The_Ultimate_Guide_for_Virtual_Shows-01

This article will take you by the hand and show you EVERYTHING you need to do in order to perform in Virtual Parties for birthdays, corporate events and virtual family gathering. It is based on a lecture by Matan Rosenberg that was given through Kids Entertainer Academy and is available as one of the many videos of the Virtual Shows online course.

Let’s start with identifying the benefits of performing a virtual show

Here is the reality right now - no one is an expert on virtual shows yet. It’s simply put - a new beast in the market and we are all learning as we go along. Matan had to learn fast just as you need to do, because the pandemic is the reality and you cannot perform face to face as often as you used to.

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Fair disclaimer - the tips we share here are not mandatory or prerequisites - they are simply put the opinions of a virtual show worker (Matan performed over 70 paid shows), so feel free to share your advice, your recommendations, and your ideas in the comments below.

Matan did a lot of research to come up with the information in this article. He practiced a ton. He studied zoom. He saw so many tutorials on home studios through youtube. He’s changed the lighting so many times and the cameras too. 

This situation with Covid-19 sucks, but the advantages of performing online is that you can serve a global market without the need to negotiate conditions and flights and hotels. You can sit at your desk, let's say in the US or wherever you are in the world and your audience can be in the UK, for example. That means local markets are no longer relevant.

Your past clients are your key to booking your first zoom show

You can do it from your living room or from your home office or wherever you want to perform and compete on the exact same deals. Matan’s first zoom show was for a repeat customer of his that booked him to do close up magic in a bar mitzva in Israel. But during the pandemic, Matan used the services of Zivi Kivi’s copywriting and the customer got hooked with the idea of doing a zoom show with his relatives from the UK. So Matan gave them a quote in pounds , didn’t leave the room and managed to do a really good show… which led to multiple other shows as people started to talk about him.

In order for Matan to go to England in the real world, he has to fly six hours. He has to book a hotel. He has to negotiate his fee. But now there are just so many expenses that are not needed and the customer benefits from this. So you have to look on the bright side and on the half full side of the glass, we have the ability to perform from our offices on our chairs, in front of our computers and amaze someone halfway around the world.

How many virtual shows can you fit in a day?

Since you won’t need to spend time on transportation, it also means you can knock out one show after the other. If you do a show in real life, you have to set up your kit, your equipment, your briefcase, whatever you do. You have to set it up in a specific order. You have to place it in your car. Maybe you use public transport, so you have to calculate the traffic, the time looking for parking space… then you need to go into the event prior to the starting hours for sound check, talk to the client, smoosh, do the show, maybe stay afterwards. Maybe the client is waiting for you and you have to wait for the check. This often takes five, six hours out of your day. When you do a zoom show and it's, let's say 45 minutes, and let’s say your setup time is 15 minutes... You can easily do these one after the other in one day.

Imagine even if you charge a fraction of what you charge for real show, but if you could do three a day and remember there is no limit to your audience location, so that might actually happen if you read this article and take action.

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Los Angeles Magician Robert Baxt www.robertbaxt.com/shop

Since you won’t need to spend time on transportation, it also means you can knock out one show after the other. If you do a show in real life, you have to set up your kit, your equipment, your briefcase, whatever you do. You have to set it up in a specific order. You have to place it in your car. Maybe you use public transport, so you have to calculate the traffic, the time looking for parking space… then you need to go into the event prior to the starting hours for sound check, talk to the client, smoosh, do the show, maybe stay afterwards. Maybe the client is waiting for you and you have to wait for the check. This often takes five, six hours out of your day. When you do a zoom show and it's, let's say 45 minutes, and let’s say your setup time is 15 minutes... You can easily do these one after the other in one day.

Imagine even if you charge a fraction of what you charge for real show, but if you could do three a day and remember there is no limit to your audience location, so that might actually happen if you read this article and take action.

How much should I charge for a virtual show?

