Going For The Gold – Talent Competitions & How To Win Them

I don’t do talent contests very often – they are a LOT of work to get ready for and there is no promise of anything in return but I have done enough contests in my career both in the magic community and before laymen that I know how the game works. To be fair and blunt – the game is rigged but not the way you think. Competing isn’t going to gain you any brownie points but you will learn quickly your short comings and your strengths. If the process isn’t too soul crushing you will become addicted.  Talent agents don’t frequent most contests, a bulk of your audience will be the families of your competitors so they won’t have any interest in your success nor will they think about booking you. In most small contests you will get the honor of watching your competitors do their act and you will quickly start to think you are better or that you may not make it.

Competing isn’t something I do much, it’s a lot of work with no guarantee of anything in return. I’ve accumulated 6 awards total throughout my magic career but these 4 are honorable mentions. The big one on the right that looks like a beauty pageant trophy is the one I received today at the McCracken County Fair Talent Contest- the other 3 I got all in the same year

Before I go any further allow me to share with you my competition / award resume:

FBLA Region 2 Talent Show 2008 – 2nd Place Most Talented

McCracken County Fair Talent Show 2017 – 2nd Place

The following awards were not from contests per se but from my overall contribution to my industry but I include them because it took talent and time to get them:

IBM Ring 37 Spirit of Magic Award 2009

IBM Ring 37 Young Magician Of The Year 2009

I no longer have the score sheet to prove the following but I know it existed at one point:

                                      IBM Ring 37 Magic Contest 2011 – 4th Place

Every magic or talent contest I did not place in came extremely close and if I can remember I will upload scanned copies of the score sheets so you’ll know how close.

Now here are the secrets to winning a talent contest in general. Mind you, judging is very subjective and the decisions are final and the hard work you put in may add up to nothing (which is why I don’t do these things often). Here are the secrets to winning:

* Be Original                                                                                                                                           * Get The Crowd To laugh

If you are planning on competing in a magic contest these are helpful guidelines: if you manage to do all of the following you will more than one of these you will most certainly win. Judges in magic contest are judging the participants on the following:

*Originality                                                                                                                                              * Technique                                                                                                                                  *Overall Entertainment.

The most recent talent contest I entered which was just this past Saturday (6/24/17) was a county fair talent show some 45 minutes away from home. There were about 3 dancers, 1 instrumentalist, about 26 musicians/ singers and only 1 variety entertainer (me).

Talent contests teach you humility 

When and if you get to watch the other competitors you will see what you are up against. I have seen very good fellow competitors who I honestly thought would do better than I did, and sometimes they did. But with my last contest – along with every contest I have entered and placed in – originality triumphed. What I was doing wasn’t new, I never reinvented the wheel – I was not everyone else. I provided the judges and the audience a recess from the musicians.

Now that’s originality in non-magic contests….

If you are a magician thinking about competing in a contest – originality means 1044394_10200569440532169_1132731596_nsomething different. Originality in magic IS reinventing the wheel, doing something no one has ever done before. IT IS HARD, a lot of times I thought I had created something new only to find out that it had been done before ( me preparing for the 2009 IBM International Gold Cups back in 2009 was spent experimenting and having my spirit crushed because  when I found out what I had come up with, was not new).

There is a financial bias in the magic contests – those who can afford a contest coach and director are the ones guaranteed to win or come in close.

No matter what type of talent contest you enter – you will NOT win your first time. Contests are not a monolithic structure, what worked in one is not always going to work in another, many times it takes 2 -3 tries at the same contest ( 2-3 years of attending and competing).

WHY IN THE HELL would someone go through the trouble of competing if the odds are stacked against them? One simple answer – it is FUN, you WILL meet people, you Will make friends with your competitors that may last for a lifetime and it keeps YOU ON YOUR TOES and exposes you to your own short comings. Plus the feedback you get from the judges can be life changing.

What is the competition culture like? Is it toxic? Backstabbing? No, everyone gets along fine. Everyone is experiencing the pressure and know that it is evolutionary beneficial to be helpful to each other than a hinder. In BIG contests such as America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, Belgium’s Got Talent, The International Brotherhood of Magician’s International Gold Cup & Gold Stage, The Society of American Magician Competition and the FISM – competitors will wait in what is called the Green Room. They are barred from watching the other contestants but they have access to light refreshments and they can mingle with their competitors – or do quick rehearsals and tech checks while they wait. It can take HOURS before you or anyone else can leave the Green Room. It is best to just keep to yourself, everyone should be mentally preparing themselves and distractions can really peeve some.

Most talent contests won’t give you anything in return but you can use the results as marketing leverage as I have done both with the Press and in my marketing media.11896206_10205752051854213_6503114309543324701_n



Why Book Live Entertainment Part 1: The Reason For Live Entertainment Over TV/Movies/CDs/Video Games/etc

You should book live entertainers so that we can make a living. The end.

No, that is not why you should book us and that certainly shouldn’t be the focus of the entertainer either. Long before television and radio, people actually had to get out of the house and go pay to be entertained at their nearest theatre or concert hall / dime museum. This wasn’t like going to the movies, going to be entertained was a special event, people paid a good sum of money, they dressed their best and expected to stay the entire day or at least several hours because various performances would be showcased. Then there came the radio, then the motion picture followed by talking televisions. It was originally predicted that the first commercially available TVs would not sell because “no one wanted to sit in front of a box”. Today there is a television in every room in every house here in the United States and at least one TV in every house in Canada, UK, Japan & Australia (the US is more obsessed about TVs than their counterparts).

