for you to realize you have made them a special representative of all the others in the audience, and that it’s important that you treat them well. Treat them badly, and you’ll lose the audience. Yet another way to get involvement is just to ask for a response to a question. “Give me a show of hands. How many of you took a bus to get here? How many drove their own cars?” Any of these actions will get and keep your audience involved.

Attention Creates Experience

As a stage director, one of my most important jobs is to let the audience know where they need to look. When I work with magicians, controlling the audience’s attention is even more important. It’s the same with your presentations.

Audiences can pay attention to exactly one thing at a time. If you give them multiple possible attention points, you will confuse and lose them. For example, if you present your audience members with a slide or other visual that is so complex that it will take them more than a few seconds to read or understand it, then continue speaking before they have completely absorbed the information on the slide, their attention will not be on what you are saying. Great presenters make sure they control where their audience’s attention will be at all times throughout the presentation. First on the speaker, then on a visual, and then back on the speaker. While it’s okay to narrate a slide, you need to be aware that when you are doing that, the audience’s attention will be fully on the slide.

You can design your graphics so that they are only visible at full intensity during the time you want attention to be on the graphic and will then fade or blur out. You can learn to take the stage back from your slide by moving, raising your voice, asking a question that demands an answer, or any one of a hundred other ways. The time to think about all this is when you are still designing the experience.

If you want to become a real wizard power presenter, the way to get there is by trying out as many of these different techniques, in front of as many different audiences as possible. Some will work, some will fail. Different techniques work for different people, and they work differently for different audiences. But you won’t know which ones work for you till you’ve tried them.

That’s it for this edition. Jeff will be back with news in just a couple of weeks.

Best wishes.


Tobias Beckwith


Are You Serious?

Greetings friends and family!

I hope we are good enough friends that I can ask you some serious questions. We might learn something about each other.

Are you “teachable?”

I am not a know-it-all. I feel it is important to “remain teachable.”

I learn from my students all the time. Charles Stonewick is a fine magician and a friend. He recently turned me on to a big idea that I feel is very important for all of us to consider.  Are you daring enough to take a risk and give more of yourself to your friends, family and audiences?

WARNING!  There will be a Quiz

Now, you can find out what kind of communicator you are by taking the short quiz below from the book Breaking The Chain of Low Self-Esteem, by Marilyn Sorenson, PhD.

What level communicator are you?

According to behavioral psychologists there are 5 levels of communication.

Level 1: Surface Level. “Nice weather today,” or “How’s it goin’ eh?

Level 2: Information Level. “Had a flat tire yesterday,” or “Sold the cat for medical experiments” etc.

Level 3: Thinking Level. Sharing opinions and ideas, “Hillary is a naughty lady,” or “Trump is a hot mess,” etc.

Level 4: Feeling Level–Self-revelatory. “I am a terrible procrastinator,” or “I am afraid of clowns,” or “I like monkeys,” etc.

Level 5: Intimacy Level. This is where we share our most painful and embarrassing moments, our deepest desires, our heaviest concerns and rewarding victories. We do this without fear of reprisal or judgment.

Stonewick continues:

“Think of the greatest magical performers you know: Penn & Teller, Eugene Burger, Jeff McBride, Lawrence Hass, David Copperfield, Rene Levand, Wayne Dobson, the list goes on and on. Do you see how they present their performances at Level 5? These people make it a point to be vulnerable and to share intimacy with their audiences- not pretend intimacy, but the real deal. Anything less would be as empty as a politician’s promise.”

Do you have to be serious?

This does not mean we have to be so serious. On the contrary, our funniest stories are usually about our greatest embarrassments or about our scariest fears becoming real.

A delicate balance is required though. Just pouring ourselves into the laps of the audience for its own sake would be clumsy, hack-like and gratuitous. That being said, it seems a good policy to treat the audience like an intimate friend and confidante. As we gently invite them into our house (Juan Tamariz) we are making ourselves vulnerable and offering love and trust. If they accept our offer, they receive our magic as a wonderful gift, and feel as though they have spent time with a close friend, maybe even an artist.

