Common Sense: How To Treat Volunteers Part Two

If you haven’t read the previous blog entry, please do that first. It will make this post easier to follow.

Let’s look at last entry’s metaphor:

Treat guests on stage how guests would want to be treated in your home.

Last time we looked at it from the negative view point, as in do NOT make them feel unsafe, embarrassed, or unsure. Now let’s take a positive, action-oriented take.

Thurston Was A Slacker

If you’re having guests over for dinner, what will increase the odds of a great meal, last minute scrambling or preparing a week in advance?

As the story goes, magic legend Howard Thurston would peek through the curtain before every show and eyeball every audience member, quietly telling them he loved them. Thurston did this to get in the right frame of mind to present his show.

With respect to the legend that is Thurston, instead of – or in addition to – doing this minutes before show time, do it (metaphorically) when you’re booked for the gig. 

Doing it a few minutes before show time allows the performer to change his attitude. 

Doing it at the time of booking (or much earlier) allows the performer to change his attitude and his act. 

I recently had a private party show for a client. I asked myself, “What can I do to make the show extra special, extra good for them.” So I performed a trick designed just for them. It’s a variation on the classic Fred deck that allowed me to leave them with the selected card and the rest of the deck. Cool souvenir, right?  It took about an added hour of preparation while watching Netflix.

Could I do my act without this? Sure. 

Would they still love the act? Modesty aside, sure. 

Would it make them as happy? No. Why? Forgive me, but as I get older I’m getting more sentimental, and I think people – and audiences are people –  like to be loved and appreciated. They may not realize it in the moment but later the audience will realize you went the extra step for them. 

And they’ll feel loved. Because you actually love them.

And as the man from Patmos wrote about 1,900 years ago, you loved them not only in word, but in deed. 

Everybody Loves Tchotchkes

I love it when I’m at an event and there’s a souvenir or gift for me. Value doesn’t matter much. I confess, I’m a sucker for this stuff. I’m not talking about a $120,000 Oscars swag bag, though I’m open to any readers who would like to send me one …seriously …$60K? $30K? No? Moving on …

A $1.20 expression of gratitude is still appreciated. Put some in your show.

Pack a magic souvenir or two, like a Svengali deck, in your show bag. They make a great gift for the post show chat when a spectator mentions, “I have a daughter who’s into magic.”

If you’re looking for a fun, pack small & play big family show routine to feature in your show that will make you look like a mensch giving away a Svengali deck, check out Rigging The Lottery in my book, The Show Is The Mother Of Invention.

Names Are Good Food

Introductions and names are the brick and mortar of party interactions. Shows, too.

Giving credit where credit is due, I first saw this pointed out in a magic lecture by Docc Hilford. When a spectator joins you on stage, instead of:

“Hi. What’s your name?”


“Hi. I’m (your name). What’s your name?”

This isn’t a small thing. Beyond the opportunity to repeat your name, it comes across as much more welcoming to spectators.

Give’em Some Custom Last Minute Funny

When a party host can satisfy a guest last minute wish (Oh, you don’t do dairy? No problem! We have two desserts and one is non-dairy.”) it’s always appreciated. Covering last minute situations on the fly huge bang-for-the-appreciation-buck.

This is ground I’ve covered before in this blog in a post called Put Your Ears On Before Showtime. It’s covers the importance of listening before a show for unexpected and impossible to play for comedy opportunities.

Have A Seat

Ever been to a party where there’s not near enough chairs? Ugh.

OK. I know I’m going against the popular grain here, but can we quit making spectator’s stand for several minutes at a time? Or at least open ourselves up to the option of having a chairs onstage where it might be best? See this post for chair stuff.

Maybe because I perform on ships with the accompanying age demographics, but I’m convinced chairs can be good stuff on stage.

What Else?

There’s a lot of “what else,” but this is a blog post, and only so much can be covered. The best part is that, unlike a painting that’s finished and done, for a show there’s always the next show where the guest experience can be improved.

Until next time,

Doc Dixon

PS: While you’re here, be my guest and check out the store:




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