The first thing that I do is give a basic lecture on hypnosis, which I take essentially verbatim from the very nicely written monograph “What Every Subject Should Know About Hypnosis and Self-Hypnosis” by David A. Gouch, MD and Garland H. Fross, DDS. Then I make a general statement that for the rest of the program I will be offering opportunities to the audience to participate in various experiments, and that if a particular audience member does not want to participate to simply sit comfortably in their chair and do not participate. Then I announce to the audience that for those who want to participate to sit comfortably in their chair with their hands on their thighs, and I tell them that I am going to play a recording in my voice, which is known as a progressive relaxation induction, which will put them in a hypnotic trance. I also tell them that as a post-hypnotic suggestion I will say, after they are in hypnosis, that whenever they give me permission to hypnotize them, all that I have to do is look at them, say the words “sleep now” and snap my fingers, and when I do that, they will go deep into hypnosis. Then I give a few suggestions for wellbeing and take them out of hypnosis.
Then I say to the audience if they would like to participate in the next experiment, to stand up by their chair. Then I do the classic hand clasp suggestibility test, and I look for particularly good responders. If I see one that appears to me to be performing especially well, I sometimes go into the audience, look at that person and simultaneously grasp their hands and pull them forward while shouting “sleep.” Then assuming that they go into hypnosis, I sit them down into their chair and proceed to do some basic deepening and then take them out of hypnosis.
At that point, having made a mental note of the people that responded well to the hands clasp experiment, I will ask between three to five people from that group to come up on stage to participate in further demonstrations. Once they are on the stage, I individually go up to each participant and say to them, “Do I have your permission to hypnotize you?” Assuming they say yes, I give the cue signal to “sleep now” and snap my fingers, and presumably they go into hypnosis. If they don't, I segue immediately into the Elman induction and by either means get them into hypnosis. Then I do some basic deepening.
At that point, I will pick one or two of the participants that I think are responding especially well, and I will perform very carefully the testing procedure to try to determine exactly at what level they are in trance at that time. Then I will select a few of the skits that can be found in the standard references for stage performance and work through those with one or more of the participants.
There are two things that I build into every demonstration, however. One is I take one of the participants while they are in hypnosis and presumably at least at some stage of somnambulism, and I will ask some basic questions such as the name of their first grade teacher, the color of their first car that they owned, and various questions like that, which are really very inconsequential facts of their life, which there would be no way I, as a perfect stranger would know the answers to those questions. Then after I have done that with the participant I will very strongly give the suggestion that that person will have no recollection on the conscious level of their ever answering those questions for me. Then I will go onto something else and then a few minutes later return to that particular participant and inform him or her that I am a superb mind reader and in effect produce the answers to those questions. It is very effective because the audience can see that the person is genuinely perplexed as to how I would have that information.
The other thing I always do is pick one of the participants and give that person one of my business cards on which there is my phone number. I will say to this person that that night just before they go to bed they will feel totally compelled to the point that they simply will not be able to resist going to the telephone, calling my number and leaving a voice mail notifying me that the Russians are coming. Then I give a little bit of patter to indicate that they simply will not be able to resist doing that, and again, I put in the amnesia statement that they will have no recollection on the conscious level as to why they are doing that.
Then I take all of the participants out of hypnosis. I then lecture the audience on some of the things that I did with these people, explain why I did them and what information I got from the testing and what I could expect, if they went to certain levels, and so on. This way the audience will have a learning experience, not just an observing experience.