Seminar Leader Larry A. Smith gives us a full bag of tricks that do more than make an instructor's presentation interesting and fun. He provides "business corollaries" to the fundamental principles of magic and leads the reader into lessons on effective management. He suggests that magic and management are mirror opposites. His tutorial here is a complete beginner's guide to the art and creativity of magic, and we include his complete guidelines, with their business applications.

Larry Smith defines two basic principles of magic: "(1) Do not tell anyone the purpose of the magic trick. Let them assume; and they probably will assume incorrectly. You want them to concentrate on their incorrect assumptions because if there are any devious moves that you are planning they will not notice. (2) The second principle underlying almost all magic tricks is misdirection , which is the act of drawing or controlling the audience's attention to one location or thought while the magician performs an unobserved manipulation. Many different techniques are used to control the audience. The magician can look in the direction of his right hand while doing something discretely with his left hand. All eyes will migrate to the right hand and not notice the left hand if the ruse is done naturally. Another technique is the use of a confident flow of chatter from the magician, known as ˜patter. Patter may take the form of a story, or it may simply be the magician selectively narrating the actions he wants the audience to observe and hiding the actions that he does not want to be seen. Either way, it directs the attention of the audience wherever the magician wishes".

This said, Larry encourages the reader to think about magic and management, and how magic can teach effective management concepts. He says, "Just think of what you do at work. You interact with people, negotiate, communicate, attend meetings, manage projects, etc. The two basic principles of magic are detrimental to your work in the business environment. Actually, the corollaries of the principles of magic are the requirements for effective management. Magic and management are mirror opposites". His two corollaries are:

E ffective B usiness C orollary of M agic P rinciple 1: Tell and inform everyone of the purpose of the meeting, project, or negotiation. The more everyone knows about the objectives and purpose, the more effective everyone will be. And,

E ffective B usiness C orollary of M agic P rinciple 2: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep everyone informed and apprised of the current situation and progress towards goals.


  • Creativity

  • Risk, Probability

  • Decision making

  • Quantitative tools

  • Team building

  • Control

  • Communications

  • Leadership, Management


Magic can add levity to the situation and introduce difficult concepts, particularly through the use of dice, cards, or coins . Magic is fun; everyone enjoys it. It can help break up monotony , control the pace of presentation, and moderate concentration. It can provide a safe space for expressing personal opinions and foster development of creative and original thinking leading to favorable team environments. Magic is effective as an ice breaker and can be introduced to lighten an otherwise tense or tedious learning environment. It helps trainees remember results of the presentation and the contents of the presentation. In project management seminars , this includes the need to estimate, make decisions, set goals, analyze risks, estimate probabilities, design simulations, and so on. Magic is a creative discipline and can lead to development of creative and original thinking. Magic satisfies all curiosities.

Trainees have offered these comments about the benefits of using magic in a seminar:

  • "Interesting stories and engaging 'magic tricks' kept a potentially boring subject interesting".

  • "The way he presents the material with magical stories combined with his knowledge and experience make this a very enjoyable class".

  • "He made the class fun, interesting, and informative. Great course! We also loved the magic tricks".

  • "Enjoyable and full of information that could trigger many changes in the way we handle projects in the future".

  • "A valuable result is in getting everyone concerned on the same page with regard to project management and document preparation".

  • "Give me more!"


  • To promote understanding of seminar content

  • To emphasize seminar subject matter

  • To engage in realization that magic and management are mirror opposites

  • To enhance recall of seminar concepts


Simple props such as decks of cards, coins, newspapers, scissors, dice

An apple or other piece of fruit

A 5 — 7 ² ² brown envelope

A paper bag

See each of the five tricks for specific materials.


Nothing special


Minutes for each magic trick; time as needed for debrief


Before discussing procedures for specific magic tricks, we will elaborate a bit more on reasons to include magic in a presentation and suggest how a seminar leader benefits from "magical" presentations:

  • Magic teaches presentation skills. It helps with delivery, speed of presentation, emphasis, and so on. It is well recognized in the magic community that many shy people developed confidence in their presentation skills with the help of magic.

  • Magic forces you to know your audience more intimately. You have to try to determine the personalities and knowledge base of those in attendance who could be potential assistants. For example, the people who do not know the suits in a deck of cards would not be a good magician's assistant for card tricks.

  • Magic can be used to emphasize or enhance a point. For example, you may want to mess up a simple magic trick on purpose to show what happens when you communicate a complex concept poorly, and it is not understood .

