Want to Give a Career-Making Talk?

Do you have an opportunity to speak at TED, TEDx, SXSW, Small Business Expo, 99U, WBENC, Dreamforce, NMX, World Domination Summit, Wisdom2.0 or BIF?

Have you watched the careers of Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Sir Ken Robinson, Amy Cuddy and Dan Pink SOAR after they delivered powerfully original messages?

If so, you already know that a quality 10-18 minute talk can be a career-maker.

If you have an opportunity to get up in front of a group of people, please understand that EVERYONE in the room (and watching the video later) is a decision-maker. Every single person has the power to take you and what you care about viral. Each person has the power to quote you, post about you, promote you, fund you or work with you.

Invest in your future. Use these “7 Cs of Original Messaging” to create a genuinely intriguing, one-of-a-kind talk that favorably impresses/influences everyone in the room and in the online audience in the years ahead.

1. CLEAR

A Hollywood producer once told me directors can predict when their movies will make money. How? Simple. Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard word for word? If so, they become word-of-mouth advertisers. When people ask, “Seen any good movies lately?” they’re talking about your movie and taking it viral.

The same applies to your talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea – your most important point – word for word? If they can, they’ll become your word-of-mouth advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind … in one ear, out the other.

Neil Gaiman’s 2012 commencement speech
for Philadelphia’s University for the Arts shows the payoff of distilling your big idea into a crystal-clear sound bite. “Make Good Art” resonated so powerfully with the initial audience of hundreds, the video went viral within days and was turned into a best-selling book.

2. COMPELLING.

You’ve got 60 seconds to capture everyone’s attention or they’ll start checking email.

No perfunctory opening. No, “I’m glad to be here today and want to thank the organizer for inviting me.” That’s predictable, and predictable is boring. Pleasantly surprise everyone by jumping right into your origin story or into a compelling, counter-intuitive insight that flies in the face of current beliefs.

Test your premise beforehand with colleagues. If they say, “I already know that,” it’s back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?” Keep tweaking your idea until people’s eyebrows go up (a sure sign of curiosity) and they say, “Hmmm. That’s interesting. Tell me more.”

3. CURRENT

The keynote speaker at a recent conference used the often-referenced “Pygmalion in the Classroom” study of how teachers’ expectations affect student performance as the basis for her talk. Really?! That study was done in 1989! She couldn’t find any current studies to make her case? Referencing such an outdated source undermined her credibility.

Recency = relevancy. What just-released report can you reference to prove your point? Recent research will get their attention, and respect.

4. CONGRUENT

After you’ve come up with a big idea, run it by your gut. Ask yourself, “Is this congruent with my voice, my vision, my values? If the program coordinator suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A career-making talk shares your EEE – Expertise, Experience, Epiphanies – not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned from life? What’s an exciting invention, innovation or breakthrough you’ve been part of?

An executive called me a week before his program and said, “I hope you can help. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop, so I asked our company speechwriter to help prepare my talk. It’s well-done, it just doesn’t sound like me.”

I told him, “You’re right. A career-making talk has got to be your voice. Get a recorder and ask someone to take notes while you read the script. Every time you read something and think, ‘I would never say it that way,’ say out loud how you would say it. Don’t censure or second-guess yourself, don’t try to be eloquent, and don’t overthink it. Just keep moving forward, rewording it into your natural voice. Ask your assistant to integrate your phrasing into a new version and then read it out loud again until you wouldn’t change a word. Now, it’s your talk.”

5. COMMERCIALLY VIABLE

The purpose of a talk at most venues is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your priority. Unless this is a pitch forum where you are supposed to be marketing yourself and your company, the point is to ADD VALUE FOR THE AUDIENCE not to promote yourself, your products and services. The fact is, though, an excellent talk will scale your visibility, viability and drive business to and for you.

Witness what’s happened to Brené Brown. Brené was a professor when she spoke for TEDx-Houston. She was popular at her university, but hardly a household name. Her talk on vulnerability was so evocative, it was quickly uploaded to the TED.com site and has since received 29 million views. Her resulting Oprah appearances made her an international fan favorite, generating lucrative book deals and five-figure keynotes.

6. CONSISTENT

It’s important that your talk be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Instead of summarizing what you’ve done in the past, a career-making talk is a pebble in the pond of your best future. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next 1-3 years of my life to look like? How could this talk catalyze that and set that up?”

For example, a colleague was asked to give a TEDx talk about bullying since she’d had a horrific experience being bullied at work. She feels strongly about this issue, and has a lot to say about the importance of speaking up instead of waiting for HR to rescue you (not going to happen). But she is a management consultant. She doesn’t want to keep reliving that negative experience by speaking, consulting, and doing media interviews on it. It wouldn’t serve her goals to drive demand that’s inconsistent with her priorities and the quality of life she seeks. It’s smarter to select an idea that’s in alignment with what she wants to accomplish the next few years.

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE

I had an opportunity to hear the Physics Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather speak recently. Following his talk, I asked him, “What’s your next “big idea?” He said, “I’ve got one, but I’m researching to see if anyone else has gotten there first.”

Exactly. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived to be the only one who does what you do.” Once you have a clear, compelling, current, consistent, congruent, commercially viable idea, Google it to see if anyone else has gotten there first. If they have, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon the idea; it just means you should design a provocative premise around it that hasn’t been shared before.

