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.

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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 Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com.

 

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?

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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 Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com.

 

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?

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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 Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

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.”

“Why?”

” 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?

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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 Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com

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.)

– – –

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

How to Create a Unique Niche

“When you’re one-of-a-kind, you have no competition.” – Sam Horn, author of POP! and Got Your Attention?
create a unique niche

Do you wish you could:

* figure out what makes you original?

* clarify the secret sauce that makes you different?

* create a competitive edge that motivates decision-makers to pick you?

The good news is, you CAN do all the above. The secret is to create a unique and needed niche that gets you noticed by ideal clients.

Are you thinking, “I know I need to do that; I just don’t know how to do that?”

Join the club. In my 20 years of being a business/branding consultant; I’ve seen many entrepreneurs fail because they couldn’t figure out how they were special.

They weren’t able to differentiate themselves from others in their industry. They never created a winning competitive edge that helped them stand out and succeed.

So, I developed a step-by-step system to help my clients break out instead of blend in.

One of the steps in my system helps you identify what you’re bringing to the table that is special, that people value and are willing to pay for.

In other words, what are you good at? What do you do well that people want and need that they’ll hire you to do for them or teach to them?

Here’s a condensed version of my 4A Process for clarifying the strategic “secret sauce” that makes you special.

Sam Horn’s 4 A Approach to Creating a Unique and Needed Niche

Ask yourself the following questions to start clarifying what you know that other people want to know or want to have done for them.

ACHIEVEMENT: What have you achieved – that other people would like to achieve?

* Did you put yourself through college, build a house from scratch, get your pilot’s license, teach yourself to design websites that make money, retire at 40, launch a successful Kickstarter campaign?

* What did you accomplish that took discipline and perseverance – and other people could benefit from your lessons-learned on how to “stay the course”?

* What skill have you acquired you could reverse-engineer into a step-by-step methodology that will expedite people’s ability to do this fr themselves?

ADVERSITY: What challenges have you overcome – that other people would like to overcome?

· Did you deal with breast cancer, get down-sized, rebound from a difficult divorce, lose all your money in a financial scandal?

· What did you survive – that you could show other people how to survive?

· What did you learn “the hard way” and you want to prevent/minimize that pain for others and give them support so they don’t have to go it alone?

AVOCATION: What is a hobby you’re good at – that other people would like to be good at?

· Do you love to play piano, garden and grow your own vegetables, ride horses, play with smart phone photography – and you could turn that into a metaphor that gives you a fresh approach to a familiar topic?

· What do you do for fun – adventure travel, museum docent, astronomy clubs –that you could share with others who want more fun in their life?

· What do you do that lights you up – and you could integrate it into your job so you’re integrating your passion/profession instead of seeing them as separate?

ATTITUDE: What is a philosophy you have – that others would find relevant, inspiring, beneficial?

· What is an epiphany you’ve had – that could save others trial-and-terror learning?

· What is a favorite motto that keeps you motivated – that others might find helpful?

· What is a contrarian, provocative insight you have– that could open people’s eyes to an outdated/dangerous belief and lead to a transformational aha?

These questions have helped many of my clients leverage their lessons-learned into a successful business and earn a good living doing work they love that matters.

Want a few quick examples of how my clients have used these techniques to leverage their A’s into successful businesses?

Achievement:

Client David Glover is a Naval Academy grad, cancer survivor and world-class Ironman triathlete. However, he’s so much more than that. Check out his website to discover how he’s been able to leverage his A’s into a soul-satisfying business where he’s getting paid to speak, write, coach and direct running races around the country.

Adversity: Christina Grimm grew up in sunny California, playing competitive travel softball from age ten. You can imagine how thrilled she was to receive an athletic/academic scholarship to a Division I school. Unfortunately, their hypercritical coach only focused on what Christina did wrong, never on what she did right. The coach ruined her self-esteem and enjoyment of the game. She ended up leaving after one year, vowing never to play softball again.

Christina is pro-active though and decided that, instead of letting that toxic experience defeat her; she would turn it into a career and mission helping others who were being mistreated. She went back to college and got her PsyD. Her thesis? “The Effect of Coaching on the Self-Esteem of Teen-Aged Girls.” She is now a certified Tongue Fu! – Never Be Bullied Again instructor and offers programs on how to confidently speak up and take responsibility for being treated with the respect you want, need and deserve.

Avocation: A financial adviser wanted to know how she could possibly differentiate herself in that crowded industry. She had impressive credentials as she was frequently featured in the media as a result of her high-profile role for a nationally-known company, but she still needed a competitive edge for her work to stand out in the glut of “instant experts.”

I asked, “What do you do when you’re not working?”

Jan told me, “I play golf.”

I said with a smile, “We’re in business. Why not use smart golf as a metaphor for being a smart investor? You could call your book ‘Go for the Green.’ Talk yourself through a round of golf using each step of the process as an analogy. Your tips on how to make/save par can be used as a parallel for how to make/save money.”

This was strategic positioning as Jan’s target clients were executives and entrepreneurs, many of whom play golf. This was something they valued and wanted to get better at, which increased the likelihood of her being asked to speak at corporate events and association conventions, which often host golf tournaments before their meetings.

Attitude: Julie Jansen, a career coach, wanted a breakout book in her genre but told me, “Sam, all the great titles – like ‘Take This Job and Love It’ – are taken.”

I asked her a series of questions including, “What attitude do your clients have? What is something that frustrates them? What is something you hear, over and over again, when they come into your office?”

She thought about it for a moment, laughed and said, “You know what they all say? ‘I Don’t Know What I Want; But I Know It’s Not This.’”

I told Julie, “THAT’s the title of your book! People will look at it and think, ‘That’s EXACTLY how I feel! People buy books that resonate with them, and that title will resonate with potential readers because it articulates a problem they have they want solved.” Julie’s book has become an evergreen classic because it expresses an attitude and frustration many people in her target market feel.

So, how about you? Are you in a crowded industry? Are you having a hard time standing out? Are you not getting the clients you deserve?

Use this 4A Process to identify what you have to offer that can be turned into a legacy message and unique niche that helps you pop out of your pack. Your “A’s” are a goldmine waiting to be leveraged into a one-of-a-kind competitive edge that helps you stand out from your crowd vs. get lost in your crowd.

– –

Want more ways to create a unique niche that gives you a one-of-a-kind competitive edge? You’ll find them in POP! (which Ken Blanchard says is “an inspiring guide to getting heard, getting remembered, getting results.”) and Got Your Attention? ( presented to NASA, National Geographic, Accenture, ASAE and Ernst Young). Contact Cheri@IntrigueAgency.com to inquire about Sam’s consulting services and to arrange for her to share her inspiring, results-producing insights at your next conference.

Want to Give a Career-Making Talk?

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

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

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

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

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

1. CLEAR

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

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

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

2. COMPELLING.

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

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

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

3. CURRENT

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

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

4. CONGRUENT

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

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

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

5. COMMERCIALLY VIABLE

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

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

6. CONSISTENT

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

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

7. COMPETITIVE EDGE

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

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

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

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

creativity is a roller coaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing works unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – – – – –

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

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.