Want to Give an Original TED or TEDx Talk?

What’s your idea worth spreading? Do you have a story to tell that would add value for others? Do you have expertise to share that will improve people’s lives? Have you made a discovery that could help others?

I’ve had the privilege of coaching dozens of clients on their TED and TEDx talks. One found me after reading the article below, which was originally featured in Fast Company. Paige told me, “What really resonated with me is how important it is for this message to be congruent with my voice, vision and values. Crafting a quality talk is a front-loaded project, but I’m confident it will pay off to design and deliver a talk that fulfills these 7 C’s.”

She’s right. Well-crafted presentations have the power to change lives – including yours – for good. Hope the insights and examples in this article help you design and deliver presentations, proposals and pitches (they don’t have to be TED or TEDx talks) that achieve your desired results and scale your impact.

Here’s that article:

original-talk

It’s been said there are no original ideas. But what may seem like old hat to you could become the next compelling TED talk.

You can transform your presentations by mining your expertise, experience, and epiphanies. Start by writing down things about your work; your best practices, non-negotiables, and the things you’d like to pass on that you think would open people’s minds and get them talking.

Next, take those ideas and run them through my “Seven Cs of Original Messaging.” These criteria can be used both as a guide and a litmus test to come up with a big idea that pops you out of the pack.

1. CLEAR

A Hollywood producer once told me that 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 marketing it to profitability.

The same applies to your TED talk. Can listeners repeat your big idea word for word? If they can, they’ll become your advocates. If they can’t, your big idea will be 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 an audience’s attention or else 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 presentation. 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 someone suggests a topic, but it doesn’t feel right, it’s wrong for you. A TED talk is your point of view, not someone else’s. What do you passionately believe? What is a heartfelt legacy message that sums up what you’ve learned from life?

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 TED 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 TED talk is not to sell your products or services, and it shouldn’t be your priority. 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 27 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 for your TED talk to be consistent with your brand positioning and primary focus. Ask yourself, “What do I want my next one to three years of my life to look like?”

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., with more than 42 million views worldwide. Certainly, other experts have talked about the need for creativity in our schools, but no one does it quite like Ken.

Does your big idea meet all seven C criteria of Original Messaging? If so, great. If not, invest the effort to craft an original idea worth repeating. Your audience, career, and legacy will thank you.

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, coaches clients on how to design and deliver compelling presentations, pitches, and proposals that get results and add value for all involved. Her work – including her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE and her books POP!, IDEApreneur, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Inc and Readers Digest and presented to Boeing, Intel, Cisco, NASA, National Geographic. Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to ask how Sam can help you create/polish a one-of-a-kind presentation that positions you as a thought-leader in your industry.

Writing is a Roller Coaster: Quotes to Inspire You to Persevere Through the Ups & Downs

“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 writing a book – or they’ve put their project aside and aren’t making progress – I tell them two things.

First, “Writing is a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. If you expect and embrace that instead of fight it, you will finish your book – no matter what.

Second, “Books in your head help no one.”

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

Sharing your stories and 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.

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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 out in 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 write quality books. In all that time, I’ve never met a single author who was sorry they wrote their book. I have only met authors who were sorry they didn’t write it … SOONER.

Write on!
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Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency, helps people create quality books that add value for all involved. Her TEDx talk and work – including 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, Stephen Covey and Jack Canfield and have been presented to such diverse clients as Boeing, U.S. Embassy in London, Capital One, NASA and National Geographic.

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.

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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.

What’s Your Review-Preview? Are You “Piloting” Your Time?

Michael Altshuler says, “The bad news is, time flies. The good news is, you’re the pilot.”

Yet many of us DON’T feel like we’re the pilot of our time. Months (years) blend and blur into each other. Time races by and many of us feel we’ll never get caught up.

This is an antidote to this. One way to “get caught up” is to reflect on all the good ways our time has been spent this past year – to identify and honor the people, places and experiences that have been a good use of our time. national-press-club-group-picture-12-10-2010-2

These questions can help you do that. I’ve used variations of them at Review-Preview gatherings with friends and family and at National Press Club salons.

Taking the time to answer these questions an excellent way to “connect and reflect” and honor who and what has impacted you this past year – and why. Then turn your attention to the new year and clarify what your’re looking forward to – what you can do, see, think and feel to “pilot” this upcoming year so it will be TIME WELL SPENT.