For example, watch Sir Ken Robinson, the most-watched TED talk of all time. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.

Does your career-making talk meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, kudos to you. You’ve dramatically increased the likelihood your talk will be a success for you, the meeting planner, and everyone who watches in person and online.

If not, invest the effort to craft an original 7C talk that gets and keeps people’s eyebrows up. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

– – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is on a mission to help people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE and books – including POP!, IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Inc, Fast Company and on NPR and MSNBC, and presented to Boeing, Intel, Cisco, NASA, Capital One, NASA, YPO, National Geographic.

Ideas in Your Head Help No One: Quotes to Inspire You to Get Your Work Out of Your Head and Into the World

When people tell me they’re thinking about writing a book, starting a business or launching a project – and they’re procrastinating – I tell them two things.

creativity is a roller coaster

First, “Creativity is a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. If you embrace that instead of fight it, you will finish your project and get it out in the world where it can make a positive difference for others and a prosperous living for you.

Second, “Ideas and dreams in your head help no one.”

Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have experience, expertise and business ideas that would benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep them to yourself.

Sharing your lessons-learned doesn’t come from arrogance, it comes from service. It’s an offering, a way of saying “Here’s something I think, feel, believe, see, have learned or have experienced. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”

Yet, many people start with the best of intentions and then life intervenes. They get distracted, busy, overwhelmed, tired. They put their creative project aside to deal with other priorities – and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.

Are you procrastinating, waiting for more time? Are you too busy to write?

Face it. You’ll never have more time than you have right now. If you want results … carve out ten minutes every day to move your creative project forward.

Select one of these quotes that resonates with you and post it where you’ll see it every morning (your bathroom mirror?) It will help you keep your good intentions IN SIGHT – IN MIND instead of allowing them to drift out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter

“Nothing works unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

“Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” – Twyla Tharp

“When asked the secret to finishing his 500 page masterpiece The Power of One, author Bryce Courtenay growled, “Bum glue!”

“Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron

“At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.” – aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager

“If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that separates the sheep from the goats.” – Sue Grafton

“Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVries

“If you are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, you’re thinking like an amateur. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, does his work, keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield

“I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin

“I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Patchett

“Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker

“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer

“If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes

“The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein

“Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle

“If you want to be certain, you should never attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett

“When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton

“You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong

“Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson

“The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler

“When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Planning to write is not writing. Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow

“I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will look for some fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

“There’s a trick I’m going to share with you. I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it … so pay attention. Don’t begin at the beginning.” – Lawrence Block

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott

“I write because I cannot fly, but words can, and when they land, worlds appear.” – Susan Zeder

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

“If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May

“Do you know the #1 precursor to change? A sense of urgency.” John Kotter

It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your ideas, dreams and projects finished and into the world. What’s the story you’re born to tell? The knowledge you want to pass along? The legacy message that could inspire others? The creative vision you want to contribute?

The time to share it is NOW. Promise you’ll sit down somewhere, sometime every day and take a minimum of ten minutes to move your project forward.

In the past twenty years, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of people craft quality books, develop one-of-a-kind keynotes and launch businesses, causes and creative projects.

In all that time, I’ve never met a single person who was sorry they finished their project and got it into the world; I’ve only met people who were sorry they didn’t do it … SOONER.

– – – – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create quality projects that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books – POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, Readers Digest, on NPR and MSNBC, have been endorsed by Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey and have been presented to such diverse clients as Boeing, U.S. Embassy in London, Capital One, NASA and National Geographic.

Want People to Listen? Never TELL Them What You’re Going to Tell Them

“People don’t want information; they want epiphanies.” – Sam Horn people don't want info want epiphanies

Have you been taught to open communications by “telling people what you’re going to tell them, telling them and then telling them what you told them?” That’s badvice. In today’s world of short attention spans (goldfish have longer attention spans than we do!) telling people what we’re going to tell them makes us a bore, snore or chore.

I was working with a client on her TEDx talk and she was telling me about the information she wanted to get across. I told her that TED talks are NOT about dispensing information; they’re about facilitating epiphanies. What is the SHIFT people are going to make as a result of her presentation? What will they be motivated to change or do differently as a result of her insights?

How about you? Where will you be giving a presentation, making a request, proposing an idea or teaching someone this week?

Want a better way to motivate people to listen? Want to facilitate epiphanies and motivate people to do something differently instead of simply deliver information?

Imagine you’ve been asked to speak to college grads about how to land a job. You could start with a laundry list of your credentials; however, they probably read your bio in the program brochure, so that’s a waste of their time.

You could jump right into your how-to instructions on how to craft better resumes and job applications, but that doesn’t engage an audience because it’s still a one-way lecture, and chances are they’ve heard or read those tips before.

A better way to EARN people’s favorable attention is to create a DIALOGUE by introducing something startlingly relevant … in the first 60 seconds. The goal is to get everyone’s eyebrows up by asking if they’re aware of these surprising insights about the issue you’re addressing. The goal is for them to be thinking, “Really?! I had no idea it was that bad, that much, that little. For example:

Did you know that:

* of the 3.6 million job openings last year, 80 % were never advertised?

* 118 people (on average) apply for any given job yet only 20% get interviews?