  • Magic can be used to get everyone back from a break or from lunch . Many trainees will not want to miss a trick and will return on time.

  • Magic can be used to build teams . Team building is a technique that requires safe space, and magic provides that forum and outlet.

  • Magic tricks can be used to encourage trainees to identify and apply similar principles in their own business environments.

  • Using magic in management seminars will get you noticed and remembered !

We also give you some background essentials as you embark on your seminar career as a magician.

Why use magic in seminars?

  1. Many tricks are easy to do.

  2. Many are easy to learn.

  3. Many can be taught to the group as a creative exercise.

  4. Recall is greater with the emphasis of magic. One issue of the success of a presentation or seminar determined by participants ' recall of the material months later. Magic helps recall the important components of the seminar.

  5. Many tricks require very little practice.

  6. Many require few props.

  7. The list of magic tricks is infinite, and you can constantly update your repertoire of tricks.

  8. It can be customized to suit the instructor's personality.

  9. Most magic tricks can be modified to accommodate the subject matter.

  10. It's fun. Because they are fun to present, magic can increase the instructor's level of enthusiasm .

  11. It's entertaining, and it helps maintain interest in the subject matter.

  12. It's inexpensive. Many magic tricks can be done with everyday objects that can be found around the house, coins, cards, paper, pencils, and so on.

Where to learn magic

  1. On the Web. In recent years , there have been hundreds of Web sites devoted to magic. Many are vendors marketing their products or are private clubs requiring membership. But, there are many free magic tricks described on these Web sites.

  2. From books. Buy or borrow books. The large bookstores carry a large variety of magic books in the puzzles and game sections. Or, you can borrow magic books from your local library.

  3. From magic stores. The number of magic stores opened in the last 10 years has grown. The salespeople, who are magicians, love entertaining. Tell them what you are doing, what you need it for, and how much you want to spend . They will suggest appropriate magic tricks.

  4. Attending magic shows. You can learn a lot about magic presentations by watching other magicians.

  5. From videos . There are many magic videos available at magic stores and on the Web.

Appropriate categories of magic tricks for seminars

There are many categories of magic that are not really appropriate for business presentations and seminars. These include x-rated magic, big stage magic, such as the magic that David Copperfield performs, children's magic (although there are children's tricks that can be modified to accommodate the situation), magic with animals, and so on. The most appropriate fall into the following categories. Experiment to see which provides you with the greatest comfort level.

  1. Card magic

  2. Coin magic and paper money magic

  3. Paper magic

  4. Rope magic

  5. Magic with dice

  6. Magic with ordinary objects, such as pencils, erasers , markers, drinking glasses , and so on.

  7. Comedy magic

  8. Mathematical magic

  9. Mentalism or mind reading

When performing magic

There are several suggestions that help with the success of a magic presentation ”or any presentation for that matter.

  1. Be natural ”BE YOURSELF!

  2. Be understandable ”some tricks require detailed explanation and require that the assistant understand what you want done. Even simple math can be added or subtracted incorrectly by an assistant who is not comfortable.

  3. Be comfortable, be relaxed .

  4. Don't rush the presentation.

  5. Be confident; this comes with practice.

  6. Be convincing; develop a story line and patter with each trick.

  7. Be selective. Think about whom you may need to help you in advance of doing the trick. If you are doing a card trick, make sure the volunteer knows all the suits in the deck and the picture cards.

  8. Be fair. Ask for help, but do not force anyone to help you. You may make them uncomfortable, and everyone will feel their pain.

  9. If you plan to make fun of anyone, make fun of yourself.

When doing a magic trick do not try to

  1. Be the next David Copperfield.

  2. Be a comedian. Just do what is comfortable for you.

  3. Be another Don Rickles; do not embarrass people.

  4. Force the issue.

  5. Pretend that you have magical powers.

Learn the language

If you want to impress the audience that you really know what you are doing, learn the basic vocabulary of magic. Learn about the basic props. A basic list of words may include:

  1. Legerdemain, prestidigitation, clairvoyance

  2. Mentalism

  3. Palming

  4. Misdirection

  5. Learn about the history of cards, money, paper. There is a lot of information on the Web

Characteristics of the magic tricks

There are issues and characteristics to think about when selecting a magic trick to use.

  1. Ease of use. There are magic tricks that can be used immediately and require little or no practice. On the other hand, other magic tricks require a significant amount of practice time. Consider how much time you are willing to practice.

