Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #10: Too Much Info Too Soon

August 13, 2009

Here’s the situation:  John was eager to make a good impression.  A  highly qualified individual,  John was was interviewing  for a desirable position.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  John told me the mistake in his own words:  “I just blew an interview,” John said. “I droned on and on about my background for 45 minutes and bored the interviewer. The guy’s eyes glazed over, and I didn’t get called back.” 

In their eagerness to make a good impression, job seekers often provide too much information too soon. They miss the opportunity for a dialogue and the chance to make an impression by targeting the interests of the other party.

Salespeople make the exact same mistake. So do project managers reporting on the outcome of a project. Chances are you make the very same mistake on a regular basis–in e-mails, presentations and proposals. Providing too much information too soon is the top communication mistake.

Here’s the solution:  One of the strategies I recommend to my clients comes from Garr Reynolds–on the topic of simplicity.

Reynolds is right when he says that simplicity is an exercise in subtraction. Conciseness is an exercise in subtraction as well. As you plan a presentation, a project report, an e-mail, a proposal or an interview, ask yourself what is essential to your receiver understanding your message. Subtract everything else.

Once you subtract the nonessential, your communication will become more clear, concise and powerful. What’s more, you’ll open up communication “space” in the situation, which allows you to receive and respond to the interests and concerns of the other party. This is the heart of persuasion.

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Powerful Presentation and Influence Tip: Treat the Context as Critical to Success

July 8, 2008

Today I was reminded of a critical presentation skill while watching Gene Veno, Executive Vice President of the PA Chiropractic Association.  Veno had a mere 10 minutes to state his position about a proposed insurance merger before the PA Department of Insurance.  Since I had consulted with Veno regarding his testimony, I took the opportunity to see him in action.  Veno’s testimony was a success, and in this case at least, his success had very little to do with my consultation.

Veno submitted the written testimony we had worked on, then he used his 10 minutes to extemporaneously address his three main points.  Veno was clear, concise, and on-target.  These things contributed to his success, but none was the essence of his success. 

At the end of Veno’s testimony, Pennsylvania’s Insurance Commissioner, Joel Ario, said how much he appreciated Veno’s involvement with his committee. The Commissioner said something like this, “We appreciate that you bring up specific issues  we need to deal with.  What’s more, you come with solutions and experience that we can apply to those issues.”

Essentially, the Commissioner said to Veno, “We listen to what you say because you are positive, specific, practical, and helpful.  We pay attention to individual pieces of communication you send our way because of the context you have established.”  

It’s a powerful presentation and influence tip:  any individual presentation, no matter how perfect or polished, can stand or fall because of the overall context of the relationship.  The context you establish is critical to success.


Law of Persuasion: Is Likeability Really Important in Business?

March 7, 2008

Technical whiz kids, scientists, and others professionals focus on increasing their skills:  the goal is to be an expert in their chosen field.  While education and expertise are important, researchers now insist that more is needed for success.  The highest levels of achievement come to those who mix expertise with likeability.

Research studies consistently reveal that people respond positively to others whom they like.  People prefer to do business with and to buy products from people they like.  Mitch Anthony, author of Selling with Emotional Intelligence,puts it succinctly, “Likeability is as important as ability.” 

While you may not officially be in sales, you must sell your ideas, your credibility, and your recommendations every day.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Accept the fact that developing likeability is an important success strategy.
  •  Find and mention the points of contact or similarity you have with others.
  • Learn to listen respectfully and to demonstrate an open mind.
  • Engage in small courtesies and expressions of appreciation, regardless of the other person’s formal status.      
  • Learn to keep gossip, unkind words, and disparaging remarks unsaid.
  •  Take time to laugh with others.
  • Choose a likeability mentor—observe and learn from someone who excels in likeability.

Persuasion Technique: Imagine This!

March 3, 2008

An article on the power of suggestion in persuasive communication relays an important lesson for business communicators.  Most of us approach persuasion as an exercise in  logic and statistics.  According to Don Price, we’ll get much better results if we appeal to a person’s imagination (http://searchwarp.com/swa119495.htm).   

Price claims that the power in the words of politicians, sales, and marketing professionals just might be hypnotic.  These folks can mesmerize us, moving us to fall in love with a product or a position by stringing words together in a way that “fires off your imagination” in a persuasive way.  Is this hypnotic?  You decide!  Can it help your next business pitch?  Absolutely!

Price compares a salesperson’s “pitch” to classical hypnosis, as follows (in italics with slight adaptions):

A Salesperson’s communication may go like this:

  •  When you own this home you are going to love holding her in you arms, late at night, while sitting by this fireplace. You’ll create memories to last a lifetime.      
  • Imagine coming home on a cold winter night and snuggling up in front of the warmth of this fireplace.

Classical hypnosis may go like this:

  • As you relax more deeply on the object you’re on, it will begin to feel like you are floating back deeply into a wonderful journey.     
  • You’ll soon discover that your mind will readily absorb all the positive suggestions that I have given you just like a sponge absorbs water.