* 53.6% of bachelor degree holders under 25 are jobless or under-employed?

Imagine if you could:

* Find out about quality jobs that are never advertised?

* Increase the likelihood of getting a job interview this week?

* Discover 7 unique yet proven ways to stand out from the crowd and give yourself a competitive edge in today’s crowded job market?

You don’t have to imagine it. You’ll discover how to do all the above in our time together, and you’ll hear true success stories of grads just like you who had almost given up but instead landed their dream job as a result of using these techniques.

Isn’t that more interesting and engaging than simply giving people an overview of what you’re going to cover?

What’s a situation you’ve got coming up where you’ll be teaching someone, proposing something, or giving a report? You could start out with a predictable opening and lose them at hello – or you could pleasantly surprise them by starting with something that gets their eyebrows up (a sure sign of curiosity). Here’s how you can do the latter.

Sam Horn’s Three Steps to Crafting a 60 Second Opening that Has People at Hello

1. Open with 3 questions that introduce startling statistics or facts your listeners don’t know – but would like to know – about the:

* Scope of the problem you’re solving.

* Urgency of the issue you’re addressing.

* Dramatic shift in the trend or topic you’re discussing.

Are you thinking, “Where do I find these startling statistics or surprising facts?

You GTS – GOOGLE THAT STUFF. Just enter the following questions into your favorite search engine:

* What are shocking statistics about ____________ (your subject?)

* What are changing trends in ________ (your industry or profession?)

* What is recent research about _____ (the problem you’re solving?)

* What is startling news about _____ (the issue you’re addressing?)

Up will come insights and studies even YOU didn’t know about. And if you’re an expert, and this info gets your eyebrows up (a sure sign of curiosity) it’s likely to get your audience’s eyebrows up too.

2. Use the word IMAGINE linked with 3 aspects/benefits of your program that everyone in your audience would find appealing.

* The word IMAGINE causes people to picture your point and see what you’re saying. They’re now fully engaged instead of thinking about what they’re going to have for lunch.

* By verbally painting the ideal scenario your program delvers; everyone is on the edge of their mental seat eager to hear more because they’re thinking, “Sounds good. Who wouldn’t want that?!”

3. Say, “You don’t have to imagine it…” and then offer real-world evidence showing how your program has already produced tangible results so audience members know this isn’t “too good to be true;” they can trust it (and you) because it has a successful track record and has helped people just like them get the results they want.

Best yet, all the above can be condensed into a succinct 60 second opening.

While other presenters are still telling their audience what they’re going to tell them (aka blah-blah-blah INFObesity) – you’ve already set up a two-way dialogue by asking and engaging instead of telling and selling. You’re earned everyone’s favorable attention because you’ve facilitating epiphanies vs. delivering information. Everyone in the room is smarter than they were a moment before … which means they’ll want to keep listening because you just proved you’ll be worth their valuable time, mind and dime.

Want more ways to craft intros that have people at hello? Watch this TEDx talk which both models and teaches my 60 second approach to openings. You also might want to check out this related article which shows why NEVER to give an elevator speech.

– – – –

Sam Horn is on a mission to help people create more compelling, collaborative communications that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and books – including POP!, Tongue Fu!, IDEApreneur and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC and Fast Company and presented to NASA, Accenture, ASAE and National Geographic. Want Sam to present at your next convention? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAggency.com

LeadHERship: Position Yourself for Pay Raises, Projects and Promotions

“Anyone who waits for recognition is criminally naïve.” – Congresswoman Barbara Jordan

Years ago, I had an opportunity to speak for the women’s leadership program for a well-known Silicon Valley company. My session was on Personal Branding, in particular how the women in this male-dominated company and industry could be more pro-active about fulfilling their potential; earning the respect they want, need and deserve; and positioning themselves for pay raises, promotions, projects and positions.

I had an opportunity to interview one of their senior executives to get his input on what I could cover in my presentation to make it maximally timely, relevant and useful. He shared an insightful story about how some women sabotage themselves when it comes to maintaining the visibility necessary to be considered for career advancement.

He said, “Sam, I try to be a champion for women, but sometimes they don’t help themselves.”

I asked, “What’s an example?”

He said, “Last year, we opened an office in Paris. A woman in my department had lived in France as a foreign exchange student and speaks French fluently. I thought she would be a real addition to our team there so I threw her hat in the ring when we were discussing possible staff selections.

The other executives at the table just looked at me with puzzled expressions. No one knew who she was. I went to bat for her and tried to explain why I thought she could help us ramp up this new location.

One of my colleagues finally recognized her name. He said, “Okay, I know who you’re talking about now. She’s sat in on some of my meetings. But she never says anything.’

She ended up NOT getting that position, and it wasn’t because she didn’t deserve it or wouldn’t have done a good job. It was because those decision-makers hadn’t witnessed her adding value and weren’t willing to take a risk on someone they didn’t know.”

I asked, “Did you talk to her about this missed opportunity?”

“I did. And when I asked why she didn’t speak up in those meetings, she said, ‘I tried to, but everyone just talked over me. I suggested a way to streamline some of our procedures, but no one listened. In fact, a few minutes later one of the men said pretty much the same thing and everyone went, ‘Great idea!’ I finally just gave up.’

