The Initial Patter

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Your introduction music fades, your audience greets you with a spattering of palm music and you are standing on an empty stage. Every word you say from now on in is a suggestion. You are talking not only to their logical ego based mind but also (especially in your eventual subjects) their creative mind. Everything you say should be clear and concise.

This is without doubt the most important part of your whole show. Get this wrong and you will not have volunteers. No volunteers, no show. There is a supposition that the loneliest job in show business is that of the stand-up comedian, try being a hypnotist with no volunteers. There is nothing you can do, but walk off and hope that there are no journalists out there. I'm not going to give you a script for this because if we all said the same things in the same place, audience confusion over our individuality would increase out of sight. But I am going to tell you what must be in there, and I do mean must!

I have seen stage hypnotists giving a lecture for over forty minutes on the subject of hypnosis, hypnotherapy, quantum bananas and the meaning of life. The same performers then wonder why they have difficulty in dragging volunteers on stage and keeping the attention of their audience. The reason is of course that they have bored them to death and most are probably well asleep already or back in the bar.

You are not a lecturer you are an entertainer. If they want to discover the facts of hypnosis let them buy a book, preferably this one. The truth is that most audiences don't want to know. Especially if you are billed as a comedy hypnotist then they have paid good money to be entertained - hopefully with something funny. They don't want an advertisement for your therapy practice. Now I'm not saying that you should only go out and deliver a line of gags, just don't waste time telling the audience anything they don't need to know. Keep it short, sharp and as light as possible.

Your opening remarks, 'patter' in the business, are extremely important on several levels.

You have to assume that the majority of your audience is unaware of how a live hypnosis show works. Chances are nowadays that they have seen some hypnosis on TV but if they haven't been to a live show it's doubtful they have seen the selection and induction process, most countries still make the broadcasting of this illegal.

So tell them. Point the chairs out and tell them that in a short time twelve (or however many chairs you have; I would suggest that twelve is a good maximum to work with) people will be sitting here in the state of mind known as hypnosis. Make it a definite statement of fact. It is going to happen, there is no room for doubt.

Reassure them.

Tell them that hypnosis is a natural state of mind, is relaxing and after the show everyone that has joined you on stage will feel wonderful. Also assure them that they will be well looked after and given your respect. All this will help to build trust and reduce the fear factor. They have to trust you. Your obvious confidence in your abilities and assured manner must be such that it engenders this trust and builds a rapport with the audience.

Be 'THE Hypnotist'.

They will have preconceived ideas of how a hypnotist acts and to a point you must be that hypnotist, knowledgeable and calmly confident. Try to appear educated, as some people believe you had to have gone to university to learn all this wonderful stuff! Let them think that, play to their assumption. Mixing this with a showman like presentation is one of your hardest jobs. Work at it.

Lay the blame for any failure directly on the audience.

Okay so we both know that if you fail it is your fault, but no audience must think that. Most performers, myself included, tell their audience that hypnosis is impossible if they are in any way mentally incompetent or drunk. I usually make light of this by saying something along the lines of, 'so it's impossible to hypnotise politicians'. You can use; policemen, your management, your committee, or any group that best fits the audience you are playing to. This usually gets a laugh and at the same time you have cleverly suggested to them their superiority over the mentioned group because they can be hypnotised. It also shows that you are on their side, building their trust even more. Also it means that should you fail, which you will not, then it is they that do not have the required intelligence, imagination or sobriety to become hypnotised and you can get out of difficult situations by telling them so... and then running very fast.

Make absolutely certain that they understand that hypnosis needs co-operation to work.

They cannot be hypnotised without their ability to let you take them there. Tell them it is not possible to hypnotise them against their will, or make them do anything that goes against their morals or beliefs. I always add that obviously we are going to get them to experience one or two rather ridiculous and simply silly things and that they should have a sense of humour about what they do on stage.

In Britain it is a legal requirement to state that all volunteers should be over the age of eighteen and not receiving treatment from their Doctor. Typically the British government has turned pure common sense into a law. Make absolutely sure that they understand that you don't want them to volunteer if they are taking prescribed drugs or suffer epilepsy. Not that hypnosis would alter the effects of most drugs in any way at all, and it definitely could not cause a fit in an epileptic. However if they are up there and have one, try explaining that to their nearest and dearest. If you do this right it actually works in your favour. It makes you look caring and concerned for their safety, increasing once more the trust factor and it's accompanying confidence.

Anything else you add to your initial patter is window dressing. This is where your personality shines through, drop in the odd one liner, targeting yourself is a very good way of doing this, such as saying, ' Being a hypnotist is a pain. Every time I comb my hair in a mirror I fall asleep.' Not original but it gives you an idea of what I mean. Remember that selling yourself and getting the correct amount of co-operation is the only reason you are doing all this. It may seem that the only way to tell them anything is to lecture, it's not so - just tell them, talking in a relaxed and friendly way. The most important section of your audience will absorb every word out of your mouth right from the very start, those who have already decided to have a go at being hypnotised. They are going to make most, if not all, of your volunteers.

One of my students once commented that if they had already decided to come up with you, why bother to go through all of this and not just walk out, say good evening and ask for volunteers. Great, try it. You may well get lots of volunteers but you could be missing your best performers because they are undecided. Your initial patter will in most cases tip the balance with these people. It may even get you a few who hadn't consciously thought that they would volunteer. We are after all dealing with a fairly unpredictable animal, an audience.

Keep all this short and succinct. I personally would not drag this out for more than ten minutes but aim for three or four, that's an awful long time on stage. Be flexible with it, to the point that if you find yourself in the happy position that you don't need all of it you can drop and restructure as you go. Knowing when and where you can do this comes with experience. Getting a feel for your audience has to be learnt by doing and you will not find that in these or any other pages. Don't worry, it doesn't take long and in a very short time you will become very quick thinking.

For instance my record for making my entrance and hypnotising my first subject is 57 seconds!

Write it all down. Learn it. Be able to present this patter anywhere, anytime, to anyone no matter what without stumbling or stammering. If you fluff your lines don't falter, carry on. This is the bridge between them and you and I cannot stress the fact that you will fail or succeed on the strength of their initial impression of you. Of course you have a lot going for you. You are 'THE Hypnotist' and you don't have to convince them of this so much as reassure them of it. However they do have to like you. They have to trust you and believe in you. Appear confident you know your stuff. Even if you forget everything you wanted to say and are talking complete and utter rubbish. Make it sound authoritative rubbish. They must believe you are expert or they will not come on stage.

I should just explain the 57 seconds. I was performing at a Junior Ranks Mess in an army base just outside Leicester. Standing at a urinal just before going on I got into a conversation with the corporal standing next me, as one does in that situation. I had quite long hair at the time and was wearing a spangly waistcoat. He somehow guessed correctly that I was the hypnotist and asked me if I'd 'get' a guy called Jim. Apparently this one squadie had never seen a hypnosis show as he had been up on stage every time they had a hypnotist in the mess. Jim had been going around all week telling everyone he was definitely going to see one this time. He was wrong. I had the corporal point the poor lad out and, after my introduction had played, went straight up to him. I asked if his name was Jim and when he said it was I almost shouted, "Sleep" at him. 57 seconds including my introduction and my first subject was spark out over a table. It would have been quicker if I didn't have this limp. Certainly the best proof of your abilities is to do it. I then simply asked who else wanted to be hypnotised and had about twenty people up in seconds.

It is very important here to state that this one particular evening, out of the thousands, was the only time I did not use part or all of my introduction patter.

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