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.

SAM’s TIPS FOR SHARING STORIES THAT PUT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE

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 meaningful, real-life experience 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 how we genuinely connect. And that is the point of all communication … to connect, always to connect.

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Sam Horn, Founder. CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create respectful, collaborative, real-life 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.

Want People to Listen?

Have you been taught to open communications by “telling people what you’re going to tell them?”

That’s outdated advice. Telling people what we’re going to tell them makes us a bore, snore or chore. why-to-never-tell-people-best

Want a better way to motivate people to listen?

Imagine you’ve been asked to speak to college grads about how to land a job. You could start with 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’s, but that doesn’t engage an audience because it’s still a one-way lecture.

A better way to have people at hello and EARN their favorable attention is to create a DIALOGUE (not a monologue) by asking questions that introduce something startlingly relevant they don’t know or expect … in the first 60 seconds. 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 and only 20% get interviews?

* in 2014 in the U.S., 53.6% of bachelor’s degree holders under the age of 25 were 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 proven ways to stand out from the crowd and give yourself a competitive edge in today’s saturated job market?

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

Isn’t that more interesting than telling people what you’re going to tell them? Here’s how to craft an intro that has people at hello..

Sam Horn’s Three Steps to Crafting an Intro 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 INFObesity) – you’ve already set up two-way communication by asking instead of telling. You’re earned everyone’s favorable attention because you’ve introduced insights that made them smarter than they were a minute … a wonderful way to win buy-in.

Want more ways to craft intros that have people at hello? Watch this TEDx talk which both models and teaches Sam’s 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. This is excerpted from her Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? which has been featured in Forbes, INC and Fast Company and presented to NASA, Accenture and National Geographic.

Turn a NO into a YES

“If you stick to what you know; you’ll sell yourself short.” – singer Carrie Underwood

If you stick to what you know … you’ll get a no.

No

Instead, ask yourself, “Why will my decision-makers say no?” and say it first.

If you don’t, they won’t be listening; they’ll be waiting for their turn to talk so they can tell you why what you’re requesting/recommending won’t work.

Here’s an example of someone who did this brilliantly.

Several years ago I went to BIF – Business Innovation Factory – in Providence, RI for a fascinating couple of days with leading-edge innovators from around the world, (e.g.,  Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Alan Webber of Fast Company).

The most impressive speaker was a surprise. She walked to the center of the stage and waited until everyone was quiet. Then, with a big smile, she leaned out to the group and said …

I know what you’re thinking. What’s a 13-year-old going to teach me about innovation?”

She paused for a moment, and with a twinkle in her eye said, “We 13-year-olds know a thing or two … like how to flip our hair.”

In 30 seconds, Cassandra Lin had won everyone’s favorable attention.

Why? She read their mind.  She realized these global thought-leaders might be a wee bit skeptical that a 7th grader would have anything to teach them. She anticipated those objections and brought them up first. In doing so, she turned their resistance into receptivity.

By the way, Cassandra continued to earn our respect by describing how she and her fellow 7th graders had taken a field trip to the sewers of Providence and discovered they were filled to bursting with F.O.G. – Fat, Oil and Grease.

Cassandra thought, “Somebody’s got to DO something about this.”  She realized SHE was as much a somebody as anybody, so she and her classmates founded T.G.I.F. – Turn Grease into Fuel. Every Saturday, they collect F.O.G from restaurants and industrial parks, recycle it and donate the money they receive to needy families. Go Cassandra.

Want to Turn Resistance into Receptivity?

“Let’s address the elephant in the room. ‘YO ELEPHANT!'” – Gene Weingarten

When and where will you be making a request or recommendation?

Want to increase your likelihood of success?

Ask yourself, “Why will my decision-makers say, “You’ve got to be kidding?!”

Ask, “What’s the elephant in the room?” and address it … first.

elephant in the room text image

If you’re chairing a meeting at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, anticipate that everyone will be wondering how long this will take and will have one mental foot out the door.

Say, “I can only imagine you’re thinking about rush hour traffic. I promise you we’ll wrap up in twenty minutes so you can be out of here before 5 pm.”  That will pleasantly surprise everyone and help win buy-in.

Perhaps you’re proposing an expensive program and anticipate your boss will be sitting there with his mental arms crossed thinking, “We don’t have any money in our budget for this.”

Start off by saying, “You may be thinking we don’t have any money in our budget for this. If I can have your attention for the next three minutes, I’ll point out where we can find that money, how we’ll make it back in the first three months, and turn it into profits from then on.”

Imagine you’re suggesting a new membership recruitment program to your association board. You predict push-back because a similar program failed last year.

Open with, “You may be thinking we tried this before and it didn’t work. You’re right, and I’ve identified three mistakes we made last time and have ways to prevent those from happening again this time.”

Are you pitching a book to an agent or editor and predict they might reject it because there are a LOT of books in your genre on this topic?

