I would like to discuss about the best ways to present memory feats to an audience (not about how to do them in the technical aspect). I´ll start with some unconnected thoughts just to have something to start with, but this could go anywhere.
How much should be said about the memory techniques during the show? I think it´s not the same doing it as a magician than doing it as a mnemonist.
In a magic show I never use the word “mnemotecnia” or talk about “memorization techniques” at all, because I think it takes the mistery away; you are basically saying how you do it, or at least suggesting that it is something not so incredible everyone can do. And what you want is to keep the audience wondering how you did that: they are very likely to think about more incredible things than what is actually happening; they may think you have a special talent, or that you trained a lot to achieve some memory feat that is, in fact, very simple. When I do a memory feat during a magic show, I just say I´m going to show them something incredible that is going to change forever all their notions about the limits of mind capacity, and proceed to the demonstration without more explanation. Of course that´s my point of view, I know of magicians who openly say they are using memory techniques and even talk about the method of “making a history” during the show; I don´t like that. If I talk with someone after the show, I may say something about mnemonics, but never enough to let him know how I do it.
As a mnemonist who tries to divulge the techniques, it´s obviously different. But I think it´s not that good to say too much either. I had bad experiences with people who asked me how I did it and looked very interested, and all their motivation vanished when they knew enough to satisfy their curiosity; they never really learned to use the techniques well enough to be useful in their lifes as soon as they understood the “trick”. Many people think the techniques are stupid when they hear how it´s done, even when they where amazed with the result moments ago… I think the best way to take advantage of the curiosity is giving the information only when they have the time to learn it seriously and test it by themselves (in my case, I give a course, but I also teach to anyone who confirms that has “a few hours” to spend learning with me).
I want to share some thoughts about my experience with the feat of memorizing 30 words said by the audience during magic shows. A simple feat to do, but I´ll explain why I think it´s one of the best ones, and why I do it the way I do it.
I think that following the principles of how to build a magic routine, each demonstration must be more incredible than the previous one. That´s one reason to start by memorizing a list of 30 words said by the audience: it can be easily followed by almost any memory feat in your repertorie (I follow it with big numbers and piles of cards, all while I keep answering about the first 30 words). But I do it for many other reasons, and if I only have time for one memory feat in the routine, I do this demonstration even when I could do harder ones. That´s because:
I think this is maybe the most simple and clear way to demonstrate a powerful memory.
At least where I live, most people doesn´t even know that a human can remember 30 words by their number listening to them once, so the effect has more than enough power.
The effect can keep the audience entertained for several minutes
This may be the only magic trick I know in which 30 audience members participate in the effect in a creative and non-trivial way, each one affecting what the magician will say. They get really involved, and that´s very very important: even when I do something more powerful afterwards, in the long term they tend to remember and talk about the word memorization.
-There is a lot of room for improvisation and real communication with the audience while they say the words, and you can have some planed “improvisation” from the words you know people usually say.
I use exactly 30 because I think 20 is not impressive enough, and 40 is not more impresive than 30. To avoid having a few minutes with no magic happening while they say the 30 words, when they reach 10 and 20, I check the last 10 words “to see if everything is ok” (I pretend that the feat is a little hard for me, to give some suspense. If I happen to make a mistake, it´s not something that bad.). But when they reach 30, I surprise them with the fact that I also know the words by their number, and that´s a very powerful moment. After they ask for some words, I usually do as they please as long as I see them entertained, and finish by saying the list backwards to give it some kind of climax if I don´t follow up with some other memory feat.
I don´t know how many of you use mnemonics for shows enough to care about presentational details, but I hope something interesting can arise from here.