This notion is particularly important for anyone who deals with the public and encounters similar situations over and over again. This includes sales people making a presentation, hotel staff answering commonly asked questions, and, of course, sales people greeting and dealing with prospects in a trade show booth.
For those without a performance background, let me shed some light on this concept. The “illusion of the first time” is the idea of delivering a rehearsed performance in a fresh and new way. The phrase was first coined back in 1913 by an American actor named William Gillette. In his speech, “The Illusion of the First Time in Acting,” Gillette conveyed the importance of an actor searching for and finding the words to express a character’s thoughts, even though these words are predetermined in the script. He sums it up beautifully by saying that the goal of the performer is to make the audience “feel that it is witnessing, not one of a thousand weary repetitions, but a life episode that is being lived just across the magic barrier of the footlights.”
Doing this is easier said than done. As the material (sales pitch) is rehearsed and perfected, certain habits can be created. Sometimes being so familiar with the material changes the relationship between the material and the performer.
After a long day of repetitive interactions, it’s very easy to become short with your booth visitors. You may be sick of hearing yourself answer certain questions, but this is the first time this particular person has asked it. Perhaps this is your third trade show this month, and this whole exhibiting thing is growing tiresome.
The first thing you need to realize is that it’s not about you. It’s about your “audience.” That is the very reason why you are at the trade show – to make connections with potential clients and start some valuable conversations. If you alienate your audience by “phoning in” your performance, or by letting the booth visitor know that you say the same thing to everyone, you destroy any rapport that was being built.
Remind your booth staff that no matter how tired they are, it’s about the booth visitor’s experience. Their perception of you, the company, and the booth is all that matters. As the events manager or booth captain, set a good example for the staff and monitor how you deal with each and every interaction. Be present and in the moment to create the best results and a performance to remember.