Uncommon Questions

We all strive for originality. We want to stand out, to make a great first impression. A great deal of money and time gets spent on stand design an build and the results are sometimes breathtaking. That uniqueness however is seldom translated or transferred to our approach on a personal level.

We excel at business to business and then reach mediocrity eye to eye.

I was listening to a podcast recently the subject of which was the hacking of dating sites to improve success. I don’t mean hacking in the sinister, malicious way, but more in taking an analytical approach to data in and data out. If you are interested or involved in online marketing then you will be familiar with the importance placed on securing a readers attention by creating a compelling headline. Well so it was with our online Casanova. He effectively carried out a survey which allowed him to see what the female members of a particular dating site were subjected to. What were the most common headlines that prospective dates used to capture their attention? “Hello”, “Hi” and a little more surprising “Wanna F***?” were the most common approaches. From there his tactic was simple – don’t use any of those headlines! His results in terms of responses improved dramatically. His intention was to get the lonely hearts to read his missive and he succeeded. By turning “Wanna F***?” into “F*** you” he actually got more responses! Why? Because the reader was outraged! They wanted to know who was insulting them. He had created outrage AND curiosity. He immediately flipped the context of his headline by apologising and explaining his tactic in the first line of his message.  He had managed to do something that his competition hadn’t. He had created interest.

Our situation as exhibitors is vary similar and we can take a similar approach, (with less swearing).  We can easily experience first hand the common “chat up lines” of our competition by simply walking the trade show floor. This is our survey. You will hear a commonality in the opening lines and approaches which will be the key to your success in gaining attention. These common lines may be well rehearsed but unless they have been considered against the backdrop of the competition they run the risk of becoming white noise.  As a sideline what you will be most surprised by is the complete lack of an opening line or approach by many. This can mean that those exhibitors who have got as far as “What brings you to the show today?” appear like true pick up artists!

Now consider the uncommon questions. Those approaches that may stop a visitor dead in their tracks as they consider and adjust to the interruption. It takes imagination and nerve to find the approach that will work for you. Test and split test the approaches you use. Day one of a show can be about finding out what approach yields the greatest “stop” response. Day two and three you can implement them. Try not to consider the visitor as a “prospect”, but simply as another human being who may be experiencing a degree of overwhelm. What can you say that will resonate with them and not sound like everybody else?
Remember a well rehearsed opening line can sound like a well rehearsed opening line. People aren’t stupid, they know you want them to want you! They are on high alert, or in stealth mode, head down and phone pressed to their ear. The direct approach can result in a push back that comes from “fight or flight” rather than a considered response. It doesn’t matter the opportunity is lost.

Would it hurt to try a few out of the box approaches rather than the well worn, off the shelf alternatives? “Where did you get those shoes?”, “How has your day been so far?”(Meh), “F*** You!” (Okay I’m kidding about the last one but it would certainly get their attention!)
My point is that your approach is crucial to stopping people and it really isn’t that hard. It just requires, as I said before, imagination and nerve!

One final and very important point on the uncommon question is you need to know where it is headed. Moving from an initial attention-reaction to a conversation that will engage the visitor needs to happen quickly. You don’t really want to spend 30 minutes talking about shoes!  Your goal is to quickly transition that attention into interest or engagement at a level that is relevant to your product or service. How do you do that? Well my friends that is something for another day.

Nice shoes by the way!

About The Author

Peter Wardell

Peter Wardell is an multi-award winning magician and speaker. He has helped companies from a wide variety of disciplines engage with their audience at trade show and exhibitions worldwide.

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