Observant?
I’ll admit I’m not the smartest person in the world. There! I said it. But I do believe I’m pretty darn good at observing my surroundings and being a visual learner. I want to take this article and share a few things about entertaining that I’ve observed. Just random stuff, but I thought you might like it. Think of it as Dollar Store Advice. That’s about what it’s worth.

Tell Them What They Already Know and Just A Tad More
One of the principles of motivational speaking, as I have observed, is this: Motivational speakers tell us what we already know. Then we think, “I like that guy. He’s very smart.” We feel smart, because we heard something we already knew. We can use this principle to our advantage in school shows. Kids love to answer questions and solve puzzles. When we give them just enough questions they can already answer, it builds their confidence to listen for more. Then, we sneak in something new.

Give people too much new and they can’t handle it. This is true with adults more than children. A speaker with too much content confuses the listener to the point where they pick up less material. So my rule of thumb is to entertain them as my primary goal and give a little content. I’ve learned that a great speaker leaves the audience with ONE solid point to remember. Most people remember only one thing from a program anyway, so this works really well. This is why I try to have a repeated affirmation in my show. In my best shows it also matches the title of the show. For example my anti-bully show is named, “Heroes Help and Zeroes Hurt.” That’s simple and said over and over in the show.

In the past I used a lot of acronyms in the belief that it was a great memory key. In truth, it was just a memory key for me. Most people think it’s neat at the time, but forget it the next day; unless it’s a dang good one. I’ve only written ONE dang good one in my life, but I still think I’m the only one who remembers it. So I quit using acronyms as a teaching tool. I think it’s more of a “look at the smart speaker who wrote an acronym for his message, isn’t he smart” tool.

The reason all this came to mind recently is because I’ve been working on my 2014 library show. I’ve written several ideas for effects and learning opportunities. Frankly, I’ve written too much educational content for a children’s program. I shared the content with Tim Sonefelt to get his thoughts. He said, “Be careful about tying in TOO much content. I’ve had more comments that I had too much and none that I didn’t have enough from libraries in the summer. I’ve since put in very little actual content and focus in on tying in only/mostly books.“ Great advice. At least I thought of it as great advice because I already knew it. Sometimes reminding people of what they already know is just enough to inspire them.

Separate The Kids From the Adults
Once a week I do a show at a local timeshare resort. The resort sells tickets for my magic show at a good price and gives the guests an opportunity to have some fun without leaving the resort. I live in Pigeon Forge, TN, or as I like to call it, “Vacation Land.” During the summer, my audiences are a nice mix of families and children of all ages. My shows always have more of a “kid friendly” feel because I think of myself as a children’s entertainer more than a magician. In the fall, my audiences are almost always age 65 and up. When I first booked the gig, the buyer, who has never seen the show, explained about the different audiences and asked if I could change the show when the audience changed so it wasn’t so “kiddie.” Keep in mind she has never seen the show and I’ve been there a couple years. However, she hears rave reviews every week. I explained that was no problem because I have lots of material. I thought about it for 5.8 seconds and made no changes.

I didn’t change the show because I know how adults act. They act like children. Senior adults are much more fun than 30 year olds. That is, if your show is funny, and that’s what I do. I start every show with the “Happy” song and adults enjoy it just as much as kids. But there is a difference I noticed and I believe this will apply to your shows too. If everyone in the room is a senior adult and just ONE family with a single child is at the show; the reaction of the adults changes. They now view the show as entertainment for the child and their reactions are more guarded. It becomes all about appearing to be adults and letting the kid have fun. The same principle applies to teens when you have a school show for grades K-8 all in the same room. The 8th grade appears to not enjoy the show and think you’re silly. But if the show is for 8th grade only; they love you.

Admittedly, adults love seeing a kid on stage and it creates GREAT MOMENTS in the show. But without kids in the audience, the pressure is off them to be adults and they act like children themselves. I bet the same is true of your birthday party audiences. This is why the adults stand in the back of the room and appear to give you no respect.

Ok, I’m done. Thanks for reading. How you apply the above thoughts to your performances is up to you. But don’t you feel really smart right now because I told you what you already knew and just a tad more?

Thanks for taking a little of your time to read my thoughts. You can contact me at www.barrymitchell.com or barrymitchell@aol.com. My product site is www.barrymitchellproducts.com

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