  2. Consider the environment.

    1. Lighting: Some magic tricks require subdued lighting

    2. Sizes of group: Some magic tricks are designed to be shown to one person or a small group of people. If you are presenting to a larger audience, close-up magic is probably not appropriate. The corollary is also true. If a trick is designed to be presented to a large group sitting far away then it would not be effective for a small up-close group of people.

    3. Angles: There are tricks that cannot be presented in the round. If you have people surrounding you and you plan to do something behind your back, then they will see what you are doing.

  3. Cost of the magic trick. Magic tricks purchased at magic stores can vary in price from dollars to hundreds of dollars. Decide on a price range.

  4. Size, weight, and transportation. Consider the size of the trick. There are many tricks that require a significant amount of space in a suitcase or briefcase or are heavy to lift. Consider tricks that "pack small and show large".

  5. Set up/planning. Some magic requires set up and planning before presentation. Others can be done spontaneously. Both are effective, but it helps to have both in your bag of tricks. When someone says, "Show me a magic trick", it is the spontaneous tricks that are appropriate for this circumstance.

  6. Equipment. How many additional props do you need to complement the trick?

  7. Consider the persons or persons you will need to help you. Some very complex mathematical tricks may require a PhD in mathematics to do the calculations. Even the finest mathematician will mess it up in the heat of the moment.

  8. Consider the length of the trick. Most magic tricks with simple props and simple story lines can be presented in minutes. Consider the benefits of showing the trick and the investment of time to present the trick. If the effect is minimal for a large consumption of class time, DO NOT DO IT!

  9. Complexity or simplicity of the trick. Simple to understand tricks are the best. Some magic is so complex that when it's over the audience may not understand what you were trying to do. Keep it simple applies in magic. If a complex magic trick is used, make sure that the patter and instructions are understood.

  10. Reason for doing the magic trick. Why have you selected to do the magic at this point in time?

    1. To take break?

    2. To make a point?

  11. Audience participation/interaction. The most effective magic tends to involve the audience.

Murphy's Law is alive and well

Mistakes will happen. The best way to decrease the chances of making a mistake is to Practice, Practice, and Practice. The more familiar you are with the magic trick and the patter the less the chance of messing up. But even so, mess up you will. Develop some pat answers if you cannot recover from the trick.

  1. "It didn't work the last few times either, but when it works it's great".

  2. "I never said I was a professional magician".

  3. "This trick was designed not to work, just to bide time".

  4. "I never had any idea how to do this trick, and I still don't".

  5. "I'm going to keep practicing until I get it right".

Then move on.

Getting volunteers to help you

Not everyone is available, interested, or comfortable enough to share the stage with you. This is especially true at the beginning of a presentation when few people know each other. So ask for volunteers or choose your assistants carefully .

Tips and hints to help you become a successful presenter of magic

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice! Preferably in front of a mirror.

  2. Develop patter and practice the patter. Patter is the story used to present the magic trick. Professional magicians agree that the most effective magic tricks are those with the most effective story line or patter. Even a mime tells a story. Determine in advance what you want to say and how you are going to say it. Determine the purpose of doing the trick. What are you trying to demonstrate ? Make the presentation look natural and unrehearsed. Do not rush it. Good patter will help distract the audience just enough to keep them from guessing how you've pulled off your magical feats!

  3. Never tell the secret of the trick. There will be more interest in the next trick that you do and greater respect for your abilities and talents. You can even do simpler magic tricks after you have gained the audience's acceptance and respect for your talents.

  4. Do not do the same trick in front of the same audience. There is a saying in magic: "the first time it's a magic trick, the second time it's a lesson". The audience will know what you are trying to do and will be trying to guess how it is done.

  5. Arrange the room set up and seating. Some tricks require special room arrangements or set up. Do it discretely. If you cannot arrange the room to present the trick, do not do that trick.

  6. Never, ever embarrass people.

  7. Wherever you can, borrow the objects from the audience coins, pencils, napkins, and so on. Borrowing from the audience makes it seem like the magician hasn't had time to do anything underhanded. This makes everything seem more magical!

The Ultimate Compliment: "How did you do that?"

When someone asks, "How did you do that" you know they were impressed with the magic that you presented. Be prepared with answers such as:

  1. "Very well, thank you!"

  2. "Can you keep a secret? So can I!"

  3. "If I told you I would have to shoot you".

  4. "If I only knew I would do it again".


The pages that follow contain detailed procedures for five different easy-to-present magic tricks:

  1. The Coin Prediction

  2. Do as I Do

  3. OOPS!

  4. Mental Fruit

  5. The Clairvoyant



  1. Twenty coins of different denominations and preferably some foreign coins, marked with the numbers 1 to 20 using a permanent ink pen.