There is something that live performance has that television can’t provide – real human contact. One of the best things about going to see a show in a theatre is the intimacy between the performers and the audience. Television doesn’t offer that. Live entertainment also requires more use of imagination from the audience, the use of imagination overload is correlated with increase in creative thinking so there is a psychological benefit to live entertainment as well.

“But it’s so expensive to go to a theatre/concert!”. Yes, live entertainment is more expensive to produce, plus the performers don’t get the wide viewing benefit that cinemas offer. As you’ll see, the cost is nothing compared to the other benefits….

Live entertainment is much more flexible. Say you had a date scheduled but something came up and the event had to be postponed for a later date in the near future. Maybe that’s extreme – lets say you have a specific need that needs to be tailored to – any professional live entertainer be it a musician or a mentalist such as myself should have the capability to make adjustments. You can’t get that with television. Live entertainment once again provides that human factor that many answering machines and TV doesn’t offer.

“Why do you charge so much?” Here is the thing about paying for entertainment – you get what you pay for. That saying is more true here than anywhere else. Those that charge less are usually either not full time or they are starting out and lack the experience. Being a entertainer is a profession much like being a doctor or a lawyer, many of us have spent a lot of time, effort and money in improving what we do, studying what we do, getting the needed training/education. We make a living. Now, this may sound like greed but think about this for a second – take performer number 1 who charged $50.00, performer #2 who charges $150.00 and Performer #3 who charges $500.00. How do you perceive the $50 performer in comparison to the $150 versus the $500? Chances are you perceive prestige and respect for the $500 and you feel cautious about the $50. Your gut instinct knows that you get what you pay for. I have found in my own personal experience that charging more, while not always necessary will not only guarantee that I the performer will be able to rest for a while but that I will be treated better and my job will be made a lot easier. The reason for this is simple – we have respect and we take care of the things that we are most invested in.  Remember something you were given for free? How did you take care of that free thing versus the thing that you had to spend a lot of money on? Assuming that free thing isn’t something that is easily replaceable, chances are you treated the expensive object better than the cheap easily replaceable.

“But I’m Still Not Convinced”… People have been throwing events ever since the wheel was invented – especially the Ancient Greeks & Romans. Parties were thrown in celebration and as an attempt to impress friends. This tradition of throwing parties and subconsciously trying to impress people still resonates to the 21st Century. We spend days planning and investing as much money as possible to make it work. People are looking to have a good time, what better way than to include that human factor that comes with live entertainment?

This was a brief bit of persuasion and I will get into me specifically later on in another blog update.


What I’m All About

I get asked a lot about what it is that I actually do, sometimes it is easier to show than to explain but if there is time I will often demonstrate. I’m sure those reading have seen videos of me floating about on the web. I’ve done much growing and maturing since many of those videos were posted so they are no longer a great example of my mission in life and the purpose of what I do.

In simple terms I’m an entertainer. I personally am not a firm believer in art for arts sake. The whole history of theatre is filled with moments the show didn’t just entertain – it changed the public opinion. The performing arts has always been a propaganda machine. the Ancient Greeks all the way up to the Middle Ages treated entertainment as a teaching tool or a persuasion technique to change public opinion about an issue.

I’ve been performing since 1996, it wasn’t until the late Summer of 2016 that I had my revelation. I like to think of myself not only as a entertainer but also a educator. My transformation began when I was working a festival. It was in the afternoon about 3 PM, two hours before the festival was to shut down. I was taking a break to reset my gear for the next round of people to pass my booth. I had been doing handwriting analysis demonstrations all day. A young girl who had visited my booth twice sat down next to me (at my booth) and asked if I help people. It was right then and there that I found that people saw more to what I do than I did.

I had recently graduated from Murray State University where I studied psychology and theatre. During my time I took many classes in a variety of fields from biology, art, language, archaeology and anthropology. During my psychology studies I focused a lot on neuroscience and cognitive psychology.

It was at that moment in the twilight of Summer in 2016 that I had to combine my knowledge with my talent as a performer. I rewrote everything, took me 4 months to do so and I came out with a program that is both entertaining and informative. People are no longer just getting entertained – they are coming out with something that they can actually use.

The program I have now involves 3 memory demonstrations, and a lot of demonstrations that revolve around attention and deductive reasoning and 1 that explores the sensation and perception of touch. I won’t go into any details here about the show to spare you, the reader of any spoilers. But it is during the process of these bits that I also give information that they can actually use. I’ll be honest – since what I do is educational theatre, a few of my claims are in all honesty farfetched BUT the science behind it is factual (think Michael Crichton). Being a psychological entertainer has some of it’s own quirks – Unlike other forms of entertainment – I can actually use the skills from the show in the real world.

.I personally believe there are far more interest in having good/supper memory, keen observation and good deduction skills than there are being able to psychically read minds or bend metal objects as I have done in performances past. My experience so far has proven that my assumption is true. Even back in my metal bending days – I had to walk on egg shells as to avoid starting a cult (I even scared someone not on purpose however).

It is my goal in these blogs as well as in my performances to hopefully show you how you too can come to obtain the ability to retain memory better (and longer), spot things that others have missed, etc. In addition I will be commenting on other areas as well.

Please feel free to email me at any time or visit my main website.


-Jordan Allen

The Second Version

This is my second blog series, the first one failed so I’m making another attempt. This will cover commentary in psychological science and tales from the stage.

Welcome to the second version of Penny For Your Thoughts. The first one sort of fell through & was extremely disorganized.

Instead of taking a shotgun approach this will focus on my specialty – commentary on neuroscience.  I’ll also revisit & reiterate topics from the first (failed) blog.

– Jordan Allen                                                                                                                                                       Psychological Entertainer/Hypnotist/Speaker                                                                                         http://www.jallenmind.webs.com                                                                                                                              jallenentertainment903@gmail.com