The Power of Acting It Out

Got a dilemma? Try role playing.

This morning we were working on the new brochures and stuff for the local community theatre.

One thing that came up was, the donation envelope.

What should it say on it? Should it have levels of sponsorship and check boxes? Should it have a blank line where you fill in your own amount?

When faced with this sort of question, the best thing to do is to literally put yourself in the role of the person you imagine will try to fill the thing out and go through the process.

Even if you are not a theatre and don't have actors around.

I'll use this issue as an example. First of all, let's pretend that I'm a local resident and I just got this brochure and envelope from the local community theatre in my mail box.

I bring it into my kitchen, and open it. Pretty pictures, something about a 2010-2011 season, something about education programs... and some sort of form.

Now... this is where it gets interesting. Because, whatever is on the form isn't going to change. The letters won't rearrange based on the reader's reaction. It's a one-way conversation.

So, pretending you are that person standing in the kitchen, what would YOU want on the brochure?

Well, here's what you DON'T want:
- Requests for gigantic donations you can't afford
- Lots of tiny text you're not going to read (especially since you may just plunk this on the counter for a couple of days before you get around to it)
- Guilt
- A confusing form that you're not going to fill out

Now we can say something about what you DO want to see:
- Choices that make sense
- A feeling that I am in control of what support I give - or don't
- Someone to talk to if I have questions
- Somewhere to get more information
- A sense that if I do donate, I'm contributing to something really terrific and that I will be proud

See? Now it's a lot clearer what to put on the form. A free-form amount lets people choose what to give. Copy that conveys gratitude and benefits provides a sense of purpose. Information and people give me the option to find out more.

So the form isn't just a thumbs-up, thumbs-down proposition. It's the start of a conversation that you hope will continue.

Next time you're faced with a question about your site, or your printed matter, or even a presentation you might make, try play-acting being a member of your audience. It will help you get better clarity in a hurry. You can even recruit friends or family members to help out, for added drama. Even if you're not at the community theatre.