How to Perform Stage Hypnotism

Two Methods:Performing the Elman InductionUsing the Hand Drop Induction

Hypnosis is the induction of a trance-like state in which a willing participant is calm and relaxed, yet has an elevated level of concentration, and is open to suggestions given by the hypnotist.[1] Hypnosis is useful in therapy (called hypnotherapy), because it often helps patients break bad habits. However, stage hypnotism does not involve any medical therapy, and is used purely for entertainment purposes.[2] Depending on where you live, you may be required to have a government-issued license in order to perform hypnotism of any kind, including stage hypnotism.[3] There are various forms of induction associated with stage hypnotism, but two of the most famous are the Elman Induction and the Hand Drop Induction. Learning how to perform stage hypnotism can help you entertain friends, and may help you earn additional income as a performer.

Method 1
Performing the Elman Induction

  1. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 1
    Have the participant get comfortable. The best position is to sit or lie down comfortably. You want to initiate relaxation, and the best way to facilitate this is by having the person sit or recline. Be sure to have the participant facing you and not the audience, if there are other people watching, as you do not want her to become distracted.[4]
  2. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 2
    Initiate eye fixation. The first part of the Elman Induction, named after the hypnotist Dave Elman, requires the participant to fixate on an object in front of her. This is often done while the hypnotist says something soothing, such as the famous line, "You are getting sleepy."[5] This forces the participant to focus her attention while also feeling relaxed, which in most people will induce a hypnotic state.[6]
    • Tell the participant not to blink her eyes. The participant must remain focused completely on the induction object.[7]
    • Have the participant looking at the fixed object face a direction that will not catch anyone else's glance. If the participant makes accidental eye contact with anyone in the audience, she may not focus intensely enough to induce a hypnotic state.[8]
    • Many hypnotists use a swinging pendulum to initiate the participant's eye fixation, which may explain the pop culture association of hypnotism with a swinging pocket watch. However, there are other objects used for eye fixation, including spinning disks, a ceiling light, or even a finger held upright in front of the participant.[9]
  3. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 3
    Regulate the participant's breathing. Some people breathe more rapidly than others, especially if they are nervous or excited. The goal is to get the participant to breathe in a slow, steady rhythm. Guide the participant's breath in a consistent rising and falling pattern.[10]
    • The steady breathing should have a calming effect on the participant, which will further help her enter a hypnotic state. Focused breathing is an important part of both stage hypnosis and therapeutic hypnosis.[11]
    • You may need to guide the participant's breathing to facilitate a calming experience. Say something like, "Breathe in slowly through the nose, and exhale slowly through the mouth, imagining that you're breathing out of a straw. Let go of all the tension in your body, and allow your mind to rest."[12]
    • Breathe with the participant in a very audible way. This may be necessary to help some participants synch up their breathing with your steady rhythm.[13]
  4. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 4
    Instruct the participant to become hypnotized. After some regulated breathing cycles of inhalation and exhalation (some experts recommend approximately three rounds of breathing), you will "command" the participant to enter a hypnotic state. You do this by telling her to close her eyes. You should also suggest that her head is heavy, and instruct her to put her head down to her chest.[14]
  5. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 5
    Begin eye repetition. Tell the participant to follow your verbal command, and have her rapidly blink her eyes open and closed. Every moment that the participant's eyes are open, she should be looking at the object used for eye fixation, then immediately close her eyes. This will make her even more sleepy and relaxed, which puts a person in a more impressionable state of mind.[15]
    • Try suggestive vocal cues while the participant is blinking. Say something like, "Every time you blink your eyes, you will go 20 percent deeper, and become 20 percent closer to sleep."[16]
    • The rate of blinking changes once a state of hypnosis has actually been induced in the participant.[17] Blinking will become slower during the actual hypnosis, but during induction blinking rapidly simulates the body's response to sleepiness. Frequent blinking is often a physiological sign of excessive fatigue.[18]
  6. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 6
    Lock the eyes. From this point on, the participant's eyes should remain closed. To drive this point home to the participant, you can say something like, "Unless I tell you to open them, your eyes will remain firmly shut."[19]
    • This should register with the participant as a simulation of sleep, even if she does not consciously realize that this pattern mimics sleep.[20]
    • Say something like, "Your eyes are so heavy and so sleepy, it's almost like your eyelids are completely attached to your cheek. It's almost like they've been glued shut, and in a few moments you will realize that you won't be able to open your eyes. The more you try, the more you will realize that you will not be able to open them." Then say, "Try to open your eyes, but you can't." If it's working, the participant shouldn't be able to open her eyes. Then say, "Now stop trying, and just relax your eyes completely, keeping them closed."[21]
  7. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 7
    Describe the relaxation. With the participant's eyes firmly shut, guide her through the process of focused relaxation. Try saying something like, "Soon you will feel a warm sense of relaxation moving from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. It may feel like a tingling sensation moving down through your neck, your arms and fingertips, down through your abdomen, toward your toes."[22]
    • The process of hypnotic induction should weigh the participant down. Tell her to feel herself sinking into her chair.[23]
    • At this point, the participant should have reached a cataleptic (medium) depth of hypnosis, often characterized by a side-to-side movement of the eyes.[24]
    • Cataleptic depths of hypnosis are typically associated with the participant's attention shifting away from typical sensory data, instead focusing completely on the hypnotist.[25]
  8. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 8
    Begin directing movements. Tell the participant that she should be "stiff and rigid, like a piece of metal," or "loose and limp, like a handful of rubber bands." Use those exact terms (or something like them) to direct the participant, depending on which body motion you want. Some experts recommend "loose and limp," as it may be easier for some people to let their bodies go limp.[26]
    • If you have the person go loose and limp, say something like, "I'm going to slightly lift your arm up by the wrist. When I let go, you're going to go loose and limp." If need be, you can coach the participant by saying, "Go loose and let yourself relax."[27]
    • If you have the person go stiff and rigid, say something like, "On the count of three, I'm going to push down on your arm. But it's not going to move, because your arm will remain stiff and rigid.[28]
  9. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 9
    Create a visualization. Instruct the participant to visualize herself in a warm, comfortable place. Some hypnotists may try to give specific instructions on what kind of place to imagine, but other experts warn that this could trigger unpleasant or unsafe memories for the participant. Instead, simply say to her, "Wherever you feel the safest, warmest, and most comfortable and relaxed, imagine yourself being physically there right now."[29]
    • Say something like, "As you imagine yourself there, feel yourself washed over with warmth. You're drifting and dripping like a cloud on a warm summer day."[30]
    • At this point, the person should be hypnotized.
  10. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 10
    Count down. Tell the participant to start counting backwards from 100, and with each number, tell her that those numbers will drift away and dissolve. Alternately, you can instruct the participant to visualize that each number is a step, and with each number she counts down she will step down another step lower towards the floor.[31]