Lead with, “You may be thinking this is a crowded gene. You’re right. That’s why I introduce a contrarian, first-of-its-kind approach people haven’t seen before that has produced proven, bottom-line results. Several top experts in our industry are ready to endorse the book and have committed to buying several thousand copies for their companies upon publication.”

THAT will get their attention:-)

Remember, if you don’t voice nay-sayers’ objections, they won’t be listening; they’ll be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why this won’t work.

If you want to INTRIUGE decision-makers and win their favorable attention; start with with WHY they might say NO, bridge with the word AND (not but), and then ask for three minutes of their time so you can show how what you’re suggesting will be a win for them.

This can help you turn a NO into a YES … sometimes in 60 seconds or less.

Want more ways to turn resistance into receptivity and get a YES to your ideas, products, services, company and cause?  Click here. 

Got Your Attention? Wins Book of the Year Award

What a thrill to hear from publisher Berrett-Koehler that my book GOT YOUR ATTENTION? is the INDIEFAB gold medal winner in the career category.  Here ‘s the announcement from Foreword Reviews.

Following that good news, I went to Amazon.com and discovered it is trending at #4 in ‪#‎Business‬ ‪#‎Money‬ ‪#‎Sales‬ ‪#‎Marketing‬ ‪#‎Presentations‬

Then I went to LinkedIn and discovered this post on WHY TO NEVER GIVE AN ELEVATOR SPEECH – AND WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD (excerpted from “Got Your Attention?”) has more than 21,000 views and 649 shares.

Things just kept getting better. My publisher Berrett-Koehler got in touch to let me know foreign rights for Got Your Attention? have not only been sold to China, Korea, Turkey, Greece, and Poland – they were also just sold to Russia.

So, this is a very good day.

Thanks to Berrett-Koehler Publishers and for being selected PUBLISHER ‪OF THE YEAR. Check out this wonderful interview with BK’s CEO Steve Piersanti to get insights into why they were chosen for this well-deserved award.

To all my colleagues, clients, audience members and author friends; thank you for your support, positive feedback, and for buying the book and spreading the word about it to your company and convention decision-makers.

When you write a book, you never know how it’s going to be received. You can hope, but you can’t know.

So, for Got Your Attention? to have become a Washington Post bestseller, and to read the reviews – not just from endorsers Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, Keith Ferazzi, Elizabeth Lesser (co-founder of Omega Institute),  Terry Jones (founder of Travelocity), Kay Koplovitz (co-founder of USA Network) etc. – but from people I’ve never met who took the time to share how the book has impacted them … please know how much it means to me.

For example, Martin P gave it a 5 Star review on Amazon and said, “The way you should judge any business book is: does it give you actionable, real world advice that gets results? This book does. It has made a massive difference to my business again and again. Better networking conversations, better selling through listening first, a better structure in my keynotes, I could go on and on – this book really has made a difference to my income again and again. Incredible advice in such an engaging format. Just brilliant, thank you, Sam!”

And special thanks to Kathleen Hassan who gave the most recent review: “There Is NO Connection without Quality Attention” and no one walks her talk more than Sam Horn. I had the privilege of being with Sam recently in Washington DC for the United State of Women Summit. I haven’t seen Sam in over thirteen years, but she made me feel important as if she were meeting the First Lady herself. And while in line with Sam, making our way into the conference hall, Sam gave that same kind of rapt attention to everyone she came in contact with. She is genuinely curious about people and asks the most “intriguing” questions. She is brilliant and generous with her time and ideas and I feel blessed to get to swim in her sea of wisdom and insight. The ideas in this book are so relevant and applicable and the W5 form alone is worth the price of the book to get clarity about every communication I create so that I am able to connect on a deeper level so that my clients feel important and heard too.

Heartfelt thanks to all of you. I hope Got Your Attention? continues to make a positive difference for you, helps you create INTRIGUE communications that earn respect for your projects and priorities, and helps you actually enjoy meeting people and create more meaningful connections with everyone you meet, on and off the job.

POP! Out of Your Crowd by Being One-of-a-Kind

FlowerSam“You gotta be original.  If you’re not, what do they need you for?” – actress Bernadette Peters.

Do you think everything’s been said and done?

Do you think there’s nothing new under the sun?

Au contraire.

There ARE original ideas, first-of-their-kind brands and businesses, and individuals who stand out from their crowd.

In fact, your success depends on your ability to say, do and offer something people haven’t heard or seen before, something that motivates them to say “Tell me more.”

Are you thinking, “Easier said than done?”

Agreed. That’s why I introduce step-by-step processes in my POP! and Got Your Attention? books that show you EXACTLY HOW to create new ideas, original approaches, and innovative messages that give you a competitive edge.

Think about it. Whatever you do, you’re probably one-of-many. One of many consultants.  One of many companies.  One of many job-seekers.

You don’t want to be one-of-a-many. You want to be one-of-a-kind.

When you’re one-of-a-kind, you have no competition

Are you thinking, “Okay Sam, I agree with this, but how can I create an original approach or innovative brand name?”

