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.

How to Captivate & Inspire Anyone

football_play_by_mikebaird_flickrI am not a sports fan. And when I say that I am not a sports fan, I am being polite. Really, I think something must have happened when I was a kid that traumatized me around sports because my dislike of them runs pretty… well, viscerally deep.

As fate would have it, my husband LOVES sports. I mean, the degree to which I don’t like sports is directly and equally reflected in the amount he loves them. Ask him anything about what’s happening in sports right this minute and I guarantee, he will know about it and be ready to dig in on details with you.

Imagine how frustrating it would be to not be able to share your deep love of something with your wife – like at all – because she simply doesn’t care about it and shuts down at the mere mention of the topic. (I know this sounds mean, but I’m just being honest here.)

My husband is a clever man, though. And he gets me.

So, do you want to know what he does when he is so excited to share some big sports news and I am the only one around he can share it with in that moment?

He tells me a beautiful, personal story about the player. He tells me about the player’s daughter who just got out of the hospital after a life-threatening illness. Or, he tells me the story of how this player proposed to his wife.

I absolutely love human stories. I love stories about love and family and relationships and babies and courage. My clever husband knows this and so he employs this reliable captivation technique to get my attention when he wants to talk sports.

He tells me the human story, which is completely true and beautiful, and then – when tears are running down my face about this amazing player’s personal life – he tells me about this unbelievable play he just made in the game. And as he tells me this story about this player pushing his edges in the game, pummeling the defense as he leaps into the end zone (don’t analyze my sports language here – just go with me on this, ok?), I am rooting for this guy as though I’m wearing a team jersey and cheersing with my team logo beer mug.

What?! Is that me screaming at the TV during the game?!

Yes, yes it is… against all odds.

This right here, is a captivation technique. It’s a fabulous one, too. It works with anyone, as long as you know the essentials:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they care about?
  • What will delight/captivate them?

Weave all of that together into a message just for your intended listener/audience, and captivation is assured.

You see how it works now, right? My husband has answered these question about me long ago:

Who is she: She’s my wife, often the only one nearby when an incredible play is made, she doesn’t like sports (at all)

What does she care about: Love, self-expression, family, wellness, reaching our potential, courage, stories, stories, stories

What will delight/captivate her? Stories about love, self-expression, family, pushing our edges, courage…

And this precise process is what has lead to way more “sports” conversations than I probably even realize. Good conversations – ones I’ve actually enjoyed. (Which still shocks me to realize.)

Want to talk more about how to captivate and inspire others? Of course you do! Join me and Kelly Galea of Power Up Living Radio on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at Noon Eastern as we dig much deeper on this topic. I promise to give you as many of my best captivation and inspiration tools as I can possibly fit into our interview. Click here to set your reminder so you don’t miss the show!

Meantime, tell me your favorite way to captivate someone’s attention in the comments below. Or, has there been a time when you were captivated by something that surprised you? Tell us about it in the comments, please.

Thanks go to Mike Baird on Flickr for this awesome shot of some exciting looking football (now that face is evidence of some personal edge-pushing – I like it!)

It’s not about getting clients

You want to build a sustainable business, of course.

Actually, unless you are independently wealthy (my guess is that you are not), you actually must make a good living doing this work of yours in order to keep doing it.

And you know you must keep doing it. This is the work of your soul, your calling.

So, given that you must make money and you must keep doing this work, it would follow that the place to spend your energy and focus is on getting more clients who pay you to do this beautiful, life-enhancing work.

That’s what most people do – they focus on getting clients.

Which is why most people doing purpose-driven work struggle painfully to make enough money to keep doing that work.

Yes – focusing on getting clients is the cause of your struggle to attract more clients.

Intense focus on getting clients is terribly unattractive and off-putting to the people you are on this earth to serve with your beautiful message and work.

I’ll show you: Remember the last time you were at an event and it was clear that the person who just walked up to meet you was completely focused on getting clients?

Remember the way it felt to talk with them? Even if they weren’t blatantly obvious about “selling” to you, you could feel that they were “fishing” with their questions.

They were acting interested in you but their questions and their superficial energy told you otherwise.

If you want to attract to you the people you are on this earth to serve, you must magnetize them.

You must become irresistible to the right people. They must see you as a place to come for support and trustworthy guidance in their own growth, in a way that matters to them deeply.

Magnetic, transformational communication – the kind that attracts clients to you with ease and grace – happens on a visceral, energetic level. It is never about “getting clients.” It’s always about offering our gifts in service of others.

How do you communicate in a way that magnetizes the right people to you?

There is a whole article to share on this (look for it next week), but here are the essentials. Magnetic communication has these three elements:

  1. It’s all about them (truly).
  2. It is rich in your distinctive voice. 
  3. It is generously useful.

If you use this list above as a checklist for every communication – networking, speaking, writing – you will begin noticing that clients come your way without you trying.

The reasons for this are simple: other-focused, authentic, high-quality communication inspires connection and engagement.

