Want to Know What To Say – When You Don’t Know What To Say?

Would you like to know what to say when you don’t know what to say?  Would you like to be able to think on your feet and respond proactively when people are being unfair, unkind or inappropriate?

Think about it. The irony is, we’re taught math, science and history in school; we’re NOT taught how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one ourselves. And, if we deal with the public, almost all of us deal with difficult people on a daily basis.

That’s where Tongue Fu!® comes in. It is a trade-marked communication process I developed twenty years ago to teach people what they can say – when they don’t know what to say – in the challenging situations many of us face every day.

Do you deal with the customers? Executive Book Summaries said these techniques are a “goldmine for anyone dealing with the public.” Hope they help you handle challenging situations more effectively and proactively – for the benefit of all involved.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #1. “What can I do when people complain?”

When people complain, don’t explain, Take the AAA Train. Explaining why something wasn’t done when it was supposed to be done makes people angrier because explanations come across as excuses. Instead, Agree, Apologize, Act. “You’re right, Mrs. Smith, we were supposed to send that material to you last week, and I’m sorry you didn’t receive it yet. If I could please have your name and address I’ll personally put that brochure in an envelope and make sure it goes out today.” Voila. Complaint over!

Tongue Fu!® Tip #2: “What can I do if people accuse me of something untrue?”

Whatever you do, don’t defend or deny untrue accusations. If someone blindsides you with an allegation, “You women are so emotional!” and you protest with, “We’re not emotional!” you’ve just proven their point. Instead, put the conversational ball back in their court with, “What do you mean?” Asking them to explain themselves will cause them to reveal the real issue and you can address that instead of reacting to their attack. Imagine an upset client claims, “You don’t care about your customers.” Protesting, “That’s not true. We pride ourselves on our quality service” turns this into a “Yes we do – No you don’t” debate. Instead ask, “What makes you think that?” The client may say “I’ve left three messages and no one’s called back.” Aaahh, the real issue. Now you know what’s really bothering her and you focus on that instead of reacting to her attack.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #3: “What can I do if people are arguing?”

Stop arguments with a hand gesture. No, not that one! If people are arguing and you try to talk over them, what will happen? They’ll talk louder. The voice of reason will get drowned out in the commotion. Putting your hand up like a policeman will cause them to pause for just a moment, which gives you a chance to get your verbal foot in the door. Then say these magic words, “We’re here to find solutions, not fault.” Remind them that John F. Kennedy said, “Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, it’s to fix the course for the future.” If the conversation starts deteriorating into a gripe session again, make a T with your hands and call out, “Time out. Calling each other names won’t help. Instead, let’s focus on how we can keep this from happening again.”

Tongue Fu!® Tip #4: “What if I have to give bad news?”

Don’t use the apathetic words, “There’s nothing I can do” or “There’s no way I can fix this.” A front desk manager at a hotel asked, “What can we say when people grumble about the rain? There’s nothing we can do about the weather. We’re not Mother Nature.” I told her, “The words, ‘There’s nothing” and “There’s no way‘ come across as a verbal dead-end. People will conclude you don’t care. They’ll get more louder in an effort to make you care. Use the words, ‘I wish,’ ‘I hope,’ or ‘There’s something’ to let people know you’re trying to help them. Say, ‘I wish I could bring out the sunshine for you. I know you were looking forward to some beach time’ or ‘I hope it clears up soon. In case it doesn’t, there’s something I can suggest. Here’s a list of rainy-day activities so at least you can make the most of your visit even if the sun doesn’t cooperate.'” In the real world, we can’t always give people what they want and we sometimes have to deliver bad news. We can at least give people our concern and offer options.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #5: “What can I do if someone makes a mistake?

If something’s gone wrong,don’t “should” on people. When we tell people what they should have done, they will resent us – even if what we’re saying is right. Why? People can’t undo the past. If they’re being reprimanded for something they can’t change, they’ll channel their feeling of helplessness or guilt into antagonism towards us. My mom used to tell me, “We can’t motivate people to do better by making them feel bad.” Telling people what they “should” have done makes them feel bad and doesn’t teach them how to do it better. When people make a mistake, be a coach, not a critic by using the words “in the future” to shape their behavior instead of shame it. Focusing on what they can do “from now on” helps them learn instead of lose face and they’re a lot more likely to do things differently “next time.”