You can find Stonewick on FaceBook

Are you vulnerable?

Marjorie Hass gave a PEP-Talk online to our Mystery School about “MAGIC & VULNERABILITY.” Marjorie’s talk is inspired and will open a world of emotion and magic for you! Find it here:

‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.’

– Tony Robbins

This is true not only in our business life, but in our everyday communications with friends and family. I am always learning, growing and developing new skills.

Want to make the BIG LEAP? Take the quiz below


A: Magicians & Illusionists

B: Professional Keynote Speakers

If your answer is “A” …you are mistaken. Here’s the real answer.

Thousands of businesses worldwide engage professional motivational and keynote speakers for their events, meetings and conferences every day! Why? What do those corporations want? More than your clever tricks… they want content–meaningful content that can be applied to their business practices. 
They want TED-talks–meaningful, content-rich talks, that are informative, educational & fun!

Magic with a Message!

The magician who can frame and market his or her shows as “Magic with a Message,” can get more work in these markets than any other variety act. 
But remember, what corporations want is high quality content!
How can you learn the secrets of becoming a successful speaker with magic? 

Join us with special guest Stephen Shapiro, past president of the NATIONAL SPEAKERS ASSOCIATION. Stephen is currently on the Board of Directors and is in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame. Learn more here:

Jeff McBride goes to Hollywood!

ITS’ MAGIC is celebrating it’s 60th year with a huge show! The best names in magic will be on this show! LOOK:

Saturday, October 29, 206 at 8pm – Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles


WONDERGROUND “The center of the Las Vegas magic community”

Look at the FANTASTIC line up this month!

8pm  Comedy & Magic Show -Tim Wise is your MC

Kenton & Jeff McBride – A Dynamic Duo

Joe Krathwhol – The Birdman of Las Vegas

Michael Mirth – Illusions of Imagination

Jeff Taveggia – The New Juggling Star!

Stan Sieler – The Mind Hacker

Kyle and Mistie Knight – A NewWorld of Wonders


9pm Parlor and Strolling Magic – Christian Diamond is your MC

Master Payne – A true Original!

Kenton – Magick Beyond Imagination

Mysto the Magi – Clever like a Fox

Michael Mirth & His Cabinet of 1000 Wonders


10pm – Jeff McBride is your MC

Xavier Mortimer – the New Magic Star of Vegas

Jeff Taveggia – World Class Juggler

Sia Synn – Romance with a lance

Arian Black – Sensual Sorcery

Xavier Mortimer – Tour de force

Amazing Johnathan – Wrong on Every Level

Kyle and Mistie Knight –  New Magic Wonders

Did you know?

Mystery School Monday is the LONGEST continuously running magic program in history?  Yes, it is true 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for over 5 years now! WWW.MCBRIDEMAGIC.TV …and now you can watch on any device!

Just get the PHOTON app here:

Join us every Monday for the fun!

Jeff sharing magic at a recent magic class

See you in Hollywood or on TV! Or, better yet, join us at the school for a fun and educational magic class!

Yours in better magic,


A Fundamental Mistake

From Lawrence Hass, Ph.D., the Associate Dean:


A Fundamental Mistake

In a recent Museletter I peeled back the veil to share “A Fundamental Secret” about performing. In brief, my secret was a mantra I had learned from over twenty years of performing in the real world: “The fundamental business of every magic show is relationship-building.”  (1)

I am deeply gratified by the positive response this essay received from readers all over. And it has emboldened me to extend my reflections this month by sharing what I have come to see as a fundamental error in magic. I believe this mistake, this error, is so widespread and with such negative consequences, that if magicians everywhere would resolve themselves to avoid it, the general reputation of magic would rise a hundred-fold. Here is the principle that’s so easy to forget:

Perform from the center of your skill set, not the edges.

Indeed, as I watch magic–by professionals and amateurs alike–I see this problem over and over: performers attempting something that is simply too hard for them. Their hands shake, techniques flash, eyes turned inward, tension in the hands and body, too much thinking, the words feel rote. And the experience of magic leaks out of the tank.

