The biggest mistake I see new birthday party magicians make is that they choose lousy magic tricks for their acts. They’ll spend lots of time, energy and money buying expensive magic tricks but put together an act that fails to entertain. If you fail to select great magic tricks for your act don’t be surprised when the children walk away in the middle of your show. So what kind of tricks are great for a birthday party magic show?
Fast Paced Tricks.
I see lots of magicians try to stretch a quick visual gag into a seven minute routine full of lots of dialogue and not much action. Young children do not respond well to routines that require a great deal of explanation to appreciate. Make sure your show has lots of fast-paced tricks that provide instant gratification and variety to your act.
Variety is crucial.
Try to choose routines that use different types of props. In other words, don’t do a five minute routine cut and restored rope routine followed by a five minute rope penetration trick, followed by a five-minute color changing rope routine. It would be much better to intersperse different tricks based on very different props.
Don’t do it every trick in the same pace as the last one. Mix in fast-paced routines that are very visual with quieter segments that engage the audience.
While you should use many volunteers in a birthday party magic show you should also have large chunks of your act that you perform solo. Routines with child volunteers are unpredictable; sometimes you get a great volunteer and sometimes you get a kid who can’t follow any instructions. You can’t leave the quality of your show up to chance so be sure you have some very solid solo routines especially at the beginning and the end of your act. It’s really important that you establish yourself as a good magician right up front. If you win them over at the start of your routine the rest of your show will be more fun.
Choose magic tricks that are not being performed by every other children’s entertainer in your market. For example, in some cities every single kiddy magician does the “Coloring Book” trick just like every other performer. As soon as the children see the coloring book they scream, “I know that one!” There’s no surprise and the parents are disappointed. There’s no excuse for choosing cheesy magic tricks that have been over performed. There are hundreds of great magic tricks sitting in books like The Tarbell Course in Magic that you can learn and make your own.
Practice and Rehearse.
I used to work in a magic shop and I was always shocked at how many clowns would come in to buy a new trick for a show later that day. Granted, lots of magic tricks are pretty simple in concept and most people can master the mechanics of tricks that are sold specifically for kid shows in a few minutes. But that doesn’t mean you should try it out on a paying audience before you mastered it.
Close-up magic and pocket tricks are a lot of fun to perform and many of them are amazing to watch, but only if you’re close enough to see. Be sure that the tricks you select are visible from across the room.
Plan your magic show for the real world. Many times you’ll arrive at a party and find that the lighting is poor, the room is noisy and your audience is surrounding you. Make sure that your tricks are angle proof for the most part and have other tricks that are angle proof as backup.
Forget about picking tricks just because the magic dealer says “they pack small and play big”. You should never select a trick just because it is easy for you to transport or easily resets. Your first criteria should always be how entertaining the effect is. The majority of mediocre magicians will never break out of the ranks because they value their own convenience over delivering a memorable experience.
A professional entertainer does everything possible to produce a successful show. Sometimes this means you’ll have to take control of the space that you are expected to perform in. You are the entertainment professional in the minds of your customers so don’t be afraid to suggest ways to make this show better. Have them move furniture, increase the lights and kill the background noise when ever possible.
Brian McGovern is one of many magicians in New York who performs at birthday parties. By following these tips you’ll be on your way to creating a great birthday party magic show and establishing yourself as a professional children’s entertainer.