There is no right or wrong answer here. What’s important to remember however, is that now you are not charging local prices anymore. You are not competing with entertainers in your local market. Now you are serving the international market, so adjust your pricing accordingly.

Just imagine, you could be doing virtual shows anywhere in the world, without spending money or time in travel and accommodation. Keep that in mind, and charge international prices. You don’t have to lower your fees compared to a live show, you can just charge the same as your lowest package, if you offer live show packages.

And the better you become doing virtual shows and the more you see people loving your shows, raise your prices. Be sure, people will pay more for quality. If you can prove that you are an amazing performer over zoom and your show is amazing, your customers will pay more.

Quick tip: You can’t go wrong if you start charging 60% off your regular show for a virtual one and raise your fees as you go. For example, if you charge $1000 for a live show, you can easily charge $600 for a virtual. Just to round the numbers and make it easier for you to see my point.

Let’s zoom, zoom zoom this virtual party - a 101 guide for the Zoom service

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We are using zoom to do the actual show. Start by downloading the program onto your computer (from zoom.us). You can of course use your phone, tablet or any other mobile device too.

When it comes to fees, zoom gives you two options. You have the free option or the paid account. On the free account you get a limit - up to 40 minutes of meeting time. There are also other limits related to the features of meetings and webinars done through zoom. If you're just talking to your family, the free version is fine, so you don't have to invest in anything yet. But considering that the pro version is not expensive, it’s worth giving this thought a chance. It is about $15 a month and has many, many features and unlimited time for each show.

The alternative to Zoom meetings is Zoom webinars, which starts at $40 extra per month. Once using that mode, it means the host can not see the audience videos until they are promoted to the panel. Your audience can hear you but not each other. You get to choose who you bring in as panelists and who can talk from the audience with a click of a button.

Zoom Webinars is a bit like a theatre show, where you can invite someone on stage, and they get up, go through their line and all the way up to the stage area, and then go up the stairs carefully and onto the stage. It takes time in real life, and it takes time in Zoom Webinars as well.

Quick tip: when choosing between zoom meeting and zoom webinar, consider what will be easier for you. To have more control over the presentation or not. If you want to be able to turn a member of the audience into a panelist, then maybe zoom webinar is a better option for you. Carry on reading to learn more about how to switch from audience to a panelist.

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More about how to control what the viewers are seeing on your zoom show

In a meeting you have the speaker view. That's where you see yourself on the big screen. You also have the gallery view which is where you see everyone separated into rectangles, and you're one of them. The problem is if we have 50 rectangles and you're doing a closeup trick right now and your screen is too small.

But you can choose how the audience sees you by using the “Spotlight Video” feature. It forces people who are in the speaker view to see you as the speaker.

And here lies the conflict with pros and cons for each option.

On a Zoom Meeting (cheaper and more widely used for zoom shows) - the audience might click on gallery view EVEN after you spotlighted your video. In this case, you lost their focus and they won’t be able to notice your magic.

On a Zoom Webinar (more expensive and a bit tricky to master so you might need a stage helper promoting people to the panel and revoking their panelists status when needed) - the audience cannot switch into gallery view, and you can control who’s video you see by promoting them to the panel.

Quick tip: If you don’t want to risk your audience missing a trick because they clicked on someone else’s video by mistake, then consider investing in a zoom webinar, so that you can lock your video while everyone is watching your show.

How do you get to interact with the audience in a virtual show?

As performers a huge part of the joy we get from entertaining others is actually feeling the energy of the crowd, hearing them laugh, seeing their reactions of amazement. In a virtual show you can imagine, part of that energy won’t be felt by you.

The only issue with virtual shows is that is you can not feel the audience and they can not feel your presence and your energy. In a theater when people dress up especially to go there, and they wait for you to start, it can feel as if something's about to happen. You feel everybody laughing together and you lose it completely on Zoom webinars and almost all of it on Zoom meetings.