I told her, ‘Don’t you realize, if you don’t say anything at meetings, you make no mark? The people there conclude you don’t have anything to contribute.”

I shared his input during my presentation and suggested several ways women could speak up at meetings so participants experience them adding value and have first-hand evidence of their LeadHership ability. Here are those six tips.

Six Ways to Add Value at Meetings so People Experience your LeadHership

1. Promise yourself you’ll contribute at least one ACTION-oriented suggestion at every meeting. Notice, I did not say an opinion, I said an action. Instead of simply sharing what you think or feel, contribute specific options of what can be done to move a project forward, turn an idea into reality, or achieve a company objective.

2. Never point about what’s not working – unless you immediately follow up with how this could be replaced with something more efficient and effective. In other words, instead of focusing on a problem and what’s wrong, focus on a solution and how this can be done right.

3. Do not defer compliments, graciously honor them. If someone praises you, instead of saying, “It was nothing.” or “My team deserves the credit.” say “Thank you. Your feedback means a lot.” Then, add a detail, e.g., “Our goal was to exceed our sales quota this quarter, so we identified three high-profile clients, reached out to them, and we’re pleased to land three new major accounts.” Then, talk about your next goal or upcoming initiative so people are aware of how you’re continuing to add value.

4. Keep your comments to two minutes or less. No one likes a windbag. Richard Branson said, “Time is the new money.” In today’s rush-rush, impatient world of INFObesity, time is the new TRUST. By keeping your remarks succinct, purposeful, pro-active and to the point, people will always want to hear what you say because you’re always a good use of their time and mind.

5. If someone interrupts, speak up instead of suffering in silence as they talk over you. Look at the person, use his or her name, and say, “Mark, let me finish” or “Elizabeth, I want to hear what you have to say right after I wrap up my report,” or “Bev, one more minute and then it’s your turn.” Then, be brief, but conclude your remarks. You’re not being rude, just clear and confident that you have the right to speak.

6. SIT TALL. If you slouch, tuck your chin in, or use a tentative, high-pitched voice, people will doubt your clout. Instead, roll your shoulders up and back and sit up straight. Think “Tower, don’t cower.” Speak with a warm, firm, lower-pitched voice of authority that projects so every single person can hear every single word.

A program participant chased me down in the parking lot after that Silicon Valley talk to thank me.

She said, “Sam, I was on the verge of quitting this company. I wasn’t getting credit for all my hard work and overtime, and I’d become really resentful. I’ve been putting out fires, saving the day, and no one seemed to notice or care. You helped me realize that I can’t blame my boss for not giving me the recognition I think I deserve if I’m not giving him evidence of all the ways I’m making a difference for our clients and company.”

Her feedback made my day because it reinforced the premise of my LeadHership program. It is idealistic and unrealistic to expect organizational decision-makers to know all the ways we’re contributing and to initiate on our behalf. They’ve got enough on their plate without taking responsibility for our career advancement.

It’s up to us to, diplomatically, give organizational decision-makers evidence of how we’re contributing so they experience our LeadHership first-hand. Only then will they be motivated to give us the promotions, positions, projects and pay raises we deserve. Only then will they know we’re “up to the task” and can be trusted to add tangible, real-world value because they’ve personally experienced us doing just that.

The career ball is in your court. How will you be a LeadHer at your next meeting?

– – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, is the author of Tongue Fu!, What’s Holding You Back? and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? Her work has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, NPR and MSNBC. Want Sam to inspire your group? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to discuss your goals and ask how Sam can contribute to the success of your professional women’s group or event.

Start with a Story

A new client told me, “I don’t have any stories.” I told her, “We ALL have stories. Stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to or around us.”
stories-are-simply-the-intriguing-things

She came back with, “But I wouldn’t know how to tell a story even if I had one.”

I promised to share this post which shows how to notice and collect real-life stories and re-enact them so they come alive. First, I’ll start with a story.

Several summers ago, I realized how sedentary I’d become. Like many Americans, I spend 12 hours a DAY sitting and it had taken a toll on my health.

I decided to change things up. I lived on a lake outside Washington DC in a community with 20 public pools. I vowed to swim four times a week and to visit every single one of the pools in my neighborhood by Labor Day weekend.

One sunny afternoon, after a long day of writing, I decided it was time to get up and get moving. I jumped in my van and went “pool shopping.” I noticed a new pool I hadn’t tried before tucked under some shade trees, parked and went in.

As soon as I walked in, I realized I’d found the “family” pool. The place was packed with kids playing Marco Polo and featured one of those mushroom-shaped fountains in the wading pool. It did my heart good to know kids still play Marco Polo.

I found a chaise lounge next to a woman watching her three young kids. Just then, a man wearing a business suit walked in. The three kids bounded out of the pool and ran to meet him, calling out “Daddy, Daddy.”

He hugged them, gave his wife a peck on the cheek and headed to the locker room to change into his swim trunks. Moments later, he was in the pool with his kids. They were diving off his shoulders and proudly showing him the strokes they’d learned in their swim lessons. It was a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

All of a sudden, he paused, looked up at his wife almost in a state of wonderment and said, “Hon, why don’t we make this our default? Why don’t we meet at the pool every night after work?”

I have to admit, I held my breath. I looked at her, thinking, “Please say yes.”

