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Magicians

Tips: how to make remote workshops excellent 💥

By | education, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Music, Team

We’ve learned a few unexpected ways to make remote meetings and workshops a great and human experience. Apart from the usual video call etiquette that you’ve no doubt learned recently, how about…

  • Hiding self view
  • Unmuting everyone
  • Creating virtual magic

Self view

We’ve probably all looked at our own faces far more than is healthy in recent months! Hiding self view allows you to focus much more on other participants. Less Is my hair really that straggly? and more I never knew that, very interesting indeed. Heed this warning however: don’t forget you’re on camera. Everyone can still see you even though you can’t! No nose-picking, texting on the side or stuffing your face with a sandwich and wearing it for the rest of the call…

Unmute

The generally agreed protocol is that everyone should stay on mute unless they’re talking. This cuts out all unnecessary background noise and allows whoever is speaking to be heard by all. But it’s fun to create a little audio chaos and allow everyone to talk at the same time. We guarantee it will liven things up. You can have a lively debate, like in real life. Remember that?!

Magical energisers

Obviously we perform and teach magic in our sessions. But magicians never spill their secrets, so you’ll have to get in touch with us for this one. We’ll send you a video of one of our magical energisers. You must watch it and then destroy it 😉 (leave your name in the comments or contact us directly).

Less unexpected, but still worth mentioning. Here are some more tips to help remote connections feel good.

Hand signals

When you’re on mute and you want to say something without interrupting the speaker, devise a visual language that suits your company. We had fun creating ours: see our video below 👇

Spotify 

We have various Spotify playlists ready to go. Integrating music into meetings and workshops creates energy and sets different moods. Use quiet, non-verbal music when people need to talk or think. And something more lively to perk people up at the start or during breaks.

Miro

What a great invention Miro is! A virtual white board with sticky notes you can scribble on. We use it all the time for both client workshops and internal sessions. The best thing about it is that it’s visually familiar so needs little instruction. Plus it allows everyone to get involved. People can share thoughts and ideas, vote and doodle. No more zoning out during long meetings! 

And finally, Spotlight

This Zoom function pins one person as the primary active speaker for everyone on the call. This is really useful when you want people to focus on the speaker and hear reactions to important information. We also use it when the magicians are performing. That way they stay in the spotlight without anyone having to tweak screens and miss crucial magic-making secrets.

All of these tips add up to fun and engaging online experiences. If you have more, we’d love to know what they are. Share @abracademy 🙋

Let us make your virtual off-site magical!

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The World Needs Magic: wonder-full conversations

By | Belief, Curiosity, Food for thought, Learning and development, Magicians, What's new?, Wonder

No longer a spacey futuristic vision of life on the moon, video calling has become normal. Very normal. Captain Kirk would be impressed at how normal. Personally, we still prefer meeting face-to-face, but video calling is much much better than nothing and it has its own charm… (do let us know 😉)

Like many, Abracademy has adjusted to the new way of being. We’ve changed a lot about how we work and communicate. One way we’ve evolved our practice is to start a weekly webinar. It’s something we had talked about doing for a while. And in March this year, the moment presented itself and we got on with finally doing it. Of course we had to learn a few technical things and we made mistakes along the way, but we got there.

Each week we invite someone whose ideas and work we admire. They either have something to do with the world of magic, psychology and science, or learning and development. Or all three! 

It’s selfish… The webinar gives us the opportunity to talk to someone interesting about things that interest us. We enjoy learning from our guests and hearing about their personal and professional lives – how they feel about the pandemic, how it’s affected them, and so on.

Our guest in April, Nathalie Trutman, observed: “… Our automatic reaction is to replicate patterns that worked for us in the past. Unfortunately, they aren’t necessarily going to get us through this time”. On a previous pause from work, she learned to sail. ”Have a wild dream that you think is impossible. Then break it down like a puzzle and take the first step”. It doesn’t matter what your wild dream is or even if you succeed. Just dare to dream. We like that sentiment.

Sarah Gregersen talked about a circular economy and how nature can inspire us. A love of nature came early to Sarah, as a kid she thought “we’re breaking the earth!”. She suggested that we “think about our surroundings [suppliers etc] as part of our ecosystem. Develop new practices, new ways of operating”. When you’re annoyed in a traffic jam, remember that you are the traffic!

