Eliminate the sales conversation altogether

What if you could almost entirely bypass that awkward sales process?

Turns out, many times you can if you implement this one beautiful strategy. (I don’t expect this to shock you, coming from me. But I do hope it will inspire you to take real action on it!)

Here’s how this magic strategy has served my own lack of love for the “sales conversation.” I think you’ll see how it can work perfectly in your business, too, when you hear these two quick stories.

Also – special note! As mentioned in the video, stay tuned early next week for the most accessible, awesome offering I have ever pulled together in my many years in business. Can’t wait to share it with you!

How to Book More Speaking Opportunities

Coffee break at business meetingI walked into the mostly empty restaurant and immediately saw the gathering of women around a table at the back. Since it was only 7:30am, the only business going on at this lunch and dinner spot was this networking event and a lot of glass and plate clinking during table set up. I walked up to the registration table and said “Hello” to the lovely woman handing out name badges. As I pinned my badge to my sweater, a bright light of a woman greeted me.

After a kind greeting, we shared about our kids, where we live and, eventually, about our businesses. When I told her I’m a speaking coach, she gave me this look that has become quite familiar. It’s a mix of “oh dear, she’s going to be analyzing my speaking…” and “ooh, a speaking coach! How unusual!” This look is usually followed by something like, “Well, I’m the speaker today so I can’t wait to hear what you think of my presentation!” Which is essentially what this woman said to me that morning as well.

So, as I always do when this happens, I reminded her that she clearly has beautiful, bright energy and she obviously came prepared (supplies for an interactive exercise were already on the table). I suggested that she simply take a few deep belly breaths and enjoy sharing her awesome expertise, just as she planned. I invited her to talk with me afterward if she had anything she wanted to debrief about the presentation but that I was already certain we were in for a fun, engaging learning experience.

As the morning session drew to a close, I approached her and told her what a lovely time I had. She asked me for my feedback on her presentation and I gave her very specific things that I thought went beautifully. (It really was an excellent, engaging presentation.) I asked her what she thought of her presentation. We talked about it for a few minutes and I thanked her again for her wonderful interactive exercise.

Then, I asked if she thought this group would enjoy a presentation on how to use speaking to attract clients. Before I even finished my sentence, she flung into scheduling action. “Oh my gosh, absolutely! When do you want to speak – April, May? That will be perfect!”

By the time I left, I had secured a spot as the presenter at the April meeting of these passionate business owners, a room full of my ideal clients. Needless to say, I was giddy happy!

Let me tell you, though – I haven’t always been this good at securing speaking opportunities with rooms full of people who are my ideal clients. Frankly, it’s not easy to get the opportunity to speak – even for free – when you are just getting out there with your message.

So today I wanted to share with you three things that will increase your chances of getting to speak to rooms full of your ideal clients.

Before I dive into the specifics, though, let me say this very important thing:

Nothing I do or recommend that you do is intended to manipulate anyone into doing something that is good for you but not good for them. In fact, the entire story I share above happened completely naturally. It wasn’t a “strategic” approach I took to getting a new speaking opportunity. It was the result of my wholehearted desire to be helpful, useful and meaningfully engaged with people doing beautiful work in the world.

I am certain that is how you approach your business, too, and that’s why I want to make this very clear. The energy we bring to our work is as important as any specific strategy or approach we utilize.

Now, on with your three ways to help meeting organizers book you to speak.

Above all, you’ve got to make it clear to the organizer that you deliver a high-value, rich content totally non-sales-pitchy presentation on a topic that their audience is really wanting to hear about. This is what they want in their speakers.

How do you let them know this when they don’t even know you yet?

  1. First, you be totally real and delightfully engaging at the meeting(s) you attend beforehand.

    You listen well to others and offer to help where you can (like I did with the organizer’s presentation feedback request and encouragement). You take your moment in the spotlight to introduce yourself with confidence and grace and then you help others shine, too, when they are doing their introduction or sharing their input. You show that you are a confident communicator and a team player (you want her to trust that you won’t turn on a sales pitch as soon as you have the spotlight for a long period of time). All of this shows the organizer that you “get it” about how to contribute to the overall success of a meeting.

  2. Have your Story of Transformation soundbite ready to share – and share it whenever you can.

    Especially if your topic is based on your own personal growth story, have that story distilled down to a quick and powerful summary that you can share in your formal introduction. It might sound like, “Hi, I’m Sarah. I went from a completely frazzled and cranky Mom of three kids who was, I am not kidding, daydreaming about running away to start a whole new life because I was so miserable – to a peacefully productive and loving mom and wife who spends her days doing work I love, enjoying a home life of ease and beauty and doing the unthinkable – drinking tea while reading  a novel on Sundays. I want other moms to know it is really possible to be a loving mom, a driven career woman and also a happy, peaceful person.” (Don’t you just want to hire her immediately?! I do.)

