It happens every once in a while.
We get a festival guest who approaches the booth, they’re interested in talking about what they have going on and we’re glad to listen. For the most part the questions and comments and conversations are around what WEB does, questions around what they think it might be, and comments about their own experiences. All very productive and mutually beneficial conversation.
The once in a while interaction is strangely consistent. It tends to go something like this.
1. A guest approaches the booth, usually a female. We get lots of men who visit us as well, yet this SCS (strangely consistent scenario) is almost universally with women.
2. She starts to enthusiastically tell us about a project she’s involved in, is planning, or otherwise is closely associated with.
3. We lean in and listen. Since I do most of the fests, I get most of the guests and for sure this kind of conversation. My crew is well versed at directing topics like this to me when I’m there. Sometimes I’m not smiling because I’m concentrating on the offered information.
4. The guest is very focused and not great at listening to questions I may ask about the venture; sometimes they get defensive and want to argue with the research we bring up, diplomatically and directly, which we offer freely – usually after asking the guest if they want input. Many don’t – they’re too focused and deep into their own ideas.
5. The guest’s attitude turns sour and they walk away. Bear in mind they approach us, ask us (often) what we think about their idea, we tell them based on our 5 years of research, and they get short and leave. They don’t want to hear what the only professional independent women + beer research company has to share with them.
At a recent fest, which was lovely all around sans this interaction, it happened again. The guest approached, dug in, looked at me as I was listening midway through the conversation, sharply stated “I can tell you’re not interested”, immediately turned on her heals and left.
Here are a couple of thoughts.
1. If you want to share an idea with someone in a booth, on the other side of the table, at an event, be sure to respect that they are also a thinking person and they deserve your respect and good manners. It was very rude to simply accuse me of something she didn’t have any basis to judge me on and to abruptly say such a brisk remark and flee.
The smart alek in me wants to say “Really?? You can tell I’m not interested and you’ve only just met me and talked at me for 5 minutes solid?? How can you tell? What are you basing that on?” That inclination is quickly buried though because it’s counterproductive and not appropriate.
2. It’s always irksome to have someone feel they can treat another person this way. It’s unmerited and certainly unprofessional…no matter who the ‘guest’ is. She could have said “Hmmm – I think you’re not into this, thanks for your time…” and moved on – or better yet ASKED me before making the knee jerk judgement.
3. She wanted to be right and she wasn’t into listening to others even when she approached us. I shudder to think that one of the concepts she was telling me about was going to be a consumer facing venture. If that’s how she treats others, I’d caution you to watch out! It’s not about being right. It’s about conversing respectfully, listening, and making progress together.
After she stormed off to her compatriot waiting for her return (I could see the companion on a bench), I was tempted to go after her. That quickly dissipated since she had been so rude that to try to figure out what was going on would truly be a waste of time. If someone is closed-minded, no sense approaching. They’re closed and don’t want to be open.
Here’s the crux of the matter:
1. Approach people at fests, in booths, at tables where they can’t leave and do so with diplomacy, good manners and with a mindful eye on what they are there to accomplish. Most of us are trying to make a living and this is one facet of the work that’s usually very fun. Be nice and you’ll get nice.
2. People at fests, in booths and at tables WANT you to approach with good manners, a fun attitude and to converse in a respectful way. It’s cowardly and bad form to approach, unload and then flee.
3. Always put yourself in the workers’ shoes. Tables or no, respect needs to be present. If you want to argue, check before you engage so neither of the parties feels uncomfortable. Some of the very fun guest interactions we’ve had are lively and spirited ones in which you know they’re having fun, and the challenge is mutually respectful. Those are encouraged and appropriate.
4. Finally, never tell someone on the other side of a table (the worker) they’re wrong. It’s an insult to the work they’ve done to get to that point – and to have an unknowledgeable person, however well intended, tell you how you should do this or that, or that it’s really this way or that is irritating and insulting. “Really?! Did you do the work we’ve done as well – and what does your research show?” If you want to talk with them, do so when they’re not a captive audience.
Get out and about and support local festivals of all kinds. Approach booths and engage in fun, enlightening and respectful conversation. We’ll all make more progress that way.
Cheers to the thousands of “great” guests we get the pleasure of meeting each year. Our sincere thanks! Nuts to the crabby, ignorant, and rude one.