So you’ve booked a magician, mentalist, illusionist or other magical entertainment for your event – congratulations! You can look forward to a captivating and fun performance, and your guests are sure to have a memorable experience.

But can you make certain that you get ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to producing the best show experience possible, within the constraints of your event?

First, let’s consider the style of performance that your magical entertainer may be providing: are you planning for an interactive and informal performance, that happens from group to group (called “close-up magic”, “strolling magic” or “mix-n-mingle magic”)? Or are you planning for a performance for the entire audience at once (called a “stand-up show”, “stage show” or “parlour magic”)?

If it’s the former – close-up magic – then you need to provide very little. Typically your entertainer will carry the props he requires in his pocket, and since he’ll perform for small groups at a time, you won’t need to provide a microphone or a stage. The flexibility and interactivity of close-up magic means that it’s perfect for events like cocktail parties, pre-dinner drinks entertainment or wedding receptions. You ‘let the performer loose’ and he’ll happily perform around the room, to shrieks of laughter and gasps of amazement.

Marcel Oudejans performing a interactive close-up magic show

Marcel Oudejans performing a interactive close-up magic show

However, if you have booked a stage performance, there are 2 important factors to consider: everybody needs to be able to see and hear the performer. This may seem obvious, but in my personal experience of performing at corporate events and conferences for over 15 years, it’s often the last thing event planners consider and I’m often required to make last minute changes to the stage and sound so that the audience gets the best possible entertainment experience.

Marcel Oudejans performing a Stand-Up Comedy Magic show

Marcel Oudejans performing a Stand-Up Comedy Magic show

Remember: magic is a visual art form. If the audience can’t see what’s happening, it can be very frustrating and confusing, and there’s a chance they may get bored. You want to avoid that at all costs! Boredom is a performer’s – and an event planner’s – worst nightmare.

“Boredom is a performer’s – and an event planner’s – worst nightmare.” – Marcel Oudejans

The easiest way to ensure that you get maximum entertainment from your magical entertainer on the stage is to request and follow the performer’s Technical Rider.  This document will always give you expert advice, based on the performer’s experience.

But even if you didn’t receive a Technical Rider, here is what you will need to consider:

Can the performer be seen?

  • Ensure that every seat can see the stage, particularly at the back of the room.
    • Because you’ll need to consider the ‘sight line’ to the performer, make sure you actually sit down in the back seat to ensure you can see the stage.
    • Table decór, while beautiful, can very often block the view to the stage. If you are planning to have a table centrepiece, make sure that it is low enough! (Even if you’re not planning a show – large centrepieces will seriously hinder a conversation across the table)
    • It would be a good idea to consider a raised stage or platform if you have more than 30 guests.
  • Make sure that there will be sufficient light shining on the performer to create a focal point. A room that is well lit but dark where the stage is situated makes it very difficult for the performer to be seen.
  • There should be no visual distractions behind the performer, like a window or video screen, because this makes it difficult for the audience to see what the performer is doing, and may cause the audience to wonder what is going on behind the performer. It’s a good idea to put draping up behind the stage to block distractions.
  • Because magical entertainment features audience member participation, you want to make sure that the stage is big enough to have several people on stage at the same time. (This may also require that any lectern be removed before the show starts)
Marcel Oudejans performing at Cape Town Magic Club's 'Monday Night Magic'

Marcel Oudejans performing at Cape Town Magic Club’s ‘Monday Night Magic’. Photo credit: Andrew Goreman

Does the room layout make it easy to see the performer?

  • You don’t want the audience too far or too close:
    • Too far, and they can’t see the show (and will get bored),
    • Too close, and the illusions are ruined and the audience is disappointed.
    • Personally, I don’t want the front row to be further than 5 metres from the front of the stage.
  • You also don’t want the audience behind the front edge of the stage, where they see the performance ‘side on’; magic is best enjoyed ‘front on’. Think of it like this: if the event venue is rectangular, you want the stage on the ‘short side’ rather than the ‘long side’.
  • If you have planned to include a dance floor, it is best that the dance floor is placed at the back of the room. I know this isn’t always ideal, but performances that happen ‘over’ a large dance floor make it extremely difficult for the performer to connect with the audience.
  • The best shows happen when the audience is close to the stage!
  • If you have a large audience (over 100 people, particularly if they are seated at large tables), it is highly recommended that you book an AV provider to broadcast a ‘live video feed’ that will be projected or displayed on large screens, easily seen by the back of the room. This may add an additional cost to the event; however, experience has shown me that this will prevent the audience at the back of the room from getting bored.

Making sure your performer is heard

  • Unless the performer you have booked is performing entirely to music, you want to make sure that your performer’s voice can be heard clearly throughout the room. Since magical entertainers use their hands to perform, it is recommended that a wireless headset microphone is provided. If this is not possible, you can provide a wireless handheld microphone on a microphone stand. However, a microphone on a stand severely limits the range and style of most performers, and so this is definitely a second choice.
  • Since wireless microphones are known to fail (for numerous technical reasons), you should ensure that a wired/corded microphone on a microphone stand is available (and working). Not only is this a useful backup if the performer’s own microphone fails, this microphone can also be used to ensure the audience can hear any responses that on-stage volunteers may give.
  • It’s important that the AV technician can see the performer! If the technician can’t see the performer, it’s difficult for the performer to visually communicate with the technician.

Ultimately, it’s important to think strategically about how your magical entertainer contributes value to your event, so you want to work with a performer who understands these possible hurdles. While this list certainly doesn’t provide possible solutions in all cases, I hope that a professional entertainer’s perspective has given you value.