How does this happen? Why does it happen so much? I believe a big part of it is a myth that runs pretty deep in our magic subculture—the notion that a trick gets better and more praiseworthy the harder it is. And along comes the notion that magicians are measured by their technical skill level. (“My sleight is bigger than yours!”) Never mind that their “Pass” flashes, that their fingers flutter when they do the “Cull”, that anyone with eyes can tell two cards are being turned over as one, that everyone knows something happened right there.

May I say the emperor has no clothes? May I offer the following suggestion to unsettle this “myth of technique”? I would say that the measure of a trick is how invisible the secret is, and the measure of magicians is whether they astonish and delight their audiences with the things they perform.

Of course sleight-of-hand is part of the game. While it is true there is excellent magic that is sleight-free (for example, BEKOS, B’Wave and many things created by the amazing Wayne Dobson), sleight-of-hand is such an important part of our tool kit that it behooves those of us who are “temporarily abled” to spend a good deal of time in that playground. But again, in my view, here is how that time should go: “Practice at the edges of your skill set, but only perform from its center.” Never fear: with time, loving attention, and regular practice those difficult skills at the edges will find their way into the center, and your range will expand. But there is no reason to sit by the sidelines while you wait. As Eugene Burger constantly reminds our students: “There is excellent magic at every skill level.”

Do you feel what a difference committing to the center would make to your confidence? Do you see how leaving the too-hard stuff at home (for now) will empower your performance and your ability to build audience relationship? What pieces are you attempting in public that aren’t really, honestly in the dead center of your skill set?

I promise you: everything about magic performance gets better and more fun—for our audiences, too—when we perform from the core of our confidence, rather than at the shaky, uncertain, self-absorbed edge of disaster.


(1) “A Fundamental Secret” first appeared in the February 2015 Museletter. A revised version was published in my Inspirations: Performing Magic with Excellence (Theory and Art of Magic Press, 2015), pages 161-163.

Do What You Love

“Do what you love; you’ll be better at it. It sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t get this one right away.”

LL Cool J

Mat Franco is a perfect example of a man who loves sharing magic. Mat is the winner of America’s Got Talent. He shared his wisdom with our students at the most recent Master Class. Mat spoke about the importance of LOVING his work and his ability to work “under any conditions.” Mat told many stories of how he pulled off shows under impossibly bad conditions. All of these “shows from hell” gave him the resilience to handle venues and audiences anywhere! He even pulled off a recent Las Vegas show after the computer system locked down… he went on with the show– with no lights, sound or tech, and killed it! The audience LOVED it!

photo credit : Sheryl Ann Garrett – Photographer of Magicians

“Attending Mystery School was the coolest thing I ever did!”

-Mat Franco- Winner of America’s Got Talent

Thank you Mat, for sharing your love of magic with our class!

Mat is the star of his very own Las Vegas show, MAGIC RE-INVENTED NIGHTLY at the LINQ Hotel on the Strip. Go see his excellent show!

Are you thriving or starving?

Did you know that Mystery School has given out over $40,000.00 in the past few years to magic students in need? We offer financial help to those in need of a good magic education. Read about our scholarship programs–we hope to help YOU.

Do what you LOVE! Even if it is not the best, it will get better! A MUST SEE VIDEO

When you are attempting to make new work, sometimes the vision does not match the results.

Many students get discouraged… but fear not! Ira Glass explains WHY we need to be patient with ourselves.


Last month’s Muse-letter stirred many to share their “Favorite Excuse.”

If your excuse is, “I’m too old to get into this magic business,” you must watch this 80 year old performer and listen to his story!  Watch this video and you can see why “80 is the new sexy!”

Perhaps Eugene will start modeling? Hey, it could happen!

Escaping the Ordinary: This girl LOVES danger!

“This girl scares even me; she braves challenges even I wouldn’t dare to do.”