  3. Offer a custom talk for that particular group that reflects their wants and needs as well as your expertise.

    When you feel you understand the group’s real needs well enough and feel confident you can offer a talk that will truly make their lives better, approach the organizer to offer to speak. Be sure to suggest a topic that will delight and serve this particular audience. This might mean tweaking a talk you usually offer. For example, if this is a service-oriented organization, you might shift your talk about “healthy meal planning for moms of small children” to one on “meal planning to maximize energy so you can make a big impact in the world.”

I can’t emphasize enough how beautifully speaking has increased my own place as a thought leader in my niche, especially on a local level. When your ideal client gets to experience you as a confident speaker generously sharing your expertise with a room full of people, her own uncertainty about whether to hire you is decreased. She gets a sample of your style and has already received value from you before even hiring you!

I have literally had people hand me their business card on my way back to my seat after speaking and say “call me.” This is such a beautiful way to start a client relationship.

So go forth and offer up your speaking! With these three strategies in place you are sure to get way more “YES!” responses than you might imagine.

How to Feel More Confident in Two Minutes Flat

Woman with arms upPeople often ask me if I still get nervous before I speak, even after over twenty years as a speaker and college teacher.

The answer: Heck yea, I do!

I have always had speaking anxiety. In fact, I get anxious in most new social situations period. I’m an introvert, after all, and many of us feel this way. (By the way, I know extroverts who feel this way, too.) And this hasn’t in any way hampered my success as a speaker, trainer or teacher. In fact, I would argue that it has enhanced my presentation skills. But only because I learned how to manage and harness the energy behind that anxiety.

The anxiety has evolved over the years. I have developed a sort of ritual that helps me shift that extra energy in my body into fuel for a high-energy, engaging presentation. After hundreds of progressively more successful presentations, I have a great deal of confidence in my speaking. The cool thing about this (aside from easing the discomfort of too much anxiety), is that this kind of confidence leads to even better presentations.

I’d love to offer you more confidence, too – even if you don’t have twenty years of standing in front of audiences behind you. Good news – I can! (hooray!)

I’m going to keep these tips simple because I want you to use them. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed by too much detail or explanation because they really are this simple. (I’ll give you references at the end of this article so you can learn more about why they work.)

Just do these few things in your next talk (or really any social situation) and you will feel what I mean. Your body will relax and your energy will shift into peaceful power mode. You will be clearer and more ready for action. You will feel more confident. (There is research to back this up, by the way. But your body will show you real time most powerfully of all.)

Here are your simple immediate confidence-building tips:

  1. Prep with a Power Pose. Before your next talk (or potential client meeting or interview), take yourself somewhere where you will have privacy for two minutes. Then, stand with your legs at least 8 inches apart and put your arms above your head in the biggest “V” you can create. Basically, make yourself as large as possible with your body. Back straight, head and neck long and chin forward just a bit. Add a smile to your face. Stand like that for two minutes. Then, drop your hands and head out the door. Congratulations, you just literally changed the chemistry in your body closer to that of a high-powered, confident leader.
  2. Stop, Look & Smile. As you walk to the front of the room for your next talk, stop for a full 10-15 seconds and make eye contact with people in every section of the room. You don’t have to be intense about it – just eye contact for a 2-3 seconds each person with a small smile. After this confident, highly engaged connection, say a simple “Hello” to your audience. Then launch into your talk. Research shows that eye contact increases others’ perception of your confidence. My own experience has shown me that this small, simple ritual results in warm smiles and stronger attention from my audience, which always increases my confidence as I begin speaking.
  3. Take Belly Breaths. I know – if you read my blog at all, you’ve heard me talk about this over and over again. But that’s only because this is the most magical immediate strategy ever for dealing with all kinds of anxiety and stuckness. And the thing is, when we minimize our anxiety, we increase our confidence. So, take a deep belly breath before you stand to walk to the front of the room and one along the way. You don’t have to be dramatic about it. Just breath in through your nose, take that breath past your chest (this takes training for many of us who are chest breathers) and lead it all the way into your belly. Make your belly distend a bit as you take that breath in. Then, let it all out slowly through your nose. Toss a tiny smile onto the edges of your mouth as you exhale. (Smiling has its own stress-reducing magic – which is why I add it on to each of these items. More on that in a future article.)

I use every single one of these strategies to some degree every single time I speak. I walk all of my speaking clients through them as well. Now you have them! I know they will serve you beautifully as you get out there and share your brilliance in front of audiences wherever you are. Let me know how it goes!

(If you’d like to see the very cool research on power poses, go here to see Amy Cuddy’s excellent TED talk and here to read her research study.)

What it really takes to get people to listen to you

fedorahatbydaviddClad in a tan felt fedora hat and a black leather bolo tie, he bounded to the front of the class. He was short-ish, maybe 5′ 5″ tall, but he owned the front of the room immediately. I was shocked at first, intensely curious about who this man was and what he might say.

