"Fake it till you make it" might be a phrase you've heard in many places before, not just within the realm of communications. But, especially after my experiences last night, I've come to believe in its power as a way to get things done; to cut through all the proverbial red-tape and accomplish something. Or, in my case, defuse tired and irritated people and stop them from choosing me as the target of their frustration.
Last night, President Barack Obama came to the Liacouras Center at Temple University in support of Tom Wolf's campaign for the office of governor of Pennsylvania. President Obama's visit was not widely publicized, it was more of a word-of-mouth event, but regardless, the arena was completely filled. I was asked to help at the main entrance, to direct people to their seat section depending on their ticket color. Because President Obama was going to be there, the Secret Service had been at the Liacouras Center all day, making sure it was safe. For everyone entering, the Secret Service checked their bags and electronics, and passed them through a metal detector and then did a quick scan with the wand. For every single person entering. Over 5000 people. It took over 2 hours to get everyone in and seated. As you might imagine, the Secret Service was primarily composed of men in suits and ties.
Because we do not have Liacouras Center uniforms, we were asked to dress business formal for this event, so naturally I wore a suit, and a blue tie. As it so happened, most of the Secret Service agents had blue ties as well. And 'naturally,' I was mistaken for a member of the Secret Service by more than a few people entering into the arena. I myself didn't catch on until a family walked in, I directed them to their section, and the father stopped and asked me, "Are you carrying a gun?," gesturing at actual Secret Service agents. I had no idea how to respond, so I gave a weak smile, nodded noncommittally, and thankfully he walked away. I turned to the girl I was working with, who confirmed that I could in fact pass for one of the agents walking around. Deciding that being mistaken for the Secret Service was probably a compliment, I proceeded to use this misconception to my advantage. A few minutes later, a small group of older women walked in and asked where they could sit. I let them know which section was currently open, but they didn't like my answer, and started getting nasty, talking about how long they'd had to wait and that they deserved front row seats. I thought about how a Secret Service agent might respond, and told them that if they didn't calm down I'd have them escorted out. This seemed to work, or at least got them off my case. Beyond that, it never came up again, and I was able to watch and enjoy President Obama's speech at the end of the night.
Even at the PRSSA National Conference, speakers and presenters told us to fake it until you make it. Almost always, if you convincingly act like you know what you're doing, no one will question you, thereby giving you the time to figure out what it is you're supposed to be doing. In PR, this can be essential, especially at a new job or when a crisis starts to flare up.
Do you have any thoughts on what to do when you aren't sure? Tell us in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!
This post was authored by Faiz Mandviwalla, a junior at Temple University and the Director of Finance for PRowl Public Relations. Follow him on Twitter @faizmand.