Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) might just be the biggest single advantage you can have at a trade show. If you think you’ve learned everything about selling at a trade show, I can pretty well guarantee you haven’t learned this!

Yes, Derren Brown is the devil’s spawn

I steadfastly refused to take any of this formally debunked new age pseudoscience blather seriously until I was living in Britain and became an addict apostle of Derren Brown. To those who aren’t up on their Brit TV stars, Derren is a mentalist who has had several series in the UK, including the literally unforgettable Trick Of The Mind from 2004. The DVDs of the first and second series are probably the best investment you’ll ever make both from an entertainment as well as a marketing standpoint. Without stooges, shills, or any form of TV trickery, Mr. Brown will convince a dog track wicket clerk to pay him on a losing ticket, get a Manhattan store clerk to sell him pricy merchandise in exchange for a perfectly blank piece of paper, or in the most totally astounding “trick” ever will ring a pay phone, wait for a passerby to pick it up and then put that person to sleep literally within 3 seconds. Sounds impossible? Check out the shows then read up on this bizarre mentalist and you’ll join me in my undying devotion to the Satan Spawn that is Derren Brown.

Milton H. Erickson is the source

If you’re starting to see the advantages of Derren’s brand of mind control at your next trade show then you’re a devious but really smart marketer. NLP techniques may have been totally discredited from a scientific standpoint, but the bottom line is that Brown visibly uses some of them to accomplish his tricks so there has to be something to them. The best way to understand what Derren does and how he does it is to go right to the source, Milton H. Erickson. The late president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis, Erickson pioneered a whole range of techniques designed to induce and exploit a patient’s temporary trance state.

Create a pattern break…

Trance states? At a trade show? Don’t think that ol’ Hal has finally lost his marbles as there is definitely something to this. Erickson is renowned for introducing the hypnotic handshake induction which was later developed by Richard Bandler one of the founders of NLP. You go to shake hands with the subject then you interrupt the expected process by doing something unexpected like grabbing their wrist. This creates a form of pattern break known as a transderivational search (TDS) for a brief moment, but not so brief that it cannot be exploited by the skilled practitioner.

… and exploit it

Derren Brown also often uses another tactic to trigger the TDS state. He’ll be speaking away (swiftly and repeatedly using “key terms”) and all of a sudden he’ll slam his hand on a surface. That completely unexpected action creates that desired pattern break and allows the “doors to the mind” to be opened for just a second or two, but certainly long enough that Brown can have a cabbie drive around the block right in front of the giant London Eye ferris wheel while insisting that he is lost and can’t find it.
Can’t be convicted of using a debunked science
There have been many books written about these techniques and it’s certainly a topic that is worth examining in greater detail. Incorporating these tactics into your trade show presence could prove to be an interesting experiment to say the least. Is placing your prospects into a TDS state ethical? Perhaps it is or perhaps it is not. That is a decision only you can make… but you might want to take into consideration that since the whole NLP arena has been scientifically debunked, you really couldn’t be convicted of using the technique since it doesn’t formally work! Our courts may have their flaws but they don’t regularly jail people for sticking pins in voodoo dolls.

After all you can claim it’s just a wrist grab or hand slam, right?