Combat a bad situation... To err is human and magicians are after all human beings and hence are as susceptible to making mistakes as other human beings. Goof-ups, as mistakes that occur during a performance are typically referred to as, can be of varying degrees with some being very basic and others grave to the point of revealing the secret underlying the trick.
Errors being inevitable, what truly matters is the magician's presence of mind in handling the situation and some of the tips that can help save face when things unexpectedly go wrong are as follows:
Ask any spectator about what they like best about a magic show and invariably the reply pertains to the colorful and seemingly complicated contraptions. From this it can well be imagined the agitation that the magician undergoes in case one of the props breaks down or refuses to respond.
Prevention to a bad situation being better than cure is the mantra that comes into play here, meaning the onus is on the magician to check and double-check everything innumerable times in the period preceding their performance. While this may not be a foolproof method, it is still effective in reducing the probability of an error happening during the show.
Suppose a goof-up does occur in spite of repetitive checks, what would be the most appropriate way to react?
Under no circumstances should the magician make it apparent through their actions or words that something is wrong - in fact they must make it a point to continue as if there is nothing wrong and whatever happened was meant to be.
Difficult though it is to maintain a calm demeanour, inspiration can be drawn from the past as history shows that there is not a single magician who has not suffered the embarrassment of a malfunctioning prop or been a victim of a trick gone haywire.
Nothing can be more comforting than drawing drawing solace from the fact that you are not the only one and not only are there several before you, there will be several after you as well.
Moving on as swiftly and as nonchalantly as possible is the best way to cover a goof-up and the modus operandi for distracting the audience can be left to the magician's creativity as an individual.
After all the show does not come to an end just because of a mistake having been committed but needs to progress at the same tempo as that set by the magician when the show commenced.
Several ways of moving on entail performing the trick again, re-scheduling it for later, admitting the presence of hiccups and utilising the same props to enact a different trick.
Something that should be completely avoided is to re-perform the goofed-up trick with the thought that it might work out the second time. Not only will it expose your mistake but bungling the second time will cause irreparable harm to your reputation.
Importance of training before performing in front of a real audience for the first time cannot be stressed enough, and to to effect training sessions, how ever boring and monotonous they might seem, must be taken seriously and regularly. That said training can also be stretched to include contingency measures that can be taken if and when things go wrong so that you can continue performing without missing a step.
Ultimately, for you to be able to emerge unscathed and confident as ever after having goofed up, it is imperative to forgive yourself since you are but a human being and erring is an inherent part of your nature.