First Impressions at an LLL Display
Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 4, August-September 1999, p. 86
Have you ever visited a trade show? There's so much to see and so much to learn. Your time may be limited, but you want to take it all in. Decisions about what you will stop and see will be based on your first impressions of the displays and the people presenting them.
Imagine you are at a trade show right now. At the first table you see a product you've never heard of or know little about, but it looks interesting. The staff seems busy. One of them is talking with a visitor; two others are chatting with each other near the table. You need to maneuver around the chatters to pick up a brochure. They step aside but do not acknowledge you.
At a second table, even before you have a chance to look at the backdrop, a smiling staff member steps up and stuffs some brochures in your hand. She tries to engage you in conversation immediately. You feel overwhelmed, perhaps a little caged in, so you leave as soon as you can break away.
At a third table, the people are also busy. But one of them looks up, catches your eye, smiles and says, 'I'll be with you shortly.” In a few minutes, after you've had time to look at the materials, she approaches you and says, "Hello. How am you enjoying the displays?" After a minute or two of small talk, she asks you if you'd like to know more about her company's product.
Think back to how these people attended to you. At the first table you were ignored. At the second table you were pounced on. At the third table you were treated respectfully. All other factors being equal, who gets your business?
People who approach an LLL display deserve the same care and respect they would find at a Series Meeting. As Leaders we know to gear our Series Meetings to the woman attending for the first time. A public display provides an opportunity to reach people who may never attend a meeting. It is our responsibility to make the first impression a good one.
When you put on a display:
- Be neat
- Be respectful
- Be interested
- Be cordial
- Be informed
- Be available
- Follow up
The ideas are simple but worth thinking about how to put into practice.
Be Neat. Dress for the occasion. Large public displays attract a wide variety of people. Your clothing and appearance all reflect your pride in yourself and LLL. Arrange your brochures neatly and straighten them up as the day goes on. Keep food and drink away from the public eye. If you need to eat at the table, be discreet.
Be Cordial. Respect the visitor's boundaries. Be sure to smile as you make eye contact. Think about how you feel when someone comes at you with a fixed smile ("I'm just another sale"). Now think about a person seeing you, making eye contact and then smiling ("This person is interested in me").
Be Respectful. Respect individual differences. Watch for body language; a person who quickly glances at your display then turns her head away without making eye contact may be saying "not interested." Respect that and let her walk away. For those who prefer written material or time to think before they converse, have material available to pick up. A bookmark is ideal for this situation. Why not have a sign-up sheet for people who want more information? (Hint: Fill in your own name and address; some people don't want to be the first to sign.) Are you permitted to have a drawing for a prize such as WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY or other LLL book at your table? This will attract people in a nonthreatening way.
Be informed. Know a little about the event where you have your display. This will help you initiate conversations with those who may hesitate starting right off with breastfeeding. Be sure you are familiar with your materials and other LLL Groups in your area. That will make it easier to say, “Yes, I have the answer to that question right here." If you don’t have the information a visitor needs, you can ask for an address or phone number and get the answer to her later. Prepare a list of nearby Group meeting times including Leaders' phone numbers and the central phone line number if your Chapter or city has one. Keep your up-to-date Area directory and any toll-free referral numbers handy as well.
Be interested. Establish rapport with the visitor before you share information. Make a comment that shows you are paying attention to the visitor. "How old is your baby?" "How are you enjoying the event?" "When are you due?" Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer to keep the conversation flowing.
Be Available. Try to have the display staffed at all times. Remember, although a Leader Applicant can work with you at the display, she should not be put in a position where she may appear to represent LLL; only an accredited Leader can do that. If you are busy, try at least to establish eye contact with any visitors who seem to be waiting to speak with you. Say "I'll be with you shortly," so they know you have seen them. If you have to take a short break, leave a large note on the table giving the time you will return. Note a specific time rather than "Back in 30 minutes" since visitors will not know when during the 30 minutes they are reading the note.
Follow Up. If you have said you will call a visitor with information, do so. If you have promised to mail out materials, do so. Do it promptly, no more than two days after the event. Take time to make a good first impression. A few minutes of preparation will help foster a positive image of LLL in your community.
Paulette Bulger is a Leader in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada. She is a veteran of many public displays. Her article first appeared in Canadian Collage, August 1998.