Salesmen and fortune tellers alike use different techniques to get the same results. There are a couple of different cold reading techniques that are used in the fortune teller arena. One of these techniques is called "shotgunning."
As the name suggests, cold readings done by shotgunning begin by just throwing a bunch of generic information out to a large number of people, maybe in an audience and, watching for the response to the information by the audience, usually picking up on body language as the largest sign, a fortune teller will begin to narrow the statements as he goes. Knowing that there are certain things that apply to a large number of the population, a cold reading takes advantage of examining an audience and making guesses about something they might all have in common. For example, if the audience is all in the 30 something crowd, the assumption that might be made is that many have small children. So, an example might be:
"I see a child like figure crying, a baby, a toddler, maybe a child you babysit, ...I sense that he/she has lost something, maybe a favorite toy..."
Then, as he watches the reactions to this general information, he may key in on one particular person who has an overwhelming response to his "reading" and, continuing to watch their reaction to more of what he says, he may actually convince the person that he knows more about her than he actually does. Doing this little by little, the cold reading may actually reveal something true about someone and the reading is said to be a success.
Another example of the cold readings techniques is the Forer Effect, or Barnum Statements. In using this technique, the reader uses statements that SEEM personal but still could apply to a large number of people. The difference between this technique and the one above is that the Barnum statements are very open-ended...letting the reading have a large margin for error and encouraging the participant to be more active than just a listener and make statements that help the reader continue along a certain path.
Although not designed to be deceptive or harmful, sometimes these readings can evoke feelings that have long since been dealt with. Be very careful when taking part in this type of entertainment. It may cause you such pain, your old therapists' telephone number is back on your speed dial!