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Atlanta Magician – Mentalist – Speaker Joe M. Turner | News and Comments from the Chief Impossibility Officer

Magic and Government Spending: Waste or Real ROI?

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on May 4, 2012

In recent weeks the news has been full of stories focusing on spending issues as they relate to conferences and meetings, specifically in the government sector. Articles about lavish spending on the 2010 GSA Western Regions Conference, which included a presentation by a mentalist, continued for weeks. Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pulled an advertisement they had placed seeking a magician and motivational speaker for an upcoming meeting. That decision, as presented in much of the media, happened “in the wake of the GSA scandal.” The story was originally broken by Government Executive Media Group, who contacted me today for comment. (UPDATED – Here’s the link: Magic acts at conferences can add substance, professionals say.)

Corporate speaker, consultant, and entertainer Joe M. Turner

Corporate speaker, consultant, and entertainer Joe M. Turner uses magic and mentalism as a communication tool to deliver real value at conferences and meetings in the public and private sectors.

People who know me and my personal political inclinations know very well that I am no fan or defender of wasteful government spending. In fact, I am strongly in favor of multiple large cuts in federal (and state and local) government spending and applaud the watchdog instinct that leads to questions in stories like these.

Sometimes, though, it is so easy to go for either the joke or the jugular that some relevant details are lost or ignored. Reporters, commentators and their readers may reach hasty conclusions about the value of presenters based on preconceptions about labels used in describing them. Certainly labels like “magician” or “mindreader” are more likely to attract jokes than labels like “football player” or “rock star.” These kinds of situations would probably have never made the news if the people involved were Tim Tebow, Bono, or perhaps some famous magician like Penn Jillette or David Copperfield… even if those people had less relevant content to share than the people who were actually booked or considered.

In the light of recent events, then, I’d like to offer both some cautions and some encouragements for my friends, clients, and readers as they process news stories such as these.

As I indicated above, don’t let preconceived ideas about a single label serve as your entire definition or concept of what a presenter offers to his or her audience. The word “magician” doesn’t mean the same thing to all people; for many, it carries connotations of bunny rabbits, balloon animals, top hats and capes. For others, it sounds like smoke and mirrors and vanishing girls and windblown hair. It has the feel of a children’s party or a Las Vegas show. Those images are obviously effective in creating a perception of wastefulness or irrelevance to a conference or meeting, but they are far removed from the experiences delivered by a variety of speakers and entertainers like me in corporate settings every day.

Remember that just because a presenter falls into one category doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t simultaneously belong in another category. The brand of “mentalist” or “magician” may simply be the garnish on an individual who has real experience and expertise to share. Admittedly, that isn’t true for every performer. Yes, there are some entertainers who, in an attempt to make a buck, contrive ways to add some buzzwords to their show and turn a “show” into a “presentation.” That isn’t true in every case, though. There are people with legitimate education, credible business experience, and hard-earned management battle scars who also have the benefit of being entertaining, talented people with unique ways of presenting their content. Want to talk about waste? It would be a horrible waste to deprive people of the legitimate benefit of these people’s insights because an easy label is used to imply that they are trivial.

What is more wasteful than a conference that everyone attends but nobody remembers? Return on investment is zero if people are too bored to attend to the information being presented. What adds more value: a fully factual presentation presented to an empty room, or an entertaining and factual presentation presented to a room of engaged attendees?

Speaker and entertainer Joe M. Turner was interviewed for a story in Government Executive magazine.

“Magic acts at conferences can add substance, professionals say” – top story on GovExec.com

People cannot act on or benefit from information they do not remember, and people do not remember information as well when it is presented in ways that are not engaging. In my presentations on memory improvement, I mention that we forget a lot of information that we encounter simply because it failed to break through the background noise. Magic and mentalism, as I have long contended, are ideal formats for communicating important messages because the experiences are by definition out of the ordinary. Human beings are wired to remember things that are different, things that are unusual, and things that interrupt our normal patterns. Reading minds and defying physics are not normal experiences, and when real information is tied to those experiences, that information is retained far longer than information buried in the middle of a 100-slide PowerPoint deck.

Effective presentations often include an element of fun. Think back to the most boring teachers or professors you ever had. Now think back to the best ones. How quickly we forget.

