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.

You are not a marketer


You are not a marketer.

Unless you are. Which is just fabulous, if it’s what your soul is called to do.

But because you’re here, reading my blog, it is more likely that you are a coach, wellness professional, artist or guide.

Maybe you are a professional organizer or you create retreats and workshops that facilitate meaningful shifts in people. Whatever you do, it’s in service of ease, pleasure, growth and/or well-being in others.

There is nothing wrong with being a marketer.

Marketing is an important job. My own work dances in the realms of marketing. I am a huge fan of marketing. One of the most common ways my clients use their finely crafted message is to put together their own marketing programs and campaigns. They craft speeches that call forth droves of their best clients – a marketing move that trumps all others. We can do a fine job of marketing our services with a beautifully crafted message that calls out to the right people.

But make no mistake – crafting your message and calling forth your best clients doesn’t make you a marketer.

No matter what you hear out there on the streets of the internet. Don’t believe them.

All it means is that you are doing your own marketing – for now. That marketing is one of the things you do.

Think of it like this: I bet most days you cook yourself and possibly your loved ones a meal, right? Does this make you a chef?

Of course not. It makes you a someone who provides nourishment for yourself and your family.

You and I engage in marketing activities because it serves the overall good of spreading our life-changing message and work.

We market our services and products because marketing is the way we let people know we are here to serve them and their greatest desires or help them resolve their overwhelming struggle.

Why am I telling you this?

Because sometimes, when you put yourself out there to attract clients, you won’t get the results from your marketing efforts that you expect and wish for.

If this happens and you think you are a marketer, you might make up that you aren’t good at your work. And that would be very, very wrong.

I’m writing this note to you as a remider that your work is that heart-centered message you have for the world. Your work is changing real-lives and making things better for those you serve. Hone that craft to its greatest brilliance. That message of yours – that’s the work of your soul.

And yes, you still need to get out there big and wide with that invitation to your right clients, letting them know you are ready and willing to make their lives better.

You will engage in trial and error. Some things will work beautifully – and some won’t be so effective. That’s okay – you’re not a marketer anyway. You’re a messenger, a mentor, a guide – and person with lives to change and make better.

And as soon as you are able, find yourself a team of soul-inspired marketing experts to take as much of that part off your plate.

(You and your message will still be your biggest marketing magnet anyway, but you won’t have to manage the systems so much. Whew!)

Because your brilliance shines most brightly when you are dancing in the center of your greatest strengths. Dance there often – and wildly!

And don’t worry, I will still do everything I can to help you get the word out about your beautiful work. You and I just know that whatever results you experience are not a reflection of your great work, right? Good.

Maybe You’re Not Ready

forestpathlightbyamir85Before you click away, I want you to know I’m serious.

This isn’t one of those “go get ’em” notes, telling you that you’re more ready than you think you are.

I actually want you to consider the possibility that you, in fact, are not ready.

We’ve been sold a potentially dangerous, painful message by the personal and business self-help world.

(Note: I am a fan of self-help. Big fan of high-quality self help, actually.)

The truth is, sometimes we actually aren’t ready.

We haven’t learned the whole lesson. We haven’t really hit the “other side.” We can’t see the forest because we are still walking the path amidst the trees. We may see the light ahead, have a clear view of the meadow that awaits, have a pretty good idea of the path to get out there. But the fact is, we are still in the forest.

I want to recognize here that, yes, we are further along the path than those back behind us. The view of the meadow (outside of all those trees!) is in plain sight. We have much we can share about what we see, especially to those behind us who are way back in the forest. But the fact is, we aren’t out yet and the path is still a bit uncertain.

Theoretically, we could call back to our friends deep in the forest: “I found the way! Let me tell you how to get out!”

And that’s where things get dangerous.

You don’t really know the way. You haven’t done the whole trek yet, have you?

You have what looks like a pretty clear view of the whole way out. And you know a lot about how you got to where you are. The problem is, you think you have to tell them the whole way out in order to get their attention.

And that, right there, is where it all falls apart.

Because you know that you don’t know the whole way out. In your belly, deep within, you know that the turn in the path up ahead could go in a couple of directions. Not having tested it, you’re not sure what happens with either turn. You can guess, but you’re not sure.

That uncertainty makes you nervous. It messes with your confidence.

From this place of lower confidence – of speculation – decisions are harder to make. Your voice wavers a bit when you call back to your friends deep in the forest. Your words lift at the end of your sentence, making them sound like a question as much as a statement. Your gut wrenches.

Your friends are looking to you because they trust that you know the way. You want so much to be of service to them – after all, you are further ahead on the path than they are. They need you. How will they get out of the deep forest if you don’t tell them the way?

And yet, you can’t tell them with confidence what you don’t know deeply within you.