Here’s just one of the replicable POP! processes you can use to create something that’s new, something that helps you break out instead of blend in. It’s called the Half and Half Technique.

Here’s an example of someone who coined a Half and Half Brand Name and then I’ll show how you can do it too.

Dr. Francine Kaufman was concerned about the numbers of children coming into L.A.’s Children’s Hospital with Type 2 Diabetes.

She said, “A decade ago, this would have been so rare, it would have been written up in a medical journal. Now, such children fill my medical clinic.”

She wanted to do something about this, yet there were many doctors and nutritionists addressing this issue. She would have blended in.

And when you care about something and want other people to care about it too; you don’t want to blend in, you want to break out.

So, what did Dr. Francine Kaufman do? She coined a Half-and-Half word by combining the words diabetes and obesity into … DIABESITY.

Boom. Not only did her original word get attention for this important issue – it helped her become the go-to-media resource, author and expert on this topic. She scaled her influence and income by coming up with an innovative name.

A fast food restaurant that specializes in hot dogs and beer came up with a fantastic Half and Half Name… Frank ‘n Stein.   An Italian-Chinese restaurant calls itself Ciao Mein. An Indian-Hawaiian café’ named itself Taj Mahalo.

My son Tom loved a class at Virginia Tech where Professor Cole introduced students to the joys of Wagner, Verdi and Puccini. He called it Operatunity.

You may be thinking, “Okay, those are clever names. Big whoop. But I don’t want to be ‘cutesy.’ How can this help grow my business bottom line?”

Good question. Here’s the backstory of how an entire industry was transformed because a shop owner came up with a new, original way to “do business.”

About a decade ago, the scuba industry had a serious problem.  Fewer and fewer people were going scuba diving. Many dive shop operators were on the verge of bankruptcy.  So, how did they solve this problem?

Well, let’s use the 6 P’s of Disruption (featured in Got Your Attention?) to show how to attract new customers and generate new revenue with a fresh approach and positioning that gives you a competitive edge, all at the same time.

P – Purpose: What was the Purpose of these scuba operators? They wanted to get new customers and more customers so they wouldn’t go bankrupt.

P – Person: Who is the person who has the power to buy or try what you’re offering? Here’s where it gets interesting. 20 years ago, who made the decision about how families  spent their time in Hawaii? Probably Mom or Dad. Ten years ago, it changed.

Guess who now makes the decision about how families spend their time in Hawaii? THE KIDS. Uh-oh. Kids can’t go scuba diving. No wonder the industry was struggling. The person who had the power to try and buy what they were selling … couldn’t.

P – Problem: Okay, put yourself in the mental shoes of the person who has the power to buy what you’ve got. Let’s call this person Andy. Ask Andy, “What Problems do you have with my product or service?”  Andy would answer, “Well, I can’t go scuba diving because I can’t afford it. And I can’t get certified. And I’m scared to go down 100 feet. What if I drown? What if I can’t equalize my ears? And I can’t carry those heavy oxygen tanks on my back.”

All those problems are barriers to entry. And the more barriers to entry your business has, the more likely it is to go bankrupt.

P – Premise: Your Premise is, “Why does it have to be that way? What if there was a better way, safer way, less expensive way, more appealing way,  easier, less risky way? What if I could make those problems go away?”

P – Process/Approach: In answering those questions, you often come up with an original Process/Approach (or program/product) that  eliminates the problems that were keeping people from trying and buying what you’re offering.

For example, Andy might say, “What if I didn’t have to carry those heavy oxygen tanks on my back? What if I could just leave them on the boat? Then, you could just run a long air hose from the oxygen tank to my snorkel mask. And then I wouldn’t have to go down 100 feet. I wouldn’t have to worry about drowning or equalizing my ears. I could go down ten feet and have fun swimming with the humuhumunukunukuapaaa’. Plus, I wouldn’t have to get certified. So I could afford it. And my whole family could go.  This would be a whole  NEW way to enjoy the ocean without all the problems of scuba. I would happily do it then.”

P – Pop:   If you want your new entity to break out vs. blend in out, you’ll want to give it a new name.  Use my Half and Half Technique to create an intriguing word that will drive media attention, buzz and new customers.

Let’s see, it’s half scuba, half snorkel. Take the first syllable of the first word and blend it with the second syllable of the second word and you get … SNUBA.

Tah dah. An original word and a new multi-million dollar industry that saved many mom and pop operators from bankruptcy and revitalized their business.

Want more examples of how to create new brand names,  first-of-its-kind products, programs and services, and a unique positioning/messaging that help you break out instead of blend in?

Check out these posts that feature additional ways to EARN your decision-makers’ favorable attention. 

Confused People Don’t Say Yes

Can We Really Win People’s Attention in 60 Seconds?

Want Sam to share her intriguing, inspiring and innovative insights with your group? Discover why her presentations receive raves from such clients as National Geographic, Intel, NASA and Capital One.  Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to share your group’s priorities so Sam can customize a program for your event; or to arrange to consult one-on-one with Sam on your project.