However, this shouldn’t discourage you, because more and more people are learning to accept this new normal. Schools are becoming virtual, people work remotely, so it is up to you to bring that extra energy of yours and let your virtual audience feel it regardless of their location.

Quick tip: if you want to make sure that everyone is on the same frequency as you, you can always advise the host before booking you to set a dress code. Not only because the audience will be live and others will see them, but also because it will add to the festive feeling you will create while performing.

GOLD TIPS Part 1 about Virtual Shows

A few quick tips to sum up before we continue: 

  • You can’t go wrong if you start charging 60% off your regular show for a virtual one and raise your fees as you go. For example, if you charge $1000 for a live show, you can easily charge $600 for a virtual. Just to round the numbers and make it easier for you to see my point.

  • When choosing between zoom meeting and zoom webinar, consider what will be easier for you. To have more control over the presentation or not. If you want to be able to turn a member of the audience into a panelist, then maybe zoom webinar is a better option for you. Carry on reading to learn more about how to switch from audience to a panelist.

  • If you don’t want to risk your audience missing a trick because they clicked on someone else’s video by mistake, then consider investing in a zoom webinar, so that you can lock your video while everyone is watching your show.

  • If you want to make sure that everyone is on the same frequency as you, you can always advise the host before booking you to set a dress code. Not only because the audience will be live and others will see them, but also because it will add to the festive feeling you will create while performing.
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Los Angeles Magician Robert Baxt www.robertbaxt.com/shop

Taking your time with your audience (especially when performing magic over zoom)

So what does it mean taking your time? Time is working with you and against you at the same time. It's working with you because time is a perceived value. That means when you give someone an hour show, they say wow, an hour show, that’s a long show. It makes it seem worth more money too because this is taking a full hour of occupying the audience's mind off COVID-19. 

Time works against you because these delays, these lags in the connection and situations in which people are coming and going, preparing coffee, etc and you lose time within your show. For example, when you remove panelists, the people moving away from panelists to audience members will see a black screen. It even takes time muting and unmuting people as you have to press these buttons. 

Quick tip: try and master the keyboard shortcuts feature of zoom.

Let’s go technical about your virtual show rig

It is technical features time. We highly recommend you don’t worry about the technical setup on your first few shows from a business standpoint - many entertainers did over 20 shows before they upgraded their setup in any way.

If you are going to upgrade something, start with your internet connection. A Fast reliable internet connection (4mb downstream and 1mb upstream or more) is the first thing to consider and is not that expensive. This is extremely important. If you have a fast internet on your end, there's less possibility of unstable video connection just when you are pulling the rabbit out of the hat.

Quick tip: Do not use zoom over wifi as it will be unreliable. Instead, take a long ethernet cable and connect directly to your home modem or router.

If you are going to buy a computer, consider using a strong desktop computer rather than a laptop, mainly in case you have a budget issue as laptops are more expensive.

The next bit to consider is actually your webcam. There are pretty good webcams on the market. You can also use a professional-grade video camera or DSLR camera or even a go pro BUT you will also need to buy a capture card. If you choose to go this route you might need to watch youtube videos specific to the camera that you have.

Quick tip: Matan is using a Microsoft camera that costs 20 to 30 USD. Zivi uses a Logitech Brio which is around 250 USD.

Let there be light! Controlling the lights in your virtual party - is it a must?

This is definitely not a must, and yet it gives you a more professional look to have two sources of soft white light (or one ring source of light). That way you can control your skin tone and it looks healthier and real.

Some tricks force you to control the light cause otherwise people won’t see what card they picked. So be mindful of your content selection and strive for a well lit room.

Lighting is not so expensive actually and for under $200 you can get a nice bundle of two light sources and stands. You can buy light sources in a home Depot and a DIY store, wherever you are in the world, anywhere. You can use baking paper to diffuse lights’ sources. So you can build professional lighting for dollars. Okay.

After you have secured your light, it’s important to spotlight yourself from zoom’s features. It can ruin the entire show for everyone. Let me give you an example. Let's say you had a prediction envelope in full view, and you forgot to spotlight yourself. Then any reaction from your audience will switch the view.