This is where you may have heard things like “fake it ’til you make it” or “act as if” – meaning if you just behave as though you are confident then you will be. Those things work in some places (these are great approaches to practicing for speeches or beginning a new art or hobby, for example), but they do not apply when it comes to mentoring or teaching, both meaningful ways to change real lives with your message and your great work.

Acting as if you know, when deep down you know you aren’t sure, is dangerous for you and them.

You might think I’m writing this to protect them, but I’m not (though I do want safety for everyone). I’m writing this to protect you.

One of my most profound realizations in the last year has been the necessity that we know when we’re not ready.

I’ve watched and felt so many clients, colleagues – and myself (oh, myself!) – break our own hearts over and over as we try to teach lessons we are still learning. We are not intentionally misrepresenting our expertise or wanting to capitalize on a new opportunity to make money. In fact, the intense desire to serve and connect is driving this tricky situation. The problem is that when are still living the lesson and processing the learning, even if we have “realized” important aspects of the new lesson and put a name to the experience, we can’t teach with clarity and confidence. It’s just too close – still too fluid and shifting.

Here’s a new metaphor to consider:

I think of stepping stones on a path through a pond. We stand on one stone, still assessing the next move and finding our balance. Look back – there are those stones we have already traversed. We know how they teeter and where it gets slippery. We can teach about those stones with confidence.

That path of stones behind us, already crossed – this is our place of service, the message we are here to share. For now.

~You can tell them how to get to the place you are.~

In fact, for those way deep in the forest or just stepping onto the first stone in the path, you can share details that those ahead of you on the path may have forgotten about long ago.

The truth is, you have so much to teach. There is a wellspring of brilliance and gifts and learning you have to share that your right people need. The key is to recognize what you’re fully ready to teach – then serve up that message and those lessons with all of your heart and soul.

We think that, in order to serve, we have to have the ultimate answer.

We have to promise our ideal clients the grandest outcomes they can imagine.

This belief tears us up. It kills our confidence and confuses our message.

It weakens our ability to call forth those who need us most – those who are in that part of the forest we can both remember with detail and yet also provide the beautiful way toward the light.

So, my question to you is this:

What can you say to the people walking around this earth right now searching for you and your message with the deepest confidence and certainty? What are you powerfully and fully ready to teach them?

Go do that work. It’s the message you are here to share right now.

These are my giants

auntiechellechocolatechipcookiesbysamiteditedMy childhood best friend, Amy Fisher, made the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. She brought them up to Lake Tahoe (in California) for a group ski trip twenty years ago and we ate them in 11 seconds. They were shockingly good.

So, I stole her recipe, including the secret ingredient that made them taste so unexpectedly delightful. Then I changed a few things – the sugar type and amount, and the amount of vanilla extract. My family calls them Auntie Chelle’s cookies (I’m Auntie Chelle), though I owe every bit of credit to Amy for teaching me how to make those cookies.

Of course, Amy Fisher didn’t make up the basic recipe on which those ski trip delights were built. Goodness, no. Chocolate chip cookies had been around for a long time before that. She just tweaked a few things and made it her own special version of chocolate chip cookies, too.

Ready for this to relate to business messaging?

Jennifer Louden wrote a blog post this past week about stealing other people’s work and claiming it as your own. The article was also about the fact that we all “steal” other people’s work. We use the insights and teaching of others to inform our own. That this is really the nature of “new ideas.” (You see the chocolate chip recipe connection here now?) This “stealing” process is at the heart of the popular Isaac Newton quote, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Jennifer Louden’s post made me think a lot about my own giants – those upon whose shoulders my work and I stand. I’ve got some amazing giants contributing to my work in the world, many of whom have no idea how they have contributed. That is going to change right now. The following people brought work to life that makes up a huge part of my own:

Danielle LaPorte & Carrie McCarthy: I know that Danielle LaPorte is highly influential in many an online entrepreneur’s life right now. For me, her greatest influence begin in July of 2008, when I picked up a copy of the book Style Statement, which she co-authored with Carrie McCarthy. Two months into my business, I came upon that gorgeous book laying on a table at Barnes & Noble. I bought it immediately, took myself through the process of finding my own Style Statement and fell in love, love, love with it. Then, I started offering the book to clients and helping them use it to name their own style. Then I tweaked the process. And I tweaked it some more. I added modified exercises from Grace Bulgar and Nancy Duarte (see below for more on both of these giants). Over five years, this process has evolved into my own Expression Élan process, most beloved by my clients and business community. Let it be known, though, that the Expression Élan’s foundational strength lies powerfully in that Style Statement process I learned from Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy. (Thank you, Danielle & Carrie!)

Grace Bulgar: Grace Bulgar wrote the first “how to” book I ever read on creating and marketing your business. As far as I can tell, it’s the last one she’s written in that vein as well. The book is filled with exercises for finding clarity within a business team. I took one of those exercises and shifted some of the content to better fit my purposes. It, too, makes up a meaningful part of the Expression Elan process. (Thank you, Grace!)

