How to get people to say yes

I remember when I did my first agile user test. I was scared. Really scared. Now this had nothing to do with conducting the test itself. Nothing to do with asking participants questions, showing them the product or website that we would be scrutinising.

My anxieties revolved around finding people to actually test on. Finding people to say ‘yes’. The fear of rejection, the embarrassment of being shunned or ignored by a member of the public was mildly terrifying.

I imagined myself in the shoes of those poor people in our town centre who have tried to convince me that Scientology was the answer or tried to sell me life insurance. ‘Can I ask you a quick question?’ ‘Can I have 2 minutes of your time?’ All of whom I smiled at politely (as I stared into their uninspired and clearly bored eyes), and pretty much ignored.

Why? Because I was too busy to answer their questions or engage in a conversation I just couldn’t be bothered to have. They may have been offering me something truly amazing, a life changing solution to my problems, but their approach was all wrong.

So, I’ve put together some tips on how to approach the right people, and more importantly how to get them to say yes. (Or at least increase your chances of getting them to say yes).


Sitting ducks. I jest, but research does suggest that it’s best to approach people who are sat down. Why? Well because they would physically have to stand up to get away from you. In short, they are an easier target. They may be sat down as they have a few minutes spare, or are waiting for something, so more of a chance that they will be able to talk to you.


One-on-one. It’s best to look for people who are on their own too. Avoid groups, it’s harder to isolate one person. Individuals will be less likely to be distracted or influenced by others. And will (hopefully) focus their attention on you.


Give them the eye. It may sound a little creepy, but you need to get eye contact with the person you intend to approach, before you actually approach them. And smile. See if they mirror your behaviour. If they look awkwardly away, ignore your glance, or scowl, well they may not be the right person to target.


Check out their body language. How are they acting? Do they seem tense or fidgety? Do they look grumpy, harassed or in a hurry?! If yes, best to avoid. Observe facial expressions and approach those who look relaxed, smiley and generally happier (they are probably less likely to blank you). Obvious really.


Be confident and friendly. When you’ve used the above tips and plucked up the courage to approach your potential participant, there are a few things I like to remember. Now this unsuspecting individual has absolutely no idea what’s going on. No idea why a stranger has just walked up to them. And in today’s day and age where most comms seems to be done via Whats Ap, or Instagram, they may be a little freaked out by an actual face-to-face interaction.


So, smile introduce yourself and get to the point. Quickly. For example:


‘ Hi, I’m Lauren, I’m an independent researcher and I wondered if I could ask you a few questions about an Airport Parking website in exchange for a £20 Amazon voucher and a coffee. It’ll only take 10 minutes max’.


Let’s review what I’ve done:


I’ve introduced myself

I’ve stated my intentions clearly

I’ve set a time commitment expectation

I’ve offered an incentive

I always aim to inject my personality into my testing experiences and set the tone from the start. So, I would ask the above question in a friendly and confident manner.


Essentially, when approaching someone you don’t know, your aim should be to increase the value of participation.  People will accept your request if they perceive their participation to be more valuable to them than what they were previously doing. Be that waiting for a bus, having a coffee or enjoying well deserved peace and quiet away from their unruly kids.

You have a few seconds to convince them that chatting to you is the right thing to do. The best investment of their precious time. So being confident, friendly and grateful whilst offering an appropriate incentive, are definite ways to aid this.

So in conclusion, don’t over think things like I did on my first test. ‘Will they ignore me?’ ‘Will they throw coffee at me as I try to interrupt their ‘quiet time’ before school pick up?’ Who knows. (But chances are they won’t). In my experience, people tend to like to help. Especially if there’s a reward up for grabs.

So, follow my tips, and it should help you to identify the ‘yes’ people a little easier.