Remember, unless you spotlight yourself, background noise coming from any participant will trigger the software to switch to the view where the sound is coming from. The same applies to any audience member you want everyone to see and hear. Unless spotlighting someone, the video might show only the speaker that is unmuted and makes any sound. So you might lose time on figuring out when to spotlight your video and when not to.

Quick tip: don’t be confused between Pin Video and Spotlight Video. Pin video only affects your own view of the meeting. Spotlight will show the camera of whoever you wish to be the center of attention.

Getting further support through the Zoom Magic and Mentalism Facebook group

There is a Facebook group called zoom magic and mentalism, and there's a member there called Robert Strong. He shared his beautiful setup with Kids Entertainer Academy members in a lecture. Join the group and learn more helpful tips and tricks from others in the industry doing virtual shows.

Your background and do you need a backdrop for a virtual show
It’s ok to go either way - if you choose to use a backdrop, make sure it looks well on your camera and that it doesn’t “steal the show”. If you are not using a backdrop, make sure your room is aesthetically pleasing.

Quick tip: Whether you add a backdrop or not, make sure you move with purpose and put some shoes on, don’t just focus on your outfit. You don’t want your audience to catch a glimpse of your slippers, do you?

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Photos by Dana Jacobs Photography (www.danajacobsphotography.com)
My website is www.chefbananas.com

Your background and do you need a backdrop for a virtual show

It’s ok to go either way - if you choose to use a backdrop, make sure it looks well on your camera and that it doesn’t “steal the show”. If you are not using a backdrop, make sure your room is aesthetically pleasing.

Quick tip: Whether you add a backdrop or not, make sure you move with purpose and put some shoes on, don’t just focus on your outfit. You don’t want your audience to catch a glimpse of your slippers, do you?

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Photos by Dana Jacobs Photography (www.danajacobsphotography.com)
My website is www.chefbananas.com

Check… Check… Sound check… what sound system do you need to perform online?

Now for sound, Matan is using a wireless device.
You may already have a wireless device because you use it for live shows. All you need is connecting your device (like seinheizer) into your computer. They usually have a headphone Jack and it goes in where your microphone is on your sound card, in the back of your desktop computer. Or if you're using a laptop, you probably have something called a headphone Jack.

By using your existing microphone you can save money. You don't have to purchase a new device. Lapel mikes work well too and some of them cost like $30.

Since you will be performing and having your hands full, just like in a performance environment you might have to stand up and show something. So that’s why it helps to wear a mike on you.

You also want to choose equipment for your show that doesn’t include the help of another person (like a camera guy or a sound rigger) as you have to be controlling the time of the show very efficiently.

Quick tip: Make sure you mute everyone during your performance. Otherwise, the moment someone says something (or even the moment they laugh), your sound level lowers and it’s not only distracting for everyone, but also doesn’t look professional (imagine people not hearing the end of the gag because they can’t hear you...this is not what they are paying for). So keep that in mind and mute participants during your performance. When you want to interact with someone, unmute one participant at a time.

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Photos by Dana Jacobs Photography (www.danajacobsphotography.com)
My website is www.chefbananas.com

How to enhance your show by adding music to it?

If you want to add music in the background, or play music during time delays, you can easily do that by playing it on a different sound system or even on your computer, but keeping the volume low.

Here is what could happen however if you play music on the same computer while hosting the virtual show. Because your computer has one set of speakers, the sound coming from it balances both music and speech with the same sound level. up. So that means that if you play low music on your computer (so that it is not louder than you) then the voices of your audience will be as low as the music. That’s when you risk not hearing them loud enough.

To avoid that and have your computer speakers loud (and hear the audience clear enough), it’s best to play the background music from a different system. You could improvise and play the music on your phone, a second stereo, your TV, etc.

