Thinking in Questions

For the past 41 years on the first Thursday after Labor Day, the Toronto International Film Festival has kicked off. For attendees, “hectic” takes on new meaning. It’s hurry up and wait – to get into films, to get through to the box office, to await red carpet arrivals. Rush/stand/wait. It’s an acquired taste.

What’s interesting about the festival experience is how passion and interest break down social barriers that might otherwise exist. Put a group of strangers with time to kill into a lineup for an hour or more, and two things happen. First, interest in one’s devices gets lost really fast, and secondly (and directly related to the first), there arises no end to conversational starters. Which films have you seen? Which do you recommend? Why is that? Did Celebrity X show? Did you get any photos? Nice camera! What lens were you using? There’s an app for that?? Do you mind holding my place while I get a coffee? Can I get you one too? Did you know they’re free right over there? Where are you in from? Did you use AirBnB? How’s that working?

Next thing, 90 minutes have gone by and you’ve learned hundreds of interesting things. Odds are good you’ll meet that face again in another line-up and it will start all over again.

An interested mind thinks in questions because it shows an avid desire to learn more about the person in front of you who is sharing your experience. And people respond because you are paying them attention and it certainly beats boredom, shyness or dread. It’s a value share.

You might find yourself alone at a trade show or social function or general meeting with a large group of strangers. Finding common ground need not be hard. It might be the wifi, the weather, the speaker, the topic, the booth with the robots, the arctic-blue iceberg ice cubes, whether they too are on their own, what the most interesting thing they’ve seen or heard has been.  It may be that you are meeting with a prospect or a potential strategic partner for the first time. Enjoy where your questions lead, especially when they uncover concerns that can lead to your solutions.

Because odds are good you’ll meet that face again.


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