Depending on the size of your repertoire, choosing just one effect can be difficult.
Of course, it depends on what routine you are prepared to perform.
A card trick requires a deck of cards, a coin trick requires certain coins and smart performers adopt impromptu effects that use common objects like smartphones, pocket change or watches so that even when completely unprepared, there are options available.
The first choice we make is whether to step out with something ready to perform. I have rarely ventured outside without a deck of card in my pocket but from time to time, I carry other props to play with. I quite often have something in my day bag (aka man bag, aka "murse") that I'm keen to share and always have one or two new card tricks to play with.
I also have a wide selection of solid crowd-pleasers and foolers. The Ambitious Card remians a favourite again after years spent refining my sequence and concentrating on the overall effect. I perform Cards Across regularly and the Colour Change remains a powerful option thanks to the work of Max Malini (not for the technique used but for his approach and staging, which has a devastating effect on lay people) and I often carry the classic Spotty-Spot Paddles, which remains one of my favourite small prop effects. I usually give the paddles away, so I've bought hundreds of sets over the years.
Tricks are great and tricks can create powerful moments of magic but if Youtube magic has taught us one thing it's that the videos with the most hits often have the most tricks, quickly performed with loud (sometimes fake) reactions. Many of us attempt this in the real world, performing multiple effects with great methods (or not) one after the other, until the audience loses interest or the overall experience is diluted.
Trust me on this: less is more and the more you feel the need to do, the less impact you will have overall.
As a rule, I only perform if the request is both sincere and enthusiastic and appropriate for what I might wish to share. Personally, I have no interest in waving shiny tricks at pre-comatose drinkers for the sake of loud approbation so, in those circumstances, I'd rather leave it to people who enjoy that scene.
Like most of us, I have lots of great tricks at my disposal but sometimes the occasion allows for something much more affecting and when this happens, I want to perform something that stands on its own. Not a routine of effects but a single routine or effect that connects on a deeper level. You might have a different approach - that's perfectly fine - but when you take the time to conjure more than just a trick, the result can be deeply satisfying for everyone who experiences it.
So, when the time is right, are the tools available to make something wonderful happen?
Most of the time, we should be able to anticipate these situations and come prepared. For occasions we couldn't expect, it's wise to have something in your arsenal that works with something you always have.
For me, that is usually a deck of cards and there are several effects I rely upon. Below I discuss the ones I use most but it's not an exhaustive list - I just want to illustrate what I like to select from my own repertoire:
A routine I use often is my version of Dai Vernon's Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, which is taught in detail here. This can be performed with any deck of cards and when properly presented, creates a dumbfounding, astonishing moment of magic that people might never forget. How do I know this? Firstly, I've performed it for decades and it's only fallen flat a couple of times when working with the wrong group or when I simply didn't give what the effect deserves. Secondly, I remember exactly where I was when I first saw this routine, who showed it to me and the power that moment had.
Generally speaking, I either perform OOS,OOM for one or two people or for twenty. For me, it's either a super-intimate experience or an experiment under impossible conditions watched by a dozen or more people. The method taught in JUST THiNK where no question is asked at the revelation (BELiEVE) is my favourite for intimate settings, especially with one or two people.
This effect needs time to stage, so I may employ a quicker alternative that's mentioned at the end of JUST THiNK using a Malini presentation and my S.A.L.O.B. technique from THiNK AGAiN centred on a compelling idea: that I can read someone's mind. Another powerful effect that explores this notion is A BEAUTIFUL MIND where a spectaor reads your mind three times with varying degrees of success but the performer has accurately predicted the outcome.
Mentalism can be powerful when these opportunities arise but I've seen a lot of people present (usually marketed) mentalism routines with stories or ideas that are extremely common to the form. I highly recommend writing or exploring something different or personal so that your presentation doesn't seem borrowed or insincere.
If the occasion demands something more magic-related, I prefer my thought-of card across, THINKING IT OVER or a personal version of Vernon's TWISTING THE ACES with a powerful kicker and my routine CONCAM COINCIDENCIA is perfect when I have three or more people to work with.
With coins, I have some routines with pocket change but I often carry three quarters for my QUARTER POUNDER routine that's as magical and baffling as it gets and in recent years I've been working on TEST LAB, a simple coin effect that can be performed in various test conditions either prepared or impromptu.
When the occasion is right, I use ThreeSome with borrowed fruit and veg and I studied Vernon's impromptu cups and balls routine for many years before settling on a Bob Reid sequence that I absolutely love.
These are all conscious choices, made long in advance of these performing situations and the purpose of this entry is to illustrate how valuable this kind of preparation is and essential if you want to create what Michael Weber calls "that one perfect miracle".
Seeming impromptu is part of the illusion but in actual fact, we are loaded for bear not because our pockets are full of props or gizmos but because our mind is focused on a powerful outcome that should far exceed expectations.
It is important to understand that not every trick in your repertoire qualifies for this approach. The Ambitious Card is fantastic but it is, in essence, a routine of repeated effects and while I have spent years focusing every phase so nothing is taken for granted, repetition of effect is not what I'm aiming for.
The idea of truly impromptu material is attractive (I have an effect called Gapkin and Dan Harlan's Starcle is terrific) but a little preparation or readyness pays dividends for those willing to put in the effort. What options do you have at your disposal? Do you own a special wallet, carry bespoke props or can you work with what's available?
Over the years, I've come to understand that any trick can qualify for that singular moment or experience since it is the presentation that builds a connection with the audience and shapes how they see or experience an effect. In other words, the simplest routine can have the deepest impact depending on how it is presented.
One thing I've noticed is that tricks are sometimes presented differently to magicians - usually to take advantage of their existing knowledge or perspective and most often with a view to selling them the secret. Be wary of this. These presentations do not always translate so easily to a lay audience. Tricks magicians love are not always as strong for "real people" without effort on your part and many effects are much like the fishing lure described in my previous entry.
The rules are simple:
Find a trick you love.
Learn how to convey the maximum effect.
Listen to the audience and adjust your timing and presentation.
Think ahead, be ready.
Be sincere. Truth is a powerful element in any interation.
If it doesn't work, try again or choose better material.
Of course, there are exceptions but generally speaking, if your goal is to create a powerful, memorable experience for your audience in a social or impromptu setting, one is more than enough.