The Enargeia Gambit
3 Secrets Houdini Knew Which Help You Grab, Hold and Funnel Attention
29 August, 2017
It was the eighth wonder of the world.
The audience was covered in a dense fog of horror, anticipation and adrenaline. No one uttered a word. Men and women and children of all ages starred, their jaws hanging open in amazement. Each and every one of their eyes piercing through the shroud of darkness, entranced by the mysterious silver cylinder on stage and the strange, stout figure who had them enraptured.
300 litres of water. 5 of the most advanced padlocks. One set of police-regulation handcuffs.
“FAILURE”, the posters outside promised in firey red letters, “MEANS A DROWNING DEATH”. If you ever wanted a better example of a powerful visual description, that would be one.
Plunged deep into the freezing cold water, he had to struggle against the tightening grip of the steel handcuffs, slicing into the side of his wrists and cutting off circulation. Once he was past that, he had to remove each and every lock through a tiny hole at the top of the milk container, without being able to see, something even the best lock-breakers in the world would struggle to do. On top of all of this, he had to stay, submerged underwater, for the entire duration, held in the steel container that would barely fit a man half is size, let alone the stocky Hungarian who used it to make his name.
Fortunately, the cloth went up just at the right time, allowing for the real magic to happen.
It really was the eighth wonder of the world, he told himself. After 4 and a half minutes of holding his breath, breaking free from the handcuffs and finally managing to escape the container, he had managed to do the impossible. Soaking wet, heaving for breath and utterly exhausted from the mental and physical strain of escaping the milk container, Houdini blinked a few times to let the water clear from his eyes, and took a bow.
And the audience exploded into rapturous applause.
What Did Houdini Know?
How did he do it? Well, giving it away completely would be going against the magician’s code, but I can tell you a few secrets that I’m sure he’d have been happy to share.
Houdini was a master showman, and he knew exactly how to grab, hold and funnel the audience’s attention just at the right time to make this trick, and himself, a legend. He knew that powerful imagery matched with vivid, descriptive words on his poster, would draw every crowd near and far. He knew that he had to make things matter, make things mysterious, and make them meaningful.
A couple of principles were at play in everything Houdini did to build his reputation, which you can make use of in your every-day life, and really use when it comes to grabbing, holding and funnelling attention:
1. Make it Matter - Grabbing
A typical task people start off with in any marketing, sales or advertising course is tuning into the radio station; WIIFM? What’s In It For Me?
Now, whilst I think it’s important that we take the benefits of something into account, I think it leads down a rather dreary and well-trodden path. How many times have you been told about the figures and the facts of a product, and you just haven’t cared about it? Answering What’s In It For Me only goes so far, and tends to only look at the logical, rational side of human behaviour.
“Oh, it makes customer retention more efficient. Great.” Or “Yes, it means I can increase my savings AER by 0.025%. Wonderful.” Or “Hmmm, it does give me lifetime access to XYZ services. Neat.”
What does any of this actually mean though?
What we should be asking is “Why Should I Care?” Sure, it’s maybe not as catchy and doesn’t lead to the metaphor of tuning in (when was the last time you turned a physical dial on a radio, rather than rely on DAB?) but it has a hell of a lot more impact on how you grab attention and brings you a lot closer to using Enargeia. Why Should I Care means that you’re going right to the heart of a customer, not just focusing on how they think, but focusing on how they feel.
Apple makes people care about their brand, because people want to feel as if they’re fashionable, innovative and fresh, even though their products are technically equal or inferior to their competition.
Nike makes people care about their brand because they want to feel as if they’re go-getters, athletes and heroes, even if that all that little tick does is double the price tag.
When someone cares for something, regardless of the cost or effort it will take to engage with it, how much more likely do you think they’ll invest their time, energy and money in to it? These are the prime benefits of making people care about what you do, and you do that by making what you do matter.
What Houdini Knew
Houdini knew that people would care about whether he’d live or die. What monster wouldn’t care? But it’s the same as any good story. We care about something because it matters to us. It makes us feel something. Life and death matter to us. Social status matters to us. Freedom, security, politics, religion, all of these matter to us.
You go to watch Spider-Man Homecoming because you care whether or not Spidey will make it out alive and learn with great power, comes great responsibility.
You read about Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s on-going rivalry because you hate one and worship the other, and ultimately you want one to come out on top. Or maybe you hate both of them and just like the thrill of reading two stars falling apart in a ball of flames. But you still care.
Using visually powerful descriptions, also known as the Enargeia Gambit, makes people feel something. And our feelings matter to us, perhaps more than most things.
What You Can Do
The easiest way to figure out why other people should care about what you have to say is to figure out why you care. Find that feeling that makes you interested in your message and build it from there. Think about these questions:
- What was it about the problem you’re trying to solve that drew you into it in the first place?
- Why do you care about the people being affected by it?
- What differences can you make to the situation?
- Why do you care about the dangers it poses to society?
- What makes you so invested in it that you’re spending chunks of your life dedicated to changing it?
Chances are, if you hit upon something that gets you really riled up, other people will be able to see it too. And chances are, they’ll care.
If you want to have a talk about any of this, I’d love to hear from you either on our Facebook page, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you want some direct coaching on any of these topics, I suggest going to our pricing page (www.mindsways.com/pricing) and seeing if a one-to-one would be suitable! Or if you want to get a good foundational experience in our training, I’d absolutely recommend joining us on our next Psychological Artistry Live! Day. Please go to www.mindsways.com/pa/ for more about this! Psychological Artistry Live! Day.
Thanks in advance,
07970 480 615
P.S. “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – William Faulkner
About Author: Alexander Rowley
Alexander is a creative thinker, website designer, trained performer, experienced actor and magician, writer and stage director who produces online experiences, high design and adapts the materials used in training courses to deliver the best online experience. His history of stage acting and 10 years working behind the scenes delivers the highest quality performance and the best, cutting edge online technology available.