Sometimes the crowd is right without knowing.

…and thank goodness for that. If it weren’t true, there’d be no such thing as your audience. 

Audiences are critical to your success. So how do you appeal to them without insulting them by sinking to the level of the lizard brain? 

Easy. Kill the persuasion. Cue the attraction.

I think a story from my sordid past involving a world premiere, the expat community and a beautiful Russian professor should shine a light on this little-understood but important idea.

If making a sale with less friction would be helpful to you, read on!


What would you do?

In the early 90’s I was a young professor of Theatre Arts (what a ghastly term) at the local university. I was also known for keeping up with the local theatre scene.

One day a beautiful Russian woman strolls into my office. Her name is Svetlana. She teaches Russian at a nearby college. She wants me to be her guest at a Russian-language production of Fathers and Sons, adapted from the famous novel of the mid-19th century.

I know virtually zero Russian, I tell her. She says. “Don’t worry. I’ll translate it for you.” 

In those days “the Wall” had recently come down. Russia was exploding with possibility. I thought it would be interesting to see how that was translating over here.

And the wall comes tumbling down…

Still, the night of the performance I’m surprised to see a thousand Russian expats crowding into the auditorium in this small Connecticut town. They seem pretty excited, too. Turns out the play was translated and directed by Mark Rozovsky, the creator of Strider, a recent Broadway hit. 

The curtain goes up and Svetlana goes into her translation act, which consists of her whispering into my ear…nearly every line of dialogue. The whispering is to be polite. The effect it has on me, well, that’s something else entirely.

The plot thickens

After the performance, she whispers one more thing. “Come with me. I have a surprise for you. But we must be quiet.”

She leads me out of the auditorium. When we get into the hallway she says, “We’re going to party with Mark and the cast backstage.” 

I’m thinking, “and they pay me for this?”

Now, just out of the corner of my eye I notice a trickle of Russians tailing us from a respectful distance. But they do seem intent on following us all the way down the hall to the backstage area.

“What do you think’s going on?” I ask Svetlana.

“Oh, dear”, she says. “It’s the Russians. They sense there’s a line forming somewhere. Keep going. This may be more difficult.”

We get backstage and sure enough there’s Mark Rozovsky with his guitar on a little riser with a 15 foot space reserved around him. 

As Svetlana and I get settled, the Russians begin their invasion; more and more of them until over 500 audience members are standing 10 deep in a space scarcely large enough for 30 people! Svetlana is now sitting in my lap…

And then the party really gets started.

Someone passes around a bottle of Vodka. Someone else a hunk of cheese and thick black bread. Where did this stuff come from? I feel like I’m in a movie!

Mark is singing songs from Strider in his now 1 foot space, the Russians singing along with him. Svetlana and I take it all in, giddy and rather tipsy; whether from the vodka or the energy of the room, who can tell?

Now that’s research!

So what seemed like a disaster waiting to happen turned out to be one of the happiest evenings ever. No one who was there will soon forget the American debut of Fathers and Sons, one of the most depressing plays I’ve ever seen.


The Persuasion Answer

Now, if you were trying to engineer something like this, say if Mark was worried he wouldn’t get a crowd, he might have hired someone to stand up in the back of the auditorium and yell, “Hey, party backstage starting in 20 minutes. It’s going to be awesome! Get your ticket here!”

In other words, they would try to persuade audience members to play along. There would have been a crisp TSA-like order at the gates, people would be allowed to file in 1 at a time after showing ID, velvet ropes would cordon off the talent, and concessions would be sold to maximize the take.

And a good authorized time would be had by…some.

So much for persuasion.

The Attraction Answer

Attraction has a similar yet opposite effect. It sets up a path that acknowledges the mind of the audience, including the fact that people want things they can’t have…in this case, a party.

It doesn’t seek to control them because people hate being controlled. Instead it trusts the people it seeks to serve. And the outcome is so much more human…and valuable…for everyone.

That’s the kind of “marketing” you’ll learn to do in The Video Selling Machine.

    8 replies to "Why Learning Attraction is the Best Outcome You Can Give to the World"

    • Lev Gendelman

      Nice story and great point Steve.

      Being of Russian origin I am not much impressed with Mark Rosovsky and even less with Turgenev’s classic. I am a lot more Ayn Rand kind of guy.

      I like your style. I am already a client for The Video Selling Machine. Looking forward to our first conversation next week.

      Warm regards,

      • Steven Washer

        Thanks, Lev! Yes, I suppose Turgenev and Rand couldn’t be less aligned. 🙂
        See you soon!

    • John

      Like a bear drawn by honey rather than driven by buckshot.


      • Steven Washer

        Nice snapshot! 🙂

    • Jeremy Latham

      You old rascal! Great anecdote Steve.

      • Steven Washer

        Certainly had plenty of time to reflect on it!

    • Stefan

      An excellent post Steve. It rang bells for me as I was in Berlin the night that wall came down. And I was just one of a handful of people that went through the wall that night in the “wrong” direction and went for a beer in an East German bar. But next morning I was back in the West, in a call box, doing an interview with the BBC back in England.

      • Steven Washer

        Spoken like a true entrepreneur. You’ll boldly go where no reasonable person has gone before. 🙂

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