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Performing to strangers

Jul 8, 2017
Ok, so I love performing to friends and family all the time but when it comes to performing to strangers I get nervous and feel like I will mess up badly, anyone have any tips on performing to strangers on the streets or in a restaurant?
Oct 7, 2015
Hi CarySchlaffman,

I'm a street performer and find performing for randoms may be scary at first, but keep practising till you're perfect, then feel free to perform in front or random people which may be scary at first, but over time gets easier.


Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
Jordy is correct.

The fear of performance is really the fear of judgement/failure. Practice and rehearse until you're actually ready (something most magicians don't do) and that fear of failure is dramatically reduced. The rest is just getting used to the social anxiety caused by putting yourself out there.

To paraphrase Professor BC - You should be rehearsing so much that you're kind of sick of the material before you put it in front of anyone.
Apr 9, 2017
Before coming up to a stranger and asking whether they want to see a magic trick or not, practice your sleights in a crowded place where people could see you, but do NOT perform to them yet until you feel comfortable with the crowded atmosphere.
Jun 17, 2016
Ontario, Canada
If you're anxious (like myself), I wouldn't suggest approaching random people and busting out a magic trick. If you mess up, it can be embarrassing because you're just this random person who came up and tried to do something. You need to build to the trick first.

I honestly find bars the easiest place to do tricks for strangers. It's a relaxed environment where it's easy to strike up a conversation and build a setting that, if you do mess up, it can be laughed off.

As other people have mentioned, it is scary at first, but you need to practice both the trick and approaching people before it becomes easier.


Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
Oh, I usually make this point but I forgot to this time -

If you want to reduce your performance anxiety, learn to chat with people without performing. Just talk to them. Say hi, introduce yourself, ask polite questions. We spend a lot of time near strangers with nothing to do (waiting rooms, in line at the bank, buying pizza, etc) - learn to have a short chat with folks without having anything to lean back on.

Then when you want to perform, you just start talking to them, which you'll be used to, and steer the conversation towards whatever the subject of your presentation is.
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Jul 15, 2017
So I used this method when I was in theater in college, and for every performance I've ever done in public for strangers and it's ported over for magic quite well!
If you are nervous about performing for strangers there are a couple things you can do to ease into it. Not every person has a steel nerves and can just jump into the deep end of street performing and that's cool, so instead ask your friends to bring a friend that you don't know or know only a bit and meet them somewhere public or at a home and perform for that person or persons. This gives you a chance to perform for someone new but you still have the support of friends. On that same vein, the first couple times you go out and perform for strangers, bring a friend or two with you, the more the better. This will give you a natural crowd to start off with and a support while you first perform for strangers. The third way is to go somewhere that is more accepting to street performing, such as a convention or a party or a college, I've had a lot of success in those venues when I first started out. Pass that, there is no easy way to get used to it. I've performed in front of a lot of people in my life and I still get butterflies every once in awhile.
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Elite Member
Nov 4, 2014
Orange County, Ca
Still to this day i get performance anxiety. I have come to call my way of fixing this the "Diving board technique." When you go to get in the pool, sometimes you tell yourself you can't because it is too cold, or you try slowly getting in. This usually prolongs your anxiety. I found that if you just go for it even if you are not feeling 100% ready, you will find that once you are in performance you almost completely forget about how nervous you are and just enjoy the fun of performing. Then every group after that is usually easier.

Moral of the story is sometimes you need to just get up on the diving board and dive in head first or you may never get into the pool.
Apr 9, 2016
Lots of great suggestions already!

I'd add that if you're naturally nervous or shy around strangers, one way to very naturally place yourself in a natural setting with something that makes sense at that moment to a perfect stranger: Buy something. Pay for something at a checkout line.

I know, intentionally vague. Here goes... I use (man, I feel like I'm giving up my best pickup line or something :) ) Richard Sanders Extreme Burn 2.0 in checkout lines. It's great for making a mini riot if lots of folks are around, or a very intimate organic moment that will automagically endear you to her, or blow his mind, making for them a very memorable moment that took all of 2 minutes, very few words (in fact, less is best until the bill change, body lang and eye contact!)