The structure is the same in the sales communication and classical hypnosis, but the content and verbal suggestion is quite different. All the suggestions set up expectations in the mind of the listener. Our imaginations fill in the blanks as to what the expectations are. The choice of words and the order in which you use them has the power to change how people think and influence the actions they take. 

For the most part, business communicators don’t work to “fire” the imagination.  We say things like, “This fireplace is an asset during cold winter nights.”  There’s no trigger for the imagination, nothing to “grab” the listener’s attention.  In short, there’s no persuasive power. 

Competent business presentations will always contain logic and statistics.  The most powerful ones, however, will also appeal to the imagination, to the deeply held values and desires of individuals and the organization.  In your next formal or informal business presentation, insert the words, “Imagine this. . . !”  You just might tap into some true persuasive power.


Need Power in Your Speech? A Quick Lesson from MLK Jr.

January 21, 2008

On Martin Luther King Jr. day, I always reflect a bit on his “I have a dream” speech and how that speech left its mark on our nation. I feel a little guilt because I don’t want my passion for a good speech to eclipse King’s continuing call to our nation.  That said, have you ever thought about the power of King’s “I have a dream” speech?  

Among other things, King was a dynamic and powerful presenter.  Most people don’t feel they hold a whisper of a chance to match King’s passion.  At the same time, this speech uses a technique that is available to anyone!

King inspired a mixed audience of 200,000 when he gave this speech in Washington in 1963, and today people recognize the refrain and connect it with his name.  Not many remember the details of the speech, but almost every American, from school child to senior citizen, can connect “I have a dream” with the inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

King knew his listeners wanted to believe in the hope of justice, but the obstacles were daunting.  History had been ugly on this point.  Yet, King knew he spoke to people with deep convictions; he made a connection between his cause and the deep dreams of his audience for themselves, their children, and their nation.

Martin Luther King Jr. wove a golden thread of America’s promise and the dream of freedom for all.  In the center of the speech, he repeated a golden refrain, “I have a dream…,” finishing the statement each time with concrete images of racial equality and harmony. 

In a song, it’s the refrain that connects the different verses together; it’s the refrain that sticks in our heads.  In King’s speech, it’s the refrain, “I have a dream” that rings with passion in our nation even today.  We remember it, and it still has power to move us.  This is part of King’s legacy.

As I honor Martin Luther King Jr. today, I am well aware that his example of an outstanding orator is not the most important gift he gave to our nation.  Even so, as a professional speaker and speech coach, I can’t help but appreciate this gift. 

Chances are that your next business presentation won’t be about something as important as racial justice.  Even so, you could make your point with concrete images that touch the priorities of your audience.  You could create a refrain that rings in their ears as they leave the room.  Your speech, while it might not change a nation, could be memorable.  It could make a difference in your sphere of the world.  That’s worth a little effort.  What is your refrain? 
 


Don’t Make this Stupid Mistake #8: Promise to Conclude Your Speech Before You Intend to Conclude

January 9, 2008

Here’s the situation:  Recently I attended a presentation that was relevant to me.  I wanted to be there.  At the same time, a thousand other things were clamoring for my attention that day.  I’m sure you have the same problem.  We all feel we are too busy, and we give our time and attention as a gift.  Effective speakers let their audiences know they are aware of time constraints and will stick to them. 

Here’s the stupid mistake:  Several times, the speaker said “in summary” and then kept talking.  Each time, I began mentally ready for the presentation to be over.  When the speaker kept talking, I became irritated.  It was like he made a promise and then broke it.Looking back, I think this speaker was using “in summary” as a transition between one point and the next.  The problem is that listeners are conditioned to hear this phrase as “this speech is coming to an end!”

Here’s the solution:  Think of the words, “in summary,” or “in conclusion” as a promise that the presentation will be over momentarily.  The audience hears these words as a promise—don’t say the words unless you intend to k Think of the words, “in summary,” or “in conclusion” as a promise that the presentation will be over momentarily.  The audience hears these words as a promise—don’t say the words unless you intend to keep the promise.  When you need a transition, choose a different phrase!

For more stupid mistakes that sabotage your speech, go to http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.


Definition of Influence: The Short Version

December 5, 2007

After years of studying influence, I knew the definition by rote—or I thought I did.  I’ve always seen influence defined in this way:  Influence is the ability to get work done with and through people—without formal authority. 

A statement in a blog entry by Mike Myatt pulled me up short:  Influence is built on making others successful.  Wow—that’s succinct and clear and TRUE!

Classic ways of thinking about influence as getting work accomplished without authority focus on building a base of expertise; building credibility; achieving connection with influential people and sources of information; lending a hand when necessary; appealing to people’s values and convictions; etc.  All these actions are important, but they can be summed up in the simple approach:  Influence is built on making others successful. 

Think about it:  We admire people who make us successful.  We are attracted to them.  And we will do anything we can to support their goals and aspirations.This definition allows us to have a lofty and selfish goal at the same time.  Make a commitment to contribute to someone else’s success every day.  You’ll grow as an admirable person and also as someone who has influence—the ability to get things done without formal authority.