She thought about it for a moment, nodded and said simply, “Why don’t we?”

In five seconds, they abandoned an old default and adopted a new one. Instead of, “Get up, go to work, come home;” it was now “Get up, go to work, go to the pool, come home.”

Who knows, that family may always remember that summer as the one they met Dad at the pool every night after work. Perhaps I”m being a Pollyanna about this, but maybe they will remember that summer as the one everything was right with their world.

So, what’s this got to do with you? Imagine you’re giving a presentation about changing habits. Or you’re talking to your team about the dangers of sitting for hours at at a time, all day, every day.

You could start by sharing research that explains how difficult it is to adopt new habits. You could begin with a study that reveals sitting is considered the “cigarettes of our era” in terms of how hazardous it is to our health.

Or you could start off with a story SHOWING how someone changed a habit that lead to a more positive, productive, proactive life. You could start off with a real-life example of someone who, in seconds, replaced an old default with a new default that immediately benefited them and everyone involved.

Which do you think will be more effective?

In today’s world of INFObesity (information that comes across as blah-blah-blah) people are more likely to relate to and remember real-life stories that show vs. tell.

Are you thinking, “But I don’t have any stories.” or “I’m not good at telling stories?”The good news? Remember, stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to you and around you.

Ask yourself, “What point do I want to make in my presentation or in this meeting?” Or, “What is the SHIFT I want my listeners, readers, employees to make?” Then ask yourself, ‘Where have I seen someone DO that, LEARN that, EXPERIENCE that at work, at home or in my community?”

Now, all you have to make that story come alive is to “put people in the S.C.E.N.E” by re-creating what was said and done. Re-enact that experience with these five tips so people feel it’s happening to or around them, right now.

The key to making a story believable and relatable is not to make it up. it’s to re-enact something that actually happened so people trust it and you.

When you put people in the S.C.E.N.E., you’re not “telling a story,” (which some skeptics may suspect you got off the internet); you’re sharing a real-life example that shows what you’re suggesting has worked for others – and how it can work for everyone listening and reading too.

TIPS FOR SHARING A STORY BY PUTTING PEOPLE IN THE S.C.E.N.E.

S = SENSORY DETAIL: Describe the time, place and location with just enough vivid sensory detail so we feel like we’re standing or sitting right next to you. Describe what it looked like – maybe even what it smelled like, tasted like, felt like, sounded like – so we’re seeing it in our mind’s eye.

C = CHARACTERS: Who is in the scene? Describe the individuals involved so we can picture them and so we know their MOOD. Are they busy, frazzled and stressed? Happy? Angry? Excited? What’s his/his name? If you want us to CARE about your CAREacters, flesh them out so we feel we know them.

E = EXPERIENCE IT: Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I think, “No epiphany in the speaker, no epiphany in the listener.” This may be the hundredth time you’ve told this story, but if you mentally put yourself back in the scene, re-experience it as if it’s the first time, and re-enact it as if it’s happening NOW, you will feel what you felt then – and we will too.

N =NARRATIVE: Why can we read novels for hours at a time and it’s not hard work? It’s because authors use narrative – e.g., “He said, She said” – so we feel we’re right in the middle of the conversation. Simple said, narrative is a non-negotiable if you want your story to come alive. Include who said what with comma/quotes “(i.e., “He said, “Why don’t we change our default.” She said, ”Why don’t we?.”) so your story is organic, original and REAL.

E = EPIPHANY: What is the lesson-learned, the happy ending, the problem that was solved, the shift that occurred, the aha where the light comes on, the band plays and it all makes sense? Every story needs a “moral of the story” so it achieves a purpose and the audience gets the point. What’s yours?

A mantra of the speaking profession used to be, “Make a point, tell a story.” That advice is outdated. In these days of short-attention-spans and INFObesity, if you take too long to make your point, people will never make it to the story.

As John Steinbeck said, “If there’s magic in story-telling, and I’m convinced there is, the formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge to convey something you feel is important.”

If you START WITH A STORY and put people in the S.C.E.N.E of a true experience that’s important to you and that illustrates your idea … it will eloquently make your point for you.

Better yet, if you relive that experience in your mind and vividly remember what it felt like, your audience will feel what you felt. That is connection, and that is the point of all communication … to connect, always to connect.

– – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create respectful, one-of-a-kind communications that add value for all involved. Her work – including IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured on NPR and in New York Times and presented to National Geographic, Boeing, Cisco, Capital One.

Creative Projects in Your Head Help No One: 36 Quotes to Inspire You to FINISH What You Start

“One day you’ll wake up and there won’t be any time left to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.” – Paulo Coelho.

When people tell me they’re thinking about staring a creative project, I tell them, “Creative projects in your head help no one.”

Have you ever thought of it that way? If you have ideas, stories, skills or talents that would benefit others; it’s almost selfish to keep them to yourself.

Sharing your creative work doesn’t come from arrogance, it comes from service.  It’s an offering, a way of saying “Here’s something I think, feel, believe, see or have experienced. I hope it might be of interest and value to you.”

Yet, many people start with the best of intentions and then life intervenes. They get distracted, busy, overwhelmed, tired.

They put their creative project aside to deal with other priorities – and never get back to it. That’s a path to regrets.

Are you procrastinating, waiting for more time?

