Coronavirus Resources

We live in unprecedented times. Times of disruption, dramatic change, stress, and uncertainty. 

It’s more important than ever to create communication that is timely, relevant and sensitive to these times of Coronavirus and Covid19. 

It’s important to acknowledge people’s struggles and suffering, and offer options for how to be proactive in the midst of this pandemic. 

These articles and podcasts offer a variety of ways to do that. 

We hope you find them insightful, inspiring and useful. 

Feel free to share them with your family members, employees and community. 

Stay healthy, stay safe, stay in touch. 

How to use words to connect and put people at ease during these troubling times.
How to Be a Master Communicator in Times of Covid19 and Coronavirus.
Tongue Fu! Tips for Being KIND in Times of Covid19
Do you know someone who can’t stop worrying about Coronavirus? These inspiring quotes can help them replace panic with presence and focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong.

That’s a Wrap for Sam Horn’s New LinkedIn Course on Communication

What an honor it was being asked to share my techniques for how to craft crystal-clear, intriguing communications in an online course for LinkedIn Learning.

Thanks to the team above for making our filming such a fun, rewarding experience.

Andy Rooney, who used to give the closing segment on the 60 Minutes TV show said, “Remember, you’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.”

Ouch. If you’ve ever wondered, “How can I motivate people to listen to me when they’re busy and have a lot competing for their attention?”… you’re in the right place.

My course – called “Preparing for Successful Communication” – is a shortcut to you being able to walk into any communication situation with confidence. You’ll learn exactly what to do to design and deliver remarks that command the respect of everyone in the room.

Here are a few testimonials from people who have already received value from the course.

  • This course offers a very rewarding viewing on the art of communication. Sam Horn gives a very engaging performance, and she is captivating our attention and is enthused and genuine about giving us the benefit of her knowledge.
  • The course flow seems natural and unforced, as all aspects of a successful communication session seem covered. The graphics are nice and unobtrusive, emphasizing the points being made in a well-balanced way.
  • The course has a great value-gain feel, whereas no time is wasted and all movies offer essential information. Most of this content can be re-watched as reminders before a speaking engagement (as the author helpfully suggests). Visually, the set and fashion are nice and subtle in focusing our attention to the speaker.
  • The course could easily be offered to all levels of speakers and professionals, as the tips and manner of teaching are high-level and address known issues anyone might have when preparing a presentation. The language and ideas are generalized enough so as to not exclude anyone, and the root of the strategy comes across properly – and memorably – at all times. I especially liked the AIR concept, and may I never forget ‘Tongue-Fu’, for how it tickles my brain, conceptually.
  • Sam Horn is a delightful speaker herself, friendly and warm yet focused and efficiently conveying the tricks of the trade, Highly recommendable communication course.

This short video on READ THE ROOM demonstrates one of the many techniques you can use immediately to create written and spoken communications that win buy-in and help you connect with anyone, anytime, anywhere.  Hope you find it interesting, useful and inspiring.

Do I Have to Be Funny? Only If You Want People to Listen

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” – Victor Borge

A client preparing a TEDx talk told me, “I know humor is important, but I’m not funny. Every time I try to tell a joke, it falls flat. ”

I told him, “That’s why I suggest you DON’T tell jokes. They often come across as forced or false … which causes you to lose your audience. Plus, jokes are ‘made up.’ At some level people are thinking, ‘If you’re making this up, what else are you making up?’ They don’t know whether they can trust you.

The good news is, we all have amusing things happen to us or around us. All you have to notice what makes you laugh that’s relevant to your topic and integrate that TRUE HUMOR into your talk.”

He said, “But I’m speaking on a serious subject. I don’t want to alienate my audience.”

“Here’s the thing. People can only pay attention to serious stuff for so long. They may understand that what we’re saying is important and they’re supposed to listen; but if what we’re saying is complicated, boring or heavy; it may not get through.”

Here’s a story I use in my Tongue Fu!® talks that lightens the mood after discussing ‘dark’ topics such as how to handle bullies, complainers, gossips, blamers and shamers.

“I was in the San Francisco airport heading to my gate on one of those long moving sidewalks. A very tall man was walking the opposite direction. I couldn’t believe it. The people in front of me were pointing at him and laughing. I thought, ‘How rude, there’s no excuse for that.’

When he got closer, I could see why they were laughing. He had on a t-shirt that said in very large letters, “No, I’m NOT a basketball player.”

As he went by, I turned to say something and burst out laughing. The back of his shirt said, “Are you a jockey?”

I had to meet this clever young man so I ran back to catch up with him. I asked, “Where’d you get this terrific shirt?”

“My mom made it for me. I grew a foot between the time I was 16 and 18 years old. I didn’t even want to go outside because everyone had to make a smart aleck remark. My mom told me, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ I’ve got a whole drawer full of these shirts at home. My favorite one says, ‘I’m 6′ 13″ and the weather up here is fine.’”

“This is so smart. You are a walking-talking model of Fun Fu!”

Now it was his turn to laugh. “What’s Fun Fu!?”

“It’s based on something humorist Erma Bombeck said, ‘ If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”

“I can relate to that.  I used to get so annoyed when people brought this up. These shirts have made all the difference. Now I have fun with my height instead of being frustrated by it.”

My client said, “Okay, that’s a fun story. But how do you tie it back into your topic so it’s relevant?”

“Good question. It’s crucial to ‘hook and hinge’ the punch-line of our anecdote back to our point so people understand how it relates to them. The ‘hook’ is the punchline of your story and the ‘hinge” is 1-3 ‘You’ questions.

For example, I might say, ‘Is there something that annoys you? Would you like to have fun with it instead of be frustrated by it? Would you like to brainstorm some comebacks so people no longer have the power to push that hot button?’

By integrating key words from the story into ‘you questions,’ people are now thinking how they can adapt and apply that to their own situation. That’s how to integrate humor so it’s purposeful for everyone in the room, instead of trotting out a joke that falls flat.”

My client asked, “Can I use this technique to make what I write funnier?”

“Absolutely. A friend, Denise Brosseau, spent months working on her Ready to Be a Thought Leader? manuscript. When doing the final proof, she realized it was packed with useful information, but was a bit too serious and wasn’t sure how to lighten it up.

I asked, “What has happened to or around you in the past few months that’s make you laugh out loud that is in some way related to the content in your chapters?”

Bingo. Denise thought of several funny anecdotes, including this, one of my favorites.

Denise was shopping for a shower gift at a Babies ‘R’ Us store near Stanford U. While waiting in the check-out line, a couple in front of her debated the complicated instructions on the crib they were about to buy which had to be assembled from scratch. They nervously asked the cashier, “Will we be able to put this together ourselves?”

The cashier asked innocently, “Do you have college degrees?”

“Oh, yes,” the man assured her, “I have an MBA and my wife has a Ph.D.”

The cashier smiled and said, “Then you’re going to need to hire someone.”

Bada boom. Denise told me, “The cashier’s response was so unexpected, everyone in the area, including me, cracked up. I weave that story into my presentations and it always gets a big laugh. More importantly, it supports my point that advanced degrees can add value, but they’re not required to be a thought leader in your industry.”

Denise is right. Unexpected responses elicit laughs. Do you know how Einstein knew he had a good idea? He laughed out loud.

Erma Bombeck said, “If we can laugh at it, we can live with it.” It doesn’t have to elicit a huge guffaw to be funny. If it elicits a smile that changes a perspective, that causes us to reflect on shared human foibles we all can relate to, that qualifies as “gentle humor.”

From now on, when something unexpected causes you to smile or laugh, write it down. Then, figure out how you can integrate it (and attribute it) into an upcoming communication to give people some comic relief from the “serious stuff.”

Want to see how to integrate humor into a presentation? Many managers tell me they show my TEDx talk at meetings because employees like watching it.  Why? I used a tip from Pretty Woman Director Garry Marshall who told our Maui Writers Conference audience that screenwriters deliberately put a laugh in the first couple minutes of their scrip because they know, “Laugh early, laugh often.”

Research shows that when people laugh in the first few minutes of a film, presentation or book, they conclude it’s funny. They warm to it, decide it will be a good use of their time and attention, and are more likely to laugh from then on.  As Victor Borge points out at the beginning of this post, laughter IS the closest distance between people.

When you watch this TEDx talk, notice the Carrie Fisher (from Star Wars) quote, how it gets a laugh, how I hook and hinge it to the topic, and how it “sets the tone” so we’re off and running … all in the first minute.

Are you going to be giving a TED or TEDX talk, speaking at a conference, business meeting or networking event? Is your message “serious?” If so, how will you win people’s favorable attention with true humor that motivates people to like you and give you and your message a chance? And here’s what NOT to do in the first sixty seconds.

–    –    –    –    –

Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert and TEDx speaker, helps people create communications that add value for all involved. Her work – including Tongue Fu!, POP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – has been featured in New York Times on on NPR and presented to Nationwide, Capital One, YPO, NASA, Cisco, IntelWant Sam to share her fun and inspiring keynote with your group? Contact


Why Never to End a Talk with “Thank You” – and What To Do Instead

Do you know how most speakers, managers and committee chairs wrap up their presentations and meetings? “Thank you for listening.” “We’re out of time. That’s it for today,” or “If you have any questions, please let me know.”

Talk about leaving results on the table! From now on, instead of trailing off or ending with a passive close that doesn’t inspire followup, plant specific action seeds such as:

“What is one thing you’ll do differently when you get back to the office tomorrow?”

“What exactly are you going to say if potential clients object to our fee?”

“When you get home tonight, where will you post your reminder card?”

“What tangible results will you report back at our Monday morning meeting?”

“At our next break, at 2:30 . . .”

In fact, those four words “At our next break …” helped an entrepreneur named Marcia motivate a room full of investors to follow-up with her. Marcia was scheduled to give a funding pitch for her startup in the afternoon following lunch. She was worried audience members would be half asleep, so we crafted a sixty second close to make sure people were crystal clear how they could follow up with her. Here’s what she said:

“I’m Marcia, the one with the white, spiky hair … .