I’m certainly not suggesting that you go out and book any magician or mentalist who also claims to be a sales trainer, leadership guru, or teambuilding expert. I wrote in my previous article (Credibility Counts) that anyone can claim anything. It is certainly wise stewardship to examine résumés, check references, and consider what individuals really have to offer. What critics may call “gimmicks” are not a substitute for real content; at the same time, they are not to be dismissed out of hand. Having a unique and entertaining presentation is a proven path to increased retention. When wielded by people with legitimate content and relevant experience, tools such as magic, mentalism, and a host of other skills are not wasteful expenditures, but in fact good ways to incent attendance, boost engagement, and increase retention.

Joe M. Turner is a professional speaker and corporate entertainer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a former manager in the change management practice at Accenture and a former Vice President of Associate Development at Bank of America. He has performed at meetings, conferences, and entertainment venues from Hollywood to London. Joe leverages the theatrical impact of magic and mentalism in his keynote presentations as a tool to engage attention and communicate messages on positive response to change, memory improvement, and creating amazing experiences with your brand. Visit him online at www.turnermagic.com and follow him on Twitter @turnermagic.

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Changing the Model: The Real Experience of Magic and Mentalism, part 2

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on May 3, 2012

In the last article, I described a mechanical model for interpreting the experience of magic and mentalism. I contend that the mechanical model presents a flawed picture of what is really happening.  Another model for the interpretation of the magical experience is seen in Figure 2.  This model, while similar to the first model in basic structure, has some important differences.

Figure 2 - The Experiential Model of Interpreting Magic

Figure 2 – The Experiential Model of Interpreting Magic

The concept of method has been expanded to include not just the external tools and actions of the performance, but also some the internal perceptions of both the performer and the audience.  Restricting the idea of method to only the physical action ignores two key concepts.  First, the attitude and mental state of the performer can play a key role in the ultimate experience of the audience.  Second, there are many important techniques which allow the performer to influence the perceptions of people in the audience.  While not as easy to manipulate as physical objects, the attention and therefore the perception of the audience can be directed both physically as well as through intangible means such as the construction of the script.  By this reference to the script I don’t mean the dynamics of the spoken words, which are physical events, but rather the architecture of the plot itself which can direct and manipulate attention.

The key element of this model is the refocusing of attention on which part of the overall interaction should be labeled as “magic.”  This label has been shifted from the method to a portion of the inner perceptions and experience of the audience.  This is the real stage on which magicians and mentalists perform.  The ability to make changes to the audience’s perceptions and to create experiences in their minds is precisely the work of the magician or mentalist.

The most important consequence of refocusing our interpretation of the overall magical interaction on the created experience is that it puts our attention on a real and relevant part of the communication.  Instead of focusing on gimmicks and secret moves and strange apparatus, the emphasis is on the emotions and experiences of the viewer.  Gimmicks and moves and props, whether poorly made or crafted by experts, are still only tools.  Because they may be described as fake or phony in some way, the entire interaction may be labeled as fake because the emphasis is placed, wrongly, on the tool.  The thoughts and emotional responses of the viewer, while intangible, are never considered fake by the person who thinks or feels them.

Despite being presented in a novel way, this isn’t an altogether new concept.  Magicians and mentalists have long written about their art in terms of “method” and “effect.”  In magic books, the effect is what the audience sees and experiences during a single trick or illusion.  It is often explained in a sentence or two.  The method is the set of actions that the performer must execute in order to do the trick.  While many great performers and writers have emphasized the importance of effect over method, most magicians are enamored with method because it is there where their physical skills are developed and tested.  There is no substitute for excellence in method, nor any excuse for failure in technique, but the real secret of magic – and the secret of real magic – that the greatest performers have always understood is that effect is ultimately more important.

In the end, the most useful interpretation of magic experiences is not as merely the combination of props or tools or techniques that are used in the performance.  Nor is it best seen as the pretended outcome of whichever imaginary power is on display.  Understood more constructively, magic is the resulting experience of the impossible that happens inside the mind of the audience member.  The real magic isn’t the physical disappearance of the coin or the lady or the tiger.  Magic is the intangible but nonetheless real experience of that impossibility in the mind of the spectator, no matter how that perception is achieved.

To be clear, this is not intended as a restatement of the well-worn adage that “perception is reality.”  Advertising professionals, marketing experts, and communication gurus have covered that idea and how it relates to business many times before; you probably have books on the subject in your own library.  This concept of the nature of magic as a real experience is based on the simpler and far more modest proposition that perception is a real thing.

