Tuesday, August 03, 2010

How to Draw a Crowd Without Making a Scene

“They don’t care if you’re good – they care if people come.”

That’s how my friend Judson described the business of booking college comedy tours.

It’s not about aptitude – it’s about attendance.
It’s not about information – it’s about expectation.
It’s not about getting laughs – it’s about filling seats.
It’s not about the ability to perform – it’s about the capability to draw a crowd.

THE BEST PART IS: Every time Judson shows up, the crowd goes wild.

But only because he drew them there first.

Only then could he deliver the goods.

LESSON LEARNED: The crowd can’t go wild if they never make it through the gate.

What about you?

How well do you draw a crowd?
How do people feel when they get there?
After the show is over, how do they feel when they walk away?
And when people get home, how long does it take before they tell all their friends about you?

Whether you’re a performer, artist or entrepreneur…
Radio station, non-profit organization or political candidate…
Company leader, mailroom attendant or cube-dwelling Dilbertarian…

The ability to draw a crowd (in person, online, at work, out in the community) is an essential component to making a name for yourself.

THE COOL PART IS: You don’t have to be the center of attention.

What counts is if you’re a lever. A pivot. A fulcrum point for gathering and leveraging the masses to advance something that matters.

Today we’re going to learn how to draw a crowd without causing a scene.
1. Amuse people or lose people. This is the reality of our culture. Whether you’re communicating your idea in person, on the phone, during a presentation or via webinar – you need to be more amusing. Period.

Interestingly, the word “amuse” dates back to 1480 French term amuser, which means, “to divert or cause to muse.” This means your job is twofold: First, to divert. People’s eyes, ears, attentions and minds. Second, to cause to muse. That way, people stop fixedly and begin to ponder. Are you entertaining as you inform?

2. Position your value counterintuitively. In the summer of 1992, the PGA Tour came to my hometown. While watching ESPN with my brother one night, we learned the tournament was being played at Bellerive Country Club – only one mile from our house.

But unlike all of our friends who tried to sneak onto the course to watch golf – then make fools of themselves on live television – we had much bigger plans. We decided to convert the empty field next to our house into a PGA parking lot. The only problem was, every other subdivision within three miles did the exact same thing.

Dang it. Just when you think you have an original idea.

Naturally, we didn’t park a single car on the first day. I know. It was devastating to our entrepreneurial egos. We had to go to therapy until college. Plus, it was August. In St. Louis. Blech.

But, on the second morning, our dad showed up on his way to work – with ten boxes of donuts – and a new parking sign that read, “Free Parking, $10 Donuts!”

We proceeded to make $368, which, when you’re a teenager, is like, a million dollars.

Lesson learned: If you want to draw a crowd, start by drawing interest. Catch people off guard. Be the point of dissonance that breaks their patterns, violates their expectations and hacks the rules. What could you do – in this moment – that would be the exact opposite of everyone else?

3. Consider the rhythm. Let’s say you’re doing a public event on a college campus. And most the students are commuters. Take note: Friday events are losers. Next, let’s say you want to create a memorable presence your next trade show. But it’s the morning after the open-bar karaoke party. Attendance will be low, non-existent or hung over.

The point is: You can’t draw a crowd without a general population to draw from. That’s why you have to be careful about the timing of your event. Make sure it jives with the rhythm of your audience’s immediate environment.

Book smart. Otherwise it’s just you and the crickets. And those chumps never applaud. Have you struck yourself out before coming up to bat?

4. Educate musically – don’t regurgitate noisily. Two homeless men stand on opposite street corners. One yells bible versions at the top of his lungs, informing passerbys that fiery damnation awaits them. The other plays a fifteen-minute drum solo on a kit made from empty paint buckets.

Which one would you give money to? Exactly. Because one made music – other made noise. The cool part is, when you make music, you get more than attention.

As George Carlin explained during his Inside the Actor’s Studio interview, “I received all A’s when I was in elementary school. I got their attention, their approval, their admiration, their approbation and their applause.” And he drew crowds for fifty years. Which one describes the message you deliver?

5. Attract interest immediately – then hold it step by step. Attention is only the beginning. The secret is maintaining it. According to The Psychology of Attention, “All points of attention have three components: Focus, margin and fringe.”

Your challenge is to appeal to each of those components. In my own presentations, I stay aware of this fact. For example: There’s the main audience, there’s the people walking by outside, there’s the camera crew, there’s the venue staff, there’s the people watching online, etc.

Each audience comprises a different element of the attention equation, and they all matter. Like the rock band that acknowledges the legions of drunken, muddy fans in the lawn seats. How do you hold attention – step by step – by appealing to everybody?

ONE FINAL NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, drawing a crowd is a relative experience.

Yes, it can build credibility.
Yes, it can validate your efforts.
Yes, it can demonstrate social proof.

But then again, drug-addicted hobos convinced they’re the second coming Jesus Christ draw a pretty good crowd too.

It’s all about being memorable for the right reasons.

Otherwise you become someone who (only) draws a crowd because people can’t believe what a train wreck and laughingstock she’s become.

ULTIMATELY: It’s not (just) about drawing a crowd.

It’s also about:

Why you want to draw it.
What you plan to do when it’s drawn.
How people feel when they’re part of it.
What emotions are triggered when they walk away from it.
And how quickly those people tell their friends about their experience with it.

Do that, and you won’t need to make a scene.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Will people come to see you?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!