-Dixie Dooley

Las Vegas’ FIRST and ONLY True Escape Show

Starring the protégé and successor to Master Mystifier Dixie Dooley, Escape Artist Randilyn is Las Vegas’ youngest performer and newest star. Performing some of Houdini’s classics, as well as a few new surprises — and utilizing some of the Master’s best-kept secret techniques — “Liberations” is an interactive show that combines fun, suspense, and hardcore skills.

The show is rumored to be so dangerous that its producer has only allowed performances to take place once per week: Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. in the Majestik Theater at the Royal Resort Hotel and Casino. 702-633-6278

“Randilyn is an eloquent and skilled performer who treats audiences to exciting and clever feats beyond the ordinary.”

— Anastasia Synn & Amazing Johnathan

“Randilyn is more than an  accomplished Escapologist… She reminds us that we can all escape  our limitations.”

— Jeff McBride

Your invitation to the BIGGEST magic party in Las Vegas.

WONDERGROUND- Thursday September 15th

photo credit : Sheryl Ann Garrett – Photographer of Magicians

Last month we BROKE HOUSE RECORDS for attendance! Yet we still had room for everyone to sit, mix and mingle! THIS month we are at it again! New lights, sounds and new acts!

 7:30 pm Strolling magic with August Meyer, Juan Pablo and Miguel, Scott Brown as Allen Scott will do tarot readings in the “art area” before and after the CLOSE UP 9 pm shows

Ian Galloway – A Magical Fantasy with Feathers!

Tim Shegitz – Twisted Comedy Magic

Gary Norsigian – The Las Vegas Magic Man

Jeff McBride – Something so old it is new!

Kris Benz – Mystery in Motion

Chris Randall – The Las Vegas Kid

 9:00 pm Christian Doleshall is your host

Strolling magic with our experts

Gary Norsigian

Kris Bentz

Chris Randall

August Meyer

10:00 pm Jeff McBride is your Host

Luna Shimada – Lady of the Mystic Arts

Ian Galloway – Light Magic

Dixie Dooley presents – Randilyn the next Generation for Liberation

Chris Randall – Competition act

Circe – Mistress of Illusion

Plus! Cabernet Dance Company!! Sue Name Sake, Nikki Girl, and Mylissa, with Natalie showing her amazing Dance on Goblets! Bar Magic: Zack Pattee, Scott Steelfyre, Iam Creed, Corey Rubino, Adriel Jacobs, Randilyn, Psychic Sideshow with Mulee Pete, Alan Scott, live art with Areeya and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!


Did you know that I have gone where NO magician had gone before!

A few rare photos for all of you STAR TREK fans who are celebrating 50 years of the show.

Meet my character Joran Belar from STAR TREK DS9 a few years back. This episode was written especially for me and my mask work! How cool is THAT?!

Watch the trailer:

Many people are updating their profile photo with STAR TREK frames. Time travel does make me look a bit younger–it does that to a man! How many of you saw this episode?

See you in Vegas, on tour or online!


From Tobias:

Wow… that’s a lot of material! Let me just chime in to let you know we still have a couple of spots available in our “Money is the Best Applause” sessions Oct. 14-16. There will be pre-class & post-class work to do in connection with this class, as there is just too much material to get through in the three days we’re together. During that time, we’ll have a shoot with famed photographer Richard Faverty, a showing of up to 5 minutes of your best material for commentary by Jeff McBride on making it more commercially viable, tons of work on how to define your market and your product, then how to make the best use of that work to get the word out and get yourself booked solid!

As many of you know, I’ve advised Jeff McBride & Marco Tempest for nearly 30 years, and booked many millions of dollars in gigs for them during that time. This is a “no holds barred” weekend, where students are encouraged to ask anything, and get any kind of help that Jeff and I have to offer. I hope to see you there!

Till next month, then!

Best to all.

Tobias Beckwith

September 2016 – Magic & Mystery School Events

12 Teaching Magic – Larry Hass Hosts
19 Teaching Magic – Bill Cook Hosts
26 Teaching Magic – Eugene Burger Hosts
September 2016 – Jeff McBride Calendar
16 Wonderground
19-30 *Cruising – Holland America – Alaska to Hawaii

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