View of a performance from the wings

Magic and mentalism are a form of theatre. Effective magical performances lead audiences to focus on messages and experiences rather than props and methods. Our craft is a tool to create the show, not the show itself.


By rethinking the essence of magic, not as a pretended supernatural reality but as the real experience of a constructed perception, most people can relate to magic as something that actually happens, even in their own lives.  Most of us have experienced something that seems beyond explanation, at least for the moment it takes to perceive the experience as astonishing or impossible.  That pen appeared in your jacket pocket; you realize later that it must have been brushed off the table into your pocket when you sat down, but at the precise moment you saw it there and didn’t know or hadn’t yet deduced how it could possibly have gotten there, the experience of magic occurred.  It is a real thing.  It is a real experience.  It is a valuable experience.  It is, in fact, an experience that people will not only remember, but one that they will pay to encounter over and over again.

Magicians do create real magic, then, not by using special supernatural skills to manipulate the physical world, but by using special theatrical skills to construct perceptions that result in the real experience of the impossible.

So, is magic real?  Maybe in the context of a tenth-century understanding of science and religion it’s not, but in a twenty-first century theatrical context?  Absolutely.  The psychological experience of magic is real, and the different aspects and implications of such experiences are worthwhile to explore.

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Changing the Model: The Real Experience of Magic and Mentalism, part 1

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on April 11, 2012

Let’s start out with the obvious. Perhaps the most glaring question for a speaker who uses magic, mentalism, or other kinds of illusions as a way to deliver messages is this: “Why on earth should I make real-world decisions based on make-believe illusions?”

That exceedingly reasonable question is the corporate-speak version of a familiar dismissal that anyone who has ever performed magic has encountered.

“It’s just a trick.”

Change the perspective

A change in perspective could drastically affect the way you perceive value in the performances of magic, mentalism, and other illusion arts.

This kind of comment is usually driven by a combination of factors, some of which are frustration, annoyance, a desire to save face, and even plain old fear of the unknown. Many people enjoy the feeling of astonishment and the sense that something impossible has just happened, but there are others who strongly dislike that sensation. When presented well, the experience of magic leaves an audience not merely without an explanation, but without even a foundation on which to imagine constructing an explanation. That feeling – sort of a “reality free fall” moment – is both disconcerting and unpleasant if it is interpreted as a threat.

Before we explore the principles we can learn from seemingly impossible experiences and apply to real-world issues, let’s rethink the fundamental premise of the modern theatrical magical experience.

The performing art of magic is a unique form of theater and should be approached as such by the performer and the audience. It has been centuries since magic has been presented as any sort of real supernatural event by mainstream performers or perceived as such by general audiences. Some charlatans, mediums, “psychic surgeons,” and other con artists have abused some of the principles and tools of the art in their scams, as has the occasional spoon-bending television personality. The vast majority of magic, however, is presented in a theatrical context. In fact, it is the theatrical performers of magic who are frequently most active in debunking the scams; Houdini himself may be the best known example of a performer who actively exposed such frauds.

So let’s set aside the negatively charged criticism that magic is fake, and let’s consider instead the more positive and useful idea that magic is fiction. Fiction can have a purpose and an application to real decisions despite the fact that the characters and events didn’t take place. Fiction can be as simple as Aesop or as intricate as Shakespeare. It can be as feathery as a fairy tale or as profound as a parable. It may have no purpose other than to entertain, or it may be so imbued with message that the author’s intent leaps from the page or the stage into the psyche of the reader or viewer.

If you ask the general public to discuss intent, message, or profundity in the arts or literature, you’ll soon no doubt be engaged in discussions of important novels, drama, film, music, poetry, and perhaps dance. Rarely is magic perceived by laymen as a legitimate vessel for communicating meaning, but that is not the public’s fault. Magicians themselves are to blame because most magic performances are presented without any intent other than to amuse themselves and to fool the audience, save perhaps a more specific additional desire to look clever while doing so. Most performers of magic never consider making intentional choices about the potential meanings of their performances. In the absence of explicit choices, though, those performers nonetheless make tacit decisions that empty their performances of meaning or purpose beyond producing a puzzling, momentary distraction.

