Lecture vs. Webinar

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Here’s something I wrote a few years ago about lecturing for magicians:

Lecturing is a frustrating experience, especially so if your goal is to impart information rather than to pitch products. The problem is that the range of knowledge and experience in any given group of magic enthusiasts is wide. In a magic club you may find someone who has been interested in magic for forty years, and someone else who has only been interested in magic for two years. But the neophyte may know more than the old timer. How do you address such a diverse group? I openly discussed this problem before my lectures, using the following story. 

My musician friends were always intrigued when I told them that I was going out to do a magic lecture. “What in the world is a magic lecture?” they would ask. “Well, it’s like this,” I would reply. “Imagine that there is a violinist who is giving a concert in a city. This violinist is nationally known. While in the city, the violinist gives a Master Class. Attending the class are some professional violinists. If there is a local college, some violin majors will attend. Perhaps there will be some talented high school violinists and their teachers. Also attending will be some people who own violins. There will be people who own recordings of people playing the violin. There will be people who have heard of the violin. And there will be two trombone players and a clown. That’s what a magic lecture is.”

When I began lecturing in earnest in the early 1990s, I felt unsatisfied with my results. Chuck Fayne gave me some advice. “You’re frustrated, aren’t you,” he said. “The problem is you’re trying to teach. Don’t teach. Demonstrate and explain.” Chuck’s suggestion certainly solved the problem of trying to speak to a group that had a wide range of experience and knowledge, but I feared that such an approach was too superficial. I really wanted to discuss aspects of magic that I felt were important. – Closely Guarded Secrets (2006)

In the almost thirty years since I began lecturing for magicians, I have often returned to the problem of how to go beyond the watered-down “demonstrate, explain, and sell” lecture format. Two big questions needed to be answered: Would magicians be receptive to a lecture that focused on a narrow topic? How could I impart that information?

The first question was answered when Jeff Pinsky (owner of The Browser’s Den of Magic in Toronto) asked me to do an all-theory lecture at his store. I agreed to do it, but I was skeptical about how it would be received. As it turned out, it was a resounding success, with a sold-out audience who stayed through the entire lecture. This convinced me that there was a market for narrowly focused training. 

The second question was answered by the advancement of personal computer technology; I could host a lecture via the Internet. My spoken text could be easily combined with a slide presentation, videos, and downloadable files. And best of all, the participants could ask questions as I went along. Plus, the webinar could be replayed after the live broadcast. 

To date, Lisa and I have hosted a half-dozen webinars; I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing for them and presenting them. They provide a unique learning experience. I have future topics in mind, but if you have any suggestions, please email them to me at mail@michaelclose.com. Check our website often for upcoming webinars; or, better yet, join our mailing list and you’ll be alerted to upcoming presentations. 

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  • Michael Close
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