Save Time And Be More Productive With This One Tool

If you know anything about me then you know that I love technology that can save me time and energy. Hey, I’m lazy, or at least I’d like to think I have better things to do than reply to emails… like checking Facebook…

Anyway… As you know it can be very very time consuming to reply to customer emails. You want to make sure that they’re getting all the information they need and at the same time you want to reply as quickly as possible. These email reply’s are often quite repetitive with the same blocks of text over and over again.

My magic friend Clinton gave me a heads-up about an amazing little tool that’s totally changed the way I spend my time replying to emails.

Phrase Express is a tool that you can use to quickly paste repetitive text when replying to emails. Some of the features include:

  • Organize frequently used text snippets
  • Expand abbreviations in any program
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Auto-complete repetitive phrases
  • Correct spelling mistakes. (Kind of like how Microsoft Office does it, but it works in any application)
  • Solve math calculations as you type
  • Microsoft Outlook Plugin Integration
  • Plus a bunch of other cool features that I haven’t had a chance to fully take advantage of yet

So how does it work? Well, after you install the application it sits quietly in your task tray. Then you can setup a “shortcut” for a chunk of text and it will automatically insert that pre-defined text.

For example you could set it up so that whenever you type *signature it will automatically insert your email footer signature.

Or, in a more practical example for magicians, you can set it up so that after someone asks about information on your kids birthday party show you just type *birthdayparty and it will automatically insert all of your show information. Whereas before you would have had to manually type it out, or copy-paste it from another document, now it’s all automatic.

Before I would have delayed replying to an email until I had more time to do it, but now I’m able to compose emails quicker because the process is streamlined. Great customer service for any business includes being as prompt as possible with replies and PhraseExpress will help you do that.

Plus, the great thing about Phrase Express is that its free to test out and for personal use. And if you’d like to upgrade to the professional version. Give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!

Update: I’m not sure if Phrase Express works for Mac or not. However I have found another program called TextExpander which has some similar features that does work for Mac’s.

Somebody Stole my Website Content

I was discussing one of my websites with an SEO expert and he discovered that another magician had “borrowed” several text paragraphs from my website to use on his own website.

When I told others magicians about it they thought that I would be upset over it. But, I didn’t really care. You know what they say “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Honestly I think its kind of cool that somebody thought my website was good enough to steal from in the first place.

Only one thing bothered me about it. I don’t want MY website to get punished in the SEO results just because somebody else took my content. From my SEO studies I’ve always read that Google will punish a website for having duplicate content. Since this incident though I’ve learned that Google will only punish the website that didn’t post it originally. If you want to learn more about duplicate content you can visit the Google Blog.

Nevertheless, I still wanted him to remove the content from his website just in case. I want my website to rank well organically as much as possible. I sent him and email requesting that he take down the areas of his site where he had taken my content. He got back to me in a couple hours and took down some of the content, and said that his web designer would remove the rest of the content within the next few days. I ended up getting an email a couple days later letting me know that everything had been removed. Problem solved.

At this point you might be wondering “I wonder if somebody has borrowed my website content too?”

How to Find Stolen Website Content

I’ve had a couple people ask me “How did you find out he was using your content?” There are online “duplicate content finders” or “plagiarism finders” that you can use. Copyscape.com and PlagSpotter.com are two websites that I have used in the past. All you have to do is put in your website URL and it will search the entire internet looking for copies or similarities of your page.

If you have unique photo’s on your website that you think have been stolen, you can use Google’s “Search by Image” website. Just upload or link to an image and it will show you every page on the internet that uses that photo.

If you found these tools helpful, please let me know in the comments below. As always, don’t forget to like, comment, and share this article with your magic friends!

How to build a no-fuss appearing pole gimmick for $1.80

When you purchase an Appearing Pole the instructions tell you to wrap it up in an elastic and then remove the elastic during performance to produce the pole. But as you know if you’ve ever tried it yourself, it just doesn’t work. I wanted to include the appearing Candy Cane (the same as an appearing pole) into my act so I needed to come up with a different solution.