From this place of strong human connection, knowing that you are a confident guide and trustworthy support, it is natural – and often exciting – for clients to pay you to help them reach their goals.

Yes, they become clients – but only because it was never about getting clients for you.

It was – and is – about taking a stand for what your right people want and need and showing up with integrity and commitment to help them get it.

Take_a_Stand_Service

This builds you a sustainable business that feels amazing to you. This serves your clients beautifully and powerfully. This ensures you will be able to continue to do this work of your soul as long as you feel called to do it.

This is the magic formula for creating a sustainable business doing the work of your soul:

Take a stand for what you know to be true (your Message)

and commit to being of service to

the people you are on this Earth to serve.

Start  here – What are you taking a stand for? Please share in the comments below. (I’ll go first – see below.)

P.S. Watch next week for a lot more about how exactly to apply those three elements of magnetic communication.

Quit Networking

networkingbyRedHead5147onFlickrI don’t belong to BNI – or any other official networking groups.

Someday, I might decide to join. I’ve been attending a local BNI group and considering whether it’s a good fit for me. The jury is still out on that. Not because they aren’t awesome people (they really seem to be) – just because I want to be sure it’s the right investment of time and resources for me and my business.

In case you aren’t in the BNI loop, BNI is a networking and leads sharing group. Essentially, each member becomes a “salesperson” on behalf of the other members in the group. So, when I’m at a party and someone mentions they are building a new house, I tell them about my amazing window coverings consultant friend (who is in my BNI group). At some point, my window coverings consultant friend will be at a home show and someone will be looking for a speaking coach. She will then hand the card over of her amazing speaking coach friend (that’s me!) It’s a cool concept and I know quite a few people who have built a large chunk of their business through the BNI connections.

BNI isn’t the only group like this, of course. But the gist is the same: gather with others who are looking to grow their businesses and support one another in that effort.

Pretty cool, right?

And yet, so many of these “networking” events just feel… strange. Off.

For much of my early business life, I avoided them because of this. Until, at one of the women’s networking groups I attended, I somehow got talked into being on the programs committee. At first I spent most of my time dreaming of ways I could get out of this new commitment I didn’t really mean to make.

Then something unexpected happened.

As I invested time and energy in my role on the leadership team, I started to really care about the programs and speakers we put on the agenda. I began to use my great strengths in research and planning to put together what would later be called by the board and members, “our best program lineup ever!” I began to get to know the leadership in the organization on a much deeper and more real level. In a way I never had before, I began really looking forward to the monthly meetings.

I also began signing on clients at a pace that surprised me.

At one point, I stopped to check in with myself about what had changed so much in my experience of networking at this group. Why was I enjoying it so much more – and why were clients coming to me without my really trying very hard?

It was then that I realized, I had stopped “networking” and I had simply begun doing what came completely naturally to me:

connecting with lovely, brilliant people and contributing from my greatest strengths. No wonder I was having such a great time.

I wasn’t “networking” at all – at least not in that contrived way I avoided for so long.

As my role in the organization shined a light on my strengths – and added greater visibility into me and my work overall – conversations and connections across the membership became more natural. Since we do business with people we know, like and trust, this lead to more clients coming my way.

I’m wondering – is there anywhere that you have been showing up (or not) where you can quit “networking” and start making real connections and contributing from your most awesome strengths?

I triple dog dare you to make this switch in your approach. Send me a note and tell me what happens for you, will you?

Meantime, I’m continuing my own search for the right place to get really connected and make a meaningful difference with other business people here in my new town across the country. Because I’m just not into “networking” anymore.

 

Thanks to RedHead5147 on Flickr for this slice of life networking image.

 

What to Do on Your Working Retreat (part 4 in series)

In this working retreat series, I’ve covered:

  1. What is a working retreat and why you really should take one
  2. Where to go on working retreat
  3. How to afford a working retreat on any budget

And in this final video on what to do on your working retreat, I’ll share the way I structure my own working retreat days to get the most out of the experience. I’ll talk about the flow of the day(s) – digging in, expansion, contemplation. I also talk about the ways I weave in fun and non-working breaks.

In this video, I also share with you some essential supplies for a fun and productive working retreat. In case you need this supply list in writing, here it is:

  • large whiteboard (two, ideally)
  • many colors of dry erase pens
  • large flip chart size post-it paper
  • many colors of sharpies or watercolor based flip chart pens.
  • Also useful: a blank calendar, healthy food & drinks and walking shoes.

Note: I don’t know how I didn’t mention it in the video but I get tons of writing and video production done on working retreats as well. After all of that planning, checking in with my vision and contemplation, I often get to the gritty work of pen to paper (letters on screen) and set up a video studio to shoot a bunch of videos in the beautiful space of my retreat. So consider putting big writing and video, painting or other art-centered projects on the “To Do” list for your working retreat. They are perfect for the retreat energy!

(Originially posted on michellebarryfranco.com (with a few minor modifications here) in Jan. 2011 – but just as useful here today!)