At the end of his life, when finishing his book The Last Lecture (which was his “message in a bottle” of life-lessons he wanted to pass on to his kids), Randy asked himself what he knew for sure and it was this:

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt; just how we play the hand. Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

You might want to print these questions and share them over a meal with friends or family or at an upcoming staff meeting with employees. They can lead to a meaningful discussion about what really matters, which in itself it time well spent.

P.S. I’ve included my abbreviated answers to these questions at the end to kick-start this process. Enjoy, and happy, healthy holidays to you and your loved ones.
Review of the past year:

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
3. How did I change? What new beliefs and behaviors did I adopt?
4. What’s a meaningful achievement I’m proud of?
5. What happened that was unexpected or surprising? How did it affect me?
6. What will I remember about my health from this year and why?
7. What was my biggest challenge – lesson learned the hard way?
8. What did I NOT find time for?
9. What is the best book I read or movie/TV program I saw?
10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?

PLEASE NOTE: When previewing the coming year, you might want to state your intentions in the PRESENT OR PAST TENSE as opposed to the FUTURE tense. Why? Our subconscious believes what we tell it. Saying “I’m going to meet … “ or “I will achieve …” comes across as wishful thinking. Saying, “I loved meeting … “ or “It was so satisfying achieving that …” is perceived as a statement of truth. It helps turns our hopes into a “done deal.” This is a way to practice ADVANCE GRATITUDE. By focusing on what we would love to happen in the new year, we facilitate that happening. Envisioning a life, business and career we love helps to create it.

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Preview of the coming year so you can “pilot” your time and ensure it is spent on the “right things.”

1. A particularly satisfying achievement this past year was …
2. A new place I thoroughly enjoyed discovering/exploring was …
3. I am so glad I got to meet and spend time with .. S/he really impacted me because …
4. I loved acquiring this skill and/or getting back into this hobby because …
5. I am grateful for doing this spiritual practice …. It made every day more …
6. I will always be glad I took better care of my body/health by …
7. I finally made time for …
8. One way I contributed and gave back was to …
9. Something that really added joy and/or FUN to my life was ….
10. One of the most important ways I changed was to …

Sam Horn’s abbreviated responses to the Review of 2016. Charles Bukowski said, “Time races by like wild horses over the hills.” Taking the time to answer these questions can help you “pilot” your time so you’re making the most of it in the new year.

time-races-by-like-wild-horses-over-the-hills

1. What is a favorite place I discovered, explored or spent time in?
(Sam – swimming with Zach the Dolphin at Marineland in Florida.)

2. Who is someone who really impacted me? How so?
(Sam – Mary Loverde for teaching me to abandon absolutes and that receiving, receiving, receiving is as important as giving, giving, giving.)

3. How did I change?
(Sam – I actually started eating vegetables – can you say kale and spinach?! – in greenies and liked them! Thank you Wildfit!)

4. What was a meaningful achievement (or skill acquired, dream goal realized) I’m proud of?
(Sam – Attended a workshop with Charles Needles and Dewitt Jones in Monet’s Garden in France – and learned to use my iphone camera to produce quote-images I post on Instagram. It’s fun, purposeful and a source of instant creative gratification.)

5. What happened that was unexpected? How did it affect me?
(Sam – Almost passed up an opportunity to speak in China because of unexpected doubts. What was unexpected was it was unlike me to “play it safe.” I re-committed to being adventurous and bold instead of being cautious and wary.)

6. What will I remember about my health – and why?
(Sam – I cracked my ribs and lost my freedom of movement for a few months. Made me re-appreciate what a gift it is to be healthy and to have complete mobility and no pain.)

7. What was my biggest challenge?
(Sam – My biggest challenge on my Year by the Water was learning to see my calendar as having OPEN days vs. EMPTY days so I didn’t revert to a decades-old habit of saying yes and filling my days with commitments.)

8. What did I NOT find time for?
(Sam – Hudson Valley, Walden Pond and the lake where Helen Keller said her first word, “Water,” which is why my Year by the Water is SO not over. )

9. What is the best book I read?
(Sam – Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Proves that “literary” books about the human condition can be kind, insightful and a page-turning read.

