What Does It Take to Be a Mentalist?

A mentalist is a type of illusionist who appears to have heightened psychic abilities. He or she may also appear to read minds, predict the future or see objects and artifacts that are lost or hidden. Through an elaborate system of illusions and tricks, gifted mentalists can seem to manipulate reality. Of course, being a mentalist is a career choice like any other. If this particular field of illusion interests you, here's what it takes to succeed.


A mentalist needs to be articulate, compelling and persuasive with people of all ages and groups of all sizes. Mentalists often perform in front of large audiences, so the ability to project your voice is crucial to the success of the act.


A mentalist's act doesn't always run smoothly. He or she cannot predict how a person will behave or how the audience will react. A rigid, one-trick act will therefore often fail. Good mentalists are flexible, think on their feet and can adapt to the mood and behavior of the audience. They should also possess an arsenal of tricks and tools for anything unexpected that comes up.


Good mentalists are adept at reading body language, observing their audience members' behavior and picking up on subtle, almost indeterminable signs and clues. Mentalists must also be able to see the bigger picture, taking into account the expectations of the whole audience as well as individual members. They should see past the obvious and scrutinize behavioral changes.


Mentalism can't be learned overnight. It requires months and years of study, practice and experience. This is not a suitable occupation for somebody lacking patience. Patience and commitment are necessary for success.


Stage presence is undefinable. It encompasses many different personal qualities and attributes. Generally speaking, the mentalist's physical appearance must be intriguing. He or she should be warm and engaging, but also a bit mysterious. Tone of voice, diction and body language are all important, as is the ability to move around the stage and make appropriate use of space. It's hard to say whether stage presence is a learned or innate skill; probably a little bit of both.

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