Create Curiosity or Firehose Them?

Have you ever poured yourself into a project and felt like someone on the other side just didn't respond well? This is the conversation I have most often with clients. It can be easy to think when we don't get a good response, the answer must be to try harder. That can be true...sometimes. But a lot of the time, there's something more complicated going on with the person on the other side as they receive your information. Meaning, the way you present that information might need to be reconsidered.

Humans 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 daily, our brains are naturally limiting what we take in to avoid overload. The average person is bombarded with over 5,000 items of advertising or elements of advertising in a single day. 5,000. 

What we get bombarded with every day:

Ok let me paint you a picture. You're stopped at an intersection light. There's a convenience store on the right. A fast-food restaurant in your left. A political sign in front of the fast food restaurant. You can see advertisements for refinancing your home taped to the light pole. Most of the cars in front of you have bumper stickers. You look across the street and see a banner for a grand opening plus a buy one get one promotion. The vehicle next to you has a graphic wrap of their company's logo and contact information. And you weren't even paying attention to the four different radio ads that played in your car. 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. 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? 

Who are you presenting to?

Now let's take that same understanding and think about who you're trying to present your information to. It's highly likely 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 like 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. 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 the information they need in that moment, BUT that's exactly what you want. Curiosity leads to questions. Questions demonstrate interest. Interest is what drives action.

Why questions are a good thing:

Sometimes, when someone asks a question after we've presented a project, we think that means we haven't done our job correctly. In reality, these questions allow for opportunities to understand: where the person is, where their interests are and most importantly where what you care about and what they care about intersect. There is a time for you to give all sorts of details, but 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 can 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?


You might ask a simple question, say something funny or tell a simple story that pulls at the heart. You're creating an environment where people are receptive to what you have to tell them.  If you were sitting at a table with someone this is where their body language would lean in to hear more. But remember this is short, concise and grabs their attention.


Once someone is interested, they may start asking questions. This is where you educate them, it's important and it's focused. Again, we aren't trying to firehose them, so this needs to be to the point.


Now, you can give someone the opportunity to take a step with you. Empowering people to do something is asking them to be part of your team in some way. Many of these elements are steps that you already are doing, but are you focused on doing them consistently and in this order? I've found over the years organizations that are effective in building relationships and making an impact happen are good at using these three areas to communicate with people and in this order.

I want to encourage you to take some time to think through these three elements.  Write them down and then write down how you would use them if you stepped into an elevator with someone who asked you about the organization embroidered on your shirt.