It's All About The Volunteers
Once you put aside the technicalities such as the venue, lighting, etc (not that you should do this lightly), there are really two main factors that determine how good a hypno show will be:
Some people are keen to experiment and try things out. Some are more conservative. Generally, those who have been on stage will volunteer again, because they had so much fun. That is why it is important that the hypnotist does not ask the volunteers to do anything that would deter them from volunteering a second time.
The show is nothing without the volunteers, and it amazes me that some (thankfully only a few) hypnotists demean or embarrass their volunteers. I make it a point of pride that the only person who is embarrassed in any way is me (come to the show – you’ll see). The volunteers have honoured me with their trust, and I will not abuse that. I want them to have such a good time that they will want to come up on stage every time.
How Safe They Feel
Once on stage it is important for the volunteers to relax and to follow the hypnotist’s instructions and suggestions. They can only do this if they feel safe. They should be physically safe, and confident that they will not harm themselves physically, or behave in such a way that damages them socially.
It is the job of the hypnotist to create a safe environment on the stage that allows the volunteers to relax and to participate fully.
The Nature of the Audience
A supportive and encouraging audience can make the difference between an ordinary show and an outstanding one. Cheers and applause make a world of difference to the show. Except during the hypnotic induction, a silent audience gives the show a heavy feeling and can be off putting for the volunteers. Equally the audience needs to be attentive. That’s why shows in public places like malls, and parks rarely work.
Their Trust in the Hypnotist
Not only is it important for the hypnotist to be encouraging and supportive of the volunteers, they also need to trust the hypnotist. In New Zealand and Australia the concern I hear most from prospective volunteers is that they might be asked to do something really embarrassing. Many people have seen some sleazy / creepy hypnotist humiliate a “victim” and don't want that for themselves. I completely agree. For that reason I am careful to make clear to the audience and volunteers that they will always have choice about participation, and I will not “make” them do anything they would be embarrassed to do.
Having said that, when in a trance, most people are freer and more extroverted than they would be otherwise. I think few of us would step onto the stage and do an Elvis impersonation cold. We would need encouragement, a few glasses of wine, practice etc. Alternatively, we would need to be unconscious (and you will be). The key thing is that having impersonated Elvis, or Madonna or whomever, no one would feel that they had done something so outrageous that they couldn’t show it to their friends and family on video.
That’s why we don’t ask our volunteers to have sex with the furniture. Such skits can be funny for the audience, but since I for one wouldn’t want to do that on stage even with the benefit of alcohol or hypnosis, I wouldn’t ask anyone else to do it either. I have no objection to other hypnotists doing such shows. But we don’t do them.
How They Feel at the Time
If you’re stressed or preoccupied you might find it harder to relax. Or perhaps you’ll find it easier to relax completely. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes you’ll find it easier to trance out.
One of the key influences here is your relationship to the other people in the audience and on stage. If you are a parent and your children are also on stage, you might find it hard to stop being mum or dad and to relax. Your role as parent might override your role as volunteer. This can also occur with authority figures. If you are a “general” and you have your “troops” there, it can take a special kind of self confidence to relax completely and to be silly on stage. This is the reason why we don’t mix adults and children on stage.
All these factors influence how you feel at the time, and can change from moment to moment, and from day to day. That’s why some people are dismissed from stage during the show. Its not that they have failed in any way, but that the hypnotist has come to the conclusion that the volunteer is not going to go deeply enough into a trance to have fun during the show.
That doesn’t mean that next time that same person might not be a star. That’s why we always welcome people back onto the stage in future shows, regardless of how it went for them previously.
When it comes to volunteers, the more the merrier. Literally!