10. What experience and/or person am I most grateful for? Why?
(Sam, my sister Cher who runs my business and who I trust implicitly. My sons Tom and Andrew, their wives Patty, Miki, and grandson Mateo for gifting me with a family I love. My friends who bless me with their generosity and positive spirit. My most important lesson-learned? Connection is the current that runs through my life. It my Holy Grail. You are all with me, wherever I am, and I am grateful. )

– – –
Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert, TEDx speaker, author of POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? is on a mission to help people create one-of-a-kind projects that add value for all involved and has worked with Boeing, NASA, Cisco, Intel and National Geographic.

Waiting for Your Ship to Come In?

I was in California recently to speak for the Central Coast Writers Conference. The day before my presentations, I headed to Morro Rock for an early morning walk.

As I explored the waterfront, watching the playful otters float and nurse their babies on their belly, I noticed some people gathered on the shore, eagerly gazing out toward the mouth of the bay. Curious, I walked over and asked, “What’s going on?”

The man closest to me said, “Oh, the San Salvador is arriving this morning.”

san-salvadore

“What’s the San Salvador?”

“It’s a fully-rigged replica of the Spanish galleon – Cabrillo’s flag ship – that discovered California. It should be here any minute.”

What an serendipitous discovery. To put this into context, every morning I listen to Colin Hay’s “Waiting For My Real Life to Begin” with its haunting lyrics about how many of us wait for our ship to come in. It’s a way to remind myself THIS is my real life and it’s up to me to create what I want – not wait for it to show up.

So, I walked to the point, peering through what the locals like to call a “marine layer” for my first glimpse of the ship. There it was emerging from the fog. A magnificent sight. I laughed as this thought occurred, “My ship just came in!”

This story doesn’t stop there. In fact, it just keeps getting better and better.

The next day I closed my conference keynote with the story of that special moment watching the San Salvador sail into the harbor. I added though that:

“Writers don’t wait for their ship to come in; they write their way out to it.

In fact, entrepreneurs – and writers are creative entrepreneurs – launch their ship. At their core, they’re designed and destined to explore. They set sail with their ideas and stories. They do not wait for perfect conditions. They know the value is in the voyage. They understand discoveries don’t happen in inertia. Setting a vision in motion is what makes it tangible which is where you reap the rewards. Writers understand it’s crucial to maintain confidence in their creative venture. Their role, their responsibility, is to launch … always to launch.”

Well, as soon as I launched that story, rewards started showing up.

A woman came up after my keynote and said, “Sam, my brother in law is actually in charge of the San Salvador Project. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you a tour.” Which is how I found myself interviewing Captain Ray Ashley below decks on the San Salvador the following day.

I hope you’re ready, because you cannot make up the stuff you’re about to read. You know what I’ve learned about stories? Fact is more fascinating than fiction.

What Captain Ray Ashley told me is a quintessential example of what can happen when we get an idea – and the facts indicate this can’t work and the finances aren’t there – but we choose to launch anyway.

This true story proves that if we keep the faith that what we’re trying to build is worthwhile – mini-miracles can unfold if we set our project in motion and give community an opportunity to jump onboard.

Here’s what happened.

The San Diego Maritime Museum originated the idea of creating the San Salvador and asked Ray to head up the project. Ray told me, “As a historian, I know it’s important for origin stories to be associated with a physical object. As soon you turn something conceptual into something concrete (think European immigration to America and the Mayflower); people are more likely to relate to it.

So, we thought the discovery of California (by the Spanish, multiple Native American tribes already lived here) would become even more ‘real’ and relevant if we built a working replica of the ship people could see, touch and walk on.”

The only problem? Their research estimated it would cost $6.2 million to build the ship. The entire annual operating budget of the San Diego Maritime Museum was $4.6 million. So, on paper, the facts and finances didn’t add up. Logically, it didn’t make sense to launch the project.

Thankfully, Ray said, the people in San Diego believed this project was worth doing and the project was approved. It was partially due to that incredibly supportive community that the project team made a crucial decision that directly led to the success of their venture.

They decided to build the ship in PUBLIC instead of in PRIVATE.

Ray told me, “If you operate in isolation, if you’re the only one providing the energy, ideas and vision; sometimes that’s not enough. But if you construct a project in public, well, people see what you’re doing and want to get on board. They’re eager to be part of something they can be proud of.

We arranged for the San Salvador to be built in plain sight, right next to a busy freeway. Within weeks, we had 50 volunteers showing up every single day.

