Live to Zoom!

Although I have decided to give my blog a little break until the new year. I couldn’t help wanting to write up my thoughts on what a real working day was for me in 2020. It took me to December to get one and it was a massive learning curve too.

I think that some of the things I learnt may help others who are working in COVID times too.

One show rodeo

Due to the nature of this virus being transmittable in droplets in the air; I decided early on that it would be safer for FizzWizzPop to take on just one show per day. To avoid cross contamination between events and for my own safety too.

Last weekend, I had what I can only described as the first normal weekend of work this year. And probably it will be the only one I will experience in 2020.

The Wonderful thing about Zoom is… it’s not the only one!

Something wonderful I discovered during lockdown is that I have been able to perform at events I wouldn’t normally.

This week along I have performed virtually for a Scout group in England and a companies Christmas party in Ireland. I lectured on Tuesday for magicians in Montreal and next week I’m performing for an audience in Amsterdam. These opportunities are happening more and more during lockdown and I am so grateful.

However, this does not make these long distance events easy. The virtual platform brings it’s own problems and I wish to flag up the differences. That is, between live shows and virtual. Giving some advice on situations I have struggled through and learnt what is needed for a smoother performance.

It all began with a crazy day in the life of FizzWizzPop!

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland – 13th April 2013 Mandatory Credit – Picture by Darren Kidd / Magician, Nicola Cunningham from Belfast.

A live show in the morning, an appointment and then a virtual magic show. I managed to give myself just enough time to drink some water and change in-between. I wouldn’t normally have days this busy. However, with very little work on this year it’s hard to turn away events. Simply, I made it work.

After performing the live magic show I was buzzing, energised and felt great. I was tired after my appointment but physced to be performing again in less than an hour. Little did I know there were a few challenges ahead that I wasn’t really prepared for.

The first challenge was learning a brand new platform on the job. Which I do not reccommend no matter how tech savvy you are!

24 hours before attending the event I was told that the event would be taking place on Microsoft Teams. I’d never worked on this platform before. I was keen to learn a new platform and be helpful. I wanted to make it easy for the customer, as they are always right, right?

You can’t control what you don’t understand, sadly!

I’m very much now well versed in both Facebook Live and Zoom.

Personally, I like Zoom because I can easily switch between cameras. I perform both stage and close up magic in my virtual children’s show. This means I need two camera set ups ready to go from the top of the show. One focused on my close up pad sitting on my bed. And the other on the entire space.

Immediately I realised that I wasn’t able to (after joining the virtual meeting) switch cameras on Microsoft Teams. When it got to the point I needed to switch the camera it wouldn’t let me change. The settings had disappeared. With a group of excited children watching me eagerly I had to use my improvisation skills and move on quickly.

Clumsily I picked up the close up pad on my left arm and performed the effect. I was like a waiter holding up a plate. I mean it was fine. the most important thing was that the audience could see the effect clearly.

But me being a perfectionist, this wasn’t at all how it was supposed to look. And the result of this sudden change threw me. The audience would not have known this but I didn’t feel right the rest of the show. And I was gutted!

I wanted to give one hundred percent however due to the new platform I just felt I wasn’t able to give my best.

Now being particularly hard on myself with these things I am used to. But there was something I couldn’t quite understand.

Performing a live show felt amazing but for some reason this virtual one left me feeling in a way, empty.

Maximum suction!

I’ve heard other performers feeling unfulfilled with the virtual performance platform. And now that I felt it I began to wonder why? Why is this amazing tech platform not quite the same as performing a live show?

The one thing that is great with the virtual shows for me is hearing children laughing again. There is nothing nicer than this.

I believe performing these two shows in a day made me realise something very important right now to be aware of as a performer…

A live show feeds and gives you energy. You are left feeling pumped with adrenaline from the audiences live reaction; verbally, physically and mentally from real human beings. Compared to…

A virtual show that eats up energy. Even though you are performing for real human beings on screen’s “live;” this platform consumes every last bit of energy you have.

Performing for a screens you don’t get and feel the immediate feedback you would in a live show. A natural reaction and response to this is exhaustion. The energy required to perform virtually is ten times more powerful than performing a full days work.

Yesterday I ended up going to bed at 8 o clock and I didn’t get up until 11am this morning. I felt sick I was that tired. I may have only performed two shows but I believe this exhaustion came mostly from performing the virtual show alone.

Tricks to make virtual performances smoother

The goal is to make a virtual show as smooth as a live one. Which can be difficult as most people don’t know where the mute button is – me included. So here are a few things that might help a smoother performance.

  1. No matter what medium you are are asked to work upon always push the one you are most comfortable with. Simply put, you will not feel confident or comfortable in an unknown space. And the show will never be as good working in a medium that you are not used to.
  2. Don’t be afraid to mention that the shows quality might be compromised by working in an unfamiliar platform. However, you will try your best to meet their needs.
  3. If performing for children, insist that the organiser get parents to rename their screens to the child’s name. It’s incredibly difficult when you are saying a parents name to grab the attention of their child. The child sometimes doesn’t comprehend that they are being asked to help – because you are not saying their name. It is not enough to begin describing what they are wearing as some children do not have this awareness to realise you are referring to them when yours describing their clothing.
  4. Having a child’s name on the screen saves so much time and keeps the show running smoothly for you and the audience. Above all, it also makes the show a lot more personal and professional.
  5. Personally I enjoy getting to know children by name when I perform my show. So knowing their names prior to asking them to help is a bonus.


Finally, I have learnt after yesterday not to be this incredibly hard on myself. I am learning, my word this year has been one big up hill learning curve.

It’s taken me 12 years to get good performing live.

Realistically I’ve done remarkably well adapting to the virtual platform in just nine months.


If you perform in this extremely tricky medium too, give yourself a big pat on the back for surviving and dealing with all the madness that comes your way every single show! The skills we have gained working in this environment will prepare us for the future more than we could possibly know.

2020 is almost through. Congratulations on making it to the last level of Jumanji!

Whoever began this wicked game I pray it ends on the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve for all our sakes!

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