In August’s newsletter this story stood out to us beautifully. Joshua Bell is a world-renowned American violinist who made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 17 and now performs with the world’s premier orchestras and conductors. His talent causes concertgoers to flock to the greatest concert halls in the world where the average seat costs $100 and front-row seats are in the thousands.

The Washington Post newspaper set up an impromptu concert with Bell as an experiment on perception and priorities. Would people in a hurry recognize the brilliance of this musician, even though he was dressed in jeans, a long- sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap? Would the beauty of his music transcend the moment and cause them to pause and enjoy this incredible talent in the busy train station in Washington, DC? Would priorities take precedence over listening to an international virtuoso who had recently won the Avery Fisher Prize as the best classical musician in America?

The only thing that was exceptional to see for those who passed by Bell that day was the $3.5 million Stradivarius violin he was playing (made in 1713). But to those who saw him playing, it just looked like a regular old violin. The “package,” the perception of the concert, didn’t draw people’s attention, even though the talent was exceptional. There was no advertising, no fanfare, no hype, no fancy clothes, no amazing concert hall or fabulous stage – it was just some guy in a baseball cap, standing up against a wall with his violin case open to receive donations.

Could a man who is paid $1,000 per minute to perform, a man who was playing the music of Bach, Brahms, Ponce and Massenet, get their attention? Not really. The three-minute video will show you that 1,097 people passed by.

Only 27 people put money in his violin case as they walked by, and of those 27, only seven of them paused for a moment to listen. Bell made $32.17 in 43 minutes of playing. There was NO applause or acknowledgment of his skill … a skill that, three days prior to this experiment, had drawn people to completely fill Boston’s Symphony Hall. Check out some of his amazing videos on YouTube.

The point I am trying to make is that packaging is critical. When you are making a presentation to your client, boss or peers, you can never forget that. You may have all the data and skills to make the presentation, but if you want to stand out, then pay attention to how it is packaged. Perception isn’t everything, but it helps. As the experiment with Bell proves, it takes a lot more than just talent to get their attention.

Author Terry Goodkind once said, “Reality is irrelevant; perception is everything.” If a person doesn’t perceive the value, then to them, it’s not valuable. Good packaging elevates the perception of value.

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