David Kwong

Master the principles of illusion to gain influence, and be one step (or two, or three) ahead of everyone.

Illusionist, Puzzle Expert, and Author of Spellbound

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David Kwong | Illusionist, Puzzle Expert, and Author of Spellbound
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

“We are all wired to solve,” says David Kwong, the magician, New York Times puzzle builder, TED speaker, and author of the book Spellbound (May 2017). Kwong is a graduate of Harvard, where he studied the history of magic, and consults often on Hollywood films, like Now You See Me. In virtuosic talks full of humor, puzzles, and other surprises, he leaves audiences thinking about what they just saw—and, more importantly, just thinking in general. 

Puzzles and magic might not seem like the most logical companions, but Kwong sees a clear parallel between the two. As human beings, he argues, we are driven by the urge to solve problems and “create order out of chaos.” In May 2017, HarperCollins will release Spellbound: Master the Seven Principles of Illusion to Gain Influence, Captivate Audiences, and Unlock the Secrets of Success, his first book: a guide to bridging the gap between perception and reality to increase our powers of persuasion and influence. “This enjoyable work from a confident master of his trade is a ‘virtual wand’ for those who want a bit of magic in their lives,” writes Publishers Weekly in an advance review.


A veteran “cruciverbalist” (crossword puzzle constructor), Kwong routinely creates puzzles for The New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and other national publications. He is also the founder of the Misdirectors Guild, an elite group of magicians that specialize in magic for film and television. He is the puzzle and secret code consultant for the hit NBC show Blindspot. He was the head magic consultant on the 2013 film Now You See Me, teaching magic to Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, and Woody Harrelson. Kwong has also designed magic and puzzles for films such as Ant-Man, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, The Imitation Game, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and The Magnificent Seven. Up next, he’s set to co-produce the “magic procedural” television show, Deception, teaming up with his Blind Spot collaborators.


Kwong was a featured speaker at TED 2014. His talk on how human beings are “wired to solve” involved hiding secret messages in The New York Times crossword puzzle. Kwong is a graduate of Harvard University, where he studied the history of magic.


“I’ve known David for a number of years ... He’s had in mind doing a grand trick involving a crossword [for his TED talk] for some time, so he asked if I would be willing to be part of it. Of course I said yes. I love to do new things, new twists, and this is a great one. Plus I would do anything to help David.”

Will Shortz, New York Times crossword puzzle editor

Speech Topics

Spellbound Gaining Influence, Captivating Audiences, and Unlocking Success

David Kwong has astounded CEOs, TED talk audiences, and thousands of other hyper-rational people, making them see, believe, and even remember what he wants them to. But his feats aren’t supernatural; they are fundamentally human. Illusion is an ancient art that centers on control: commanding a room, building anticipation, and appearing to work wonders. Illusion works because the human brain is wired to fill the gap between seeing and believing. Successful leaders—from Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and Ted Turner to President Obama, Megyn Kelly, and Jeff Bezos—are masters of control and command who understand how to sway opinions and achieve goals. Now, Kwong reveals how to bridge the gap between perception and reality to help you increase your own powers of persuasion and influence. In his years of research and practice, he’s discovered seven fundamental principles of illusion—rules anyone can learn to gain mastery. And with this entertaining and fascinating keynote, you’ll discover a different way to sell your idea, product, or skills, and make your best shot better than everyone else’s.

Innovation & Creativity
Think Inside the Box Creativity Within Constraints and Parameters

In this talk, David Kwong explores the complex relationship between boundaries and productivity. Though it may seem counterintuitive, most people are at their most creative when they innovate within a given set of boundaries. How can you tell a clever story while obeying the construction rules of a crossword puzzle, the three-act structure of a screenplay, or the sensitive angles of a stage illusion? Kwong, a master of working within the lines, explains how constraints give us the freedom to create. We are at our most innovative when we design a new form for something familiar, and subsequently express it in a novel and compelling way. Kwong demonstrates some of his own groundbreaking puzzles and illusions by way of inspiring a new method of problem solving.

MCs & Entertainers
Smart Entertainment Holiday Parties

In this inspiring, cerebral, and fun-filled presentation—perfect for end-of-year gatherings—David Kwong dazzles audiences with boundary-defying (and mind-bending) puzzles and sleight of hand. But make no mistake: no ladies will be sawn in half. Kwong is one of the most innovative, virtuosic, and smart illusionists alive. As a New York Times crossword puzzle constructor and go-to expert on illusion for major Hollywood blockbusters (Now You See Me, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Imitation Game), Kwong offers his signature style of thought-provoking entertainment to mesmerize even the most jaded spectators. In other words, at the forefront of the ‘alternative magic scene,’ Kwong’s making magic really, really cool. This is an ideal performance for organizations looking for something lighter than an average keynote, yet still charged with intelligence, humor, and the fundamental elements of storytelling. It’s magic updated for a modern, sophisticated audience, that at once satisfies high expectations and our timeless hunger for wonder.

MCs & Entertainers
Creating Order Out of Chaos

We live in a lightning-fast world of constant information and data. With incessant streams of Tweets, updates and newsfeeds, we can easily be overwhelmed by data. How can we make sense out of all the scattered bits of information that we’re barraged with every single day? In this talk, David Kwong demonstrates through a series of “mental gymnastics” how he collects and organizes vast amounts of data in his brain.  As a magician, puzzle designer, and producer, Kwong illustrates how he synthesizes these seemingly disparate fields via a tour de force of sleight of hand and puzzles.

Innovation & Creativity
As someone who’s built a fascinating (and successful!) career out of seemingly disparate interests, David Kwong is a firm believer in the benefits of combining seemingly unrelated fields to yield a synthesis that is fresh and innovative. In this keynote, he demonstrates how he took his three fields of expertise—illusion, puzzles, and cinema—and created an exciting new genre of storytelling in Hollywood. With a glimpse behind the scenes of films like Now You See Me and a demonstration of some of his signature performance pieces, Kwong discusses the value of fusing together one’s passions and areas of expertise to create something utterly new.