Yet even in that most meaningless, purposeless state, I contend that magic is not “just some trick.” Even at the level of being merely an amusing entertainment, there is still something profound going on when magic is performed. Something real is happening, and grasping that will change the way you interpret illusions both as entertainment and as springboards for meaningful communication. What is happening? No less than real magic.

Magic, as I would have us think about it, is indeed a real thing. It’s a useful thing. It’s just not the thing we thought it was. To explain this, let’s contrast two models for interpreting theatrical magic experiences, both of which are based on classical interpersonal communication theory. There are certainly many more ways to analyze this or any form of theatre, but this comparison identifies a key concept that will change the way you think about the relevance of magic as a form for relevant, real-world communication.

In Figure 1 we see a representation of a traditional model for interpreting theatrical magical experiences, within which category I include most visual magic, mentalism, and some optical illusions.

Figure 1 - The Mechanical Model of Interpreting Magic

Figure 1 - The Mechanical Model of Interpreting Magic

In this model, the intended message begins within the mind of the communicator, or in this case the mind of the performer. It proceeds outward through the set of filters that every communicator has. These can be biases, moods, thoughts, or any other internal factors. The action or performance then happens in the space between the performer and the audience. It then enters the audience member’s filters where it is further molded by each individual’s perceptions, and ultimately it results in some received message, or experience, in the receiver’s mind. (For the sake of this discussion, we’ll ignore the presence of noise or distractions in the environment, though they are a legitimate concern for all communicators, not just performers.)

Most people, including many if not most magicians, interpret the term “magic” as describing the various physical actions that the performer takes in the space between the performer and the audience. Magic, in this model, is essentially considered a synonym for the collection of techniques and props and secret tools. Whether executed skillfully or not, the interpretation is that the “magic” is the sum of the actions, or simply “the method.” Notice also that in this case the magic and method are considered to be entirely external in relation to the performer and the audience. When magic is perceived in this way, the performer and the audience may seem interchangeable if not completely irrelevant – any performer, and any audience, connected though a given method, would have the same magic experience.

That is obviously not the case, but because method is so often the focus, an audience’s unpleasant experience in a performance of magic or mentalism is often brushed off as a shortcoming of the art rather than considered more deeply as having roots in the both the skill of the performer as well as the audience’s conditioning and habits regarding how to interpret the experience. (It should be noted that the truly skilled performer either purposely or instinctively pushes audiences to reduce their attention on method and to focus more on the experience; more on this later.)

Performers, too, are often prone to dismiss poor magic or mentalism performances as functions of external factors rather than to examine their own contributions to the experience. Ego plays a part in this, of course, but many are completely blind to the fact that their own emphasis on the method as the magic is undermining their ability to create an amazing experience for their audience.

In this model, then, the concept of magic is physically mechanical and psychologically external to the performer and audience. Because it is perceived as only a word for “how it’s done,” the emphasis is placed completely on the processes and paraphernalia. This emphasis is heightened by the fact that those tools are generally guarded as secret knowledge, and human nature is tempted by nothing so much as forbidden fruit. With all this energy and attention focused on the least meaningful aspects of the communication experience, it is little wonder that so much of magic and other illusion arts is perceived as fake, phony, and trivial.

Next time we’ll explore a different way of looking at things!

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Stanley Ralph Ross: Developer of Ideas and People

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on March 19, 2012

Friday morning I drove my daughter and her friends to school for an early club meeting. Somehow the conversation turned to old television shows and they began singing the old 1960s Batman theme song. They were moving chromatically up-then-down instead of down-then-up, so I had to correct that. Then I used my phone to share with them another great theme song from one of the truly great superhero shows of the late 1970s: Wonder Woman. Take a listen to remember how ridiculously full of funky awesome it was. (You can’t view it embedded here, but you can watch it directly on YouTube.)

This theme song has energy and humor, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and when I got to the end, it reminded me of something I had nearly forgotten. At the 1:25 mark, up pops a graphic that says “Developed for Television by Stanley Ralph Ross.”

Stanley Ralph Ross

Actor, Writer, Producer
Stanley Ralph Ross

Stanley Ralph Ross was an actor, writer, composer, producer, and teacher with deep expertise in television. He wrote for Batman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Monkees, and All in the Family. Notably, he also wrote this immortal opening narration: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”

I worked with Stanley during the Maine production of the musical Love Is Spoken Here, which he co-wrote with Jacquelyn Reinach. I was a music direction intern for that show, working as a rehearsal pianist, scribe, rewriter and transposer, and general grunt worker for anything related to the music side of the production.

