I came across this intriguing story from the Washington Post which was blogged by both Seth Godin and Laura Fitton when it was first published last year.

A world-class violinist, Joshua Bell, was asked by the Washington Post to busk during the morning commute at a Washington metro station. The paper wanted to see how people would react to hearing a world-class violinist in such an incongruous setting. If you want to read the full story, click over there now, as I’m about to reveal what happened.

Joshua Bell played for 43 minutes and in that time 1,097 people passed by him. Only a handful of people stopped to listen and then only for a couple of minutes.

I’m intrigued by this story for what it can teach us about getting attention. Joshua Bell got virtually no attention at the metro station. Because of the context – people weren’t expecting a world-class violinist to be paying at the metro station – he needed to grab their attention before they would isten to him. But when he plays with the world’s most famous orchestras in venues where people have paid $100 a ticket – he has rapt attention from the moment he steps on stage. He does not need to grab attention.

It’s all about the context. The people in the concert hall have come to hear him – the commuters have not.

When you’re presenting – you’re like Joshua Bell in  a concert hall – people have come to hear you and the valuable content that you can give them. You don’t have to grab their attention.

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