Quick tip: If you have only one set of speakers, connect the speakers to your phone, play the music on your phone and keep the audience’s sound coming from the computer (now without speakers). That way you can control both volumes and hear your audience loud and have background music not interfering with anyone.

How to use time delay to your advantage?

Remember we discussed earlier about the time it takes to switch panelists? Now this is the time you don’t want to add anything of importance because otherwise you risk someone not hearing you.

That's the time delay, embrace it or add background music. Enjoy that time, spotlight yourself literally and figuratively spotlight yourself with the lighting and spotlight yourself in the zoom program. You'll see pin video spotlights, but light means that no matter who talks, unless you unmute them and you ask them for video, the rest of the guests won’t see them.

Quick tip: There are 5 to 10 seconds gaps between switching panelists, so remember, don’t add any instructions or gags during that time, or you risk someone not hearing you at all.

GOLD TIPS Part 2 about Virtual Shows

A few quick tips to sum up before we continue:

  • Make sure your internet connection is at least 1mb upstream and 4mb downstream
  • Do not use zoom over wifi as it will be unreliable. Instead, take a long ethernet cable and connect directly to your home modem or router.
  • Practice the basics like how to mute everybody and consider a new webcam
  • Try and master the keyboard shortcuts feature of zoom.
  • Don’t be confused between Pin Video and Spotlight Video. Pin video only affects your own view of the meeting. Spotlight will show the camera of whoever you wish to be the center of attention.
  • Whether you add a backdrop or not, make sure you move with purpose and put some shoes on, don’t just focus on your outfit. You don’t want your audience to catch a glimpse of your slippers, do you?
  • Make sure you mute everyone during your performance. Otherwise, the moment someone says something (or even the moment they laugh), your sound level lowers and it’s not only distracting for everyone, but also doesn’t look professional (imagine people not hearing the end of the gag because they can’t hear you...this is not what they are paying for). So keep that in mind and mute participants during your performance. When you want to interact with someone, unmute one participant at a time.
  • If you have only one set of speakers, connect the speakers to your phone, play the music on your phone and keep the audience’s sound coming from the computer (now without speakers). That way you can control both volumes and hear your audience loud and have background music not interfering with anyone.
  • There are 5 to 10 seconds gaps between switching panelists, so remember, don’t add any instructions or gags during that time, or you risk someone not hearing you at all.

How many tricks can I fit within a 45min virtual show

It all depends on the tricks you do. What's important to keep in mind when planning your show is the time delay in between acts.

Let me give you an example. Imagine you do a trick, you switch panelists and there is this awkward 5-10 seconds gap that has to be accounted for. It's more or less like a stage show. But this time instead of your audience going up the stage and then having them go back to their seats, there will be a time delay in your virtual show. So if by the end of your show you still have tricks up your sleeve that you've prepared for today and haven't had the chance to perform yet, nothing is stopping you from savoring them for the next show ythe same clients book you.

Quick tip: When you prepare your performance beforehand, it’s helpful to have more tricks even if you don’t have enough time to do them all. Make sure you add up to 10 seconds delay time in between acts, plus a couple of minutes before the show starts and after your last trick. That way you can manage your time accordingly and line up gig after gig without disappointing anyone.

How to do magic on the screen...now that’s something you want to use in your virtual shows

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could use these virtual shows as an opportunity to learn something new while still doing what you love and what pays well? Maybe you can watch all those magic DVDs you bought that are now collecting dust, or maybe you can even subscribe to KEA so that you can easily adapt any magic tricks and perform them during your virtual shows. Not only because magic tricks are great for virtual shows, but also because you will become better at them the more you do them.

When it comes to predictions, things are not much different from a life show. You know the way you use the projection screen in live shows, the same way you can use your screen in virtual shows. The only difference is that now you will switch from camera view to screenshare, and your audience can play your games while seeing your screen and not you.

First, open the game on your computer (same way you would have done with a projector), then you share your screen with your audience and now you start telling them what to do and where to move. At the end of the trick, everyone will be amazed that you figured out the exact location where you lead them to go.