These were ‘lay-people’ saying, ‘Put me to work. How can I help?’ and skilled craftsmen – nuclear physicists, shipwrights, architects – offering their years of valuable experience and expertise.

It was a blessing to have such an incredible team of individuals dedicated to making the project a success. And we needed those volunteers because they helped us persevere through one obstacle after another.

For example, our research showed there was only one wood strong enough and dense enough to carry the weight of this ship, and that was white oak.

The challenge is, there’s not much white oak left. We finally found a supplier and, imagine this, bought up the entire world’s supply of white oak.

Now, no tree grows in the shape of a ship. It took us months to mill the wood into the curves of the hull and sides. When that was done, we applied epoxy to about half the wood to make it waterproof. The only problem was, the epoxy was contaminated. Within 48 hours, the wood had started to curl and rot and was basically unusable. As you can imagine, we were devastated.

Thank heaven for the volunteers. When we told them what happened, one said, “You know, you should call this guy Jim who’s kind of an expert on living oak. It’s not white oak, but it’s close. You never know. Might as well check it out.”

Ray contacted Jim, and sure enough, living oak used to be protected but now it’s overgrown and Jim was able to supply them with enough wood to meet their needs … at a price they could afford.

Good news, right? Yes, but it was only a matter of time before they ran into another seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

It was time to embed lead into the hull to provide the necessary ballast, but the price of lead had skyrocketed and they could no longer afford it. So, they launched a creative “Get the Lead Out” campaign and invited people to donate any lead they might have lying around.

Ray said, “People were coming in with their fish weights, etc. We really appreciated what they were doing, but it would take decades to accumulate the amount of lead we needed, a few ounces at a time.

We felt we had run into a dead-end. Once again, our volunteers saved the day. One said, ‘You know, I used to work for this contractor out in the valley that went out of business. I think they used lead for some of their projects. Maybe they still have some left on their property.’

Captain Ray got in touch and explained his situation to the executive. He said, “Well, let me look around and I’ll get back to you.”

The next day he calls Ray and says, “How much lead do you need?”

Ray says, “180,000 pounds.” The guy chuckles and says, “Well, I’ve got 190,000 pounds of lead and you can have it all.”

Fast forward. The ship is almost ready to launch. The challenge now is they have to get this heavy ship from the boatyard across the highway into the water. The problem is, they’re almost out of money and can’t afford to build what will need to be a steel bridge with rollers to transfer the ship.

Once again, their volunteers come to the rescue.

One says, “Well, I have a colleague who owns a home-moving business. I don’t know if he can help but he definitely knows a lot about transporting heavy objects from one place to another. Why don’t you give him a call?”

To make a long story somewhat less long, suffice it to say, this individual had wanted to upgrade his capacity to move heavy equipment like cranes, so he offered to build the steel bridge for the San Salvador – for free – so he could offer this option to his future clients. Another “insurmountable” obstacle surmounted.

If you’ve ever built something, you know that every contractor uses an operational formula called the TCQ – Time, Cost, Quality – Triangle.

Essentially, it states that if you are willing to pay more money, you can increase quality and reduce time. If you don’t have much money, you may have to cut corners on quality. If you take more time, you can increase quality, but it will also increase costs. These three factors are always interacting, always in play.

However, one rule that is almost sacrosanct in the contracting-building-construction-project management industry is that the longer it takes to build something, the more it’s going to cost.

Guess what?

The San Salvador took three times longer than anticipated to build – and came in only a little over its original budget.

How can that be??

Well, I told Captain Ray I think he and the San Salvador team added a side to the TCQ triangle and turned it into a TCQC rectangle.

captain-ray-ashley

I think they proved that if you go public with your venture, if you ask for help and give people ways to contribute – they can actually reduce costs because they’re using their six-degrees-of-separation to connect you with people who can supply your provisions, remove your obstacles and solve your problems.

The San Salvador team demonstrated the mini-miracles that emerge when we build projects with a TCQC – Time Cost Quality Community – Rectangle.

When you involve your community, they bring so much to the table in terms of experience, expertise, energy and strategic alliances, you ultimately reduce costs and time. Perhaps more importantly, you improve the quality of the experience for everyone involved and you scale the reach and positive impact of your venture.

When I visited Captain Ray that day in Morro Bay, there were lines of an hour or two to tour the San Salvador. People had traveled from around the country to see, touch and walk around the ship.