Tongue Fu!®Tip #6: “What can I do if someone’s teasing me?

Develop a repertoire of Fun Fu! remarks. Erma Bombeck (bless her soul) said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” Are you sensitive about something? Perhaps you’ve put on a few pounds. You have a choice. You can be hyper-sensitive about this and give people the power to embarrass you, or you can come up with clever, non-combative comebacks and keep your wit(s) about you.

Want an example? I ran into a very tall man in an airport. The people in front of me were laughing and pointing at him. I thought, “How rude!” Then he got closer and I could see his t-shirt which said, “No, I’m not a basketball player!” The back of his shirt said, “Are you a jockey?” This man told me he used to dread going out of the house because everyone made smart-aleck remarks. He finally decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he might as well join ‘em. “This is nothing,” he said with a smile, “I have a drawer full of these shirts at home. My favorite says ‘I’m 6’13” and the weather up here’s fine.’ Ever since I started wearing these shirts,” he added, “I’ve had fun with my height instead of being frustrated by my height.” Fun Fu! responses can help you lighten up instead of tighten up so no one has the power to get under your skin or knock you off balance.

Tongue Fu!® Tip #7: “What if I have to tell someone no?”

Turn “NO, you can’t, because” into “YES, you can, as soon as.”

Imagine a staff member asks, “Can I have my paycheck early? I’m going on a trip this weekend” and you answer, “No you can’t have your paycheck because it hasn’t been approved by payroll.” That’s the truth, however people will get upset because they feel you’re brushing them off.. The words “can’t because” are like a verbal door slamming in their face. Want good news? You can often approve requests with the words, “Sure you can, as soon as” or “Yes you can, right after.” Re-word your reply to, “Yes, you can have your paycheck, as soon as it’s approved by payroll. Why don’t we give them a call, explain the circumstances and see if there’s any way they can speed things up.” One manager said, “I can’t wait to use this idea at home. My kids see me as a ‘big meanie’ because I’m always telling them ‘no.’ Next time they ask if they can go outside and play with their friends, instead of saying, ‘No you can’t, because you haven’t done your homework,’ I’m going to say, ‘Sure you can, as soon as you finish your homework.’ Instead of seeing me as the one blocking what they want, this makes them responsible for getting what they want. It changes the whole dynamic of our relationship.”

Have these sample response been helpful? Want more ways to keep your cool – even when other people aren’t? Check out Tongue Fu!® and Tongue Fu!® at School.

Are you thinking, “I’ve tried all these diplomatic approaches and they work with most people. However, there’s ONE person in my life who ignores all this.”

You may be dealing with a bully. Check out Never Be Bullied Again and take this quiz to see if you’re dealing with what I call a 5%er. If so, the stronger tips in that book show how to hold that person accountable for their unacceptable behavior so s/he starts treating you with the respect you want, need and deserve.

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Sam Horn, TEDx speaker, and creator of the trademarked Tongue Fu!® process, is on a mission to help people create respectful communications that add value for all involved. Her work- including Tongue Fu®, POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Readers Digest, and INC, and presented to clients as diverse as National Geographic, Four Seasons Resorts, YPO, Capital One, Accenture, NASA and Cisco. If you’d like Sam (or one of her certified Tongue Fu® instructors) to teach your employees how to deal with difficult people – without becoming one themselves, contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

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.

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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

Never Again Give an Elevator SPEECH

“It’s not about you. It never was.” – Diane Keaton

Do you know anyone who likes listening to a speech? Me neither.

Speeches are lectures. Who wants to be lectured?

That’s why, from now on when someone asks, “What do you do?” never again TELL them.  What?! Here’s an example to show what I mean.

Years ago, I was on a speaking tour with my sons. We had a night free in Denver, so we went downstairs to ask the concierge, “What do you suggest?”

