along with an imam, some nuns of various stripes and a few people dressed in Eastern robes. One of these days I should probably learn how to identify a Hindu and Buddhist cleric on sight, as opposed to cosmology. The grouping wasn’t particularly unusual, since I was in an area where marches, rallies and demonstrations for one cause or another are commonplace – in addition to the weekend walks, runs and rides for whatever disease is fashionable this week.

As is usual with these things, no matter what your cause or politics, it feels good because you’re surrounded by fellow travelers, singing, chanting and marching together. Adrenaline’s a fun drug to have running through your system. And there’s even more of it around when you and your friends are making sure the TV cameras are getting good footage. On days like this it’s good to know we’re not alone in our beliefs. Pressing the pavement and flesh is a lot more satisfying than pressing “like” on our keyboard.  I recall watching some nurses clad in local hospital T-shirts enjoying a sociable smoke break with each other after they’d walked for a cancer cure.

Anyway, after things wrapped up one day recently, people and media crews began drifting their own separate ways. One of the Eastern groups invited us in for some chanting followed by free food. It became an enjoyable way to wrap up the day and make some new friends.

But…as the “organized” part of the program was wrapping up, one of the people asked the leader to tell us a bit more about the organization. It was a respectful question that reflected what many of us were probably thinking but had never gotten around to asking.

Unfortunately it launched an avalanche response that triggered a slow, but polite, exodus from the building. Rather than just responding with a few soundbites and an offer of pamphlets or an invitation to another event, the leader inflicted a 25-minute history on us, which probably would have gone longer if his mobile phone hadn’t started ringing.

From my perspective he assumed a car salesman’s persona. “What can I do to sell you a slightly used cosmology today?” It reminded me of the overkill parents sometimes inflict on children who ask where babies come from – giving them a long scientific answer when all the kid wanted to know was the color of the stork…

Did it turn me off? Sort of. But I also recognized that we’re all this way to a certain degree. Hopefully we have at least one part of our life that we’re passionate about, that we’d like to share with others. And hopefully we also have the self-control and respect not to inflict it on others who are only mildly curious. I’ve experienced this blind devotion before, when a man tried to save my soul over the course of a long train ride –

We need to learn to see ourselves as others do. Whether we’re selling cars, information or ourselves, we need to know how to answer our audience’s core question: “What’s in it for me?”

Modern business practices, world salvation and personal enlightenment are not always mutually exclusive. They can definitely learn from each other. The business world can teach us all something that will help the world: Learn to make your point in an elevator pitch that encourages people to ask you questions about whatever it is you love.

Otherwise you’ll simply be encouraging them to create excuses for leaving you alone.