It's a bill changing routine, $1s to $20s like CGI effects. An amazing little bit you should always keep on you. If you don't have it, strongly recommend it, never leave home without it. Seriously.

The bit is this: walking up to pay your check, you feign leaving your wallet somewhere, pat yourself down (do a natural routine here, no Oscar's for this one)(the clerk is already thinking "oh, grrreeat"), find a small wad of $1s in your pocket count it all out and it's $5 total all the while making eye contact and acting progressively more worried and embarrassed as you make worried eye contact with the clerk while shelve watches you worriedlycount it again; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Yep, only $5

You've now established with out a word you don't have the cash for that $25 meal, the cashier now knows this too, you're holding the $5 you counted out. The pause is unbearable, and you wait as long as you can and exclaim "wait a minute!!..." as you now speak hesitantly but hopeful "I've got an idea, watch" using your 2 fingers to do the look here move toward the $5, count 3, and on 3 you're holding and flourishing 5 $20, the relief is palatable in your face, the relief and utter disbelief of this miracle happening out of the blue to the spectator, they never K of WHAT to do but their relief makes it always a funny time, you casually pull out 2 $20 and put them down to pay the bill, "keep the change" if that's in your financial ability, fold away the rest of the money, take your items and walk away, ask a name, leave a phone number, or if there was anyone else in line you just blew 4 complete strangers you rapidly the confidence to try other things, approach strangers, and generally be excited to just pick some lucky bastard out of thin air and blow their minds, creating a memory they'll brag about.

Wordy I know but man that routine kills if ya pull it off naturally, the trick is an easy one so you van concentrate on the moment you're creating I met the chick at my fav Thai restaurant, met a few gals that way at the cafeteria, one lost her MIND exclaiming "did anyone else see that?!?!?" and a few in that line behind me are still trying to figure out what exactly they did see.

All strangers, every single one of them, but you've created a buildup, a moment, a mind-blowing experience complete with drama, release, laughter and a special moment all in the natural act of paying for your lunch, or buying groceries. They will not soon forget your masterful performance, only thinking it was one of those random acts of cosmic mystery that one only hears about happening to others.

Believe me, this will do wonders for your public stranger confidence and it's a helluva lotta fun doing it.

The beautiful approach on this one is there is no expectation from the unwitting spectator, just another bad day at the checkout line when some doofus forgets his wallet and only has $5.... until he instantly changes it into $20s like nothing's happened, paid the bill out of those magically created $20s and walked away into the sunset without another word. :)

Do this at a bar once you've done it at the corner bodega, Mcds, the grocery store, etc. People will see you. Strangers. All of them, and you now have a captive audience of one or more with which to break out into "hi, my name's Cary. If you thought that was something, here, check this out. What? Sure, where are you all sitting?". You get the picture. It's a great way to start because you are controlling every single thing to an unwitting captive audience....of strangers. :)

Best of luck to you with your public debut, knock em dead and don't forget us little guys! ;)

(Thanks go to that brilliant Canadian Richard Sanders for making Extreme Burn 2.0 and all his other great routines, one of the nicest guys in the illusion fx biz)
Jan 26, 2017
So.... Just to summarize:

No but seriously, as soon as you break the wall and start performing, something just clicks in your head and makes it a lot easier. Start small. For example - if you are still in school, maybe perform for kids you know "exist" but don't really know personally. Then you can start to apply this to everyone.
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Jul 1, 2017
I had this issue, but I was able to solve it with an odd trick. I signed up for a very close hospital's Junior Volunteer Program. I was their (I believe) first magician, and I would go lobby to lobby doing these sort of things. Having that set as my position and as something I needed to do, it really helped me come over this fear. I also did (mostly) the same tricks to each person and in large groups, which helped me get more comfortable with those tricks. Also, not thinking about it helps lots. I know it sounds cliche, but it works so who cares! I wish you the best of luck continuing these sort of things, and expanding your repertoire
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