At our next break at 2:30, I’ll be at our table in the right-hand corner of the lobby.

If you’d like a product demonstration, a copy of our financial projections, or would like to meet our CTO to discuss our patented software; you’re welcome to come by.

Once again, I’m Marcia with the white, spiky hair. I look forward to seeing you at 2:30.”

Guess who was surrounded by people at the next break? You’re right, Marcia. Why? She was the only one who gave three specific ways and reasons to continue the conversation. She:

* Repeated her name in her close to imprint it. (Think about it. After a long day, how many speakers’ names can you recall? And if we don’t know someone’s name, we’re not likely to approach them.)

* Made a visual self-reference so she stood out in the crowd. (This is not trivial. How will people be able to pick you out in a sea of suits unless you give them a colorful clue such as, “I’m Bob, the one in the green jacket” or “I’m Patricia, in the red suit.”)

* Identified a specific time and location where people could connect with her. (Don’t be vague. Say, “I’ll be by the front desk from 3-4 pm.” Or “You’re welcome to call me during office hours on Monday between ten and noon.” Or “I’ll be back in Texas September 3rd and would be glad to schedule an in-person appointment.”

* Offered three incentives for continuing the conversation. (Far too many people trail off with a passive, “Please let me know if you have any questions.”)

By the way, do you notice a pattern in these suggestions? They offer people OPTIONS instead of giving them ORDERS.

Do you know anyone who likes to be ordered around? Telling people, “You need to” “You have to” or “You should” elicits a “Grr, you’re not the boss of me” reaction. Offering a variety of strategic choices gives people the freedom and autonomy to select a course of action that’s most appealing and relevant to them. They are a lot more likely to initiate action – because they want to, not because they’re being told to.

Pilot Chuck Yeager said, “At the moment of truth, there are either reasons or results.” What will you do at the end of your meeting to increase the likelihood people take action and produce beneficial results as a result of their time with you?

– – –

Want more ways to communicate and connect? Check out Sam Horn’s books, Tongue Fu!, POP!, IDEApreneur, Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? and her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE.  Discover why her keynotes receive raves from Intel, Cisco, NASA, Accenture, Capital One, National Geographic and why they’ve been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, Fast Company. Want Sam to share her INTRIGUE techniques with your group? Contact


Never Start Your Presentation with “First, Let Me Tell You About Myself”

I have actually SEEN audience members roll their eyes as soon as a speaker says, “First, let me tell you a little about myself.” Why?

#1. It’s rarely a little. It’s often a litany of achievements that quickly becomes INFObesity.

#2. It clearly transmits the speaker thinks s/he is the most important person in the room.

#3. It assumes people in the room want to know more about you. Which is bordering on egotism since, chances are, people have already read your bio in the program brochure – or they just heard your introduction.

#4. It presumes your credentials are what gives you your authority and is what will motivate people to listen to you. Nope. Delivering relevant, useful insights is why people will choose to give you their valuable attention.

So, how CAN we begin a presentation?

Well, there are lots of ways to pleasantly surprise people and let them now they’re in for a treat.  Here’s just one approach that can work well.

Share a favorite quote and then hook and hinge it back to your topic, the purpose of the meeting, or your audience’s goals.

For example, I sometimes share Arthur Rubenstein’s “I have found if you love life; life will love you back” and then segue into, “I love this program. To help you love it back, I promise NOT to waste your valuable time, mind and dime on ivory tower theories that aren’t relevant to your world. Instead we’re going to focus on real-life ideas you can use immediately to improve your effectiveness on and off the job. Sound good? Let’s go.”

Or you can say, “Richard Branson said, ‘Time is the new money.’ I think time is the new TRUST. You’ve carved time out of your busy schedule to be here. For you to TRUST this is going to be a good use of your time, here is our agenda. I promise we will stick to it and wrap up on time.”

Or perhaps you could share Carrie Fisher’s quote, “Instant gratification takes too long” and then say, “You may be wondering how this program will be an ROI for you. Well, here are three ways it can benefit you THIS WEEK. The first way is …”

Or you might want to quote someone who is a respected thought leader in your profession and tie their quote into the theme of your meeting.

For example, “Jeff Bezos said, ‘The only danger is not to evolve.’ It is time for us to evolve the way we approach our customers. The purpose of our meeting today is to focus on how we can do that starting this month so we regain our market-share and start making the profits we all want, need and deserve.”

Are you thinking, “Aren’t there exceptions to this? What if I’m speaking to skeptics and they won’t listen to me unless they know I’m an expert?”

If that’s the case, make sure your relevant background is included in your bio in the program brochure AND referenced in the formal introduction from the emcee. OR distill it into a succinct opening such as, “You may be thinking, ‘Who are you, and why can we be confident you know what you’re talking about?’ Good question. Here’s a 60 second background of my credentials so you can trust that the best practices I’ll be sharing today are based on real-world experience you can apply immediately.”

By mentioning that you’re keeping your bio to 60 seconds, you let participants know you understand they want proof of your expertise, you’re happy to provide it, and your priority is to focus on delivering bottom-line value to them.