Quick tip: when it comes to adapting a life trick to a virtual one, you can just use your imagination. Any magic trick can be performed online, just as any prediction game can be drawn on your screen and shared with your audience. So here is your encouragement that if you put your heart to it, you not only will have fun doing virtual shows, but you will also line up more gigs in less time.

How about stage manipulations? Is that really possible during a virtual show?

You can still do stage manipulations even though your audience is virtual. You can levitate a cigarette, a card, you can do cardboard manipulations, billiard board manipulations. It looks great and you can capture your virtual audience’s attention just as much as in a real show.

Another one is to play with invisible cards. You could be playing with the spectator who is shuffling an imaginary deck of cards. Make the game even funnier, by telling the spectator he gave you the wrong deck after shuffling is done. This is a funny, interactive presentation, great for zoom shows.

Keep in mind however that predictions have to be in full view during the whole bit from start to finish. It doesn't have to be in full view from the beginning of the show to the end, but it has to be in full view from whenever you start doing the forcing procedure to show the prediction was right. If you have to leave the frame however, you could have someone help you, by writing stuff down and putting it in an envelope.

And since you cannot involve a signature of an audience member because he's not physically there, neither can you borrow a ring or a watch and make it disappear and reappear, here is what you can do instead.

You can do a cartoon possible location when taking a deck of cards. Then have someone name a card, and get them to say any word they wish to have written on that card. You can then make the card disappear and reappear at an impossible location.

Quick tip: If you do card prediction tricks, don’t show the card to the camera and pretend you don’t see it on your screen. Just avoid doing these card tricks, because your audience knows you can see the card on your computer.

GOLD TIPS Part 3 about Virtual Shows

A few quick tips to sum up before we conclude: 

  • When you prepare your performance beforehand, it’s helpful to have more tricks even if you don’t have enough time to do them all. Make sure you add up to 10 seconds delay time in between acts, plus a couple of minutes before the show starts and after your last trick. That way you can manage your time accordingly and line up gig after gig without disappointing anyone.
  • When it comes to adapting a life trick to a virtual one, you can just use your imagination. Any magic trick can be performed online, just as any prediction game can be drawn on your screen and shared with your audience. So here is your encouragement that if you put your heart to it, you not only will have fun doing virtual shows, but you will also line up more gigs in less time.
  • If you do card prediction tricks, don’t show the card to the camera and pretend you don’t see it on your screen. Just avoid doing these card tricks, because your audience knows you can see the card on your computer.
  • Don’t show a card when your video is not spotlighted and check your lighting to make sure they can actually read the card
  • Don’t do any magic while sharing the screen and expect the audience to see you on the small video that shows when you are sharing your desktop screen
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The show is over...but how to end it virtually?

A great way to end the show is to bring everyone together. Give them time to interact, enjoy, and show reactions.

This will help you create that sense of togetherness that people want to experience during a show. Plus the client is more likely to see this as an added benefit because they booked an hour with you and they get extra minutes laughing and chatting with the rest of the audience.

Quick tip: Make sure you lead the conversation, so that you can wrap things up and end the virtual show leaving everyone happy that you entertained them and gave them the chance to be virtually present with the people that matter to them.

Need more help transitioning from live to virtual shows?

Now that there's such a demand for virtual shows, and people are doing more things online (from attending schools to working remotely) you can consider benefiting from further coaching sessions with Zivi Kivi. During these sessions you will learn how to blow people's minds if you put your passion to it and you practice, and you do the hard work. 

Every individual session is designed with you in mind, so whether you are just starting your career as an entertainer or you are a seasoned live performer, these sessions will speak your language, so that you can gain the knowledge and confidence you need to become a successful virtual performer.

Quick tip: To book an individual session with Zivi Kivi, https://kivimedia.co/30

 

Final Credits:

This article was written by Matan Rosenberg and Zivi Kivi

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