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.

Interview with Andrea Owen: 52 Ways to Live a Kick Ass Life

52ways_bookcoverOnce upon a time, my life was decidedly not kick-ass. (In fact, does yesterday count? Tee hee – I (mostly) jest.)

I had no idea how much what Andrea Owen said to me when she was my coach two years ago would actually lead to my own imperfect but really cool version of a kick-ass life.

Things like, “What if you are absolutely perfect exactly as you are?” (Which at the time I thought was ridiculous.)

And other things like, “What if there is not one single thing you need to change about yourself?” (Clearly she didn’t know just how wrong these things about me were.)

It took me a bit to actually getting it that the straightest path to kick-ass life was actually radical acceptance of exactly who I am. That process began directly from my work with Andrea. I love that I got to share that story with her in our intervew.

You’re going to really enjoy this recording of our call. We do spend some time talking about what it takes to live a kick-ass life (quite a bit about taming the gremlins here) AND we get into some nitty gritty goodness about writing and publishing a book.

She gives some cool insider tips as well about what publishers are looking for when they seek out new authors. (Here’s where you can order yourself a copy of the book – click here.)

Also, you can see what happens when I try to get fancy with technology and fail – twice. (It’s not too painful. And I resolve the whole thing below.)

Here’s the recording below, to play straight from your computer or mobile. If you’d like to download it for your next driving, running, walking or house-cleaning adventure, click here then enter conference code 343322. (The service assures me that they do not use your access information for anything other than reporting to me the login.) Enjoy!

Loading the player …


And in case you are wondering what the %$&& I kept trying to play during our call, here it is:

Did you dance? C’mon – tell the truth.

Since our call, I’ve been thinking a lot about the real ways to live a kick ass life. The ones that actually work for me. Things like radical self-acceptance and commitment to things, even when they get hard. Those are things that make my life more kick ass. I’d love to know – what practices make your life kick ass? Please share so we can all learn from each other.


How to Get Deep Attention

we_are_cheaper_bycdsessumsThere was a guy in my high school Spanish class who commanded the attention of every person in the room every day.

He was lanky tall, with longish hair and a slouchy walk. He was smart – the clever kind of smart that brings so many unexpected surprises to conversations. Every day, he’d use that clever, slouchy smartness to fling  words – and other items – from his seat in the corner of the room. The teacher would freeze and turn toward him, dragging all 50 of our eyes with her.

That guy knew how to get attention.

Guess where that attention got him in the long haul? Yup – nowhere interesting.

Why? Because he was calling forth Cheap Attention.

Cheap attention may work in the moment – all eyes may be glued, people may be magnetized to the scene (or product) – but it is empty and, well, dangerous really.

Cheap attention is:

  • the irrelevant joke told at the beginning of the speech
  • the vaguely related, drama-filled story used to capture the hearts of listeners and take them on an emotional ride that goes nowhere useful for them
  • the strange dance with oversized teddy bear backpacks on grown ups without a stitch of artistry in the choreography (I’m not even going to link to that fiasco – I’m confident you’ve seen the footage)
  • the name-dropping sidebar that only very tangentially fits with the content your audience or readers are wanting from you

It’s clear why these strategies are empty (they aren’t serving the audience, which is what your work is all about), but why would I say they are dangerous?

Cheap Attention strategies crush trust.

Trust is absolutely essential to impactful communication. If your listener or audience does not trust you, then why would they trust your information? They won’t. And so, from moment zero in your expression, your job is to evoke and strengthen the trust between you and the human beings who make up your tribe or audience.

When it becomes clear that the attention getting strategy you have employed was only for the purposes of hi-jacking attention and had no long-lasting value to the people in your audience, they begin to distrust your subsequent actions. What else will the person do just to get attention? It may be overt thinking or it may be a “sense” they have in their primal brain that says, “Danger. Watch out for this one.”

Attention-getting is a science and an art. It is also one of the most (maybe even the most) important elements of impactful communication that you must master. After all, how can you possibly make a real difference in anyone’s life if they aren’t paying any attention to you?

Cheap Attention vs. Deep Attention

We’ve touched on examples of cheap attention above. What makes this kind of attention cheap? It’s like those plasticy, brightly-colored toys at the dollar store – they look fun, they might even call you forth with their clever shapes and promises (this plastic frog really JUMPS! Watch the slinky walk down the stairs!) but when you actually engage with those items, they quite literally fall apart. They break, they fail miserably to perform. They fill our landfills, just as shiny new as when they were in their package.

You’ve seen the equivalent of this in speeches, in self-study programs, and even in big-promises books. There are costumes, slick covers, and grand testimonials. And yet, the content simply fails upon engagement.

I’m not concerned that you are planning to go for cheap attention. You are here in this digital learning sanctuary, which means you have no interest in that kind of crap.

You are here to learn powerful Deep Attention strategies so you can make a difference in the lives of others.

Deep Attention is grounded in service. It captures and engages a person because it speaks directly to their needs and desires and – this is the critical difference: it delivers tangible, meaningful value in exchange for the attention given.

It takes more work to earn Deep Attention.

It requires that you really understand your audience, that you dig in on not only what they desperately want but how you can provide truly impactful service in response to those desires.

