Many good ideas and products are forgotten because we didn’t hear it’s story in a proper way.
Present almost any idea by using these 4 steps:
Prijepolje, Serbia, early 2000s
The first match of American football took place in my hometown of Prijepolje almost 18 years ago.
The sport looks like rugby, but with helmets and slightly different rules. At that time, I was the only fan of this sport in the whole town and had a huge desire to play at least one game.
That January, we had heavy snowfall and at the same time, my friend Ado gave me one rugby ball he found under some car.
We had everything: a real ball and a soft, snowy field. Ideal conditions.
Yet, the most important thing was missing: the team.
I had to convince all my friends to play American football instead of playing European football (which we have played every day since “forever”).
Not sure how, but it was really hard to persuade so many friends not to play football, not to sled on the snow, not to play video games, but to play something that is popular on another continent.
Except for my friend Miloš Cvika, no one had any idea that this other form of football could be interesting. And we needed at least 16 people to play a good match (which included a few guys from another neighborhood).
I had to make a serious plan that would persuade the team to try to play even just one match.
I entered the room, sharpened a pencil, took a school notebook, turned it upside down, and started to design the whole plan on the back.
I had to:
- Make my 15 friends genuinely interested to play a completely new sport that looked complicated. Only if they were really interested, would we all enjoy it.
- Teach the rules (which are quite boring, complicated and long), but not to waste time on this theoretical part, as they might get bored and quit.
- Design the game so that everyone enjoys the action (because in this game there are a couple of players who take part in the real action with the ball, while the others create a “wall and protect” so the action players can score, and these roles are boring but important in the team. In America, they pay millions to those players just to play in these positions).
So, how could I make it inclusive without paying them?
My plan from the notebook looked like this:
Take out of context* (with an asterisk”*”)
How to attract attention and make my friends genuinely interested in this sport in a fast and efficient way?
Below you will read what this asterisk means – very important.
In order to get my friends genuinely interested in the game, I didn’t want to make them watch the whole game on TV. It lasts over 3 hours and everyone would fall asleep.
In Serbia, American football started to be televised on 3K (on the Third channel) and every given Saturday they broadcasted an interesting show that reviewed last week’s results.
At the very end of that show, the best highlights and actions were played (impossible catches, interesting throws and runs). It looked like the best action movie.
Since we didn’t have Youtube or smartphones back then (Nokias and Alcatel phones), I announced to all my friends to switch to 3K at 14:25 because that’s when the real action would start and last only five minutes (this is short and efficient).
I even texted everyone at 14:23 to remind them to watch.
Not only did they watch the best action clips from the sport, but they could hardly wait to try the same acrobatics on the snow.
Immediately at 14:30, I sent them another message to meet at the field.
Everyone showed up.
It has to be easy
Now that they were interested in trying this sport, my task was to explain complicated rules, without boring them too much.
When we present a new idea to people, it is not bad if you have this guilty feeling because you have gathered people to try that idea of yours (or service).
In that case, you will do everything to simplify the whole process for them.
When you learn to present different ideas in a simple yet interesting way, you will start to lose that “guilty feeling”, and people will actually enjoy the whole process.
Before the game started, my friends still didn’t realize that they would enjoy this new kind of football so it looked like they were doing me a favor by cooperating.
But not for long.
Instead of playing by exactly the same rules as in North America, I simplified the game by removing 90% of the rules and by making the field shorter.
E.g. instead of 10 lines on the proper field, we played with 3.
It is important to remove “unnecessary at the beginning” details and thus remove the friction so it goes smoothly.
Let them try (the best of it)
If you bake your famous strawberry cake, and serve a friend with a piece that comes without strawberries, that’s not a complete experience.
Learning, experiencing something, and enjoyment are usually not complete, neither fully understood until they are tried.
If I was the only quarterback (the one who throws the ball in American football) and if the fast Milos Cvika played the catcher (wide receiver), we would surely beat the other team in this game. However, everyone else would be so bored that they would quit the game and they would never play the sport again.
They wouldn’t trust me when I bring new games either.
Instead, I created a system where we all switch positions and where the same actions cannot be repeated twice in a row. So everyone tried everything.
Result: We played a few beautiful matches. We even felt the adrenaline and pure enjoyment on the snow. On the initiative of my friends, two more matches were organized during the big snow season, and some even watched Sunday’s match on 3K for the first time ever.
On that day, passers-by stopped to watch the historic American football match in Prijepolje.
What does the asterisk “*” mean?
* This asterisk means that you should tell people that you have taken something out of context. Tell them the “dark side” or the boring or difficult side of your idea (or a service), instead of hiding it.