Why is this so important? Because the clock starts ticking the second you start talking.

People make up their mind in the first 60 seconds whether you’re worth listening to. If they’re not convinced in the first minute this will be relevant and useful to them, they’ll start checking email, sending texts or looking for an exit.

So, what’s an important presentation, pitch or meeting you’ve got coming up?

How will you pleasantly surprise people with an opening that causes them to think, “I’m glad I’m here. If THIS is an example of your approach, intent and priorities, I’m in.”

Or if it’s a tough crowd, at least they’ll think, “This isn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be. I’m going to give you a chance.”

Either way, you’ll have EARNED everyone’s attention, and isn’t that what we all want?

– – –

Want more ways to quickly connect? Check out Sam Horn’s books POP!, Tongue Fu! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? and her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE.  Discover why her work ahs been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, Fast Company and presented to Intel, Cisco, NASA, Accenture, Capital One, YPO and EO. Want Sam to speak to your group? Contact

60 Inspiring Quotes from Women Leaders, Entrepreneurs and Founders

“Life may give you a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” – Joyce Meyers

A prospective client sent me his power point deck for his upcoming presentation. He asked for my feedback and I shared my opinion that it would be more effective if he had a better balance of quotes. He asked, “What do you mean?”

I said, “Good for you for featuring intriguing quotes to illustrate your points.. The only thing is, they’re almost all from what my interns call ‘triple name dead white guys” like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. They were wise men, but there are wise women you can quote who would add value and diversity.”

He said, “Sam, I looked, but I couldn’t find any great quotes on my topic.”

I told him I’ve been collecting profound quotes from women to feature in my upcoming book SOMEDAY is Not a Day in the Week, and promised to share them here. Hope you find them as intriguing and inspiring as I do.

Feel free to share this post with others – and use these quotes (with attribution to their originator) to get people’s eyebrows up. Read ’em and reap (and credit).

“Life is too short to live the same day twice.” – Jennifer Lopez

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” – Connie Schultz

“You have to make mistakes to figure out who you aren’t.” – Anne Lamott

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”- Malala Yousafzai

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” – Maya Angelou

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.” – Lucille Ball

“Dream long, plan short.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“The life you’ve led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

“You can’t give up! If you give up, you’re like everybody else.” – Chris Evert

“Stop wearing your wishbone where you backbone ought to be.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

“We are better than we think and not yet what we want to be.” – Nikki Giovanni

“We repeat what we don’t repair.” – Christine Langley-Obaugh

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand

“You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

“When you can’t keep up; connect.” – Mary Loverde

“A surplus of effort can overcome a deficit of confidence.” – Sonia Sotomayor

“Perhaps we never really appreciate anything until it is challenged.” – Anne M. Lindbergh

“Love is within reach of every hand.” – Mother Teresa

“Our life is our lab.” – Sam Horn

“I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life.” – Louise Hay

“The moment of change is the only poem.” – Adrienne Rich

“It’s the second act that has the happy ending.” – Lisa Alter Mark

“I firmly believe you never should spend your time being a former anything.” – Condoleezza Rice

“Be brave enough to be your true self.” – Queen Latifah

“Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem

“When someone shows you who they are; believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

“The next road is always ahead.” – Oprah Winfrey

“The world is not made up of atoms; it’s made up of stories.” – Muriel Rukeyser

“It is the ability to choose which makes us human.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“The best teachers show you where to look; they don’t tell you what to see.” – A. K. Trenfor

“She was twice blessed. She was happy. She knew it.” – Jan Struther

“We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our to-do list.”- Michelle Obama

“Fear is borning.” – Olympia Dukakis

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker

“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere.” – Belle in Beauty and the Beast

“Cherish forever what makes you unique, cuz you’re really a yawn if it goes.” – Bette Midler

“I get nervous if I don’t get nervous. You just have to channel it into the show.” – Beyonce’

“The way we do anything is the way we do everything.” – Martha Beck

“I want to be a spy for hope.” – Katherine Patterson

“Mistakes are doorways to discovery.” – Sam Horn

“If you don’t like my book, write your own.” – Rita Mae Brown

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

“Blessedness is within us all.” – Patti Smith

“Don’t tell it like it is. Tell it like you want it to be.” -Esther Hicks

“We must all make the choice between what is right and what is easy.” – J.K.Rowling

“All I know is my life is better when I assume people are doing their best.” – Brene Brown

“You become what you believe.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Joy is a net by which you catch souls.” – Mother Teresa

“People can’t jump on your bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage.” – Sam Horn

“I don’t think my story is over yet.” – Serena Williams

“If you can laugh at it. You can live with it.” – Erma Bomback

“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself.” – Coco Chanel

“Anything is possible if you have the right people supporting you.” – Misty Copeland

“Growth isn’t pretty, but it can be beautiful.” – Sonia Choquette

“You carry the passport to your own happiness.” – Dianne von Furstenberg

“Keep your face to the sun and you cannot see the shadow.” – Helen Keller

“We were made for these times.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

