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“If I only knew then” Mentalists Part 2

knew thenPart 2

This time – Ken Weber, Chris Carter & Max Maven ponder the question …

“If you were starting your performing career over again, what is the one thing you would do differently this time round?”

(Click Here for Part 1)



Ken Weber

My answer is short and sweet…

I would be more generous with Thank You notes (yes, even emails), follow up calls, and the occasional gift for those folks who helped me in some way. I’m not talking about magic/mentalism mentors (although it is always good to be nice to them too!) but instead, those people who booked me at a college or corporate event, who perhaps helped my with a problem at the venue, or who were nice enough to share nice comments with others.

Yes, I did plenty of that, but it could have been, and should have been, more. To do so is good for business – and it just feels good too!


Christopher Carter


It’s impossible to look back on your life without seeing a few choices that you wish you had made much sooner. For me, two are most significant. The first was the decision to never use a stock line or joke again.

I would imagine that most of us have at one time or another asked to see “the clean hand,” or joked about the way someone shuffled the invisible deck. How many of us have asked a volunteer if he’s “happy with the mind he has?” Surely each of us has had some occasion to drop in a standard “bit.”

When you’re young, your reasoning is simple and logical. What each of these stock lines has in common is that it’s generally successful. Building an act is difficult, and failure onstage means you don’t get repeat bookings. Why not go with the tried and true?

Why not? Simple! Every stock line is a missed opportunity to authentically connect with the audience. If you use stock lines, the audience may like your show, they may like your material, but they’ll never like you. How can they? You’re not even there to start with.

This discovery didn’t come in single moment. Rather, came from a growing dissatisfaction with my shows, and the vague feeling that I wished I could share more of myself with my audiences. This feeling reached an intensity that I could no longer ignore. But it wasn’t until I made the decision to use only my own lines and jokes that I really discovered who I was onstage.

The second choice I wish I had made earlier was the decision to always eat with the client at a corporate banquet show. I don’t know where I picked it up, but it seemed to be common advice during my youth to never eat with the client before the show. The idea was that eating with them humanized the performer and he lost his mystique in the eyes of the client. Since I was a mentalist, this made sense to me. After all, didn’t I want to be perceived as a “man of mystery?”

One day I was listening to a radio interview of a woman who was an expert on relationships, and she mentioned how, in most cultures, relationships are cemented around food. Unlike my previous choice, this really was a “lightbulb above the head” moment. I realized immediately that when a client asked if I would join them for dinner before a show, the answer they wanted to hear was, “yes.” They wanted to develop a relationship with me, and if I cared at all about my career, I should want to develop a relationship with them.

Since that time, not only do I always eat with the client, I specify exactly where I want to be seated: next to the boss or other important decision maker. I have my store of funny stories and answers to questions they always ask, and I bring these out when needed. But mostly I listen. I ask about their kids and their hobbies, because I actually like these people and I want to get to know them better. Of course I also ask about their business. And when they describe some need that I can fill, I happen to casually mention how I might be able to fill it. This process has been responsible for easily 50 percent of my corporate bookings. It’s also been responsible for some long friendships.

These days whenever I hear someone say, “I never eat with them before a show,” I find myself mentally responding with, “then you don’t really want to work.”



Max Maven
Hi, Timothy.

I have put a lot of thought into considering your question.

It’s a difficult topic. I have made more than my share of mistakes during the four decades of my professional career, so obviously there are choices that, had I known more in advance, I would have made differently. But, that said, making mistakes is part of the learning experience, and in retrospect I think those bad choices were a necessary part of my overall development and growth as a performer.

So, although it would have been nice to avoid some foolish errors, I think that most of them were absolutely necessary.


Max Maven



1 comment

Valentine Magic

Be my ValentineValentine Magic


So Valentines Day has come and gone again.

I’m not concerned with how many cards you got, but did you take the opportunity to leverage the day into additional work? Or just a moment to strengthen a business relationship?

I know it’s too late now to do anything now but there’s always next year and it should serve as a template for other special days.

Fathers day, Mothers Day , Easter  etc


Send Cards!

Make your own or buy them in bulk.

A Magic Valentines Day mailout can be very effective.

Past Clients, Conference Organisers, Agents and Bureaux.

A nice card with nice words can work wonders.

“Love to … work with you again soon” etc.

Close Up workers can find a quick phone around to clubs restaurants etc can often result in both extra Lunch Time and Evening bookings on the big day.

So look in your diary now and plan a mini campaign for the next one, whatever it is.




knew thenOver 10 years ago I asked a group of prominent magicians the question “If you only knew then what you know now.” I was thrilled with the responses and it became one of the most well read articles ever on www.MagicCoach.com . (Read the original here)

Recently, I decided to do the exercise again and this time fired the question to some of the most respected and busiest mentalists on the planet. What I found interesting was their different approaches to the question, some looking at the big picture, some, the important “little secrets.”

What was also significantly different this time around, was that I knew all of these performers at a much different level. I had met them all previously, had shared meals with several over the years, some had even been to my house here in the Blue Mountains and with two I had spent a memorable night at the baseball. This lead to much fuller or revealing answers than the last time I did the exercise and I really appreciate their insights.

