Archive for September 26th, 2007

How To Create Traffic Flow? Add A Photo Finish!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

When you invite more people to a party at your house than will comfortably (and quietly) fit inside, what can you do?

Lure them to the back yard with food and photos – that’s what!

The hostess who hired me for a 70th birthday party last Sunday afternoon did just that. Knowing all too well that her new, scaled-down house would quickly run out of space if all her guests showed up at once (which they did), she devised a triple whammy to keep them moving all the way out the back door.

1. Every chair light enough to be easily moved had been placed on the patio. If you wanted to sit – and the couch was always taken – you could see out the rear picture window where relief was waiting.

2. Food and beverages were also available outside (without wading through the crowd grazing around the dining room table.)

But the real draw was item number three:

3. A dozen or more group photos (from weddings in years gone by, and even from earlier parties) had been enlarged to poster size, and were creatively positioned around the back yard.

Sure, the chairs and food attracted a few folks. But you should have seen the crowds gathered around the various pictures! Since this was an event where everybody has known everyone else for decades, almost all of the invitees were in at least one of those photos. Some were in several. The attraction was irresistible. As word of mouth spread through the party, even more folks ventured out into the evening shade for a gander at the gallery. Meanwhile, inside, the back yard showcase served as a pressure valve, preventing the house from ever getting too loud or too crowded. Brilliant!

150 years ago, P.T. Barnum tried a variation on this idea at his Manhattan museum. After passing by the bearded lady and General Tom Thumb, his customers saw a sign advising, “This Way To The Egress.” They went through a door out into the sunshine – only then discovering that “egress” meant “exit.” (And – in true Barnum “There’s a sucker born every minute” fashion – there was no handle on the outside of that door to let them back in.)