“It’s not selfish to put yourself in your own story; it’s inspiring.” – Sam Horn

You can waste your lives drawing lines. Or you can live your life crossing them.” – Shonda Rhimes

“It is a luxury to combine our passion with our contribution.” – Sheryl Sandberg

“If there were a rehab for curiosity; I’d be in it.” – Diane Sawyer

“I believe life loves the lover of it.” – Maya Angelou

“Don’t let them tame you.” – Isadora Duncan

“Go on. Do your work. Do it well. It is all you can do.” – Ursula LeGuin

“No one can figure out your worth but you.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron

“Let me listen to me, and not to them.” – Gertrude Stein

“Life expands or contracts in proportion to your courage.” – Anais Nin

“Knowing what must be done does away with fear.” – Rosa Parks

“The most important things in life aren’t things.” – Ann Landers

“I no longer accept what I can’t change. I change what I can’t accept.” – Angela Davis

“Dreams in your head help no one.” – Sam Horn

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get less than you settled for.” – Maureen Dowd

“What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – singer Colette

“Guard your good mood.” – Meryl Streep

“To do what you love and feel it matters; how can anything be more fun?” – Katherine Graham

“My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” – Esther Hicks

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

“The present we’re constructing should look like the future we’re dreaming.” – Alice Walker

“Exhaustion is not a status symbol.” – Brene Brown

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.” – Simone Biles

– – –

Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency, has helped hundreds of clients create one-of-a-kind books, brands and presentations. Her TEDx talk and books Tongue Fu!, POP!,and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? have been featured in NY Times and presented to YPO, Boeing, Intel, NASA, Cisco, Capital One, National Geographic. Want Sam to share her inspiring keynote with your group? Contact


Share Your Story

A client preparing a presentation told me, “I know it’s important to share stories, but I don’t have any.”

I told her, “We ALL have stories. Stories are simply the intriguing things that happen to or around us that are relevant to our topic and purpose.”

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

I told her, “The good news is, story-telling is a skill. Anyone can learn it. And it’s important. Even in business, the more you illustrate your ideas with TRUE stories, the more people will listen, remember what you say and be motivated to act on it.”

She said, “Okay, I agree with you in theory, but it’s hard to do in practice. Is there some kind of template I can follow that shows me how to tell a good story?”

“Yes.” I shared my step-by-step S.C.E.N.E. approach with her to show how she can re-enact relevant, real-life stories that prove her point and make her content come alive.

She said, “I wish someone had given me this years ago.You should share this with more people. I bet they need it as much as I do.”

Done. First, I’ll start with a story to show how to turn something intriguing that happens to you into a business story that wins buy-in to what you’re recommending/requesting.

Several summers ago, I realized I was spending way too much time sitting. I went online, registered for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim and vowed to swim four times a week and try out every one of the twenty public pools in my community.

One day, after being a desk potato with consults, I decided it was time to get up, get outside, get moving. I jumped in my van and went “pool shopping.” I drove by a pool I hadn’t seen before tucked behind some shade trees. I hung a U, parked and went in.

As soon as I walked in and saw one of those mushroom-shaped water fountains, I knew I’d found the “family” pool. The place was packed with kids having fun playing “Marco … Polo …” (It did my heart good to know kids still play Marco Polo.)

I settled in on a chaise lounge next to a woman watching her three young kids swim. Just then, a man in a business suit walked in. The three kids bounded out of the pool and ran to meet him, “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 playing 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.

Suddenly, he looked up at his wife and said, almost in a state of wonder, “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 5 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 time everything was right with their world.

So, what’s this got to do with stories? As soon as that happened, I knew it was “story gold.” Story gold is anything evocative, moving, profound, funny or insightful that causes a shift. When we’re lucky enough to witness something intriguing that catches our attention, it will probably capture our listeners/readers’ attention. First we’re grateful, then we figure out how this could be relevant to an upcoming business presentation, conference program, staff meeting or writing project.

For example, imagine you’re concerned about the health and wellness of your employees and want them to become more physically active.

You could start by warning them about the dangers of sitting for hours at at a time.  You could cite research 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 true story SHOWING how someone chose to stop being sedentary and it led to a happier, healtheir life. You could begin with a real-life example of someone you know (maybe even you?) who replaced a long-time default of being sedentary with a new default that benefited them and the people around them.

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 be receptive to real-life stories because they don’t feel lectured or like they being “shoulded” upon.

True stories give people a Socratic opportunity to relate to a story (“Hmmm … that’s what I’m doing, thinking, feeling”) and make up their own mind – come to their own decision- that this is something they want to stop, start or do differently.

Furthermore, when we hear a speaker share a real-life example, we trust this actually happened and isn’t “made up.”This goes to trust. When a speaker puts him or herself in the story and confesses that they have done/felt this, they set an “I’ll go first” precedent. We’re more likely to identify with that person and warm to them because they’re not putting themselves on a pedastal where they’re “talking down” to us.

Are you thinking, “I agree with this, but I’m not good at telling stories?”

Many people aren’t taught how to tell stories. They try to tell a story of something that happened a long time ago (or to someone else) and it flops because it’s not relevant or interesting to the audience. They think, “I’ll never do that again.”