Doctor of Wonder, magician and scientist, Dr Matt Pritchard answered the question: what kills wonder? with “Busyness… work, home, technology. Learn to stop, pause, reflect, adjust. Make space to notice things, discover things. See the extraordinary in the ordinary. The magical in the mundane”. He quoted a study of 135k people on wellbeing. The #1 aid for wellbeing was having people around who care about you. But #2 was learning something – discovering new things helps your wellbeing. So perhaps we can use some of this time to pause and learn?

Another magician and psychologist, Goldsmith’s Dr Gustav Kuhn warned us that “if 3 small kids appear, I didn’t just magic them up!😄 We never did see them so they must have stayed in the hat… Gustav said of the positive emotions of magic: “use them in education to enhance learning experiences and wellbeing”. We couldn’t agree more!

There’s a sense of embracing the unknown throughout these conversations. We can’t ignore that for many this has been a very difficult time. However there can also be benefits – extra time in the day, more time with friends and family, more conversations around wellbeing in the workplace, more meetups on Zoom without leaving your house! Accepting that things have changed enormously and proceeding with the positives as best you can. And, always be learning!

Have a look at forthcoming webinars here.

Links

I have an idea for your next webinar guest 💡

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Magili-what?

By | Belief, Curiosity, education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Priya, Wonder

How Magilitation can help companies cast a spell or two 💫

If you’ve ever thought that you really need to:

  • Create wonder
  • Inspire through storytelling 
  • Control attention
  • Shift group energy
  • Listen compassionately
  • Speak powerfully 
  • Work with emergence
  • Dance in the moment…

Then think about hiring a Magilitator. You won’t regret it. Allow me to explain why…

Abracademy is interested in the overlaps between magic and other spheres – business, education, mental health, personal development. At the same time, we’re certain that magic means much more than coins, cards, rabbits and hats. For the past few years we’ve been developing ways to apply the basic elements of magic – wonder, awe, intrigue and stories – where they’ve rarely been used. What we call Magilitation is the result of those experiments.

Magilitation is the beautiful merging of magic and facilitation. It was born out of an idea I had at a skills-swap seminar one day. Magicians are incredible presenters and facilitators are masters of group dynamics. If we learn each others’ abilities we can make a hybrid, a new skill set. One that creates wonderful experiences. One that helps participants through journeys of self-discovery and experiential learning. So, Magilitation and Magilitators were born.

These days we deploy our magicians to train facilitators and we work with facilitators to train magicians. Each profession develops their superpowers together.

It’s magic. The kind of magic that the world needs today: inclusive and democratic.

No-one arrives at our workshops already an expert. The playing field is level and everyone learns together. Being very visual, magic is a universal language which everyone can understand. And whatever feelings, and emotions, people experience are welcome. There is no right and wrong in this learning space.

Magic has the power to change the way people see themselves and others. We see the change in participants the instant they learn their first magic trick. Suddenly they’re doing something they thought impossible five minutes earlier. The mindset shift can be lightning-fast as people step out of their comfort zone and open up to learning.

That’s the magic part of Magilitation.

When the world is changing at an exponential rate, systems and structures shift as soon as we get used to them. This rate of transformation means that we’re working at an unsustainable pace. One unfortunate side effect is that, all too often, we forget to connect: talk, share, laugh, cry. Sometimes the speed of progress comes at a cost to our humanity. Workplaces become fraught with stress, low confidence, fear and uncertainty.

Our Magilitator-led workshops help to restore belief in the workplace and spark wonder again. We help companies slow down and invest in their people, improving the quality, and depth of relationships.

We work in a space where many learning & development programmes have yet to go. And while the outcomes are hard to measure, we believe that this is a space where real change happens. It’s a human-centred approach harnessing what makes us human: emotion.

We believe that our workshops can assist any company concerned with the creativity and wellbeing of its employees. But over the years we’ve noticed commonalities among the companies we work with.

Firstly, they dare to dream that there is a more powerful, magical way of professional development. One where people feel valued. Where their thoughts, experiences and emotions are welcome.

Secondly, they are companies who look for something fresh in their approach to learning. Something magical, which creates lasting memories for participants and movement in the company

Thirdly, they’re companies curious about the power of group dynamics. And with an understanding of creative processes. Employees are the lifeblood of any company. Our workshops instil new energy and unlock employee potential. These are vital to the health and progress of any organisation these days.