As Jon Stetson remarked “ I hope this helps someone down the road.”

Big thanks to -

Max Maven – Legendary performer, creator & writer
Craig Karges – Thousands of performances around the world on TV and at Colleges, Corporate Events and Performing Arts Centres.
Marc Salem – Star of TV and his own theatre shows around the world
Ken Weber – Veteran College performer & author of the must read book “Maximum Entertainment”
Chris Carter – A legend in the College market and at Corporate events
Jon Stetson – Consumate performer & creator of the unique ” Stetson Experience”


Marc Salem

salem# … the role of practice, in any venue, at any price
# … appearance and grooming are a real turn on  …  shine those shoes
# … the latest trick that will make you famous does not exist
# … build your act to climax, gradually reveal your abilities
# … Post show is more important than preshow, get out there and be a nice guy, but perform nothing, your show is over
# … know you effects well , and their history , this keeps the inventors eyes on you
# … make the love of your art bring joy to your face, the audience will see it


Craig Karges
kargesSome background. I’m a 56-year-old full time mentalist/mystery entertainer. I began performing magic at 12, mentalism at 16 and turned professional at 22 when I graduated from college with a degree in broadcast speech and journalism. So it’s been 34 years of running around the world (5000 appearances in 22 countries on four continents as well as in all 50 United States). My primary markets have been corporate and college followed by some casino, theatre and special event work. I’ve made over 40 national TV appearances in the US, starred in two, syndicated, one-hour television specials and authored three books for the general public. So that’s who I am in a nutshell.

I honestly don’t know that I would have done anything much different. I can look back at choices I made and question them. For example, I went to college so I would have a “fall back” plan. Turns out, I didn’t need it. But I’m very thankful for my college education. I learned things that I apply in my business still today. I paid my way through college by performing and those extra four years of experience were invaluable. I matured and I got much better so that when I graduated I was better prepared to hit the road. By finishing school, I also had the answer to the other question I might have been asking myself — “What if I didn’t turn pro out of high school and went to college first?” I think my life might have been very different had I chose that life path and I don’t think in a good way. But who knows?

Corporate versus college work is another area where I can look at my choices and wonder. In the 80s I marketed to both — I marketed to anyone and everyone! My fees in the late 80s were similar for college shows and corporate events (with the big difference being that the corporate clients paid all travel and the college dates were pretty much all inclusive except for hotel). Then the college dates took over my calendar and there were very few openings to take corporate bookings. I was averaging about 175 one-nighters a year, mostly on college campuses. In the 90s the corporate market exploded and fees shot up. I missed the start of that parade! But by the mid to late 90s I was back into the corporate market pretty heavily and eventually, early 2000s maybe, I was doing more corporate than college work. So, should I have consciously cut back on my college shows? Should I still be doing them now when they pay less than half as much as corporate appearances? I don’t know. But I’m glad I didn’t abandon the college market as it got me through 9/11 when the corporate market just shut down and meetings were canceling left and right and it helped get me through the recent (current?) recession. Plus I enjoy the work — it gives the calendar a different dimension and in many ways it keeps me young!

Personal management is another area I could question. I never wanted to be famous. I just wanted to earn a good living doing what I love to do. However, in the mid-90s, I signed with a personal manager who believed he could turn me into, if not a celebrity, a media personality. I stayed with him for, I think, ten and a half years and paid him over half a million dollars during that time. I eventually terminated our contract when, to me at least, it appeared that we had done all we could for each other. I probably should have walked a year or two before I did but I have no regrets about the relationship or the money paid. My manager opened a lot of doors for me and he created contacts that are still very important to my career today. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have been on The Tonight Show or had my first book published by a mainstream publishing house. So, overall, no regrets.

I may however have a future regret if you revisit me in 5 years. That’s social media. I don’t use it at all. I know, it’s shocking! If I ever get heavily involved in it and discover what I’ve been missing all these years I might say, “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Jon Stetson


One thing? That’s a tough one, there are so many.

One thing that stands out in my mind. That would be my being somewhat reluctant to step out of my comfort zone and take greater risks. Having more faith in my own abilities. I didn’t get to that point until I was 40!

That along with not getting a college education. Particularly not learning enough about how to properly run a business and manage money. All in all, I’ve done well. However all I’ve learned has come at a cost.

Hope this helps someone down the road.

Next Issue – The answers from  …  Ken Weber, Chris Carter, Max Maven.

Part 2 is now Online.



A Giveaway that Makes you Money!

giveaway                   A GIVEAWAY THAT MAKES YOU MONEY!!


I spotted this idea in another performers emailed newsletter and asked the writer, BJ Hickman, to elaborate further and if I could share the idea with you.

BJ produces a giveaway.

But it’s probably the most complex giveaway I’ve seen for a while.

Complex in it’s size, amount of work that it would take to put it together and complex in what it achieves for him.