Method 2
Using the Hand Drop Induction

  1. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 11
    Have the participant relax. Just like in the Elman Induction method, it's best to have the participant sitting or reclining. This helps facilitate relaxation and makes it easier to perform the induction technique.[32]
  2. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 12
    Give her two simultaneous tasks. The most common tasks to focus the participant's attention are closing her eyes and pushing down with her hand. Hold out your hand towards the participant while sitting next to or in front of her. Tell her to push down on your hand while simultaneously closing her eyes.[33]
  3. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 13
    Remove your hand suddenly. While the participant is pushing down on your hand with her eyes closed, you will need to abruptly pull your hand away. Her hand should keep pushing down for an instant, which creates what is called a "startle response." In that instant, the participant should become highly susceptible to suggestion.[34]
    • Because this technique involves a physical action which can startle the participant, you should not use the Hand Drop Induction method on anyone with shoulder, neck, or back problems, or any kind of heart problems.[35]
  4. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 14
    Deliver the command to sleep. In that brief moment of being open to suggestion, you should say the word "Sleep" in a firm and authoritative tone to your participant. This should be followed by immediate suggestions for deepening her state of sleep and relaxation.[36]
    • Suggestions for deeper sleep should be short and easy to deliver. Try something like, "Relax and go limp. Continue to relax deeper and deeper with each and every breath."[37]
  5. Image titled Perform Stage Hypnotism Step 15
    Have the participant count down. Much like the Elman Induction method, the Hand Drop Induction is often accompanied by a process of counting down. Tell the participant to begin counting down from 100, and that with each number she counts down, that number will dissolve and disappear.[38]
    • At this point the participant should be in a hypnotic state and highly open to suggestion or instruction.[39]


  • Make sure that your subject is hypnotizable first, because this won't work on everybody. A good subject is outgoing and extroverted and knows you well. A good subject is often very trusting and sometimes gullible as well.
  • If you have no ideas for what to make your subject do, try turning them into different animals, such as frogs, pigs, sheep, cows, and ducks, and telling them that they are important historical figures and must save the country.
  • When you are doing your visualizations, make them as vivid as possible. That helps to relax the subject and prepare her.


  • Don't make the subject do anything dangerous. Make sure that the subject knows that if they feel uncomfortable they can stop anytime they want to.
  • Do NOT perform any form of hypnosis on mentally ill or unbalanced people. Make sure that the subject you choose is perfectly healthy and knows what is going to happen to them.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (36)

Article Info

Categories: Hypnosis