At the same time, I was also writing an original song (“Where Are the Words?”) for the show the intern staff was putting together. One day Stanley came in as I sat at the piano. He listened to my work, gave me some really encouraging feedback about my piano/vocal work and my composition, and helped me with some of the lyrics. It was just one moment among so many that I spent with Stanley that summer, but it’s one that sticks out because we were alone and sitting at the keyboard, just two guys putting together a song. Stanley didn’t have to do that.

Or maybe he did.

Stanley had an amazing combination of skills and interests and was passionate about exploring and using them. He acted, wrote, produced, and helped other people transform their rough ideas into fully developed entertainment projects. He loved doing all of it, as his varied and prolific career attests. I wonder… when he strolled down the hall where I was working in the rehearsal room, was he as free to walk past as we might think? I think he may have felt absolutely obligated to go see what was going on in there. In a way, I think he was practically trapped by his curiosity and talent and drive and desire to see the creative process succeed.

Are you passionate about your talent or expertise to the degree that sometimes it almost takes over your will? There are times I am almost too tired to move, but if the right question is asked, or the right song is played, or the right illusion is performed, then I am not only energized but practically compelled to pay attention and participate to the appropriate degree. It’s not about barging in and taking over… it’s about looking for the ways that a combination of encouragement and suggestion can help the creative process succeed. Of all the credits he ever had, I think the one I saw Friday morning may have been his most inspiring: Developer. He was a developer of ideas and people. Not just his own ideas, and not just himself… although that inevitably happened as he worked with others.

Stanley passed away in 2000. I hadn’t thought about him in a long time, and it was Wonder Woman who brought him back to life for me last Friday. And as a result, I’ve been left to ponder the same question I’ll leave for you:

Other than yourself, who is it that your talent is compelling you to “develop for production” right now?

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Three Recommendations from Kettering Sales and Marketing Group

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on March 14, 2012

Keynote Speaker | Motivational Speaker Joe M. Turner - Mentalist, Magician
Yesterday I spoke to the Sales and Marketing SIG (special interest group) of the Kettering Executive Network.

My topic was Five Kinds of Amazing, which is the working title of the book I’m working on now. You’ll be seeing excerpts from the book on this blog over the rest of the year, so stay tuned!

Here’s some feedback from three people who saw yesterday’s presentation.


Kelly Bevan’s Testimonial


Joan Boneburg’s Testimonial


David Jensen’s Testimonial

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What is Mentalism?

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on February 23, 2012

My clients know that I perform a variety of illusions in different genres, depending on the specific needs and character of their event. Many of them have encountered the term “mentalism” in conversations with me, or they’ve heard it from others, or they’ve seen the popular show The Mentalist on CBS. Many people still approach me with the question: just what is mentalism, anyway?

Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance, 1900

Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance, 1900 (via Wikipedia)

Mentalism, simply put, is the branch of illusion arts that deals with psychological experiences more than visual ones, though there is sometimes some overlap. Mentalists present their audiences with experiences that seem like mind-reading, mental influence, predictions of future events, and occasionally the ability to move or affect physical objects with the power of the mind.

Modern mentalism has roots in ancient times, where soothsayers and mediums performed acts that would be related to some kinds of mentalism today. In the 1800s, psychic entertainers became popular and some of the feats they performed would still be part of any mentalism performance today.

Some mentalists strongly resist any comparison to magicians, preferring to think of the art as an entirely separate one with no pretended “supernatural” elements. Given that some mentalists have overtly made claims of “supernatural gifts” as the source of their abilities, that distinction holds little sway. Another common approach to performing mentalism today is to offer it in the context of using highly developed observational skills and an ability to read body language as the theatrical premise for the performance. This premise is, however, sometimes largely an illusion in its own right. It is generally a contrivance intended to persuade audiences that what they are experiencing is less a theatrical experience and more an actual ability to perceive people’s specific thoughts. While this claim is not supernatural in nature, in my view it is only slightly less dishonest.

My personal approach to mentalism is to recognize it for what it really is: a truly mystifying branch of the illusion arts focused on experiences of the mind. Just as a skilled sleight-of-hand artist can make a coin appear to melt into nothingness, a skilled mentalist can seem to make a thought appear in your mind. The first illusion is visual; the second is psychological. They rely on some techniques that are similar, and some which are different. Likewise, the performer who makes a tiger appear on a stage relies on some techniques that are similar, and some which are different. All of the experiences are illusions to an audience.