Magilitation is a unique mix of presence and performance. Our Magilitators help people of all ages and abilities find their inner magic. We’ve helped develop self-esteem and confidence in young people. And we’ve created learning spaces where everyone can share their struggles and joys, their ups and downs. We do this through storytelling – an important tool for good mental health. 

Magic was once a closed shop, the preserve of a few practitioners, performers and experts. But today, when the world is full of sorrow, anxiety, violence and loneliness, magic needs to be for the many – for all of us. Everyone deserves to find their inner magic and superpowers. The most powerful spell cast by Magilitation is to imbue the belief that the impossible is possible.

Hope arrives when we see a new possibility materialise in front of our eyes. And when people learn how to share their magic with others, hope becomes contagious and magic spreads. It’s the most wonderful feeling! 👭

Priya Ghai
Head of Learning, aka Mind Master

This article was originally printed in The World Needs Magic, our magic magazine. If you'd like to receive a copy - click the button below 👇

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Alex Pittas: what’s your story?

By | Belief, education, Learning and development, Magical Moments, Magicians, Team, What's new?

Now and then we like to shine the spotlight on one member of the Abracademy team. Today, it’s Alex Pittas’ turn to shine. We like to call him Magic Al, because he is.

Alex is very modest, but you should see him come to life in workshops. To say that he’s an amazing connector with people is an understatement! He’s brought the shyest people out of their shells and boosted the confidence of literally hundreds of people.

Hello Alex – obviously we know who you are, but for those that don’t, explain who you are and what you do at Abracademy…

I’m the Head Magician and a lead Magilitator (magician-facilitator). One of my main roles here is to innovate and research new magic for everything we do. I’m also one of the lead Magilitatiors. So, I deliver both client workshops and the personal development, Open Workshop, series.

I’m naturally a people person. This has helped me enormously as a magician and a Magilitator. I’ve been told that I have ‘people power’ by other magicians who have watched me perform. I have often been in a situation with an important client where I don’t actually know who they are! There is no fear and I find it easy to connect, strike up a conversation and perform a magic trick. This always breaks the ice and helps them understand the power of what we do by experiencing it.

As it’s at the heart of what Abracademy does, can you talk about what Experiential Learning means to you?

To me, it means a hands-on approach to learning – where participants learn by doing. We get everyone up and out of their seats, encouraging them to be involved and engaged. It’s such a fun, dynamic and interesting way of learning.

Experiential Learning with Abracademy means games and mental exercises. Groups work together to solve problems and face challenges. And, of course, as a Magilitator I help the group grow as well as learn, and perform, cool magic. 

I love sharing magic because I genuinely want others to experience the amazement I had the first time. And I love teaching magic – sharing practical knowledge, tips and wisdom gained over the years.

Do you have examples from workshops demonstrating the power of Experiential Learning?

We ran our Inner Belief workshop with a group of year 3 children (ages 7-8). Afterwards, they were asked how learning with Abracademy helped with other subjects at school. One girl said: “I was always nervous and shy in English lessons. Sometimes I’d have to tell a story or read a poem out loud for the class. But now I’m not shy at all! I learnt how to be confident and use my voice”.

That happened with a combination of exercises over several sessions. For example, the storytelling exercise – participants sit in a circle and everyone tells part of a story. You go around the circle creating a beginning, a middle and an end to the story. People learn to communicate with their whole body and improve their voice projection. We also did magic performances, individually and groups. This pushes people a little out of their comfort zone, but boosts confidence because of the sense of achievement

Can you recall someone having a WOW moment during a session, seeing how what they were doing in the workshop could impact them positively in the real world?

At the end of one Raising Resilience workshop, one person said that they were surprised and delighted at how easy it was to face their fears. That just by changing the way they looked at a situation empowered them to try new things. She said she could see how to apply the approach at work and to not be afraid of failure. It’s worth trying this even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.

What’s your favourite Abracademy Magical Moment workshop and why?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question! Not sure if I have an absolute favourite. But I do enjoy Unlock Your Mind. That workshop really tackles the common misconception many people have of themselves – ‘I’m not creative’. Through fun exercises and tasks, participants gradually unlock their creative potential. They always leave feeling inspired. Plus they learn a cool mind-reading effect that they can add their own creative angle to. A great way to spread magic because – the world needs more magic!

