There is a theory often discussed by magicians called the "too perfect theory". This concept was first popularised by RIck Johnsson in the magazine Hierophant in 1970. The basic idea is that a trick might be so good that it makes audience members feel inadequate as human beings and therefore they will be unwilling to accept being fooled by the magician. As a result of this, they will settle on an explanation, either correct or incorrect, regardless of how absurd. This is obviously something that happens much more often with children than adults. For example, I do a trick where a coin seems to fall upwards from one hand into another, apparently defying gravity. Very often, I'll have kids say that I have magnet under my skin, which is perhaps not impossible, but would have required much more effort and dedication than I am willing to put into any of my tricks. Another example was when I was working at a restaurant once, I guy insisted that I had marked his card by bending it. There was a slightly bent card in the pack, it wasn't his and it hadn't been bent by me, but despite me explaining this, he refused to believe me.
From my personal experiences of performing I've found the 'too perfect' theory to be silly. Certainly, I will occasionally get spectators who will refuse to admit that they have been deceived but this tends not to have much to do with the quality of the tricks I'm doing, but rather the character or mood of the spectator.
Just imagine if I took your hand and then you could visibly see me fade away like a ghost, right in front of you, while you touch me. Obviously the trick I just described is currently not possible, but imagine if it were. How would you react? Would you just be jealous of me? Or would you be blown away because you've just witnessed the most incredible magic trick anybody has ever seen.
As magicians, I believe it is obviously our job to do our best to give our spectators a good time. To do this it is of course very important that we fool them. However, we must acknowledge that usually, being deceived, is a negative shameful thing and that our spectators are right to have their guard up. We have knowledge and expertise that our audiences lack and this gives us power, power we must be careful not to abuse. For our spectators to enjoy our performance you need them to submit to being fooled, and for this to occur they must trust you and feel that you have their best interests at heart. There are a number of ways you can achieve this. The most obvious one is to play a clown. Performers like Lennart Green, Dani Daortiz and Juan Tamariz deliberately act sloppy and clumsy to put their audiences at ease, showing them that the performer is not superior to them, whilst still deceiving them very badly. Another way is to have the spectators perform the tricks themselves, for example, there are many self working tricks that only require the performer to describe a series of actions to the participant. They will be amazed but can only give themselves credit. A final means, if you are too dignified for clownery, or it just doesn't suite your style, simply be honest and open about the fact that magicians usually guard an empty safe.
On the other hand, you don't want your audience to just let you fool them. If they are just being nice to you, they are not fully enjoying the experience, they will only pretend to for the sake of not hurting your feelings. You must therefore find a careful balance, you must challenge them to try to catch you without appearing conceited. If they do not believe that they have eliminated every possible explanation for the illusions they have witnessed, then their experience will be diminished, they will not feel astonishment. Magicians must anticipate how their audiences will attempt to explain what they have seen. Sometimes we can just make an educated guess, but sometimes you can only find out from experience. You simply need to perform magic and then ask people how they thought you did it. We need to be careful of fooling ourselves, like the countless vaudeville sleight of hand artists who thought that their hand washing and direct hand aquitments were deceptive. If your spectators think you forced a card, you need to find a better force. If they think you ditched a coin in your sleeve, you need to pull back your sleeves. If they think you deck as stacked and therefore want to shuffle it, you need to let them (even if it is stacked).
I hope you can find some useful advice in this rambling blog post.
Julian is a magician in Sydney helping you make the most of your special events. He has performed many hundreds of magic shows over the last 11 years. Call him on 0437896344 or email email@example.com