David Copperfield: What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Magic

October 7, 2014

2:26 pm

The morning fireside chats are underway on day 2 here at our Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference, and we saw the Grand Illusionist David Copperfield sit down to be interviewed by Ben Parr, journalist, author, entrepreneur, and investor – both Renaissance men.

Copperfield is of the mindset that every good entrepreneur or business person pays good attention to story: it’s what helps them connect with people beyond a surface level. He’s a veritable expert on captivating an audience, as his career as an illusionist would suggest, but it’s more than spectacle – every entrepreneur can and should take a few pages from his book.

You have to put your pitch, idea, or startup in terms that are relevant to an audience. Making stuff disappear is normal for Copperfield, but to make it really communicate a core value is the real trick. And the core value that he thinks everybody should communicate is to listen.

“You have to listen and hear what people are saying,” Copperfield said. “To take what I do and combine it with what you do, I can create a memory for you to take home with you.”

While it might be difficult to compare the world of magic to the realm of entrepreneurial thought, you have to make that leap because what Copperfield is saying here is crucial for success. Just as he needs to draw in every single person at his shows, so too do startups need to draw in and seize the attention, excitement, and imaginations of every person they pitch to or collaborate with.

It’s not easy, though – far from it, in fact. The struggles never end, even when you’ve “made it,” according to Copperfield.

“I wish I could tell you that it’s easier when you’ve had a career for years,” said Copperfield. “If you’re doing something new, everything will be difficult.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Copperfield was no stranger to doors being slammed in his face in the early days of his career. You can give up, cash out, and go home with your tail tucked between your legs, or you can listen to what people are saying, adjust your ideas, and try again. The hallmark of a successful individual is when they choose the latter over the former.

“I was the guy that all my friends would joke with about our boss and make fun of him,” said Copperfield. “All the hatred made them feel good about themselves, but I was thinking to myself: ‘Maybe I should learn something because he’s obviously doing something right. He’s the boss.’ Maybe this guy was making mistakes, but at the same time there was also a little bit of gold to be found.”

When you’re able to listen to your audience, through both positive and negative feedback, you’re able to accomplish something that took Copperfield years to do: make your audience comfortable with you. Try to learn from every bit of criticism that comes your way, no matter what you’ve done or where your career has taken you.

“I knocked on doors and I always had a point of view. I had something that I could identify as a special thing and say what I did very clearly,” Copperfield said. “My mentors were in my head; my mentors were people I admired in the field that had done it. I just found enough strength to get past all the no responses. You’ve got to get up and keep fighting.”

On October 6-7, Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference is gathering hundreds of attendees, industry leaders, and inspiring speakers in downtown Vegas to meet the hottest startups and investors from around the country, learn and collaborate with others turning their communities into startup cities, and enjoy music, parties, and llama spotting. Check out more Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference coverage here.

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Will is a Senior Writer with Tech.Co, based out of America’s Finest City: San Diego. He covers all territory West of the Mississippi river, digging deep for awesome local entrepreneurs, companies, and ideas. He’s the resident Android junkie and will be happy to tell you why you should switch to the OS. When he’s off the clock, Will focuses his literary talent on the art of creative writing…or you might find him surfing in Ocean Beach.

Follow Will on Twitter @WJS1988

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