AppearingCandycane

I came up with very simple solution made out home made materials. I’m sure that I’m not the first one to think of it because its so simple but I’ve never seen or read about it anywhere else so I thought I’d share it here. The finished gimmick looks like this. It can be used to produce the appearing pole, appearing candy cane, or even the appearing crayon.

crayon box

I constructed a box out of cardboard and duct tape. Then on each side I poked a hole where I stuck a pencil through.

Box with pencil - top view

Recently I tried switching out the pencil for a nut and bolt instead and that way the entire unit is now “locked” so its impossible for it to slip out. That brings the total cost of the gimmick to a whopping $1.80. 😀 The box with the bolt going through the center of the rolled up appearing pole keeps everything in place as you produce the item. It smoothly unrolls each and every time.

Bolt 3d View

I use a small gift bag to produce the pole. When the gimmicked box is inside the bag I can squeeze the sides to hold the box in place as I produce the item. After it begins to unroll its even possible to place the bag on the floor as you continue to produce the item.

Bag Squeeze

Another advantage of this setup is that you can setup the production item before the show. Once you’ve placed the appearing pole inside the gimmick, you can roll the flap to the bottom of the box. Then just before showtime, you can spin it around so the free flap is on top once again.

Box Flap

If you use an appearing pole in your show, give this gimmick a try and you’ll see that it works perfectly every single time. Let me know if it work for you too.

Update: I want to point out that this gimmick is not the same design or construction as Barry Mitchell’s “Pole Control”. His is designed out of materials that will last a lifetime and its only $25. Plus it can be used with the appearing shovel, and can be mounted into other production devices.

Late Night Conversation – Lecture at the 3 of Clubs Magic Convention

This past weekend I lectured at the 3 of Clubs Magic Convention in Coquitlam, BC Canada. In the talk I discussed my stage setup for shows, branding, marketing materials, advertising, newsletters, and evaluations. There were a few additional topics that I discussed live at the event that aren’t included in the below video. You’ll just have to attend in person if you want to hear everything!

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Dynamic Birthday Party Invitations

Recently I designed PDF party invitations for my birthday party website. Customers who book a show through me can download the invitations and print them out themselves. What makes the PDF invitations so cool is that the blank lines on the party invitation are editable so parents can fill out the invitation on the computer instead of filling out all the invitations by hand.

I used Adobe Photoshop to design the invitations, and I used Adobe Acrobat XI to save them as a PDF and create the interactive PDF elements.

Finished example of my birthday party invitation:

Birthday-Party-Invitation-Horizontal

  1. First off you’ll need to design your birthday party invitation. The final product should fit onto a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. For my invitations, I put two invitations onto a single page.
    Birthday Invitation

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Seven Ways To Thank Your Clients

It’s important to send a thank you letter after every show. Taking a moment to show your appreciation will go a long way to impress your client and hopefully generate future business with them.

In this article I’m going to share with you seven ways to thank your clients:

1. Thank-you Email

This is the most common method that I use. After each show I sent the client a thank-you email thanking them for inviting me to perform at their event. A standard thank-you email would look something like this:

Thank you for inviting me to performing at (the event name). I had a great time and (include something personalized about the performance here). I hope everyone enjoyed the show.

Please keep me in mind for future events, and if you know of anybody that could benefit from some magical entertainment, please don’t hesitate to pass along my contact information. (If this person/venue could benefit from other specific shows/services that you offer, include those here). 

Thanks again,

If I took any photo’s at the event I try and include the photo’s in the email as well. I wrote more about this in this article: Using photo’s of children in your promotional material, and I also talked about getting high quality photo’s in this article: Automatic Amazing Show Photos.

Personalizing each thank-you letter is really important so that you really do take a moment to reflect and really thank them. You don’t want your thank-you letters to look and feel like just another marketing piece. One time I performed at a party with a spy theme so in that thank-you letter I included the following message.