Ray said, “That was our vision and it’s enormously rewarding to see it come true. We gave donors and volunteers an opportunity to hammer their initials into the keel. We’ve had dozens of families show up where the dad or mom or grandparent proudly pointed out the part of the ship they worked on.

They feel like they’re part of the story. They love telling the story of the ship they ‘helped build.’ They’re so proud to be able to put their hands on something they helped bring into being.”

As I wrapped up my time with Ray, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many ways the San Salvador project is a perfect metaphor for my Year by the Water project.

I too launched a venture when the “numbers” weren’t there. I didn’t have a financial sponsor for this trip. If I had focused only on the logical aspects of this venture, (e.g., “Give away 95% of what I own? Set off into the unknown?!”) it didn’t add up, didn’t make sense … on the surface.

But deep down, I knew this was important, what I wanted to do. I too wanted to explore our magnificent country. I too wanted to travel on and visit bodies of water. I too had faith this project would be meaningful for me and others. I too had to maintain my confidence this venture was worth doing – even when there were no guarantees.

I too went public and experienced an outpouring of support. I received gracious emails from my community saying, “Come to this lake where Helen Keller said her first word, ‘Water.” “I live near Walden’s Pond, come visit me.” “You can stay in our vacation home on Chesapeake Bay.” “Hang out on my houseboat in Sausalito.” “I have a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cabin in Pt. Reyes National Seashore. You can write there.”

And I’m here to tell you, a year after launching my “ship,” that the secret sauce of a successful project is indeed … COMMUNITY.

Yes, I’ve enjoyed the many places I’ve had the opportunity to experience. Yet it’s the people I’ve connected with who have made this adventure even more meaningful, even more of a QUALITY experience in every sense of the word.

How about you? What is the project you want to build, the creative venture you want to launch, the dream you want to achieve?

If you juxtapose it, if you put a vertical line down the center of a piece of paper, there may be some fears on the left side. Maybe the numbers don’t add up. If you consider only the facts, figures, left-brain logic, it may not “make sense” to head off into the unknown where there are no guarantees. As long as you stay focused on the left-side of the ledger, your project will stay in the boatyard.

However, if you switch over to the right side of the ledger and focus on your faith that this creative project has value, your belief this adventure is worth doing, the meaning it might have for you and others… it will help give you the confidence and courage to set your creative vision in motion.

When you do launch your dream project, be sure to take it public. Tell people what you’re doing. Share your vision. Invite their input. Ask for their contributions. Enlisting your community adds an all-important ingredient to the equation.

A project that may have been unfeasible because it was dependent on the TCQ Triangle is now feasible because you’re adding the secret sauce of community.

You have just exponentially increased your odds of success because you won’t be operating in isolation, you won’t just be doing this for and by yourself.

You will have a TCQC _ Time Cost Quality Community Rectangle that is leveraging a group of people who are doing everything in their power to help you move your project forward because they are invested in its success.

And isn’t that what we want? Not just a meaningful and productive life where we’re fulfilling our SerenDestiny and the light is on in our eyes, but to have the privilege and opportunity to share what we care about with other people who care about the same things.

What is it you want to do? Don’t just follow that dream; LAUNCH it.

dont-just-follow-your-dreams-launch-them

– – –

Sam Horn, Founder and CEO of the INTRIGUE AGENCY, helps people create respectful, collaborative one-of-a-kind communications and projects that add value for all involved. Her inspiring TEDx talk and keynotes receive rave reviews from such clients as National Geographic, Intel, Cisco, Capital One, NASA, Accenture and Boeing. Her work – including POP!, Tongue Fu!, and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured in New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and NPR and MSNBC.

Want more ways to lead a creatively productive life? Check out Sam’s inspiring Year by the Water updates at her site on SERENDESTINY

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.

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.

know anyone who likes listening to a speech

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.”

Elevator Speech

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 latest book – Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? Discover for yourself why it’s been endorsed by Dan Pink, Miki Agrawal, Terry Jones (founder of Travelocity), Keith Ferrazzi (Never Eat Alone) and Marshall Goldsmith who says it’s a “must for every leader.”

Want your employees and association members to actually enjoy networking at your next event and create more relevant, meaningful conversations? Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to arrange for Sam to deliver her fun, inspiring, interactive keynote that gets everyone interacting and genuinely connecting in the room and in the halls.

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.

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.

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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.