He took one look at Tom and Andrew and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. We asked, “What’s that?”

He must have known that trying to explain it would only confuse us. Instead, he asked a qualifying question, “Have you ever been to Chuck E. Cheese?”

My sons nodded enthusiastically.

He smiled and said, “D & B’s is like a Chuck E. Cheese … for adults.”

Bingo. Ten seconds and we knew exactly what it was and wanted to go there. They should have put him on commission.

Why did that work so well? He turned a one-way elevator speech into a two-way elevator connection.  Here’s an example of how you can do the same.

A man approached me before a presentation and said, “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told many people. I’m an introvert. I go to conferences all the time, but then I hide out in my hotel room because I hate networking.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Plus, I work in tech. I can never explain what I do in a way people can understand it. It’s so awkward, I rather just avoid it.”

I asked, “Want a way to introduce yourself that isn’t confusing or awkward, and that can actually lead to a meaningful conversation?”

He came back with, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

I asked, “Don’t tell to explain what you do. That’s like trying to explain electricity.  Instead, describe the real-world results of what you do that we can see, smell, taste and touch.”

He thought about it for a moment and said something about credit cards, online retailers, financial software and computers. The light bulb went off in my mind. “Do you make the software that makes it safe for us to buy stuff online?”

He lit up. “Yes! That’s exactly what I do.”

“That’s good … but don’t tell people that.”

He looked at me, puzzled. “Why not?”

“Because if you explain, ‘I make the software that makes it safe for you to buy things online, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation.

You don’t want to end the conversation; you want to open a conversation.”

“So what do I do instead?”

“Ask a three-part question that gives people an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – may have experienced what you do.”

“What’s this about a three part question?”

“If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever bought anything online,’ and they say ‘No,’ you just ran into a conversation cul de sac.

If you ask, ‘Have you, a friend or a family member ever bought anything online … like on eBay, Travelocity or Amazon?’ you just increased the odds they’ve benefitted from what you do or know someone who has.

They may say, ‘Well, I never shop online. But my wife’s on Amazon all the time. She loves the free shipping.’

Now, link what you do to what they just said, ‘Well, our company makes the software that makes it safe for your wife to buy things on Amazon.’

‘OOHH,’ they’ll probably say.  Believe me, an intrigued ‘OOOHH’ is a lot better than a confused ‘Huh?!’ or a disinterested ‘oh.’

Their eyes will probably light up and their eyebrows will probably go up. They now relate to you and are more likely to remember you. Furthermore, you now have a mutually-relevant hook on which to hang a conversation which means you’re both more likely to want to continue the conversation.

All this in 60 seconds and all because you stopped TELLING people what you do and started ASKING how they may have experienced what you do.”

He actually got a little misty-eyed. I asked him, “What’s going on?”

He told me, “I can’t wait to get home after this conference.”

“Why?”

” I can finally get across to my eight year old son what I do in a way he understands it.”

That’s the power of turning an elevator speech into an elevator connection.

How about you?  What do you say when asked, “What do you do?” What do your co-workers say?  Do your responses cause confusion or create connections?

You might want to turn your next staff meeting into a brainstorming session where everyone crafts two-way introductions that genuinely engage people in mutually-relevant conversations that are a win for all involved.

By the way, this is just one of 25 ways to create more mutually-meaningful communications featured in my  book Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone.  Discover for yourself why it’s been endorsed by Keith Ferrazzi (Never Eat Alone) and Marshall Goldsmith who says it’s a “must for every leader.”

Want your employees and association members to overcome create more genuine conversations and connections at your next event? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam to deliver her inspiring, interactive keynote to get everyone involved in instantly creating more meaningful elevator introductions that benefit them, their organization and your event.

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.

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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.     

Never Again Give An Elevator SPEECH

Elevator Speech“It’s not about you. It never was.” – actress Diane Keaton.

Do you know anyone who likes listening to a speech? Me neither.

Speeches are lectures. Who wants to be lectured?

