I am delighted when I have an aha moment. It’s double joy when it relates to connecting with people. I found my moment in Joe Gebbia’s TED talk. He is a co-founder of Airbnb, a company that ushers hospitality industry into our own homes using apps.
As he was walking to take center stage on the red TED carpet, my thoughts raced on making a checklist on what to expect. He would likely try to make it interesting, inspiring and engaging. There are a couple of conventional choices he would likely employ — sharing his personal journey that mirrors the growth of Airbnb, he would likely share the future vision, peppering it with some impressive statistics in line with Airbnb “unicorn” status.
As I listened to him, I smiled. I was checking off the items created in my own mental game. Then, he surprised me with a wonderful zinger — a wonderful learning moment for me.
What Joe Gebbia did that surprised me?
He asked the audience to pull out our phones (I was watching at a remote live location). He urged us to unlock our phones which many of us gingerly followed. Next, he asked us to give our phone to the person sitting to our left. There was a perceptible pause before we followed through. At that moment, he shared the challenge his business faced. He was in the business of urging people to share their personal space — their homes with strangers. Without losing a beat, in that moment of feeling, he thanked his loyal hosts who opened their homes to unknown guests — the heart of smashing success of Airbnb as a recognizable name.
Using props is an age-old, sage advice — a great example being a TED talk by the author of Power of Introverts, Susan Cain. Her famous prop was a bag full of books she carried on stage. She talked about it but never opened it (until close to the end)— creating a curiosity quotient which served to pull in her audience.
Involve your audience is another well- articulated advice that is heard often.
What was remarkable about the simple act of Joe, he fused the two to create a multiplier effect — a prop that each member of audience personally owned!
He did not just engage the audience; he made us feel his business challenge — what it means to share a personal belonging — as personal as our cell phone, unlocked.
Right after the feeling moment, he gave me a thinking aha. He posed a question along these lines, “If you know a bit more about the person on the left before sharing your phone, would you it make it easier to share? How much more?” In his business, sharing just the right amount by the guest as an introduction to the host was key. And the “just right” design of the text box inside Airbnb app that held that critical information was instrumental in building trust. He masterfully brought me back to his area of expertise — design.
When he connected my dots that design can build trust, it appealed to my left brain. I knew that design and trust are important. The aha was when I could feel that design and trust could be interrelated.
What does the aha from a TED talk got to do with content in General?
An engaging written content has more degrees of freedom than a talk. The writer can write at his pace, the reader can read at their comfortable speed. Unlike a talk, the personal props are not restricted to the ones people carry. Unlike a visual prop, the writer can describe the prop and the reader can imagine it from their own experience, in their own voice. Everything else correlates.
Truckloads of material are available on content marketing. Joe’s simple act with audience cell phone personifies the heart of content marketing at its best — invoke feelings that people can relate, thank them in context and provide an aha that holistically excites the audience.
I thank my friends at TEDx Houston for hosting the event live at Station Houston’s shack. #TED2016.
Interested in your thoughts in the comment section.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com.