The good news is, this 5 step approach helps you relive a real-life event so it’s relevant and helps your content come alive. It shows how to put people in the S.C.E.N.E. so your listeners are there with you, experiencing what you experienced.


S = SENSORY DETAIL:  Start with WHERE to put us THERE. Describe the surroundings with just enough detail so we feel we’re standing right next to you and are picturing it in our mind’s eye. What did it look like? Smell like? Feel like? Sound like?

C = CHARACTERS:  WHO is there? Describe the individual(s) involved so we can see them and know what mood they’re in. Are they sad, mad? Happy, excited? If you want us to CARE about your CAREacters, flesh them out so we have a “feel” for them.

E = EXPERIENCE IT:  Robert Frost said, “No joy in the writer, no joy in the reader.” I think, “No emotion in the speaker, no emotion in the listener.” This may be the 10th time you’ve told this story, but if you’re just reading from a teleprompter or repeating what you’ve memorized, we won’t be engaged because you’re not engaged. Put yourself back in the scene. Ee-experience it as if for the first time, then re-enact it in the prensent tense as if it’s happening NOW. You will feel what you felt then – and so will we.

N =NARRATIVE: Why can we read novels for hours at a time and it’s not hard work? It’s because authors use dialogue. If a story doesn’t have dialogue, it’s not a story. Narrative – what’s being said and by whom – is a non-negotiable if you want your story to come alive and sound and feel real. When you re-enact the conversation with comma/quotes “(i.e., “He said, “Why don’t we change our default.” She said, ”Why don’t we?”) we feel we’re right in the middle of the conversation.

E = EPIPHANY: What is the lesson-learned, happy ending, problem solved, the shift, the aha where everything comes together and suddenly makes sense? Every story needs a “moral of the story” so it serves a relevant purpose and the audience gets the point.

Speakers used to be taught to “Make a point, tell a story.” I believe, in these days of short attention spans where goldfish have longer attentions than we do, that’s badvice. If you’re long, they’re gone. It’s smarter to start with a relevant, real-life story because it will prove your point better than anything else.

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.”

Do you have a cause you care about? A project you want funded or approved? An important idea or message you want people to act on?

If you want it to succeed, share a TRUE STORY that shows precedence (where and how this has worked before somewhere else) so people trust it and will be more likely to say yes to it.

Relevant, well-told stories create commonality which is how we connect.

And isn’t that point of all communication? To connect, always to connect.

– – – –

Sam Horn, Founder/CEO of the Intrigue Agency and TEDx speaker, is on a mission to help people create quality communications that add value for all involved. Her books – including IDEApreneurTongue FuPOP! and Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? – have been featured on NPR and in New York Times, Forbes, INC and presented to Intel, NASA, Boeing, Cisco, ASAE, National Geographic, YPO, Accenture and Capital One. Want Sam to speak to your group? Contact


Never Again Give An Elevator SPEECH

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

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

Speeches are lectures. Who wants to be lectured?

That’s why, from now on, when someone asks, “What do you do?” never again TELL them.

What?! Here’s an example to show what I mean.

Years ago, I was on a speaking tour with my sons. We had a night free in Denver, so we went downstairs to the hotel lobby 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 instinctively 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.

Want to Connect? Turn Monologues into Dialogues

Why did that work so well? He turned a one-way elevator speech (aka monologue) into a two-way elevator connection (aka dialogue).

Here’s an example to show 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 like this all the time, but I often hide out in my hotel room because I’m so uncomfortable with small talk. Plus, I work in tech. My job is complicated. I can never explain it in a way that people understand it. It’s so awkward, I rather just avoid receptions and hall chat.”

I asked, “Want to play and brainstorm a way to introduce yourself that isn’t confusing and that can actually lead to meaningful conversations and connections?”

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

I asked, “What are the end 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 purchases, 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 tell people, ‘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 closethe conversation; you want to create a conversation.”

“So what do I do instead?”

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 experienced 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, confirm your connection by linking 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.’

Their eyes will probably light up and their eyebrows will probably go up. Both are signs of an intrigued connection.

People now relate to you and what you do. They have a relevant hook on which to hang a conversation and are more likely to want to continue the conversation. All in 60 seconds and all because you engaged them instead of lectured them. ”

He actually got a little misty-eyed and told me, “I can’t wait to get home after this conference.”


” I can finally tell 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 and your co-workers say when asked, “What do you do?” Do your responses cause crunched-up eyebrows (a sure sign of confusion)?

If so, you’re closing doors and losing opportunities for yourself and your organization. Why not turn your next staff meeting into a brainstorming session where everyone crafts two-way introductions that open doors and engage people in mutually-rewarding conversations that are a win for all involved?

