Don’t Bring It All To The First Meeting

Grocery Cart

If a magician explained in advance all the detailed mechanics of a particular trick, would there still be a reason to stay for the actual performance? Arguably, there are those who might steal the trick once they saw how it was done and shamelessly stitch it into their own repertoire. On the flip side are those who would not only respect the magician’s craft but might also think, “If I could be that wowed seeing one illusion, I wonder what else this guy has up his sleeve!”

A correlation can be made to the wizardry of professional consulting, advertising design, and wordsmithing. Specifically, it’s a common practice in these industries to offer a free consultation, the purpose of which is to identify a prospective client’s needs, demonstrate one’s expertise to address those needs, and determine whether the respective personalities are a smart fit. The highest chance of such meetings failing to seal the deal is when the person making the pitch presupposes a level of loyalty that has yet to be forged and, thus, reveals all the tricks of the trade at the initial meeting. “You’ve certainly given me a lot to think about,” the listener says, not the least of which is now whether they need to hire an expert at all.

I recently interviewed a potential ghostwriting client who wanted to hire me to pen her screenplay idea about an obscure Italian painter. Starting her story in the wrong place and not giving her protagonist any compelling conflicts were just two of the problems inherent in this project; she had also put no thought into who its target market was. These things could be remedied, I suggested, if it were developed as a stage play instead of a movie. The intimate, real-time bond the actors could make with the audience would invite a deeper understanding of what fueled the artist’s passions and relationships with others. In response to her assertion that theater was too limiting for all the scenes she wanted, I pointed out that elements such as selective lighting, scrim curtains, platforms, stairs, and holograms could deliver far more visual variety than she thought. Further, theater patrons typically process information at a higher level of abstraction than movie goers; i.e., you can tell them a minimalist stage is a dense forest and they’ll “see” it without your having to bring on a single tree.

By the end of the consultation, she was excited but wanted to make her decision the following week. When she did, it was to inform me that – despite her lack of any playwriting experience – she was going to write the whole script herself rather than pay someone who had obviously divulged “everything about theater there is to know.”

Or did I?

Her belief that she had tricked me into giving her something-for-nothing was only an illusion. The reality – the portion of the iceberg not visible from the surface – is what I could have shown her about how to keep an audience spellbound.


Here’s this month’s magical line-up of guest blogs:

Is Abundance Avoiding You – by Mandy Wildman and Wayne Porter

Ideas for Succeeding as a Business Person Overseas by Arpaparon Keasakul

Help Others, Help Yourself: Supporting Your Competitors in Business by Shane Russo