Two of the key "tools" used by Mentalists are the Claim(s) they make such as what ability they work with be it precognition or being a human lie-detector; and of course their Persona/character. In many ways one will help define the other but at the same time it is probably to one's personal advantage to weigh the sort of persona that fits who you really are, first.
I have a strong esoteric persona due to the things I found out about my personal past; family traditions & religious influences, personal interest & related accomplishments, and of course, personal beliefs & perspectives. All things we should each take into consideration as we build-up this image of the self. For an example, if you seek to become a Rationalist type performer you would want to focus on academic and intellectual highlights in your own life as well as familial parallels. . . you might be the first member of your family to get a college degree e.g. you are as prone to buy into certain beliefs held by your family; this is one of two routes one can take BUT there is one element when it comes to this path few ever weigh -- personal academics. If you are a moron in class and sport a C or D average grade score playing the intellectual just won't fly; you'll not display the word skills and grammar let alone the thinking process allied with such a character e.g. you have reason to either reconsider such a persona or knuckle down on developing proper grammar, diction and other habits that are common to the academic type you see yourself portraying.
By all means this can apply to the occultist and mystic; you have to know the jargon that is typical to your market base so you can sound intelligent and learned to them which means that you understand the difference between Telepathy & Clairvoyance and so don't confuse your effects; you pay attention to which effects sustain your claim and further more, you keep your claims minimal; something Bob Cassidy has pointed out a few times . . . just as Dunninger pointed out that the more "props" you use on stage lessens your perceived value and sense of validity so too the more claims you make decrease the audiences' ability to both, believe you and believe in you i.e. the more you start looking like a magician, which is the last thing any Mentalist wants.
Look at your personal interests; I've been writing for religious and spiritual publications since my teens with special focus going towards Pagan & New Age type sources. When we couple this with the amount of people in my family that held similar views and practices it only made sense that I ride on said coat tails or else, had I not been that writer of note, take on the more vindictive and antagonistic mode of naysayer, such as some have done. It's beyond me to understand why someone would do this, but it happens.
There are other considerations of course, such as what is viable for you as a performer within your market region. Getting a gig as a Mind Reader is no easy task but there are proven paths of action that will give you work but there's a rub, it means that you need to be an accomplished and honest Reader. This opens up the Home Party market, tea & Coffee Houses, Lectures & Workshops, etc. To do otherwise means you will suffer the same frustrations every variety artist suffers; the constant hustle to get shows, having to travel a great deal so as to chase the gigs, and to sit by the phone constantly in the hope someone calls. You lose a great deal of advantage in other words as well as credibility . . . as Dunninger also pointed out "Nobody wants to pay to see a fake Mind Reader".
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