It positions him as an expert. It positions him as a celebrity

It gets his contact details out into the homes of his market audience. And it makes money. It more than pays for itself.

It generates profit for itself and creates more performances.

Interested?  I bet you are.

BJ Hickman produces a Magic Newspaper.

It’s described as “Magic, Fun and games Newspaper” includes magic tricks, puzzles, games, jokes, parent pages and information on becoming a magician”

16 pages of stuff.

Who’s not going to take it home after a show to try out the tricks? The parents read information that is useful (safety tips, Library Info, resources on Magic) and see photos of BJ – “at the Magic Castle, doing his “speaking presentation” etc. It positions him exactly how he wants.

But printing 12,000 copies isn’t cheap. To cover this cost, and to make money, he sells advertising space throughout the paper. And at a fairly good rate. A full page inside for example is $900.

The advertisers know exactly where these papers are going and who’s going to read them. There are adverts from – Pet Supplies, Party Supplies, Toy Shops etc. Auto Repairs, Garden Shops, Restaurants etc.

BJ of course advertises his own work, collects feedback and builds a maillist.


I’m not going to elaborate any further on this. Think about how it works and what it achieves. It’s a great idea.


Are you a Publicity Hound Part 2

Publicity for Magician                          Are you a Publicity Hound?

                                                            Guest Post by Tom Antion


Does this sound like you?

You can’t understand why the reporter at your local newspaper has quoted your competitor in five separate stories but hasn’t called you once.

You send out more than two dozen news releases every year , but they result in little more than a few lines of type.

If your attempts at media coverage have fallen flat, quit grumbling and start taking a proactive approach to free publicity by identifying interesting, compelling story ideas the media need. Yes, NEED. Newspapers, magazines and trade publications have hundreds of thousands of column inches to fill. TV and radio stations have hundreds of hours of news and community interest programs they must broadcast. The number of media outlets is greater than ever, and competition is fierce for advertising dollars, viewers and subscribers. The secret to savvy media relations is knowing exactly what they want, then giving it to them.

Here are tickler questions designed to help you identify the best story ideas within your company or organization:


Are you sponsoring an event such as classes, an open house, a free demonstration, or a fun event? Don’t just send a news release. Think of something visual that ties into the event. Then call your local TV station and ask if they are interested in doing a story a day or two before. Coverage before the event helps spark interest and boost attendance.


How are you using technology in interesting or unique ways? Have you found a way to draw lots of traffic to your web site—with resulting bookings? Are you using the latest technology during your engagements? Is your sales force using technology to stay in touch with existing customers and seek out new ones?


Does the type of clothing you wear, the home you live in, your hobbies, your relationships with your family, the food you eat, and where you travel on vacation say something unusual about you? These stories are ideal for lifestyle sections, food pages, travel pages and special interest magazines. Even though the articles are not necessarily business-related, the reporter most likely will ask you what you do for a living, and that’s a chance to plug your company or organization, particularly if it ties into the reason they are writing. (Example: You perform internationally and have an extensive collection of wine you have bought during your travels. This would be a GREAT story for food page editors, and it would publicize the fact that you are a professional entertainer.)


Has your organization formed an interesting alliance or partnership with another business or non-profit? Call the business reporter and share the information. Be willing to explain the results you expect to see from such an arrangement. And be sure your partner is also willing to speak with a reporter.


What are the three biggest business problems you are facing? Find out the name of the reporters who cover your industry. Then share the information with them. Who knows? Someone might read your story and call you with a solution you might not otherwise have known about.


What are the biggest you have made, and how would you advise other people from not making the same ones? Don’t be embarrassed. Everyone makes mistakes. And if you’re willing to discuss yours, there’s a good chance the media will be willing to write about you.


Have you thought about sponsoring a clever contest? To celebrate its 100th anniversary, OshKosh B’Gosh launched a six-month nationwide search for the oldest pair of bib overalls. Thrifty Rent-a-Car sponsors an annual Honeymoon Disasters Contest. Entries result in amusing feature stories printed in major newspapers and magazines throughout the country. For additional publicity mileage, the company announces results near Valentine’s Day, giving the media a perfect story that piggybacks on a holiday.


The fact that your company is celebrating an anniversary or birthday isn’t news. But it would be more enticing to the media if you could tie it in to a clever event. A button manufacturer published a lavish photo history of the button—including its uses—on shoes, clothing, furniture and accessories. An accounting firm celebrated its centennial by publishing a giveaway book of commissioned original renditions of what select artists thought it meant to be 100. A national rental car company rented out its fleet of cars for free one day.


Can you write a tip sheet that explains how to solve a particular problem, or how to do something? It includes helpful free advice. Topics sound like this: 11 Ways to Snag More Business from Your Web site, The 7 Secrets of Profitable Self-Promotion, 9 Ways to Save Money on Insurance Premiums. Each tip sheet should have a short introduction of a sentence or two. At the end, print a paragraph that states the name of the author, the author’s credentials, and contact information such as phone number, e-mail address and web site URL. Think of the Number One problem your customers are facing, and offer tips on how to solve it.