Thursday, August 30, 2007


They look where you look. It’s a fact that magicians (hopefully!) pick up on very soon, a fundamental of physical misdirection. When you look at the audience, the audience looks at you; when you look at your left hand, the audience directs its attention there in turn. The simplicity of the concept belies its power, as it gives you the ability to move a group’s focus from point A to point B unobtrusively. You’re secretly manipulating their attention, and they don’t have a clue.


Only it doesn’t always seem to work, at least for some. I recall talking to a young magician who was having a lot of trouble directing attention away from his right hand at a crucial point. I watched him, and from a strictly physical standpoint he was doing everything correctly. He was looking where he was supposed to be looking. So what was the problem?

Those watching him weren’t following his gaze. Why? His gaze was weak.

Okay, you may be sitting there thinking, how can a gaze be weak? Maybe it even sounds like a lot of subjective nonsense, but I assure you what I’m talking about is firmly grounded in objective reality. The eyes of an audience won’t be led by a weak gaze. Your gaze needs to be masterful and captivating to successfully lead the audience’s.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of talking to someone who seemed incapable of looking you in the eye or, worse, whose gaze transmitted fear and uncertainty when he did. That’s a weak gaze, and it can be disastrous for a magician. On the other hand, you’ve no doubt talked to someone whose eyes never left your own, whose gaze bespoke confidence and power. Whose eyes do you think you’d be more likely to follow? It’s a subtle thing, sure, but so is the idea that they look where you look. If you want to boost your ability to control attention with the eyes, a commanding gaze is a must.

Fortunately this isn’t something you either have or you don’t. It’s a component of charisma, and the good news is charisma can be learned. That’s right, charisma isn’t just the natural gift of those lucky few -- the characteristics responsible for charisma can be learned.

As to developing a more powerful gaze, you can read this article for some useful exercises. I found the first exercise described in a book (the title escapes me) when I was a teenager, and it really helped me out. If you go to the trouble of doing it.

Sadly, many will never bother, will dismiss it as stupid, not worthy of their time, etc. But those who do go to the trouble will note a definite improvement in their ability to direct attention with gaze alone.

Don’t dismiss this. A magnetic gaze is gold to a performer as, beyond its uses in physical misdirection, it also provides you with a visual manifestation of confidence. If there’s one thing missing from many magicians personas, it’s just that, confidence. You need to cultivate the ability to draw eyes upon yourself, and a magnetic gaze is a wonderful way of achieving that.

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