Please Repeat Your Message
My husband and I walked in on a wedding.
We wanted a drink and some downtime, but instead we got flower girls, sequins, stares—and a polite request to leave.
It was a reminder that the obvious place for important messaging isn’t always the best place—and a lesson on how easy it is to miss the signs.
Here’s how it played out.
We were in the mountains visiting family.
We got caught outside in freezing rain.
The kids wanted showers and pajamas.
My husband and I wanted a drink and a firepit.
The kids stayed with the family and my husband and I took off to a local cidery.
The cidery’s taproom and restaurant sit atop a hill with a view. Even on the rainiest days and at night, Beauty surrounds the place.
It was late and dark, and tunnel vision led us up the long ramp from the parking lot. This isn’t just a small ramp. It is a hike in itself, going up in one direction, and then turning and going up in another direction.
Once we summited the ramp, my husband swung open the front door and walked in first.
I saw my husband turn the corner.
Then I saw a woman with a full-length, sequin and lace, red gown, leaning over a small table and signing something.
First thought: That looks like my black dress.
Second thought: Why’s she wearing that here?
I turned the corner.
I saw two little girls and a woman bending over the girls. The little girls had white dresses, white socks, white shoes, and flowers in their hair.
I stopped walking.
The bar was to my left, a dividing wall was in front of me, and to the right I could see a bit of the overflow that wasn’t hidden behind the wall—rows of filled chairs and tuxedos.
Light bulb moment. This is a wedding.
My husband is a fast walker. Long stride. He light bulbed at the same time I did, just in a different location.
He said something to the bartenders. One rushed from around the bar and told us it was a private ceremony.
Que a quick exit.
All the way down the ramp, we talked about how we got in there.
Why wasn’t there a sign?
And then we got to the bottom—and saw the sign.
It was one of those A-frame, sidewalk chalkboard signs that are planted outside restaurants and stores during the Spring and Summer, with sales and specials written in different colored chalk.
We walked right by it.
I can’t say that we ignored the messaging because we assumed it was the usual fare.
We didn’t even see the sign. Neither of us remembered it even being there, yet . . . There it was, in a prominent location, with information about the private event.
So why didn’t we see it?
We were too focused on being cold, on summiting the ramp, on getting a seat with a view. We were thinking about everything we thought was ahead of us, and missed what was in front of us.
My first reaction was to blame the cidery for not making its messaging easier to see. Why put an important message on a sign that’s usually used for everything but closing messages? And, if the sign was going to be used, why not do it in bright red, with the word CLOSED in big bold letters with arrows pointing to it—and why not shine a spotlight on it, so the black chalkboard didn’t blend into the night. That would have gotten my attention.
But . . . It’s wasn’t the cidery’s fault that our porch lights were on, but neither my husband nor I were at home.
All we had to do was pay attention. It was right in front of us.
Still got me thinking, though.
I’ve deleted so many e-mails just because they looked like spam, only to find out later that they were something I wanted.
Years ago, the PR department I worked for sent most of its releases via fax blasts. Yes. Fax blasts were a thing. Big headlines at the top, followed by spaced out text, to grab the attention of the recipients. In hindsight, we were spamming fax machines across the country, hoping that the desired person would read the things. They were pretty bad. I sent hundreds and can’t remember but a few bites in return. Then emails came along, then email blasts, and the same thing happened again.
The messaging looks like spam—void of the personal.
So, if it is coming to me, I delete it, and if I’m sending it to someone else, they’re likely to delete it.
I don’t want to slow down and pay attention to their messaging, and they’re just as busy, and don’t want to slow down and pay attention to mine.
Back to the sign and the cidery.
The cidery did its job and I was rushed. What would have helped us both?
One word—CLOSED—and two signs.
The first signs get missed all the time, especially if they’re filled with text.
All that was needed was the word CLOSED, in big bold letters, or something like this:
Nothing else should have been on the board. No frilly designs. Nothing. Period.
Then for those that missed the first sign, another sign would sit at the front doors.
That’s the same thing that works in outreach. Send out a pitch with simple messaging, and then follow-up because recipients miss first messages all the time. It could be your design or it could be their state of mind, so you have to assume the first time wasn’t a go (unless you hear from them).
State and then repeat the message with clarity, and then even the most rushed couples will clue in.
Lesson learned – thanks for another great post Callie!
I had a spiritual teacher who gave wonderful talks. Only after his death, when I saw transcripts of these talks, did I notice that he repeated the one important point THREE times. Since I never noticed, obviously at the time the repetition did not feel redundant.
That is a terrific point! In this cacophony of too many channels, and too much data, I am cautious to not add to the noise.
You didn’t even notice he said it three times. Important to remember. Thank you.
“We were thinking about everything we thought was ahead of us, and missed what was in front of us.”
Well put with good reminders. Thanks, Callie.
You’ve reminded me of the human-nature lesson I learned a few years ago in a workshop once conducted by the infamous but very smart Dr. Phil.
My group (numbered in the 80s) sat in a large ring in a hotel ballroom. He called a volunteer to the front and asked her to look around the circle for all those wearing green. Once she was done, he said, “Okay, so how many people are wearing red?”
It sounds so elementary, but the lesson has stuck with me for decades: If I’m looking for one thing, I won’t see anything else.
Good story. There was a moment I was picturing you two having to fight your way out of there, like a couple of Jason Bournes. You know how brides can be.
Great advice! Advice I won’t forget.
Thanks for the great story.
As a teenager, we used to have this game to prove just how macho we were.
It wasn’t arm wrestling or swords at dawn. It was hitting a large nail into a block of wood. The least strikes won the girl or so I thought and maybe hoped.
There was the muscle toned six pack who hit it with all his might only to see it either bent or to take flight.
Then there was the guy who with precision and expert timing kept hitting the steel time and time again until the nail was beneath the wood and the maiden’s heart was won.
One nail, one hammer, one writer, one idea with a resistance that must be focused on.
Cut out the clutter and tell it like it is.
Patience and persistence pay off when you believe in your skills.
You also forgot to come prepared with an excuse, a plan, a story.
In some cultures when a stranger happens upon a wedding, it is considered a sign of good luck, a portent of the future. They would have insisted that you stay. You would have been considered a guest of honour.
I would have asked who the bride was and could myself and my wife wish her good luck.
Then I would have told her about walking down the streets of Oaxaca on a Saturday as brides and their grooms parade down the streets with a brass band in tow and how anybody who wants can follow along an enjoy the music and share the happiness.
You were there for a reason.
Thomas Kuhn, originator of the phrase “Paradigm shift” in the 1960s: What we see depends on what we’re looking at, and the (concepts, mindsets) we bring to the looking. Or maybe it was Timothy Leary. Richard Alpert? Be here now be here now…
Reading comments again… I kept remembering how three words jumped out and hit my forehead…”Really… Am I seeing this in 2018… still… ??? Yes, commenting allows us to mention the stupidest things we learned as kids … ”I wan the girl” … wow… then I realized WOW I saw that as a big red CLOSED sign was blocking the entrance door!!! No, I did not miss that but that brought me to miss the point ! I almost forgot what I wanted to share. Yes, either what is ahead will make us miss what id there now… or whatr is stuck behind will blind silly.
I had a beautiful light blue water bottle I carried around with me in the garden last summer. The cap was green. I once dropped it without noticing and came back later to look for it, I looked for a blue cap … for a very long time.
After I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a
comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment.
Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service?
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