Spent the weekend helping the in-laws’ business. My job for an entire weekend — man a ticket booth and take money while giving out tickets. I rate this assignment as just above latrine duty. There just isn’t a nice way to say “six dollars, please“, especially when people have been used to paying five for 17 years (the second event with the increased price). Coupled with a typo in the newspaper ad ($5 admission!), this was shaping up to be above and beyond the usual aggravation.But I managed to snag a communications nugget from the mess. While I am not particularly fond of trying to separate people from their money, I am quite fond of helping people. And I discovered a way to help people while taking their money. The increase from $5 to $6 caused quite a ruckus in the ticket booths in the form of one dollar bills. That singular change caused us to need a BUNCH of them to make change (give a $10 bill; get four $1 bills in return). So I started a very simple practice when handed a $10 or $20 — I asked them point blank: “do you also have a $1 bill?” Turns out most of them did. And the result had a lot of really positive spinoffs.

  • I had less change to give. $21 = $15 in change (2 bills vs. 5); $11 = $5 in change (1 bill vs. 4)
  • The customers were busy doing something while the transaction took place — it wasn’t ME doing the work, it was them
  • I ended up being able to tell them how I’d helped them — “We can keep you from having to have a bunch of ones”
  • I ended up thanking them — it was a small thing, but they felt like they had done me a favor.
  • They seemed to think I had thought this all through and really knew what I was doing (I know making change isn’t brain surgery, but you’d be surprised at how few of our public can do it well. I watched another of our cashiers short a guy $5 and he never noticed — I had to run him down to return the money).

I can’t say that it was a wonder worker, but I do think it really helped. I managed to get through with about 1/4 the number of ones I needed last time, and with a newspaper ad displaying the wrong price, I only had to have 4 discussions about it, and only 2 other discussions were close to antagonistic. This was a significant record.I think that an audience would behave similarly — they want something to do, they want value from their “leader”, they want to feel like they’ve done something good. If at the same time, the speaker/presenter/trainer is gaining something, all the better.

Involve your audience/customers/students. Share with them how they are helping themselves.

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