Will doves burst from his wallet? What else is he going to do?

Ezra Glenn, community development lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning had just organized a mock town meeting out of a table of IAP attendees. He circled the room and asked us to list off challenges to town meetings. Hostile audiences! Varying knowledge bases! Preconceptions! He scribbled the list on a big sheet of paper, ripped the paper from the wall, rolled it into a fat cone, and asked, “what do all of these problems give us??”

He tipped the cone onto the table  and confetti and raw eggs spilled out. “A big mess! That’s what!”
Egg and confetti

Everybody loved it. Sure, it was kind of cheap, but suddenly everyone was laughing and watching Glenn intensely. “What’s he going to do next? Are his pants going to fall down?” Glenn read our thoughts (close enough, anyway).

The rest of the hour was spent learning new tricks and talking about how public meetings and presentations can be made more interesting by interspersing simple magic tricks into the agenda. Glenn stressed that the tricks should carry a message or fit with a story–not be tricks simply for the sake of tricks. A meeting about raising money could include a cone full of coins; talk of beautifying a park could include a torrent of flowers.

Why would anyone do magic during a meeting?

  • Especially at public meetings held after working hours, attendees may have kids with them. Happy kids = happy parents.
  • Magic tricks break the ice.
  • If you want to humble yourself, schlocky, amateur magic tricks can make you more approachable and diminish the I’m-the-most-important-person-here-vibe. Good planners (and meeting facilitators in general) are also good listeners—but there will be nothing to listen to if people don’t talk because they’re intimidated.

We learned four or five other tricks during the IAP session (including the balloon feat below). Leave a comment if you’d like to hear more of them.
Balloon animals

Want to see real magic? The best show around, according to Glenn, still operates out of Beverly, MA: http://www.legranddavid.com/