That’s why, from now on when someone asks, “What do you do?” never again TELL them.  What?! Here’s an example to show what I mean.

Years ago, I was on a speaking tour with my sons. We had a night free in Denver, so we went downstairs to ask the concierge, “What do you suggest?”

He took one look at Tom and Andrew and said, “You’ve got to go to D & B’s.”

We were from Maui at the time and had no idea what he was talking about. We asked, “What’s that?”

He must have known that trying to explain it would only confuse us. Instead, he asked a qualifying question, “Have you ever been to Chuck E. Cheese?”

My sons nodded enthusiastically.

He smiled and said, “D & B’s is like a Chuck E. Cheese … for adults.”

Bingo. Ten seconds and we knew exactly what it was and wanted to go there. They should have put him on commission.

Why did that work so well? He turned a one-way elevator speech into a two-way elevator connection.  Here’s an example of how you can do the same.

A man approached me before a presentation and said, “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told many people. I’m an introvert. I go to conferences all the time, but then I hide out in my hotel room because I hate networking.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m uncomfortable with small talk. Plus, I work in tech. I can never explain what I do in a way people can understand it. It’s so awkward, I rather just avoid it.”

I asked, “Want a way to introduce yourself that isn’t confusing or awkward, and that can actually lead to a meaningful conversation?”

He came back with, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

I asked, “Don’t tell to explain what you do. That’s like trying to explain electricity.  Instead, describe the real-world results of what you do that we can see, smell, taste and touch.”

He thought about it for a moment and said something about credit cards, online retailers, financial software and computers. The light bulb went off in my mind. “Do you make the software that makes it safe for us to buy stuff online?”

He lit up. “Yes! That’s exactly what I do.”

“That’s good … but don’t tell people that.”

He looked at me, puzzled. “Why not?”

“Because if you explain, ‘I make the software that makes it safe for you to buy things online, they’ll go, ‘Oh,’ and that’ll be the end of the conversation.

You don’t want to end the conversation; you want to open a conversation.”

“So what do I do instead?”

“Ask a three-part question that gives people an opportunity to share how they – or someone they know – may have experienced what you do.”

“What’s this about a three part question?”

“If you ask, ‘Have YOU ever bought anything online,’ and they say ‘No,’ you just ran into a conversation cul de sac.

If you ask, ‘Have you, a friend or a family member ever bought anything online … like on eBay, Travelocity or Amazon?’ you just increased the odds they’ve benefitted from what you do or know someone who has.

They may say, ‘Well, I never shop online. But my wife’s on Amazon all the time. She loves the free shipping.’

Now, link what you do to what they just said, ‘Well, our company makes the software that makes it safe for your wife to buy things on Amazon.’

‘OOHH,’ they’ll probably say.  Believe me, an intrigued ‘OOOHH’ is a lot better than a confused ‘Huh?!’ or a disinterested ‘oh.’

Their eyes will probably light up and their eyebrows will probably go up. They now relate to you and are more likely to remember you. Furthermore, you now have a mutually-relevant hook on which to hang a conversation which means you’re both more likely to want to continue the conversation.

All this in 60 seconds and all because you stopped TELLING people what you do and started ASKING how they may have experienced what you do.”

He actually got a little misty-eyed. I asked him, “What’s going on?”

He told me, “I can’t wait to get home after this conference.”

“Why?”

” I can finally get across to my eight year old son what I do in a way he understands it.”

That’s the power of turning an elevator speech into an elevator connection.

How about you?  What do you say when asked, “What do you do?” What do your co-workers say?  Do your responses cause confusion or create connections?

You might want to turn your next staff meeting into a brainstorming session where everyone crafts two-way introductions that genuinely engage people in mutually-relevant conversations that are a win for all involved.

By the way, this is just one of 25 ways to create more mutually-meaningful communications featured in my new book Got Your Attention? How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone.  You might want to check it out and discover for yourself why it’s been endorsed by Dan Pink, Keith Ferrazzi, Miki Agrawal and Marshall Goldsmith who says it’s a “must for every leader.”