Street hypnosis is a hot topic! And why shouldn’t it be? When you can cause a total stranger to forget his name, hallucinate grey aliens, or hand you his wallet (always give it back!), it’s the closest thing to real magic. No props are required, no decks of cards or linking rings needed, just your hypnotic skills, a willing volunteer, and a live audience. That being said, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically increase your success rate and the quality of your performance.
Here’s my Top 10 List, and they all start with the letter S.
1. Safety First! No matter how brilliant your skill sets, nothing is more important than the safety of your subjects and audience members. Be careful of traffic, stairwells, stuff on the ground that can be tripped over, and all other potential hazards. Make sure you can safely control the volunteers, and the environment.
2. Subject Selection – Your choice of your initial subject will set the tone for what follows; either an awesome street show, or abject failure and mucho social embarrassment. Be wary of those who volunteer just to screw you up. It happens…Work with those who seem friendly and interested, not the overly-eager and boisterous.
3. Sobriety – On a similar note, avoid those who are obviously stoned or drunk. The compliance you gain through the lack of inhibition that alcohol brings, is more than offset by a concomitant reduction in concentration. Volunteers who brag that they’ve just been sniffing angel dust will not make the most stable subjects.
4. Self – Of all the people in the world, you’re best at being you! Be yourself, only more so. Be your best, most confident self. Don’t do your best impression of Ormond McGill, Martin St. James or Justin Tranz. Avoid all silly affectations of voice and mannerism. Be yourself.
5. Sanity – Don’t work with obvious crazies. There are enough great people out there that you don’t need to work with unstable people who collapse into laughing hysterics or decide it will be attention-getting to run into traffic. When in doubt, pick someone else. It’s supposed to be entertainment, not therapy.
6. Smile – If you’re friendly to your volunteers, establishing eye-contact and smiling, you’ll get a great result and quickly draw a crowd. Smile at the crowd too, speaking to your audience, not at them. Smiling is a way of avoiding that all too common, and most lethal of all hypnotic practices – taking yourself too seriously. (Look at the average stage hypnotist’s promo shot and you’ll understand…)
7. Several – Have a wide variety of routines you can go into. Keep it interesting. Roller coasters, gerbils in pants, UFOs, etc. Having subjects dance the twist, then dance ballet, then tap dance, then dirty dance, then ballroom dance, then Riverdance (as seen in the act of one famous Australian hypnotist) displays a rampant lack of creativity, and is boring.
8. Spontaneous – Try something different. Refuse to be bound by your usual material. Be alert for opportunity, when you can bypass that tired routine you always do, and come up with something new and original. Some of my best routines, came from chance events that happened during my show. Take some creative risks and see what happens. Be that one hypnotist who refuses to perform the same worn-out material that everybody else does.
9. Stop! – Know when to call it a day. There is a real tendency to go way too long, whether you’re performing mentalism, juggling, comedy, or street hypnosis. The point is to leave the audience wanting more, not losing interest in the middle of your act. I once saw a stage hypnotist in the US college circuit do a 4 hour show. That’s narcissism and endurance, not entertainment. Know when you’re done, and then STOP.
10. Speed – In the street, you are essentially dealing with a moving audience. You have to grab their attention immediately and get someone responding as quickly as possible. Progressive relaxation inductions will do much to ensure that the only person watching your show will be you. Learn some ultra-fast power inductions that zone your subjects through the floor in record time.