I was watching this TED Talk by Joe Gebbia (co-founder of Airbnb) and loved how he engaged his audience! With a simple activity, he was able to give his audience a simulated experience of what it’s like to be an Airbnb host.
What Can We Learn?
Notice how he sets up this activity:
- He states his intention before asking for participation. “I wanna give you a sense of the flavour of trust that we were aiming to achieve.”
- He tells them the time commitment and gives them an idea of what’s involved. “I’ve got a 30-second experiment that will push you past your comfort zone.”
- He prompts them to consent. “If you’re up for it, give me a thumbs up.” He gives them a body gesture to mirror and waits…
This is a great example of how to gain audience compliance. Give them the why of it and an idea of what they’re signing up for. Then get their permission to proceed.
Joe also facilitates the activity very smoothly. There are three things that help him do this:
- He breaks the instructions down into just 3 simple steps
- He softens his instructions with starter phrases like “I need you to…” and “I’d like you to…”
- He demonstrates clearly and pauses to let the audience follow along
Why is this such a good way to engage the audience?
People who haven’t used Airbnb before (such as myself) may not “get it”. The best way to “get it” is to experience it first hand. But Joe needed a shortcut to re-create that experience for his audience there and then. The phone activity served as the perfect metaphor for the Airbnb experience.
“That tiny sense of panic you’re feeling right now (pause for laughter) is exactly how hosts feel the first time they open their home! Because the only thing more personal than your phone is you home.”
Once Joe had helped his audience form that emotional association, he used it to address their possible concerns.
“How does it feel holding someone’s unlocked phone? Most of us feel really responsible. That’s how most guests feel when they stay in a home. And it’s because of this that our company can even exist.”
During the phone-swap activity, chances are the audience members didn’t abuse the power they’d been given when handed someone’s unlocked phone. As the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Joe was able to take that insight into our behaviour and transfer it to Airbnb guests. I don’t know about you, but the lesson from the phone-swap activity really strengthened my faith in strangers!