“Welcome to Intro to Anthropology!”, he hollered jovially.

I felt the corners of my lips turn up in a tiny smile. Now this was going to be an interesting class.

That was 24 years ago – my first year of college – but I still remember it vividly. I also remember way more than I would ever have dreamed about Charles Darwin, peyote and brachiating. (Incidentally, you might be surprised how often I’ve gotten to use that information, too.)

Why do I remember what my first anthropology professor taught me so well? Because he used so many captivation and engagement techniques in his teaching that I could not help but listen.

At the time, I didn’t really think a lot about the choices he was making in his teaching. I just knew that he was one of the most fun and interesting teachers I had ever met – and the class session flew by every time.

Now, after spending the last twenty years studying what it takes to get and keep people’s attention when communicating, I see what a genius he was. He had a gift for vivid descriptions (ones that create exciting pictures in your mind), he told stories that made you fall in love with neanderthals and apes you’d never meet, and he built connection with us college students in a way that felt natural and meaningful.

I can (and will) write full articles about each of those captivation and engagement techniques listed above. Today, though, I just want to talk with you about the last one – the power of connection for getting the attention of others.

Let’s talk about three strategies my anthropology professor used – and you can use, too – for creating meaningful connection with people in the audience.

I’m a lot like you (but I get it that I’m not you)

He was at least 20 years older than most of us in class, but somehow that was never at the forefront of my mind when I was talking with and listening to my Anthropology professor. I felt like we had a lot in common, actually. He loved life, liked to have fun. He shared stories about when he was first in college and the mix of emotions he experienced. He didn’t act like he was in college, but his stories and memories shared made me feel connected to him. I trusted him to give me information that I would enjoy because I had the sense (though I didn’t know it at the time) that he knew how to “filter” and choose information just for me (for us college students).

This “I’m a lot like you” way of communicating makes listening easy and natural. We open up to the speaker when they communicate appropriately this way.

What about you: How can you choose stories and examples that show a direct connection between you and your audience?

I get where you are (but I won’t pretend to know exactly how you feel)

While seeing how we were alike helped me listen and engage, it would not have worked if my professor acted like a college student. It was important that he not tell me about the wild party he went to over the weekend (even though I never once went to a wild party in college). When he told me about his challenges in college – or as a young adult overall – I listened keenly. I wanted to know how it worked out for him – what I could glean from his experience. He made analogies about oh, say, procreation… evolution and even early tribal life that showed me that he understood my own relationships, family dynamics and juggling of work and school.

His examples showed me that he “got it” about my experiences. The way her made unexpected connections between my experience and the material he was teaching kept me easily engaged.

What about you: What examples can you share with your audience that will clearly show that you get it about what they are likely experiencing?

I’m not perfect (but I am definitely good enough to be really helpful to you)

We talked a lot about well known leaders in the anthropology field – researchers and famous experts – in that college class. My professor was pretty self-deprecating and there were more than a few times when he talked about how much he didn’t know about specific areas of anthropology. He had high confidence in his Native American history expertise but was less expert at the intricacies of evolution and recessive genes and the like. The important thing was that he didn’t pretend to know everything. If he didn’t know the answer to a question, he’d offer to find out – or, often, invite us to research for ourselves and report back.

This honesty and humanity made me trust him. I knew that if he gave me a direct answer, he was certain it was accurate. This kind of trust is so peaceful to the people in your audience. They want to know that they can open up to your information and use it with great confidence themselves.

What about you: How can you confidently express the edges of your expertise? Are you willing to commit to owning what you know and peacefully and confidently saying, “I don’t know” (in whatever words are best for the circumstance) when you are outside of your expertise?

And a bonus one on this one: Where can you share a vulnerability in service of connection? Maybe a story that will help your audience really get it that you understand where they are because you, too, aren’t perfect? (After all, human = not perfect.)

The fact is, if you don’t have rapport – a warm connection – with your audience (whether that audience is live or virtual) you will have a very difficult time getting and keeping their attention. The way to establish that connection is to get to know who they are, understand their experience of life and work and learn what they need and want. Then, from the center of your genuine caring, be of service to them from your area of expertise.

That’s exactly what my Intro to Anthropology professor did and his influence has stayed with me for 24 years – and, in fact, rippled out through lessons I share with my daughters even today.

Making meaningful connection isn’t difficult but it can be hard to “fit in” in our overstimulated world now. That’s why I am thrilled to be a conbloom_your_audience_generaltributor in a brilliant 30-Day Bloom Your Online Relationships Challenge, which invites each of us (I’ll be doing the challenge, too!) to focus on deepening our relationships instead of growing “massive lists” as we are so often told we must do to survive in business. Given the list of leaders contributing their expertise and experience in this challenge, I just know we are all going to get some truly relationship deepening tips we will use for the rest of time. With Téa Godfrey of storybistro.com spearheading this challenge, we can all rest assured that the whole experience will be full of ease and richness.

