What does magic have to do with public speaking? They are both about transformation.
Magic electrifies and transforms the perception of the audience. Powerful public speaking electrifies a room and transforms the audience’s perception and worldview. Done right, the spoken word can galvanize, inspire, empower, and move people to action.
A recent article in The New York Times Magazine introduced me to Juan Tamariz, a professional magician for half a century who is regarded as the greatest living close-up illusionist. That means that sitting at a small table with half a dozen people and two decks of cards, he can pull off some of the boldest routines in the business of magic.
At the age of 80, Tamariz is considered a living legend. While other magicians rely on stagecraft, mechanical contraptions, pyrotechnics, and spectacle witnessed at a distance, the Spanish master practices close-up demonstrations with ordinary objects in near-enough proximity for a conversation. He appears on stage and screen wearing a purple hat and little more than two packs of cards in his hands. He incorporates the participation of spectators and carefully engineers their attention with iconic wit and humor.
It wasn’t Tamariz’s sleight-of-hand wizardry that inspired me to write this post. It was his explanation of the “mystery” behind his magic that made my head spin.
The most revered magician in the world reveals what is behind the curtain of his magic in a short explanation he calls “The Seven Veils of Mystery.”
Instead of magic tricks, his methods are considered high art. His style is grounded in dense, philosophical study of human behavior and spirituality. Tamariz focuses on what will move people to experience something that seems impossible.
In many ways, great public speaking can mesmerize an audience and cast a magic spell, too. As you read the maestro’s seven principles, the parallels to good communication and speech-making are evident.
Mystery Number 1
Love. “If you don’t love your art, you cannot express yourself,” Tamariz says. “You cannot express something without love.” He says that loving your audience is the most important action of a performer. “To love the audience is everything.”
Mystery Number 2
Knowledge. “The more you know about history, science, and human behavior, the deeper your magic is for them,” Tamariz explains that authenticity is displayed when someone knows their subject inside and out. “People feel this and can smell it when you don’t have it.”
Mystery Number 3
Work. “The more you put into it, the stronger the audience reaction,” he says. The audience may not know why they are moved by surprise and delight, but somehow, they are transformed. The work, he says, is the gift that “remains in the emotions of the spectator.”
Mystery Number 4
Energy. This is the force field created between one person and another or between one person and thousands, he says. For him, this energy is not only physical but spiritual. “The important thing about energy is the passion, the emotion that it provokes in the audience.”
Mystery Number 5
Truth. “Magic is fiction that creates the illusion of being true.” The magician’s job, he says, is to guide the spectator to believe and see “what isn’t there.” In other words, to stretch the imagination and spread wonder and surprise.
Mystery Number 6
Spirituality. “The richer your interior world, the more people feel your magic,” he says. Without a deep spiritual core, “you can be a good entertainer, a good showman, but you won’t be a good artist.”
Mystery Number 7
Love. Repeated from Mystery Number 1 because, without love, nothing is possible. “Love for the audience is all seven mysteries combined.”
For Tamariz, a deck of cards is a medium to tell a story through illusion, imagination, and child-like amazement. The art of speaking effectively is about storytelling and expanding ideas and perceptions, too.
As you prepare to speak to a few, to hundreds, or to thousands, think about how you can demonstrate your love, knowledge, authenticity, energy, and commitment to your ideas. Add magic to your public speaking, and you will change the way people see the world.
You can see Juan Tamariz perform his version of the classic “Oil and Water” card routine in this video.
With spectators sitting directly beside him, he mixes red and black cards in some of the most audacious moves you will see in a close-up magic performance.