This past week in Wildwood, I ended up playing a much larger role in my proposed “Greet, Meet and Treat” plan that I mapped out in Business Currents a couple of weeks ago. The plan was made up of simple suggestions to interact with our visitors in ways that demonstrate what makes our region great. As you are aware, the president's visit ended up bringing thousands of people to Wildwood on Jan. 28. As a lifetime resident of the Jersey Shore and a fan of the people of the Wildwoods, I was sure that the shore towns would be ready and welcoming to the crowds.
What I was a little uncertain of were the factors that the people and leadership of the Wildwoods and Cape May County had less control of. Things like the attitudes of those visiting and the collective vibe of the thousands of perhaps first time visitors.
Through a unique partnership between The Press of Atlantic City (our publishing partner) and Triax 57 (a web-streaming station based in Atlantic City) owned by John Heinz, I was given the opportunity to take a microphone and videographer (Thanks Amanda!) out on the street in front of the Wildwood Convention Center. Since I am the furthest thing from a political correspondent, I had a number of concerns about the how and even why I was the man with the microphone.
When it comes to our business community and our residential community, I think it is important to remember that we all play a part in our regional tourism. As such, we should all strive to leave a good impression on those who visit our area at any time of the year.
So with microphone in hand and the video camera on, I was ready to “Greet, Meet and Treat” our visitors with a friendly greeting, followed by an appropriate introduction, complemented by treating them with respect and understanding. That was the plan for my day of interaction with many people that I was pretty sure I have never met and possibly would never meet again.
Then something pretty amazing happened. As the camera turned on and the first person passed by me in line I said, “Hello, can I talk with you a second?”
“What do you want to talk about?” was the response.
“I would like to get to know a little more about you,” I said and added as I pointed to the microphone, “This will be broadcast live on Triax 57 and The Press of Atlantic City websites”.
And then my 3 hours of steady, extremely positive, cordial and from what I understood from others entertaining conversations took place.
I asked people their names and where they were from. I asked them about their drive to the Wildwoods and how often they visited the Jersey Shore. If they mentioned this was their first time, I asked them what they thought about our region and the Wildwoods. Of course, I asked them if they had seen the beach. I may have joked once or twice that the Wildwood Beaches are “huge.” I even thanked the people that said they were from northern beach communities for "visiting” their sand, making reference to the ocean’s movement of sand from their beach to the Wildwood beaches. It made for good conversation despite the fact that I had no scientific standing or data to back up that comment.
I asked about where they were staying and where they had eaten or where they planned to eat. I even asked, of the larger groups, whose idea it was to come down to the Wildwoods. I met people from six states and those who were lifelong Jersey Shore residents.
Do you notice anything about my line of questioning? Of the hundreds and hundreds of questions I asked people during my three hours of interviewing, I did not ask one question of a political nature. While some of those interviewed added a statement or two about their political affiliation, the focus of the “Greet, Meet and Treat” approach was about people connecting and sharing their views on something as simple and wonderful as the Jersey Shore and the experience of people who visit and those who live here all year-round.
The plan was to start with simple courtesy. We all smiled. Then we added appropriate conversations and that took the positive interaction to the next level.
For as long as I have worked, now coming in at forty years of being in the workforce, I have understood the importance of courtesy and our ability to influence the success or failure of almost any conversation or business interaction. Of the hundreds of answers I received to all of the questions I asked, my favorite by far was this: “Do you plan to come back and visit the Jersey Shore?” The answer each and every time was “Yes!”
Thank you to the planners, public safety and people of the Jersey Shore and the Wildwoods for helping to encourage people to come back and visit with us again and again.