  2. Pencil, paper, and envelope to make your prediction and for someone to hold.

The Effect and Procedure

  1. Twenty coins of various denominations and from various countries have been marked with the numbers 1 to 20 on one side. You write a prediction on a piece of paper that says "the last coin remaining will be #4" and place it in an envelope. Give the prediction to someone in the group to hold.

  2. Your assistant is asked to pick up all the coins, shake them up, and drop them on the table without dropping them on the floor. The assistant is then asked to separate the coins that have a number showing from those that do not have a number showing. All coins with the number showing are gathered again and the assistant shakes them and drops them on the table, again separating those with the number face up from those with the number face down. Those with the number face up will be gathered, shaken, and tossed, and this will be repeated until there is one coin left with the number showing.

  3. The last number remaining will be #4. Ask the person holding the prediction to confirm that the prediction matches the number on the coin.

The Secret

This is a self-working trick. Simply mark the #4 coin with a 4 on both sides. It therefore has to be the last coin remaining.


  • Instead of numbers use letters .

  • Associate each number with a concept taught in the class and tell everyone that the coins will predict the most important concept taught so far. Write the twenty concepts on the board with a corresponding number. Write concept #4 in the prediction envelope.

  • Same as the idea with concepts except this time assign each person in the class a number. Write the name of person #4 in the prediction envelope.



Two decks of cards of contrasting colors.

Effect and Procedure

  1. You and a spectator both think of a card. When shown, the two cards turn out to be the same!

  2. Show the two decks of cards and have the spectator choose one. Tell her that you want her to do exactly as you do. Take the other deck and shuffle it. Have the spectator do the same.

  3. Now exchange decks with the spectator. Take a card out of the middle of your deck. Remember it. (Actually the magician does not have to remember his card. The spectator does have to remember the card that she is selecting). Place the rest of the deck on the table and your card on the top of the deck. Have the spectator do the same.

  4. Cut the deck and complete the cut. The spectator does the same with her deck.

  5. Now you say, "Let's trade decks again. I'll find my card while you find yours".

  6. You both take your cards out of the decks and place them beside each other on the table. Put the rest of the deck aside.

  7. You say "Wouldn't it be amazing if we both thought of the same card?" "Yes", she admits. Slowly, flip the two cards over, and they are identical.

  8. Take your bow, as you have performed a miracle .


  1. At step #1 in the routine, discretely glance at the top card in the deck while you are shuffling the cards. This is the "key" card in the deck. Remember that card. When you exchange decks and the spectator selects her card and places it on top of the deck and cuts the deck, her selected card will be right behind the "key" card.

  2. When you get the deck back again and tell the spectator that you will remove your card, you actually are looking for the card behind the "key" card, which is the card that she selected. She will remove her card and, of course, they will match.


This is a great trick to use in presenting statistical concepts, such as probability, odds, and chance. Discuss the odds of this happening by chance alone, which is one out of 52, or . Actually, with a little bit of courage this trick can be repeated. And because the cards will match again, you can then discuss the concepts of independent probability and the odds of it happening twice



A deck of cards


Reverse the Seven of Clubs and place it seventh from the bottom of the deck.

Effect and Procedure

  1. Fan the cards and ask the assistant to select any card from the middle of the deck. Have him place it on top of the deck. You tell the audience that you will take that card out of the deck behind your back and turn it upside down in record time.

  2. Cut the deck once, so that the card selected is now somewhere in the middle of the deck.

  3. You take the cards behind your back for a split second telling everyone that will turn over the assistant's card in that short period of time.

  4. Say, "It is DONE!" Spread the cards until you get to the seven of clubs, acting very smug that you turned their card upside down in the deck.

  5. But, the seven of clubs is not the assistant's card, so the audience will, of course, deny it. Then, say,

    "OOPS! But maybe the seven of clubs is a clue".

  6. Count down seven more cards and turn over that card! Then turn over the seventh card from the seven of clubs and, of course, it's the assistant's card.



A bag

An apple

Paper and pencil

A glass or bowl

Effect and Procedure

  1. Place an apple (this will work with any fruit, but let's use an apple) in a bag and close the bag. Leave it in front so that everyone can see it.

  2. Set the bag aside and ask members of the audience to call out the names of various fruits.

  3. Write down the name of the fruits they call out on a piece of paper, crumple it, and place it in a glass or bowl. After eight or ten slips of paper have been deposited in the glass or bowl, invite an audience member to reach in and remove one of the slips.

