Ben Parr on How to NOT Get his Attention

April 9, 2015

8:00 pm

On Wednesday night, Ben Parr, former editor-at-large for Mashable, joined us in DC for a fireside chat with Frank Gruber and to promote his new book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing Peoples’ Attention. In researching his book, which is all about how to captivate your audience, he went through over 1000 studies and interviewed over 50 scientists and visionaries including illusionist David Copperfield,  LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and film director Steven Soderbergh, to really narrow down how attention is captured and kept.

One of the leading questions asked whether Ben recognized a common thread among these successful attention getters whom he interviewed. His response was “I realized that the masters of attention don’t try to get attention for themselves; they try to get attention for a project, a passion, an idea.”

He also gave some great anecdotal stories from his own life of how people went about trying to get his attention in all the wrong ways.

So, here, I present you with a few ways to NOT get Ben Parr’s attention.

  1. Send a 20 paragraph email. Here’s something that might blow your brain. Parr (and those in similar roles) are VERY busy.  No one is going to take the time to read that email. They want to help you if they can, but you must keep your correspondence short, sweet, and to the point or it will be sent to the land of perma-ignore. It’s a harsh reality, especially if you happen to suffer from over explanation-itis like me.
  2. Reach out to people who are not mutual acquaintances. Parr talked of how he’s had people try to pitch to his business associates, whom they did not know, in order to get an introduction to him. “That’s really just in bad taste.”  Do your research. Find someone who you know who can make an introduction. Don’t reach out to strangers with the primary goal of  getting to someone else.
  3. Send him a gift, preferably a dildo or a fake bomb. Ben has had these, among other “gifts” sent to him over the years as part of pitches. Guess what? Shockingly, these tactics did not work.

Oh, and a bonus piece of advice–DON’T ask him if he’s going to write another book. Of course, he said this jokingly, but it was apparently a painful and torturous process that he does not want to talk about at length.

The fireside chat with Ben Parr was entertaining and insightful. Obviously he’s done his research and knows how to keep a crowd interested. However, if there was any overarching take home message from his talk, it was this: We can’t all be Beyonce, so don’t try.


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Kristin is an aspiring entrepreneur who is enthusiastically navigating her way through the DC startup space. She has an unending passion for learning and is never satisfied with the status quo. During the day she is an ops, biz dev, and marketing maven for Fission Strategy

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