–    –    –    –    –    –

This is excerpted from Sam Horn’s Washington Post bestseller Got Your Attention? and her TEDx talk on INTRIGUE.  Sam’s keynotes receive raves from clients including Intel, Cisco, NASA, Accenture, Boeing, Capital One, Nationwide, and her work has been featured in New York Times, Forbes, INC, Fast Company; and endorsed by Dan Pink, Stephen Covey, Seth Godin and Tony Robbins. Want Sam to share these tips with your group? Contact

Two businessmen shaking hands


Is the Light On in Your Eyes? How to Lead a Life of SerenDestiny

you'll never regret - red rocks - middle

I recently spoke for a national convention on the topic of “Is the Light On In Your Eyes?”  I started by saying many of us spend more time reflecting on what movie to watch this weekend than on what we’re going to do with the rest of our life.

Many of the audience members had been running their business for 10-30 years. Many work long hours and haven’t taken a vacation for years because they have so many people counting on them.

Some are ready to retire, but don’t know what they can do NEXT that is as satisfying and productive as what they’re currently doing. Some don’t have a succession plan in place and don’t want to see the business they built go down the drain.

I shared a quiz to help them figure out in 4 minutes what’s working in their life, what’s not, and what’s missing.

One of the ideas we talked about is how to integrate our passion into our profession.” Many people told me they don’t have time to what they used to love to do because they’re too busy. I told them, they can COMBINE what puts the light on in their eyes with their CAREER – instead of seeing them as being mutually exclusive.

Here’s what I mean.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of sharing breakfast with Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, the largest networking organization in the world. After hearing about my full calendar of speaking, consulting and traveling, he asked, “What do you do for fun?”

Long pause. I finally dug deep and came up with “I walk my dog around the lake.”

Please don’t get me wrong. I love what I do. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do work that makes a positive difference … it’s just that I was going 24/7.

That conversation and several other wake-up calls motivated me to set out on a Year by the Water. I didn’t abandon my business … I just took it on the road. As James Taylor said when he took a break from touring for a year to compose new lyrics and produce a new album; “I didn’t quit work – I did a different kind of work.”

What I’ve learned along the way disrupted everything I thought I knew about what true success and being a good person looks like: I discovered:

* we don’t have to be torn between two worlds – we can have the best of both worlds.

* hard-work is over-rated – fun is not a four letter word

* it’s not always better to give than to receive

* people can’t jump on our bandwagon if it’s parked in the garage

* change doesn’t require courage – it requires trusting that the only way to know is to go

* to create the quality of life we deserve, we need to stop watering dead plants

* it’s not selfish to put yourself in your own story

* waiting is a prescription for regrets

* we can can combine work and recreation and leverage what we’re good at – for good

* someday is not a day in the week

* we don’t have to put aside what puts the light on in our eyes – we can integrate it into our daily life in a way that makes us even more balanced and blessed.

Want an example of what I mean?

When I lived on Maui, I played tennis with Kathy, a 4.5  player and Realtor. Then, the economy slumped and she quit tennis because she was so busy finding clients.

I suggested her hobby wasn’t an indulgence – it was a competitive edge. I suggested she approach the concierges at the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (both 5 diamond properties catering to affluent travelers – Kathy’s target demographic) and offer to play tennis with guests looking for a good game of singles. They started recommended her because she’d lived on the island for years, was a respected member of the community, and they trusted her to make this a good experience for their guests.

This turned into a win for everyone. Within a month, Kathy was back to playing tennis 3-5 times a week AND had several new clients buying houses. She didn’t offend anyone with hard selling. It was natural while sharing an iced-tea after a satisfying match, guests would ask “What do you do?” When they discovered she was a Realtor, they often ask if she had any properties of interest. Not only was Kathy back to being outside doing what put the light on in her eyes – it became an organic marketing tool that kept her visible and became her secret sauce to success in a down market.

Want to figure out how you can do more of what puts the light on in your eyes?

Check out my SerenDestiny site where I share posts on what a meaningful life looks and feels like for me and for dozens of people I’ve interviewed for my upcoming book Chase Meaning Not Clicks.  Hope you find these quotes, stories and insight inspiring and they help you create a more fulfilling life now … not someday.

Top 30 Quotes on Curiosity and Creativity

“Creativity is simply connecting new dots in new ways.” – Sam Horn, Intrigue Expert creativity connecting new dots - middle

If you’e read any of my books or attended any of my presentations, you already know I love quotes. Why? Pithy, profound, provocative quotes are a quick way to get our message’s foot in our readers’, viewers’ and listeners’ mental door. When we introduce something people haven’t heard before; they want to know more.

The thing is, the quotes need to be FRESH. If we launch into a quote people have seen or heard before, it’s more likely to earn a groan than an intrigued “Tell me more.”

Here are my favorite 30 quotes on creativity and curiosity. Hope you enjoy them and are able to use them to craft intriguing communications that elicit curiosity in your topic. I’ve added a sample of how each quote could offer fresh insight into a subject you’re addressing.

1. “If there were a rehab for curiosity; I’d be in it.” – CBS news anchor Diane Sawyer (Thankfully, there is no cure for curiosity. It’s one of the healthiest ways to live life.)

2. “I think we need a 12-step group for non-stop talkers. We’re going to call it On and On Anon.” – Paula Poundstone (We’re curious only when we’re listening and genuinely interested in understanding what the other person means – not when we’re talking).

3. “Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.” – James Stephenson (Instead of trying to summon up courage – summon up curiosity.)