Nancy Duarte: Oh, the depths of learning I’ve taken in from Nancy Duarte are too expansive to share here. From a direct content perspective, though, I took one question from her book Slide:ology and applied it to my Expression Élan process, making the outcomes significantly more powerful for my clients. That question: What is your verb? (Thank you, Nancy!)

Garr Reynolds: Hands down, Garr Reynolds has taught me the most profound lessons about creating presentation slides that delight my and my clients’ audiences. I use his lessons on image-based slide design from his book Presentation Zen in my corporate trainings, in my clients consulting and in my own speaking. Clients love me about slide design because of what I teach them about Garr Reynolds’ process. (Thank you, Garr!)

Chip & Dan Heath: I use Chip & Dan Heath’s SUCCESs principles from their absolutely awesome book Made to Stick when I teach people how to be more engaging and memorable (sticky!) when they communicate. There is no guide out there that comes close and I’m not into reinventing a sweet-spinning wheel. While I add and expand on the details from my experience, their work is the heart and soul of this piece of my work. (Thank you, Chip & Dan!)

John Medina: I love telling clients about the Pictorial Superiority Effect. C’mon – wouldn’t you? I also love that I get to give them timeframes for switching things up in their speaking – 10 minutes, then do something new – because people love being told exactly what to do when it comes to organizing their speech. Thanks to John Medina and his book, Brain Rules, I have a zillion tools for telling them what we know works when it comes to engaging other people’s brains. (Thank you, John!)

This list only includes the giants that come to mind today who have provided substantive content foundation for my work. My own art and contribution of ideas is directly and substantially supported by the work they have done.

Like Amy Fisher, they brought this amazing recipe that I tweaked to fit my own business community’s needs.

This list does not include other absolutely critical contributors to my work like Stephanie Pollock, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Jennifer Louden, Dan Roam, and Sunni Brown – all of whom have taught me in varying ways how to think better, how to do business better, how to push my artistic edges, how to live in integrity and peace and how to keep at it no matter what.

It is a gift to get to add my little bit of brains and art to the brilliance of these giants. I am immensely grateful for the learning curve they saved me so that I can serve those I’m best set up to help.

I wonder – who are your giants?

I’d love to hear. I bet they’d love to hear about it, too. I wonder in what way you can honor the contribution they’ve made to your work? Share your ideas in the comments. We might want to “steal” one of them.

What’s Your Rooftop Message?

Here’s the cold, hard truth:

You can sign up for the premium, fancy-pants email provider (after spending a hundred hours comparing the options), create the most gorgeous website imaginable (after spending hundreds of hours planning, tweaking, and revamping) and implement the highest powered shopping cart available (after spending hundreds of hours figuring out how to put it in place, use it and make it work with your other systems) – but if you don’t have this, nothing will work.

You’ve got to know, with radical clarity, what you want to SAY.

Yes, your Right Clients matter (a ton.)

Yes, your online home must be inviting and inspire action.

Yes, you’ve got to keep providing value to your community so they can learn to trust you and look to you for help.

Yes, you need systems for purchasing your services and products.

Do all of that. But not until you have…

Radical Clarity of your Rooftop Message.rooftopsbyrobotB

This may surprise you, but this is one of the most common barriers to successful business, especially for those of us who are building a business with a powerful message at the core (which everyone should be doing).

Go check in on your own message, real quick, will you?

Imagine you have a rooftop and you are standing on it (safely). You have a large gathering of just the right people below you (more on that in an upcoming post) and they are waiting to hear what you have to say to make their lives better.

What would you say to them? Start like this:

“Listen up! You must hear this! What you absolutely MUST know to make your lives better is…”

Then you finish out that sentence with what you know from your expertise to be true. What you “know for sure”, like Oprah does in every issue of “O” magazine.

That’s your Rooftop Message.

It’s your “Must Say”. It’s the thing you are here to serve with, the way you change lives. It’s why you built your business – because people must resolve this thing in their lives to live the big, beautiful life they deserve.

Your Rooftop Message is not:

  • how they do this thing
  • your reasons for believing it
  • the services you provide
  • how you help

(Those all come later and with lots more detail.)

Your Rooftop Message is a simple statement that declares what you believe will profoundly change the lives of those who need your services.

Here’s mine: Authentic powerful self-expression is the path to successful, satisfying business, personal peace and, ultimately world peace.

Gimme a Rooftop – I’m all over it!

Unlike the hundreds of hours you will (or have) spent on email systems, shopping carts and website design, you probably only really need 20 minutes (maybe five, if you’ve done any work at all on this) to get this really clear. It’s required work for you to make a real impact in others’ lives.

Got your Rooftop Message clear already? Looking to shift it, make it more powerful? Let’s hear it and we can celebrate it together or work on it as you wish. Share in the comments.

Thank you to Robot B on flickr for the rooftop image.