Face it. You’ll never have more time than you have right now.  If you want results … carve out ten minutes a day to move your creative project forward.

Select one of these quotes that resonates with you and post it where you’ll see it every morning (your bathroom mirror?)  It will help keep your good intentions IN SIGHT – IN MIND instead of allowing them to be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.

  1. “If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” – Dan Poynter
  2. “Creativity is just connecting things.” – Steve Jobs
  3. “Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” – Twyla Tharp
  4. “When asked the secret to finishing his 500-page masterpiece The Power of One, author Bryce Courtenay growled, “Bum glue!”
  5. “Creativity is always a leap of faith. You’re faced with a blank page, blank easel, or an empty stage … and you need to jump into it.” – Julia Cameron
  6.  “At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.” – aviation pioneer Chuck Yeager  
  7. “If my doctor told me I had only 6 months to live, I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov
  8. “Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” – Sue Grafton
  9. “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it.” – Madeleine L’Engle
  10. “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9 a.m. every morning.” – Peter DeVriesqu
  11. “If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” – Steven Pressfield
  12. “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.” – Steve Martin
  13. “I made a startling discovery. Time spent writing = output of work. Amazing.” – Ann Pachett
  14. “Ever tried and failed? No matter. Try again and fail better.” – Samuel Beckett
  15. “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” Christopher Parker
  16.  “It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer  
  17. “If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me? You are a human being with a unique story to tell. You have every right.” – Richard Rhodes
  18. “The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.” – Gertrude Stein
  19. “Best advice on writing I’ve ever received. Finish.” – Peter Mayle
  20. “If you want to be certain, you should never get married, change jobs or attempt anything creative. In fact, you might as well just stay home. Because I don’t know anybody who is certain. That need to be certain is just procrastination.” – Mark Burnett
  21. “When I am writing, I am doing the thing I was meant to do.” – Anne Sexton
  22. “You can sit there, tense and worried, freezing the creative energies, or you can start writing something. It doesn’t matter what. In five or ten minutes, the imagination will heat, the tightness will fade, and a certain spirit and rhythm will take over.” – Leonard Bernstein
  23. “I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. I had pieces that were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.” – Erica Jong
  24. “Once you’ve done the mental work, there comes a point you have to throw yourself into action and put your heart on the line.” – Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson
  25. “The faster I write, the better my output. If I’m going slow, I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them.” – Raymond Chandler
  26. “When you speak, your words echo across the room. When you write, your words echo across the ages.” – Chicken Soup for the Writers Soul author Bud Gardner
  27.  “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso
  28.   
  29. “I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind has to know it has to get down to work.” – Pearl S. Buck
  30.  “Planning to write is not writing.  Writing is writing.” – E. L. Doctorow
  31. “Time is the only coin of your life.  Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandberg
  32. “I think the worst, most insidious procrastination for me is research. I will be looking for some bit of fact to include in the novel, and before I know, I’ve wasted an entire morning delving into that subject matter without a word written.” – James Rollins
  33. “There’s a trick I’m going to share with you.  I learned it almost twenty years ago and I’ve never forgotten it … so pay attention.  Don’t begin at the beginning.” – Lawrence Block
  34.  “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.  You wait and watch and work and write; you don’t give up.” -Anne Lamott
  35. “If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison
  36. “If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.” – Rollo May        Author John Kotter said, “Do you know the #1 precursor to change?  A sense of urgency.”  It’s time to feel a sense of urgency about getting your ideas out in the world. What’s the story you’re born to tell? The knowledge you’d like to pass along?  The legacy message that could inspire others?  The time to share it is NOW.  Promise yourself you’ll sit down somewhere, sometime each day and take ten minutes to move your project forward. You will never regret getting your creative projects into the world. You will only regret not getting them out there … sooner.  As my mom used to tell me, “A year from now, you’ll wish you had started today.”        -   –   –   –   –   -

SAM HORN, CEO of the INTRIGUE AGENCY, TEDx speaker and 17-time Emcee of the world-renowned Maui Writers Conference, helps people create one-of-a-kind projects – businesses, books, presentations, funding pitches –  that scale their influence for good.  Her work – including IDEApreneur, POP!, Tongue Fu!  andWashington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been endorsed by Stephen Covey, Dan Pink, Tony Robbins, Marshall Goldsmith and featured in Fast Company, New York Times, Forbes, INC.  Her inspiring keynotes receive rave reviews from NASA, Intel, Cisco, Accenture, National Geographic, EO, Four Seasons Resorts and Capital One.

Tongue Fu!® How to Lead and Influence with Respect

Thanks to ChosunBiz – South Korea’s largest newspaper – for interviewing me for a cover story. Thought you might enjoy highlights from our interview with these Tongue Fu! tips on how to lead and influence with respect … because everyone wants, needs and deserves to be treated with respect.

1.   What is the core of new elements for 21st Century leadership?

We are no longer in the information age; we are in the connection age. Information is no longer enough to earn people’s attention and respect. If what we’re trying to communicate isn’t connecting, we’re wasting everyone’s time.

This is different from the 20th-century charismatic leadership because that was based on “I am the boss, you have to listen to me. I’m  senior to you, you must pay attention and do what I say.”

