What I Learned from Testing My Handshake Intro

by Mike Sententia on September 3, 2010

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In this post:

  • Results from testing my handshake introduction
  • How to use those lessons to improve your handshake intro
  • How to explain what you do after the handshake


A few posts ago, I showed you how to make a handshake introduction: A quick description of what you do that gets the other person to ask “Really?  Tell me more.”  My handshake intro was “I do magick like a spirit.”

Last week, I road-tested my handshake intro with some pagans, Thelemites and other mages while visiting Seattle.  Here’s what I learned:

  • The handshake introduction worked OK, but could be better.
  • You must have a practiced explanation to answer the “Tell me more” you just prompted.

This post will show you how to use those lessons, with examples I’m developing.  If you like my intros and explanations, and they’re accurate for what you do, feel free to use them.

My Road-Testing

“I do magick like a spirit” produces the follow-on question, but not the right emotion in the listener.  They seem confused, rather than intrigued.

Here’s why: Most mages never think about how spirits do magick.

It’s not enough for your audience to know each term you use.  They have to understand the concept or image you’re creating, and why it matters.

How To Improve a Handshake Introduction

Let’s go back to what I want to convey: That I drive magick with my own mind (rather than by channeling outside forces), that I direct each step consciously, and that this gives me better control and better results.

My first time, I jumped into wordsmithing.  First I tried a summary (which was bad).  Then I tried a simple statement (“I do magick like a spirit”).  This time, I’m going to try creating an image.

“I do magick by controlling its building blocks.”  I like building blocks.  It’s simple, lends itself to images and metaphors, and feels playful.  It’s also accurate: I work with connections, energy signatures, and the other small units that make up effects.  Now I just need a better verb.

A few tries later: “I construct new techniques from magick’s building blocks.”  The terms are simple, and the overall concept is clear even if you don’t get each piece.  It would make me curious about how the person does it.  Hopefully it will make my audience curious, too.

After the Handshake

So, your handshake intro did its job.  They asked “Really?  How does that work?”

Don’t wing it.  I’ve written 100s of pages about magick, how my style works, etc.  But without a cheatsheet, I confused my audience even worse.

I found that you need to walk the listener from your handshake intro to your explanation.  If you skip straight to what you do, you lose your audience.  Once I outlined that walk, my explanation became much smoother.

So, after preparing your handshake intro, outline what to talk about following the questions you expect to get.  Here are some examples to get you started.


Here’s the outline I learned to use following “I do magick like a spirit”:

  • Most mages channel forces or invoke spirits to do magick.
  • Those spirits drive magick themselves, without outside help.
  • That’s how I do magick: By connecting the parts of the mind that drive magick to the conscious mind.

(You would expand each of those points into a full explanation, at the right level for your audience).

For “I construct new techniques from magick’s building blocks,” they might ask about the building blocks or about how to build techniques.  Here’s my plan for the follow-on outline.

If they ask about building blocks:

  • They’re the small units of magick: Connections, energy signatures, etc.
  • Most mages focus on the big picture, using a visual or ritual to distract their conscious, while their unconscious handles the details.
  • I consciously watch the building blocks of magick and figure out how to use them to produce specific effects like [whatever I want to talk about].

If they ask about building new techniques:

  • All magick techniques work by altering the building blocks: Connections, energy signatures, etc.
  • Most mages don’t worry about those details.  They use standard rituals and visualizations to communicate their intent, while their unconscious handles the details.
  • There’s a lot you can do once you consciously direct your mind how to work with each building block, instead of letting the unconscious do whatever comes naturally.
  • For example, [whatever I want to talk about].
Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

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