SpyCode

 

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How to Stay Cool While Performing in the Summer Heat

Now that summer is in full swing you’re probably performing plenty of outdoor shows. Client’s looove to host events outside. Performing outside can be a very enjoyable experience for both you and the audience, but it can also be an extremely difficult without the proper preparation.

Here are 8 tips to help you stay cool while performing in the summer heat:

1. Avoidance

Unless the weather is absolutely perfect, usually you’re better off doing the show indoors. There will be less distractions for the audience, you’ll have more control over the performing environment, creating a better performance in the end. Once you explain this to the client you may be able to move the party indoors for your show.

Find out during the booking process if there’s an alternative plan for bad weather. Is the show going to happen rain or shine, will it be cancelled, or will it be moved to another location? Find out all of these details in advance so there aren’t any surprises on the day of the show.

2. Acceptance

If you have to perform outside find out if you can be in the shade somehow. Sometimes you might be able to perform under a tent, under a tree, or against the side of a building.

Keep in mind that even though YOU might have shade the audience won’t be. If you’re performing at a festival the stage might be covered but the next available shade space will be under trees that are far away. You can bet that the audience is going to stay under these trees instead of sitting close to your stage. This distance between you and the audience is going to kill your interaction and make your show more difficult. In these situations you might have to setup closer to the audience to get the rapport that you need for the show.

shade under the trees

[ Above: I had a tent to perform under at this show but the audience all sat under the shade of the tree’s. So I left my tent and walked closer to the audience for better interaction. ]

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Free Routines for Kid Show Performers – Interview with Christopher T.

While researching new material for my library shows this summer I came across a Magic Cafe post where some guy was posting free video routines for kid show performers. That man is Christopher T. Magician and so far he’s posted seven FREE episodes loaded with amazing content. Once I started watching the videos I knew I had to do an interview with him and share his videos with my readers.

Christopher_T_jersey_kid_gymChristopher T. Magician performs as a children’s magician throughout New York City and New Jersey. A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, he brings his acting and playwriting knowledge into his magic to create wacky, hilarious, cartoon-like performances. Alongside his passion for magic, he is building a career writing musical theatre as well, performing his Off-Broadway one-man show Just Like Magic at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and currently participating in talks with Broadway producers (real ones, too – not imaginary!) for his horror/slasher musical Most Likely To Die. His love of music influences his magic as well. His USP (as the marketing gurus might say) focuses on his original musical theatre style songs integrated into his routines and the overall throughline of his magic show.

Here’s a video a mother took of Christopher performing his song “Looking Like A Magician Now!” with the cutest little birthday guy…

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Automatic Amazing Show Photos

d5200I recently decided I wanted to get a new DSLR camera so that I can get more photo’s from my shows to use in my marketing materials. I wanted to spend about $1,000 and I started searching online for a camera that could take nice clean crisp photo’s in low-light conditions. Since most of my shows are indoors without any extra lighting I needed needed something that could take photo’s in that environment.

After some research I narrowed it down to three choices:

All of the camera’s have their own strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately I decided on the Nikon D5200 because of the price point and low-light performance.

Anyway, this post isn’t really to recommend a camera. What works for you will depend on how you want to use your camera and how much you’re willing to spend. The more you spend though the better the pictures will probably be.

Interval Timer

I didn’t know when I bought the camera but it has a feature called Interval Timer Shooting. As the name suggests, it means you can automatically take photo’s at regular intervals!

interval timer shooting   interval timer shooting2

On the first screen you can select between Start Now or a Start Time. In the next screen you set how often you want it to take a picture. You can set the interval by hours, seconds, or minutes.

Today at a birthday party show I setup the camera at the back of the room on a tripod. I set the camera to auto-focus then I set the clock to start taking photo’s 5 minutes before the show start time. Then I set it to take a photo every 2 minutes. After the show I had about 20 photo’s automatically taken for me during the show! Here’s a small sample of some of the pictures:

Timer Photo 1

Timer photo 2

Timer Photo 3

As you can see the results turned out pretty good! Next time I’m going to set the interval timer for a much shorter time like 30 seconds. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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