This star is the difference between whether people will believe you just once or forever.
If you run a small business, this asterisk “*” signifies an honest relationship with your clients and your reputation.
Think of places you no longer go to buy something — They probably didn’t tell you everything at the beginning.
This is how I explained this asterisk “*” to my friends:
“Hey, we should use the opportunity of this heavy snow to play a match of American football. Switch to 3K at 14:25 and if you like the best action clips, we can try it out.
I won’t make you watch the whole game because it lasts 3 hours, there are a lot of pauses (breaks) and you would probably get tired of watching.
So, please watch these five minutes, and I will prepare the rules and the field so we can give it a try”.
5 minutes on 3K is taking out of the context (where they see the best in a short time), but it’s fair to say that there is a “dark side of this sport” (a 3-hour match with breaks) and then we admit that this has been taken out from the context because we don’t want to lie to friends and that represents the asterisk “*”.
People understand that there is usually a “hard side” to demanding things. But if you hide it, any reputation you have built goes away.
The future law student knows that she will study very hard before becoming a judge, and yet she decides to enroll in university.
The apprentice knows that he needs to spend a few years with the master craftsman until he opens his workshop.
People know that big things are hard to accomplish.
Fourth step (optional):
How and where to present the idea?
The fourth step is creating a special way to present your idea.
Eg. Let’s imagine that in those years my friends just started using mobile phones. Receiving an SMS at 14:23 reminding friends to watch the match would look very special (receiving an SMS instead of a call to a landline).
Today (in 2020), receiving SMS again looks more special than receiving a Whatsapp message because no one sends SMS anymore (at least in Europe).
The first three steps in this text are “evergreen” and will benefit you for the next 100 years, but this fourth step is always something new, something people are not used to. Some contrast that will make your idea look special.
For the last 12 years, I have been giving various lectures around the world on the topic of social entrepreneurship, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding.
I have to find completely new ways to share theories that students and listeners will remember and be interested in.
That is why I often organize lectures in unexpected places so that people associate the place with the topic and that is why they remember the lecture.
For example, I have organized lectures on rooftops; in the woods; in pools; in the halls where the listeners were discreetly lit, and I was in the dark; on a boat; in the snow; in tents; former prisons; in the desert; during breakfasts; etc.
It is important that the location of the lectures are places where listeners are not used to attending lectures. (This doesn’t say that lecture is better if it’s held in a different place, but it helps us to make it memorable).
Please do not be lazy with this fourth step, even if it is an extra effort in the organization. It works.
Eg. When I gave a lecture to scouts from Switzerland and Serbia. We set up the workshop room in an abandoned building. Here’s the photo from 2013.
A lot of my colleagues who deliver lectures today are doing exactly the same thing and changing locations. But if all lecturers start changing locations, it means that this fourth step will no longer be special and we will have to find a new way.
“The depth doesn’t exist without its surface”
So says my favorite poet and friend Ilhan Pachariz.
If we want to explain something completely new (and seemingly boring) and if we want to involve people in the process, we must first get their attention, then simplify it for them, and then serve it on a tray.
On a tray they have never seen before.
And only once we have caught their attention with something that seems very easy and when they try it, then it will be easier for them to dig a little deeper, to investigate and to explore.
There probably isn’t a coach of any sport who wanted to become a coach in childhood. First, they would start playing one game as a kid, then play in the club, then maybe professionally and only then would they be interested in game theory and tactics.
This whole text explains how to use marketing to present our service or product without manipulating anyone.
Anyone who wants to involve more people in an action needs marketing (90% of companies and organizations in the world).
I work with a lot of lawyers on activities that are not related to advocacy. It is very difficult for them to get out of the academic framework and use these 4 steps.
Also, NGOs around the world have a similar “disease” and can’t get over the fact that something can be presented in an easier way (even if it would mean a huge impact on people’s lives). They usually start using some more modern Canva-type tools and immediately think they are communicating better. No – No.
Because they present depth first, and not the surface. Maybe they learned that surface part in their first year of college, so they assume we all know that.
A lot of good ideas and products fail because they are not presented properly.
How would you use these 4 steps to present your product?
How would you present a new cake from your patisserie?
How would you present an innovative online carpentry course through these steps?
And what if you are selling a poor quality product that is very difficult to present without lying?
– Throw it in the trash and start doing something else.
E.g. Start a meaningful business from scratch.
These four steps represent my version of the famous AIDA model, which represents the entire path of the future user of a service.
Ena illustrates all the texts on this site.