4. “I am in love with hope.’ – Tuesdays with Morrie Author Mitch Albom (Pessimism is an absence of hope or curiosity in how we can create a better future).

5. “There’s no such thing as a wrong note as long as you’re singing.” – singer Pete Seeger (There’s no wrong in creativity – the whole idea is to do it your way.)

6. “The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.” – columnist Maureen Dowd (Compromise is often the death of curiosity; it means we’re giving up on finding a new way, a better way.)

7. “There is moment in every child’s life where a door opens and lets the future in.” – author Graham Greene (The goal is to be aware when a creative opportunity presents itself – instead of being so busy we overlook it.)

8. “What a wonderful life I’ve had. I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – singer Colette (Part of a creative life is being grateful for life’s wonders now, not someday.)

9. “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, ‘I am with you, kid. Let’s go.’” – author Maya Angelou (Curiosity isn’t passive – it’s an energetic embracing of life).

10. Before there were drawing boards, what did we go back to?” – comedian George Carlin (A good sense of humor – and being curious to find more effective ways of doing things – is at the heart of creativity.)

11. “Guard your good mood.” – Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep (Being in a bad mood kills creativity and curiosity because they require positive energy.)

12. “To do what you love and feel that it matters; how could anything be more fun?” – Katherine Graham of the Washington Post (If you’re having fun, it’s a good sign you are being curious and creative.)

13. Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – e. e. cummings (Yes, curiosity rests on a fundamental belief that the human spirit is a blessing to be experienced, not protected.)

14. “Teachers affect eternity. Who knows where their influence will end?’ – Henry Brooks Adams (If we can teach our kids anything, it’s that curiosity and creativity are encouraged and welcomed, not stifled and shut down.)

15. “I have the world’s best job. I get paid to hang out in my imagination all day.” – author Stephen King (Imagination + Curiosity = Creativity.)

16. “Let us then, be up and doing.” – author Longfellow (It’s not enough to believe in the importance of curiosity and creativity, we must ACTIVATE it in our everyday lives.)

17. “I have found if you love life, life will love you back.” – composer Arthur Rubenstein (A heartfelt yes to this quote – one of my favorites. Loving and appreciating life is at the core of creativity and curiosity.)

18. “Everyone thinks of changing the world, no one thinks of changing himself.” – author Leo Tolstoy (Instead of simply recommending what others should do, we must go first, set the example and model the creative change we’re suggesting).

19. “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” – Zora Neale Hurston (Instead of getting ahead of ourselves and jumping to conclusions; research requires that we be open to discovery and that our playing be purposeful.)

20. “It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. Intuition tells the thinking mind where to look next.” – Jonas Salk (Creativity calls for us to honor intuitive nudges that are pointing us in new directions, pointing out new options.)

21. “”The world was shocked to learn I wrote a bestseller at 66. No matter how long you live, you have stories to tell. What else is there to do but head off on the Conestoga wagon of the soul?” – Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes (The good news is, we can be creative at any age if we keep our curiosity alive.)

22. “The purpose of life is to . . . matter; to feel it has made some difference that we have lived at all.” – Leo Rosten (One of the surest ways to make an enduring difference is to create a new way, a better way, to live life and do business).

23. “When you can do a common thing in an uncommon way; you will command the attention of the world.” – inventor George Washington Carver (by definition, creativity is looking for an uncommon answer. If it’s common, it’s not creative.)

24. “Creativity is based on the belief that there’s no particular virtue in doing things they way they’ve always been done.” – Rudolph Flesch (Turn status quo into status grow. Don’t be content to do same-old, same-old.)

25. “Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” – William Ward (May we keep the fires of curiosity burning – and light the way with our creativity).

26. “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity. – Eleanor Roosevelt (I agree. Einstein called this “knowledge curious;” and I did everything I could while my sons Tom and Andrew were growing up to encourage and support their curiosity – because as long as we’re curious about life’ we’ll always be engaged and eager to discover what’s next.)

27. “The travel impulse is mental and physical curiosity. It’s a passion. And I can’t understand people who don’t want to travel.” – Paul Thoreaux (This is why I set off on my Year by the Water. It grew out of a mental and physical curiosity about wanting to explore the many parts of this intriguing world I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to experience – out of an innate passion to discover what over the next knoll.)

28. “You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them. Sir Ken Robinson (Have you seen Sir Ken Robinson’s #1 rated TED talk about how schools are killing creativity? He’s right. As leaders, teachers and parents, we need to create a climate conducive to creativity and curiosity – and that means not punishing people when they come alive with excitement and are bursting with creative energy.)

29. “Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for business people looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.” – Twyla Tharp (I listened to Twyla Tharp’s excellent The Creative Habit while traveling across America. She says, “Every creative project needs a spine. What’s yours?” Mine is connection, for when we’re curious about what’s happening to and around us, we’re deeply connected.)

30. “It may be that our cosmic curiosity… is a genetically-encoded force that we illuminate when we look up and wonder.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson (Yes, looking up, looking out and looking around in wonder is the quintessence of curiosity.)

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