What’s an example of magic working really well to demonstrate a concept being explored in a workshop?

It has to be the Magic Lights. We use this trick in the Belief series of workshops because it’s all about believing in the Magic Lights! We chose it for several reasons…

  • It’s a very easy trick to learn – a great place to start and to boost confidence
  • The lights create a beautiful visual effect!
  • We use them to represent our inner magical energy
  • It’s fantastic for groups because everyone learns and plays together; this helps people believe in themselves and in one another
  • It’s a flexible trick – you’re only limited by your imagination!

Some magic-related questions to finish: do you have any advice for budding magicians?

Try to learn a bit of everything. It will help you in the future if you eventually focus on one area of magic. But if you choose one area to start, for example coin or card magic, then learn the basics first. It’s what I call the scaffolding! But do make sure that you have other interests, apart from magic. The knowledge and experience that comes from other areas of life helps strengthen you as a magician and enriches your routines.  

What do you find magical in the world today?

Apart from all the new magic that keeps improving month by month, I find technology, movies, people and places magical. 

How did you discover magic?

My grandmother got me into magic! When I was around 7 or 8 she would tell me a magical story using a pack of cards, over a toastie and a hot cocoa after school. There would be the “queens that were in a castle and the evil jacks had locked them up”. “The kings would battle with the jacks and save the queens”! There was always magic in her stories. 

How did you arrive at Abracademy?

I first met Rubens – co-founder and Director of Spells at Abracademy – in 2014. We shared a love of magic.

Over a coffee one afternoon he asked me – “If you could do anything with magic, what would you do?”
I
answered – “I would open a real Hogwarts!”
His reply? – “OK great, let’s do it!”

And that’s how we started Abracademy 🦄

Alex Pittas
Head Magician

Interested in Experiential Learning with added magic? 🌟

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Meet the magician: Sonia Benito

By | Belief, Curiosity, Magicians, What's new?, Wonder

In her own words, there’s more to Sonia Benito than meets the eye. Her work is about movement and magic. Not a combination of skills you come across too often…

We met Sonia through the magic world of course. Specifically via Instagram, where she’s a little bit of a magical star! And since then we’ve worked with her on a couple of projects – with the Wellcome Collection and Royal Museums Greenwich. Both projects involved young people, where Sonia was not only a fantastic guest speaker / magician, but also a superb role model – able to make hard-to-please teenage jaws drop and inspire (we hope) confident future magicians. Ta-dah!

We had a chat with Sonia because we’re always curious to know what brought people to magic and what drives them forward. Here’s the conversation…

Tell us about you and magic…
When I was 13 years old, I saw magic in a little market and I bought a few tricks. I performed them to my family and friends. One of my old teachers at school was a magician and when he found out that I liked magic, he started showing me his tricks. He was doing magic with doves and I love animals. After 2 or 3 years he passed away and another teacher from the school told me that he left a note. It said that he would like me to have all his magic materials. And so I had one of his doves! Then I bought another one and started to perform in villages in Spain. 🕊🕊

What impact has magic had on you?
It makes me feel unique. I can be myself. It might sound cheesy, but it’s the fact that magic makes people smile and can take them to a world where everything is possible. It makes me super creative to make it my own.

What do you find wonderful in the world?
Art in general. The way we express ourselves. I find life wonderful. The fact of being here and now.

What do you believe in?
I believe in energy and nature. I believe there is no religion apart from the respect we must have for each other to keep the balance.

Abracademy firmly believes the world needs more magic, do you?
The world needs more people who believe in magic! And it needs more art and people who respect, and enjoy it. To let go of your worries for a few seconds and enjoy what is happening in the moment. That it’s okay to feel vulnerable and not know everything (the secret to magic).

Any words of wisdom for future magicians?
Always be yourself. If you enjoy magic, others will enjoy it with you. Remember that the real magic is you – who you are, not what you are. You can do magic with anything! As magic is everywhere 😉

 

There’s a further interview with Sonia in the first issue of our new magical magazine, The World Needs More Magic. If you’d like to receive a special gift copy of that, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Sonia Benito
Magic and movement

Follow Sonia on Instagram
Find out more about her on her website

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