I’d love to have you join me. You can join here: http://storybistro.com/bloom-audience-30-day-challenge/

 

Special thanks to Davidd on Flickr for the mysteriously framed fedora hat.

How to Captivate: Our Brains Love a Puzzle

our_brains_love_puzzleIt’s true – our brains get all lit up and engaged when there is a mystery to solve (source here).

Do you watch the tv show Scandal? I do. It’s terrible, really, because by that time of night my eyes are scratchy and my body really wants to sleep. But my brain – it is so excited. It is excited because it knows we will be taken on an adventure of epic proportions. Unexpected things will happen, clues will be dropped, dead ends will shock us. People we like will do things that absolutely blow our minds – things we didn’t think they were capable of (if you watch the show, you know exactly who I mean.) My brain loves to guess and theorize and looks for signs as the episode evolves. In short – it loves trying to solve the mystery set before us in the show.

Downton Abbey does this, too – just in a completely different time era and with a very different feel (the rest of it is shockingly similar if you think about it).

Television writers and producers create these exciting mysteries because they know they captivate us. And we can look at the wild success of these shows and confidently use these same strategies in our own communicating to have a similar effect.

So, let’s do that. I’ll show you some ways you can use the “our brain loves a puzzle” in your own communication, even if you aren’t “dating” the president or the sudden and unexpected heiress of a huge estate.

In service of our goal to use a “puzzle” to captivate, I’ll cover three things:

  1. What is a puzzle for communication purposes?
  2. When do I use a puzzle to captivate?
  3. How do I resolve the puzzle in a way that helps me reach my communication goal? (Such as convince my boss, land the client, etc.)

Sound good? Alright.

What is a puzzle for communication purposes?

A puzzle is when you offer up part of the information – enough to get their attention and peak their interest – but then leave out the conclusion and wrap up. Essentially, you leave them guessing for a while.

When do I use a puzzle to captivate?

Use this mystery-building, puzzle strategy when you want to get and keep the attention of your audience for a sustained period of time. It is not ideal to create a puzzle when your audience is there to get a simple “how to” from you – this could frustrate them terribly. There are exceptions, but this is a generally good rule to follow. Other captivation strategies are better for these kinds of communication – like using compelling visuals and storytelling.

How do I resolve the puzzle in a way that helps me reach my communication goal?

This is the most exciting part of the puzzle strategy! The resolution of the puzzle can be a super fun way to lead your listener straight to your desired outcome. For example, the story you tell in the beginning gets resolved at the end by the main characters using your product to solve their problem – but in a completely unexpected way! A special note here: don’t hype up a story at the beginning that has a boring, obvious ending. So, in this example I’m sharing, if the main character simply used your product and their problem got solved, your audience will roll their eyes and feel like they just attended a bad infomercial. If you are going to use this kind of story, be sure the ending really is exciting and unexpected – even if it does lead right back to your product or service.

Here – let me give you some examples of how you can use puzzles and mystery to captivate your listeners:

  • Tell an engaging story to begin your speech, one that they are excited to hear resolve… then, before telling the end, say, “I’ll tell you what happened for our lovely friends in this story at the end of our talk today. I think you will be very surprised by how this all ended up.” (Intrigue, right?!)
  • In your next company meeting, hand out a slip of paper that has something written on it then tell them to listen for the answer in your talk: For example, write “You are the wool spinner.” Tell everyone that they will learn what this means if they pay really good attention during the meeting. (Maybe they win a prize if they are the first to figure it out?)
  • During a meeting or speech, prompt your listeners early on with a challenge: Like this: “There are three ways I can think of that we can go with this. At the end of our talk today, I’d love to hear what you think those are. Bonus points if you think of one I haven’t thought of yet! You all have a piece of paper in front of you so you can take notes.”

All of these are mysteries that engage attention. Can you see how they would activate a part of the brains of your listeners that we simply don’t think to activate in our communication most of the time?

Can you also see just how easy it can be to implement on these? All it takes is some thinking ahead and intention to captivate. From there, it’s just a fun few minutes of creative thinking and implementation.

Go try them out. Let us know how it goes. Share in the comments any ideas you have or things you’ve tried in the past. I’d LOVE to add more captivating puzzle works to my own communication and I know our whole community would love to learn from you, too.

Now – here’s a puzzle for you.

Where can you get a truly useful, easy to implement plan for captivating and inspiring anyone? And let’s sweeten this mystery even more. Where can you get this at no cost to you? The answer is somewhere on this very page upon which you rest your eyes. Happy hunting! (Notice how your brain just lit up?)

Puzzle heart photo credit here.