Journalist Eleanor Clift says, ‘We’re all in a race to be relevant. ” In today’s short-attention-span world of INFObesity, if we don’t make what we’re saying personally relevant to whoever we’re trying to connect with; they will ignore us and nothing will get done.

2.  How can leaders express their empathy when talking to employees?

First, ask themselves before they say anything, “How would I feel if this was happening to me? How would it feel to be on the receiving end of this message?”

Those four words “How would I feel ” are the quickest way to understand – and empathize with – what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

Second, by prefacing what you say with “.” and then inserting how you anticipate the employee is feeling.

For  example, ” I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to find out we’re going to have to start from scratch after you’ve spent several weeks on this.”

Or “I can only imagine how tired you must be after putting in a 10 hour day yesterday, so please know how much I appreciate you staying late again to get this project finished.”

3. How can CEO’s make other people feel comfortable and empowered when they’re talking?

SIT DOWN. As long as you are standing up and other people are seated, your body language is reinforcing that you are in the superior position and they are in the inferior position. It seems like you’re  towering over them. It diminishes them, makes them feel small and makes them feel you’re the teacher and they’re the students. This perpetuates the “I’m in control, you’re not” leadership style.

When you sit down, you level the playing field. It’s a way of saying, “We are on equal ground, we can see things eye to eye. It encourages people to speak up because they feel you are one of them instead of above them.”

Next, say “In the past …” For example, “in the past, you may have felt your opinion didn’t matter.”

“In the past, employees may have been punished for sharing honest feedback that appeared to be critical.”

Then,  bridge with “and now…”

“And now, we welcome your honest input because we rather know what’s not working so we can fix it.”

“And now, we encourage you to point out what we can do better because we want our company to be more productive and profitable.”

4.   How can senior CEOs overcome the generation gap and connect with younger employees?

First, make young people the expert. Give Millennials an opportunity to showcase and share what they know, what they’re good at.

For example, say “Our organization wants to be even more relevant to millennials. As a 20-something, we welcome your suggestions on how we can describe our products and services in ways that make them more appealing to your friends. What are your recommendations on how we can do that?”

Or, ask for advice on how to leverage social media and new tech devices.

Say, “We know we could do a better job being more current and staying up-to-date with all things digital. What do you think we could be doing to reach more young people with apps,  Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or other popular online options?”

5.  How can young CEOs and leaders communicate better with older managers?

First, take notes.

Young people are often quick thinkers who tend to get impatient when older managers start talking about “In the old days…”  or “How we used to do this …”

Carry a notepad with you and jot down what people are saying. Instead of getting distracted, interrupting or cutting them off, it helps you stay focused on what they’re saying.

When they’re finished talking, paraphrase what they said from your notes. This shows respect and that you really heard them.

Then,  move the conversation to what can be done about the situation.

Resist the urge to check a digital device (a laptop, iPad or smartphone) when older people are talking. Put it face down on a nearby surface or turn away from your laptop and LOOK at the person speaking.

Don’t even glance at your smartphone if it pings. Non-digital natives will never believe you’re listening if you’re checking your digital device. They feel disrespected.

6.  What kind of TONGUE FU!® or INTRIGUE skills can be used to earn people’s respect and favorable attention in the following situations?

A) Town hall:

Address the time.   Anxiety is defined in two words – not knowing. If people don’t know how long you’re going to talk, they’re not listening, they’re in a state of resentful anxiety.

For example, say, “I know it’s 7 PM on a weeknight and you’ve already put in a long day and many of you have children waiting for you at home… so we’re going to keep this town hall meeting to 45 minutes so you can all get back to your families at a reasonable hour.”

Or, if this is a controversial issue, address the elephant in the room.

Say, “We know this is a highly charged issue and people have strong feelings. So, to make sure the discussion stays pro-active and everyone has an opportunity to speak, we are going to follow these ground rules.”

B) a meeting with managers when you want the truth.

Be straightforward that you want the whole truth and nothing but the truth – even if it’s not good news.

Say, “I can only imagine you might be reluctant to tell us what’s not working because you wonder if you’ll be blamed for it. Our priority here is not to find fault, it is to find solutions. We ask you to please share your honest assessment of what’s undermining our effectiveness. We can’t fix what’s wrong if we don’t know what’s wrong. Thank you in advance for giving us the truth even if it’s not pretty. We will all be better for it.”

You’re welcome to share these questions/answers with your team at your next staff meeting.  Hope it catalyzes an important conversation about how to earn people’s attention and cooperation by influencing with respect.

–    –   –    –

Want to share these Tongue Fu!® and INTRIGUE leadership approaches with your group?  Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam Horn to keynote your convention or company meeting. Discover for yourself why her inspiring presentations receive raves from such clients as Boeing, Cisco, Intel, Four Seasons, Capital One and National Geographic,  Also,  check out her TEDx talk on Intrigue and Influence with Respect – and her books Tongue Fu!® POP! and Washington Post Bestseller Got Your Attention?

Down with Elevator Speeches

“Enough about me.  What do you think about me?” – Bette Midler in the movie Beaches

While speaking at an INC 500 event, I introduced a new approach for replacing elevator SPEECHES with elevator CONNECTIONS.

sam tedx image

An entrepreneur named Colleen raised her hand and said, “I can’t figure out how to do this for my business.”

I asked what she normally said when meeting people. She started explaining her job, using technical terms like magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography. None of us had any idea what she did.

