The MAGIC Formula – Insights from the Wedding Table, Part 5 – Rapport

The MAGIC formula:


I have been working as a close-up magician for the last 25 years. I have entertained at thousands of events – hundreds of tables at weddings, corporate parties and significant birthdays.

At the same time, in the other half of my life, I have led and been a member of several teams. I have recently interviewed many other team leaders about their experiences and challenges. Many thanks if you are one of them!

I have observed that many challenges facing a close-up magician approaching a table of guests are similar to those facing team leaders. I have also realised that the MAGIC formula may be applied in both situations.

We have been around our imaginary wedding table and met all the characters. We have seen each personality’s unique challenges and how a magician might react in each case.

In these few posts, I make some general observations from working with the table as a whole to gain some valuable insights for team leaders.

The Most Rapportant Thing

Rapport is the foundation for any successful human interaction, whether it be a conversation, a meeting or a magic performance.

Immediately I meet a group of guests at a wedding or other event, I must build rapport. The extent to which I am successful determines whether or not the following entertainment slot flies or crashes.

The same is true of your team. If you want them to want to work with and for you, you need to build rapport with each member and with the whole team.

Comfort Zone Vibrations

So what do I mean by rapport? It is the state where you and the person you are interacting with feel comfortable with one another; you don’t feel threatened, and you are vibrating at the same frequency.

Sometimes rapport seems to be established easily, as if by magic. But most of the time, some effort is required by at least one of the parties. If you can be that party, you can start making your conversations, meetings and maybe even magic performances much more effective.

Your overall aim is to get to a state where the other person feels comfortable with you. How do you do this?

Modify First Impressions

First impressions can be notoriously wrong, but they are usually our only starting point. Occasionally, you might know a little about the person beforehand, so you could have some valuable conversation pointers up your sleeve. However, we mostly have to start with first impressions and then fine-tune them as quickly as possible as we learn more about the other person.

Beginning with a friendly smile and non-contentious topics is usually a good start. For example, at magic gigs, I tend to use “Hi, what’s your name? And where have you come from today?”

You will immediately get a clue about their character from their response. Then you can begin matching and echoing. Don’t copy the person exactly; that would freak them out and have the opposite of the desired effect! But as you talk, you can start to adopt a similar style and speed of speech and echo some of their mannerisms, thereby subconsciously encouraging them to adopt you into their comfort zone.

It is an iterative process. Bit by bit, as you learn more about them and pick up more clues, you can subtly modify your style and content to fit. It is important to remember that you are not seeking to abandon your own identity and become entirely like the other person; instead, you are seeking to present an authentic version of yourself to them in a non-threatening way.

Remember, you are aiming for a position where they feel comfortable.

Push It, Push it Real Good

Think of it as pushing a swing so that it swings higher. You need to push with the rhythm of the swing, not against it.

As you talk and interact more, you will be able to refine your initial assumptions and introduce other topics to make the swing go higher, e.g., holiday destinations, shared interests, and mutual friends. Be led by them.

Steer Towards Your Goal

You will have a goal in mind whenever you interact with someone else, particularly in a work context. As a magician, I want applause, for them to be entertained and repeat bookings. As a team leader, you probably want harmonious and productive meetings.

Keep your end goal in mind. Once the rapport starts to build, you can begin to steer the interaction in the direction you need without damaging it.

Different audience members will respond better to different effects and presentations, and your team members will have varying talents and work styles. In the case of magic, I may select certain tricks that I think will work with that situation. With a team, you will start to get an idea of which team members will be best to take on specific projects.

Remember, rapport is the foundation of any successful human interaction.

How can you build more rapport?

Help Please!

I am writing a book about using The MAGIC Formula to manage yourself, particularly if you work from home.

If you are a freelancer, self-employed, or work from home in another capacity, I would love to talk to you.

If you would like to help, please get in touch: