To Create Curiosity
Have you ever poured yourself into a project and felt like someone on the other side just didn’t respond well? This is a conversation I have the most often with my clients. It can be easy to think that when we don’t get a good response, the answer must be: try harder. That’s true…sometimes. But a lot of the time, there’s something more complicated going on with the person on the other side of whatever message you’re presenting. Meaning the way you present that information needs to be reconsidered.
In a Single Day
Human beings are predisposed to ignore information.
This is not a social commentary, but a scientific fact. Because of the influx of information being thrown at people on a daily basis, our brains are naturally limiting what we take in to avoid overload. The average person is bombarded with over 2,500 forms of advertising or elements of advertising in a single day.
Don’t believe me? Picture this:
- You’re stopped at an intersection light.
- There’s a convenience store in your corner.
- A fast food restaurant in your other corner.
- A political sign in front of that fast food restaurant.
- Advertisements for refinancing your home taped onto an electrical pole.
- The cars in front of you have bumper stickers.
- Across the street is a banner for a grand opening and a buy one get one promotion.
- The vehicle next to you has a graphic wrap of their company’s logo and contact information.
- You weren’t even paying attention to the four different radio ads that played in your car.
And I’ll bet if I asked you what ads you passed by on your way to work today, you’d be able tell me three at best. In a matter of minutes, there is an overwhelming amount of information being presented. We don’t realize this because our minds have to shut things down. If all of that happened in one minute, what is the cumulative factor of absorbing that much advertising information over the course of the day? It would be enough to drive anyone crazy. And we deal with this every day of the week.
Exactly What You Want
Now let’s take that same understanding of the overwhelming nature of information and think about who you’re trying to present your information to. There’s a high likelihood that organizations just like yours are trying to approach the same people you’re talking to. That person you’d like to connect with is already overwhelmed with daily information, and if you present something that’s similar to everyone else’s, the natural response is to dismiss it. It’s not that people want to say no to things…but they can’t say yes to everything. It’s almost a self-preservation mechanism.
What’s worse is when we do manage to get someone’s attention, we think we need to seize the opportunity and present as much information as we can in a very small amount of time so that they know who we are, what we do, and how we would like them to be involved. Fight that urge. Because what you’re doing is setting a firehose of information on someone who’s drowning in it daily.
The goal after getting someone’s attention is not to deliver information. It’s to create curiosity. Yes, that means the person won’t have all of the information they need in that moment, and yes, that’s exactly what you want. Curiosity leads to questions. Questions demonstrate interest. Interest means they care.
Not in Your First Meeting
When someone asks a question after we’ve presented a project, we think that means we haven’t done our job correctly. In reality, you need to start looking at questions as beautiful opportunities to understand:
- where the person is
- where their interests are
- how what you care about and what they care about intersect
There is a time for you to give all sorts of details. That time is not in your first meeting. In fact, that’s probably the worst time to do it. By presenting information at different points along the way in a process, people are able to tune out everything else they’re hearing and focus on what you’re presenting. So how do you present something in a way that cuts through the noise?
The Best Information in the World
You might ask a simple question. You might say something funny. You might tell a simple story that open someone’s heart. You’re creating an environment where people are receptive to what you have to tell them.
Once someone is receptive, they’re going to start asking question. The information you provide to educate them is important. But it’s focused.
This is when you give someone the opportunity to respond, where you ask someone to risk something. Empowering people to do something is really about asking them to be part of your team in some way.
I know you’re thinking that these are no-brainer steps. And individually, that’s probably true. There are elements in all of these steps that you’re already doing. But are you focused on doing them consistently and in this order? This isn’t legalism, but I’ve found over the years organizations effective in building relationships and making impact happen are good at using these three areas to communicate with people. I’ve also foud that organizations only using parts of these steps find breakdown somewhere in their communication with their audience. If someone is unable to properly engage people, the best information in the world will not keep their attention. Just like engaging people and educating them, but not equipping them, probably won’t do a whole lot. And so on.
You + Someone Else
Scene: the elevator pitch Location: an elevator Characters: you + someone else
You're in an elevator with someone else, and you're wearing a logo-ed shirt that has your organization's name on it. SOMEONE ELSE: Oh, I see you're with so-and-so. What's that about? YOU: (takes a deep breath) Unprepared, you get into firehouse mode where you verbally vomit everything you can possibly think of that this person might want to know about your organization. You don't stop talking until the door starts to open. YOU: (hands over business card) Call us! SOMEONE ELSE: Definitely! They don't.
But if you’re prepared and can present information to them in a structured way, the likelihood of a different outcome is much higher. If someone says, “That’s nice,” that might be enough. But when someone says, “Tell me more about that…” well, now you have someone who’s genuinely interested in what your organization does.