I asked, “Want to brainstorm a better way to answer the ‘What do you do?’ question.”  She said a heartfelt “YES.”

“Okay, from now on, instead of EXPLAINING what you do (which is kind of like trying to explain electricity), focus on the real-world results of what you do that people can see or may have experienced.  What are those?“

She said, “Hmm.  Well, I run medical facilities that offer MRI’s and CT scans.”

“That’s better already because we can mentally picture what you’re talking about. It’s no longer conceptual or highly technical.  Plus, we probably know someone who has had an MRI or CT scan so now we can relate to it.

But don’t stop there. If you TELL people what you do, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation. We don’t want to CLOSE conversations, we want to OPEN conversations. You can do by asking a three-person question.”

“What’s this about a three-person question?”

“If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever had an MRI?’ and this person hasn’t, the conversation comes to an awkward dead-end. If you ask, ‘‘Have you, a friend, or a family member ever had an MRI?’ you just increased the likelihood they’ll know someone who is familiar with what you and your organization offers.”

“Okay, what next?” 

“You LISTEN.  Imagine the person says, ‘Yeah, my daughter hurt her knee playing soccer. She had an MRI.’ Just link what you do to what they just said. ‘Oh, I run the medical facilities that offer MRI’s … like the one your daughter had when she hurt her knee playing soccer.’

They’ll probably say an intrigued “Aaahh.” which is a lot better than an apathetic “Oh” or a confused “huh?” It means they GET what you do which means they’re more likely to remember you. As a bonus, if they ever need what you do, they’re more likely to contact you because people like to do business with people they know and like.”

She said, “Why is it so important to use the same words they used? I don’t want to parrot them.”

“Good point. I’m not suggesting we repeat what they said word for word. I’m suggesting we use a few of the same words because common language is what connects two strangers who, a moment ago, didn’t know if they had anything in common.”

She thanked me, sighed and said, “I wish someone had taught me this years ago.  I can’t wait to get back to work and share this with my staff.”

How about you?  What do YOU say when people ask, “What do you do?” What do your employees and team members say?

Think about it. Whether we like it or not, wherever we go, the people we meet will ask “What do you do?” And what we say MATTERS.  

That CEO’s inability to answer that question at the INC 500 conference could have meant millions of dollars in lost opportunity costs. She was surrounded by highly successful entrepreneurs, all in a position to partner with her, refer business to her or use her services. But that wasn’t going to happen because they didn’t know what she did – which meant they didn’t value it and wouldn’t remember it. 

Many people tell me they hate this question, for a variety of reasons. They don’t know how to answer it. They feel it pigeon-holes them and they don’t want to be defined by their job. They’re out of work. Or, they don’t have a position or profession people respect. Some tell me they dread “networking” because it means being subjected to a series of long-winded, boring, confusing elevator speeches.

I tell them, it can be helpful to realize that when people ask “What do you do?”, they’re not really trying to find out what you do; they’re trying to connect. They’re trying to identify what you have in common you both care about so they have a hook on which to hang a mutually-interesting conversation.

Which is why it’s so important to stop TELLING people what you do. An elevator speech is a monologue delivered in the presence of witnesses. A scripted, rehearsed-to-death elevator speech borders on being offensive because it’s a one-way lecture.

Elevator Speech

Instead, next time someone asks what you do, you might want to say, “I’d be happy to talk about what I do, and first may I find out more about you?” By giving other people an opportunity to go first, you’ve not only set a precedent that you’re genuinely interested in them and it’s not going to be “me, me, me;”  you’re sure to discover something relevant you can use to customize your opening so it reflects and integrates what you already know about them.  

When it’s your turn, remember, instead of launching into an explanation, ASK a three-person question that gives the other person an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – have experienced or benefitted from what you do.

Truly listen to their response, and then link what you do to what they just said.

Voila.  You’ve just created a two-way conversation (dialogue vs. a monologue) that is a lot more likely to lead to a mutually-meaningful CONNECTION.  Furthermore, you’re also acting as an eloquent ambassador for your profession because the people you meet will have new-found appreciation for the work you do and the positive difference it makes for so many.

Want to see how this is done?  Watch this TEDx talk and share it at your next staff meeting. Be sure to have paper and pen or your laptop ready so you can take notes on how to adapt this approach to upcoming, real-life situations.

The first example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce your idea or organization in a business setting where you’re trying to win buy-in, support, a green light or funding from decision-makers. The difference is,  by ASKING (a dialogue) instead of TELLING or SELLING (a monologue); you’re genuinely engaging people instead of lecturing them with INFObesity.

The second example in the TEDx talk shows how to introduce yourself at networking events or conferences when you’re meeting people for the first time.

Hope you find this approach and short video useful, and they help you genuinely enjoy meeting people and create more mutually-rewarding connections that benefit all involved. 

-   –   – 

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create intriguing respectful, collaborative communications and projects that scale their influence – for good. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu! ConZentrate and Sam Horn’s Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone – has been featured in New York Times, Fast Company, Forbes and on NPR.  Her inspiring, interactive presentations receive raves from Intel, Cisco, NASA, National Geographic and Capital One. Contact Cheri Grimm at 805 528-4351if you’d like to arrange for Sam to speak at your convention or train your team.