It can be fun to leave the line between reality and performance a little blurry for an audience. When that blurred line becomes a means by which someone attempts to sell products or services through the perception that the theatrical premise represents legitimate expertise on the part of the performer, then another line is also being blurred: the line between honest performer and scam artist.

Interestingly, when the television show The Mentalist premiered, the Atlanta CBS affiliate contacted me about coming on the news for a feature on “Atlanta’s Real Life Mentalist.” In that segment they profiled me and my work as a speaker and mentalist. The interview itself is linked just below the image. Enjoy!

Atlanta's Real-Life Mentalist | Joe M. Turner

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Media Hit: Top Business Consultant to Speak at Chamber Banquet

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on January 30, 2012

Here’s a nice media hit from a couple of weeks ago; it was promoting my appearance at the Dyersburg/Dyer County Chamber of Commerce that happened last weekend. Somehow I missed it when it came out, but here it is.

Thank you, Dyersburg, for a great evening! I am looking forward to visiting again and seeing the results of the great opportunities you have on the horizon for your city, county, and region.

From Dyersburg State Gazette

Top business consultant to speak at Chamber banquet

Joe M. Turner | Speaker - Entertainer - Consultant

Joe M. Turner


Sunday, January 15, 2012
Special to the State Gazette

Sometimes achieving success in challenging circumstances doesn’t just seem difficult – it can seem downright impossible. Remember, though: things aren’t always what they seem! On Saturday, Jan. 28, “Chief Impossibility Officer” Joe M. Turner brings a special presentation designed to inspire us to rethink the impossible in the coming year.

Turner was a manager in the global change management consulting practice at Accenture, and later a vice president of associate development in the Business Practices Integration division of Bank of America. Those years of experience in training, business communication, human performance development and change management initiatives at numerous Fortune 100 clients give Turner credibility and insight into the challenges that individuals, teams, and organizations face as they encounter changing environments.

Full article: http://www.stategazette.com/story/1804733.html

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Turner Magic and Keynotes Receives Best of Atlanta 2011 Award

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on January 25, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Turner Magic and Keynotes Receives 2011 Best of Atlanta Award

Best of Atlanta 2011

Turner Magic & Keynotes Received the 2011 Best of Atlanta Award from USCA

NEW YORK, NY, October 21, 2011 — Turner Magic & Keynotes has been selected for the 2011 Best of Atlanta Award in the Party Planning & Event Consultants category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).

The USCA “Best of Local Business” Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2011 USCA Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USCA and data provided by third parties.

About U.S. Commerce Association (USCA)

U.S. Commerce Association (USCA) is a New York City based organization funded by local businesses operating in towns, large and small, across America. The purpose of USCA is to promote local business through public relations, marketing and advertising.

The USCA was established to recognize the best of local businesses in their community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to be an advocate for small and medium size businesses and business entrepreneurs across America.

SOURCE: U.S. Commerce Association

CONTACT:
U.S. Commerce Association
Email: PublicRelations@uscaaward.com
URL: http://www.uscaaward.com

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Pennies from (Somewhere Just South of) Heaven

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on January 10, 2012

Happy 2012! It’s a new year with new opportunities. To help us all get started on the right foot, I’d like to share a new twist on the “random acts of kindness” idea.

Planting a lucky penny can bring a quick smile to someone's face... but this one should have been left face up!

We’ve all heard a version of the “pay it forward” concept. For example, last Thursday morning as I pulled up to the drive-thru window to pay for my breakfast biscuit, I took the opportunity to pay for the car behind me, leaving her the message to simply “Pass it on.”

At an event later that night, I was having a conversation about this sort of thing with Katy Fenbert, an insurance agent in the metro-Atlanta area. She shared a wonderful idea with me that I’m passing along.

Remember the old rhyme about pennies bringing good luck? Katy decided to start deliberately leaving her pennies in surprise locations. It’s one thing to find a penny on the counter at the convenience store, but Katy places them strategically in places where people might need a boost of hope, however small.

There are plenty of places where people may have just received some troubling or difficult news. Hospitals, courthouses, doctor’s offices, funeral homes… I’m sure you could think of a dozen more places where a little good luck could brighten someone’s day. It doesn’t even have to be a particularly gloomy spot, although it’s nice if you can find a way to do it.