  4. The audience member is asked to unfold the paper and read aloud the name of the randomly chosen fruit. He opens the paper and says, "apple".

  5. The magician has the audience member open the bag to discover, much to his surprise, that it contains an apple.

The Secret

  1. Place the apple in the bag, and do not show it to anyone.

  2. Ask people in the audience to call out the name of a fruit. As each fruit is called, you pretend to write that fruit on a piece of paper. What you really do is write the word "apple" on every slip of paper. Eventually someone will say "apple".

  3. The slips are dropped into the glass or bowl and mixed.

  4. Have someone reach inside, choose one of the slips of paper and read aloud the fruit on that piece of paper. After he says apple, have him open the bag and remove the apple to show that your prediction was correct.

Take a bow!


With creativity, this is an excellent trick to use to demonstrate or emphasize concepts presented in the class.

  • Instead of fruit use concepts.

  • Instead of fruit use applications.

  • Replace the fruit with a number or a letter, and so on.



A brown envelope, 5 ² ² — 7 ² ² will do

2 white, 1 red, and 1 blue cardboard stock sheets of paper



  1. Three colored cards, red, white and blue, are shown to an assistant. He is told to think of one of the colored cards and the magician correctly predicts which card was selected.

  2. Cut the red card, one of the white cards, and the blue card all the same size to fit into the envelope.

  3. Cut the other white card to about 1/4 the size of the other three colors.

  4. On the blue card write "I knew you would select the BLUE card".

  5. On the small white card write "I knew you would select the WHITE card".

  6. On the back of the envelope "I knew you would select the RED card".

  7. Place the small white card in the envelope. Sandwich the blue card between the red and white cards and place them in the envelope with the writing on the blue card facing the same direction as the writing on the envelope. You are ready to present the trick.

Effect and Procedure

  1. The magician removes the three colored cards from the envelope making sure to leave behind the small white card and making sure no one sees the writing on the envelope or the writing on the blue card.

  2. Place the three colored cards on the table or on a flipchart, with the writing on the blue card and the envelope face down or away from the audience.

  3. As someone to think of one of the colored cards and to mentally concentrate on it. Then ask them to tell you which color they selected.

  4. If they say blue, say "I knew it", and turn over the blue card. If they say red, say, "I knew it" and turn over the envelope. If they say white, say "I knew it", reach into the envelope and pull out the little white prediction card.

You have just performed a mental miracle.


This trick can also be used to demonstrate or emphasize applications, ideas, and theories presented in the class.

  • Instead of colors, write three concepts and ask them to select their favorite.

  • Instead of colors, write three applications they will implement back in the office and ask them to select one.

  • Replace the colors with numbers or letters or symbols.

start example


Larry A. Smith


9611 Conchshell Manor


Plantation, FL 33324






end example

DR. LARRY A. SMITH is President of Applied Management Associates in Plantation, FL, an organization providing consulting services and training programs in Project Management. He is a Registered Education Provider with the Project Management Institute (PMI). He has presented over 400 project management seminars to more than 6,000 managers in the USA, Canada, Europe, South America, and China. He is also a frequent speaker at professional organizations such as PMI, ProjectWorld, AS400 Technical Conference, COMMON, SHARE, RS6000, and others.

Over the last 20 years he has been a consultant in project management to corporations and government agencies such as Sandoz, Abbott Laboratories, Kodak, Merck, Aetna, Staples, DuPont, Walt Disney World, Hewlett-Packard, Bell Canada, NASA, Department of Defense, US Navy, HUD, FEMA, City of Miami, and others.

Dr. Smith is also a professor of Decision Sciences and Information Systems in the College of Business at Florida International University. He is listed in Who's Who in Management Among University Professors and was a recipient of the Award for "Teaching Excellence" at Florida International University. He is presently on the Editorial Board of the P roject M anagement J ournal and the I nternational J ournal of P roject M anagement . He has published numerous articles in project management engineering and decision sciences journals.

Larry A. Smith holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree and an MBA from McGill University, and a PhD in Management Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Larry A. Smith has taught these AMA seminars:


Improving Your Project Management Skills


Senior Project Management


Information Systems Project Management


Best Practices for the Multi-Project Manager


Technical Project Management

The AMA Trainers Activity Book. A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
The AMA Trainers Activity Book: A Selection of the Best Learning Exercises from the Worlds Premiere Training Organization
ISBN: 0814408141
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 61

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