I have never been put off by an overstatement of the obvious. Actually, I find comfort in having even the most blatant of things identified for me. This “service” tends to provide that secondary level of assurance just in case I doubt my own intuition. It’s nice to know ahead of time that what I suspect might be true … “is.” Or what I fear might happen …“will.” It’s like when the doctor is holding the hypodermic needle and looks at you and says, “Now, you may feel a little sting,” or when you’re at the State Fair in line for the mother of all roller coasters and the carnie says to you, “Try not to puke,” … all good advice — timely, practical and appreciated.
My mother is the queen of all overstaters. For years, she would say things like, “You’re coming to my dinner party, you’re going to have fun, you’re going to participate in the table game and you’re going to be a good sport.” I have come to the conclusion that the table game was invented by an overactive host who had a preconceived notion that forced socialization in the form of charades will lead to a greater appreciation of the seven layer dip. More importantly; however, was my mother’s absolute belief that it was going to be fun and, because of her belief, this “fun” was going to be contagious. By now, you are thinking this is somewhat random and you might even be wondering where exactly I am going with this, but you’re intrigued so you decide to read on.
After years of being called to organize and entertain people of all ages, I have found that the overstatement of the obvious can be very effective when you fear you might be facing a lackluster audience. While my mother possessed many talents, I believe I earned my real appreciation for the overstatement from a circus ringmaster who I was introduced to as a young child and frankly, to this day, have not seen his equal.
The Johnson’s Brothers Circus was a traveling variety show consisting of four repurposed U-Haul trucks, one fifth-wheel recreational vehicle (staff accommodations) and a concession trailer. The trailer boasted the world’s longest corn dog, the traditional elephant ear and something called “The Mountain of Cotton Candy,” which I never actually ate but believe I once stuck to a folding chair after someone else did. The variety shows’ travel was restricted to a 200-mile Pacific Northwest corridor not due to audience demand, but rather the fact that the transmission on one of the repurposed U-Hauls was on its last leg. On this particularly wet day, the variety show had found itself parked on the weed-strewn back lot of Bob’s Corner Grocery, next to the Phillips 66 and across the street from the Tasty Freeze. As was usually the case, depending on the length of stay or severity of transmission difficulties, the variety show management (not ever clearly defined) would make the decision about raising the tents. And today there would be no tents raised.
When this was the case, the repurposed U-Hauls would be backed into a semi-circle (much like chuck wagons under attack by hostiles) and the ringmaster would walk from truck to truck lifting the gate and encouraging interested guests to peer into the 16.5- foot air shock-leveled cargo box of mystery where your imagination would carry you off to a far away land filled with the intrigue of the macabre. And it worked … there I was, eating a swirl cone from Tasty Freeze looking into the back of a repurposed U-Haul truck at a teenage girl on a swing set being promoted as “One of the Famous Flying Zanda Sisters from Down Under”. I truly was intrigued.
In event planning, when you overstate the obvious it tends to blur the lines of presumption and promotion while setting the stage for the optimistic participant who is sitting on the proverbial fence of indecision. It provides that participant with the opportunity to look back and mentally say to themselves that attending that function was the best decision they ever made. Getting people involved in an activity that you feel they will ultimately enjoy requires the latitude of unabashed persuasion void of any guilt related to blurred lines or exaggerations which might be required to ensure ultimate participation.
I have become comfortable with my conviction that what I think will be fun, others (not all but quite a few) will also think is fun. As a result, I realize that being a bit of a ringmaster and coaxing potential participants to “step right up” when you know in your heart they will enjoy it warrants a bit of embellishment for the cause … rationalization is a wonderful thing.