I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in boosting people’s spirits. When I heard this, I was inspired to think about where I could leave a penny – face up, of course! – and possibly bring a surprising moment into someone’s day.

Leave a comment and tell me someplace you strategically hid a penny for someone to find! I’m leaving one on the window sill here at Starbucks right now.

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Evaluating the Quality of Unique Services

Posted by Joe M. Turner | TurnerMagic.com on December 14, 2011

One built-in characteristic of delivering a unique service is that most people have never experienced what you do. Unlike more familiar services – lawn care, office cleaning, computer repair, legal representation, etc. – most people haven’t got a meaningful point of reference from which to evaluate the services of a mentalist, magician, or a professional keynote speaker. This often puts them at a disadvantage when trying to select an appropriate, high-quality provider.

More Data Points Needed

Most people don't have enough "data points" to evaluate providers of unique services in relation to others in their industries.

Consider magic and mentalism. Most people have never experienced a live performance in these unusual theatrical genres. Among those who have, most have only seen it within the context of a children’s party or a Las Vegas show – rarely anything in between. If a person sees one performer one time, that single experience often colors their opinion of the entire art form, for better or for worse.

Most people have plenty of experience listening to, say, bands or singers. Music surrounds us in our everyday experience. If someone hires a singer and they give a bad performance, the next time the question comes up then most people will say, “That singer was bad – let’s get a different singer.” This is because they have enough experiences with music to know that the one experience they had was of poor quality, but that better experiences are certainly out there to be had.

That’s not the case with mentalism or magic. In those cases, people who have a bad experience often conclude not that the performer was merely sub-par, but that the entire art form is largely of similarly poor quality. Because most people don’t have everyday experiences with these arts, many clients react not with “I didn’t care for that performer,” but rather with “I don’t like magic – let’s do something else.”

Likewise, most people probably will not see more than a dozen professional speakers in a lifetime. Meeting planners and convention committees deal with professional speakers and entertainers regularly, but most people have never had to consider what might make one a better fit than another for a given audience.

Because there are so few points of reference, it can be difficult to establish a scale for evaluating quality. Here are six tips you may find useful.

  1. Ask for specifics about experience. People who claim they are perfect for “all occasions” probably aren’t. Your budget will bring a better return when you discuss the specific event with the provider, ask about their specific experience in that environment, and follow-up on the references they give. When the performer or speaker takes a bow, how will you feel if they thank you by name for hiring them?

  2. Consider awards and credits with a grain of salt. The words “award winning” are suspect. If an award intrigues you then ask about it, but so many awards are available and offered to performers in so many circumstances that it’s almost impossible to find a performer who can’t claim to be “award winning” in some way.

  3. Check for online reviews. Do a Google search on the person’s name and look for reviews. Look beyond performers’ web sites themselves; check their LinkedIn and Google profiles. Check other sites like Kudzu, Meetup, and Yelp. Fifteen minutes of internet research can save your event as well as your reputation.

  4. Analyze the promo video. Do they provide footage of performances in front of a variety of audiences in a range of venues, or is their entire promo kit built around a studio shoot and a set of photos from one event? Check their YouTube videos, but consider whether it was shot at home, in a studio, or in front of real clients.

  5. Don’t fall in love with a low quote. The performance you’ll get from the undercutters is only going to result in a poor experience for your audience and a blot on your reputation. I’ve written before about the high price of cheap entertainment, and it’s worth remembering that even when budgets are tight, quality counts above all. It’s better to stretch on the entertainment budget than to have beautiful lighting and decorations around a performer or speaker you wish your audience would someday forget.

  6. Be honest and ask for a referral. When you find the speaker or performer who’s right for your group, work with them about what you really can and cannot afford. Most of us are willing to make mutual concessions in the course of good faith negotiations. If the numbers just won’t work, ask that person for recommendations of other quality performers who might meet your budget constraints; then trust their advice. Remember – the experienced performer knows how their unique service has fit into a variety of events and venues, and they also know the quality of other artists and speakers in the marketplace.

I have always found that it only enhanced my own reputation and client relationships to help clients find suitable alternatives when I’m out of range or unavailable. I hope these tips help you navigate the sometimes-confusing process of evaluating unique services.

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