David Ovason, in his book The Book of Magic describes stage magic as ‘the art of making pictures’3.
I would argue that communicating ideas orally, particularly complex ones, is also the art of making pictures; images you create in the minds of your audience of the idea being communicated; images that persuade them to suspend their disbelief4 and consider the meaning or outcome you want to attribute to those ideas.
The trick is in how you deliver the ideas
Where the magician ‘sets up a trick7’ so too the person communicating ideas orally should set up their idea for the audience to see whatever it is they want them to see.
Wikipedia describes magic as illusions8 and the magician as an illusionist –
‘Magic (sometimes referred to as stage magic to distinguish it from paranormal or ritual magic) is a performing art that entertains audiences by staging tricks or creating illusions of seemingly impossible or supernatural feats using natural means. These feats are called magic tricks, effects or illusions.
The professional who performs such illusions is called a stage magician or an illusionist. 9 A successful outcome is contingent upon what the audience believe they have seen – the image created in their mind’s eye 10.
David Ovason argues that the distinction between amateurs, ‘parlour performers’ or ‘false bottom’ men’ when describing the skill of a true magician is that the former relies on apparatus when performing tricks whilst the later relies on dexterity, mental ability or showmanship11 – superior skill.
Successfully delivering your idea (or message) in oral communication is analogous to a magician successfully performing a trick on stage in front of an audience and this success depends on being intimately familiar with how each ‘trick’ or idea will perform live. One incomplete relationship between the magician and his prop could mean his trick will fail; one incomplete relationship between your idea and your audience could mean your delivery will fail.
Know your topic and be light on your feet.
When a magician performs in front of an audience they have intimate knowledge of the trick they are going to perform and how they think the audience will respond. Their knowledge comes from knowing each trick inside out; playing with the trick over and over again until they are familiar with the way the tick responds in a live performance and how the audience will relate to it – the outcome.
A magician never performs in front of an audience a ‘trick’ he is not intimately familiar with because to do so is destined to fail.
When communicating ideas orally you need to become a dealer12 of ideas and images; you need to make your audience believe they are seeing a woman being sawn in half.
- Magician (a noun) as, ‘2. fig. a person who exercises an influence like that of magic; a person of exceptional skill. E19. J. Berman The myth of the psychiatrist as a modern magician…in the psychic landscape of life.’ OSOED
- David Ovason, The Book of Magic, Ebury Press, 2013, page 23.
- Ib.id, page 23
- Suspension of disbelief – Coleridge recalled:”… It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth on the other hand was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind’s attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us …” Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, 1817, Chapter XIV, Wikipedia.
- Dexterous[ly] – having mental adroitness or skill, clever; contriving; having manual or manipulative skill or adroitness, deft of hand; OSOED
- Ramification – a subdivision of a complex structure analogous to the branches of a tree, as a network of blood vessels OSOED
- Trick – a special technique; a knack or special way of doing something. Online OSOED
- Illusion – (An instance of) the sense perception of an external object suggesting a false belief as to its nature. G.Orwell. ‘When you said it to yourself you had the illusion of actually hearing bells’, OSOED. ‘Illusions do not always go according to plan, however. To impress his audience , [Joseph Dunninger, worked the extra-ordinary illusion in which a woman materializes in a glass tank filled with water, but his audience went frantic with disapproval… so Dunninger promptly vanished the lady from the tank’, Op.cit – David Ovason, 2013, page 7.
- Magic (illusion) – Wikipedia’
The ‘seemingly impossible or supernatural feats’ created in oral communication come from what you do with the ideas being communicated when performed live; how you achieve a particular meaning or outcome with the audience by the way in which you arrange the ideas and the words you attach to the ideas being delivered.
Imagination plays a big role in magic and in communicating ideas orally, whether it’s turning red roses into white roses or one idea into another as a way of affecting Affect – verb trans. … make a material impression on, OSOED meaning.
- Mind’s eye – refers to the human ability for visualization, i.e., for the experiencing of visual mental imagery; in other words, one’s ability to “see” things with the mind. Wikipedia
- Op.cit – David Ovason, 2013, page 20-21
- Dealer – a person who divides, distributes, or delivers something; spec. the player dealing at cards. OSOED