It’s been a few weeks since I returned from a trip with Neil and a few of his friends from The Society. During our journey through the southwest, the guys role-played that they were part of a clandestine organization that dealt with uncovering alien invaders — an organization called S.M.I.L.E.
Each person on the trip received a box of personalized S.M.I.L.E. business cards and a mission: Get as many people as you can to call the number on the card. They must leave a message that includes your agent name and a story about when they’d found intelligent life in New Mexico.
In three days, there were over 100 calls made to the S.M.I.L.E. phone service.
To our surprise, there were a few women who called asking some of the guys who approached them for dates.
Walking up with something unique and non-sexual, like this S.M.I.L.E. business card, and the story about aliens that gave it context has all the right elements of a great opener:
- It arouses curiosity.
- It’s a springboard for a follow-up conversation.
- It suggests that you might be an interesting person; in other words, it expresses identity.
A unique identity has value because it’s rare. It’s so easy to blend in, give vague answers, and try to spark a conversation the way everybody else is does. The problem is that those common ways of doing things don’t give any sense that the person who approached them is interesting. Typical pick up lines can be too forward or sexual, or even over used.
Just having these little cards and a short story about aliens generated hundreds of conversations.
This arousal of curiosity and expression of identity is valuable. It’s why we regularly suggest practicing an opener.
The openers we offer, once practiced, provide the group or person with a unique experience that has more emotional weight than the common “hey, how ya doing?” experience that they get every day.
This week I encourage you to find an opener you like, something that seems like it would be interesting to you, and practice it. Challenge yourself with a target number of approaches and imagine you were playing this game.
- How many people can you get to answer the question that’s in the opener?
- How many of those responses can you lead into follow-up conversation?
Give it a shot!