In order to keep the attention going, you must provide:

  • rich, credible, unexpected content
  • engaging stories that your audience will relate to
  • activities or examples that will stay with them long beyond their interaction with you or your material
  • continuous reminders that you understand where they are, that you “get it” and can help
  • useful ways of taking their learning forward and applying your teachings to their own lives again and again

These are simply some examples… the key is that the engagement is customized specifically for the audience and has their transformation and growth powerfully at the center.

This will take risk and vulnerability on your part – to push the edges of your sharing, your storytelling and maybe even what you are capable of pulling together in terms of content. You’ll need to research, rewrite things, work hard to tie in your audience’s needs and desires with your ability to serve them.

Yet, the rewards are crazy awesome.

The reward is that you make a real, meaningful, long-lasting impact with your expression – your product, service, book, speech, workshop, web copy, article… whatever. You actually realize your own vision for your great work by investing in the powers of inviting Deep Attention from those who need you and what you provide.

Isn’t that what all of this is really about?

Now you – given that Deep Attention takes some real digging and thinking, we can surely help each other here!

Share your favorite strategy for engaging your people, audience, friends, kids… whatever. Do you have a story that people just always love? Maybe it will prompt a similar story in someone else in our community here. Do you have an exercise that works great for your workshops? It’s possible it can be adapted for another workshop of a community member as well. Let’s all learn Deep Attention strategies that we can “try on” in our own great work and in our personal lives, too! Share in comments, please.


[Thanks to cdsessums on Flickr for the cheap (free) image]


Welcome. Thank you for visiting. May I give you a few gifts?

I am so happy you decided to stop by for a virtual cup of tea with me. I created this very short video to make our greeting a bit more personal:

Welcome to Michelle Barry Franco – Your Soul Crafted Message from Michelle Barry Franco on Vimeo.

Here are those free gifts I mentioned:

Turn Anxiety Into Useful Energy (this is a fabulous list of anxiety reducing strategies to use before you get on stage. You can also use them before a networking event, a client meeting or any other time you feel anxiety getting in the way of you bringing your best expression of yourself.)

Making Your Audience Personal (and Your Speech & Writing Way More Impactful!) (this process will guide you deep into the needs and wants of your audience so you can craft a speech, book, article, or website that truly calls their name.)

Storytelling with Impact (use this guide to pull out the important and powerful elements in a story. Stories are magic! Tell them often and well.)

Please take and use these gifts! I created them because they are processes that have worked for my clients to help them hone their message and step more boldly into making the life-changing impact message-driven, soulful people like us want to make in the world. Please let me know how they work for you!

Finally, do no miss out on my new free offer in the upper, right sidebar . It’s purple and called:  “Make Your Message Stand Out Immediately”  <== you can also click that link.)

I have never shared the Expression Elan process in this detail in a free product and I know you are going to LOVE it. It’s a deep process (15 page PDF) but so worth your time. If you’d like to read how much others love having their Expression Elans (these ones were revealed in one-on-one sessions with me), go here. Of course, I’d love for you to sign up for your own full-on Expression Élan process with me there, too!

How to Begin Any Daunting Writing (or Speaking) Project

You’ve got a book to write, don’t you?

Or maybe you need to start spreading the word about your book by getting on some stages with your message.

Or maybe it’s time to build your coaching/wellness/counseling practice for real – create a high-impact website, get your message clear. Get a logo and some real business cards.

Here’s the thing about big projects… they’re Big.

They’re hard to wrap our heads around.

We don’t know where to start.

You could tackle them like I did my first book – by sitting down one day to write a 20 page eBook and finding yourself five months later with a stack of professionally designed 200+ page real books in your hand. I never had to “begin” that project because I hadn’t intended to write a real book. I sort of tricked myself into it (and it went great, by the way – but it was still Big.) The problem is, I am never able to intentionally trick myself, are you?

If you know you want to write a book (or craft a speech or build a fabulous website), you might as well just get it going.

Aside from that one surprise book-writing adventure, I’ve sat my fanny down to create some pretty daunting projects. I’ve written pretty long eBooks, created many websites (with the requisite complete rewrite of all web copy) and crafted countless speeches, workshops and trainings from scratch. I also get paid regularly to get my clients to sit their fannies down to do the same. Ultimately, these projects pretty much get done the same way.

So, here are six super S.I.M.P.L.E. ways you can guide your lovely self into that chair and get ‘er done, once and for all.

S = Space Freshen

Vision your fresh work space – then make it happen. I love to get into a completely new environment to get started on a big project. I get a lot done when I am not distracted by client files sitting on my desk or mired in old, frustrated beliefs that sometimes linger in my usual spaces. I often pick a cozy coffee shop one or two towns over from mine, so I’m really not tempted to hit my favorite browsing spots instead of sitting down and writing. If you can’t get away like that for some reason, then clear off your desk of all files and current projects. Bring in your favorite art from another room and hang it in plain sight. Light a differently scented candle in the room. Make the space new and fresh to you. And when you think of freshening your space, also think of creating a wide open space on your calendar as well. Block out the time and color in the block with a fresh green hi-lighter.

I = Imagine

Seriously, spend some time really calling to mind the beautiful finished project. See yourself on stage in that gorgeous outfit, beaming at the riveted audience. Feel that cool, slick book in your hand with your name in clean and vivid typography across the bottom of the cover. Feel those excited feelings in your body as though the end is here now – because it almost is. (By the way, you only get about 15 minutes here because this is NOT the doing. It’s useful and valuable – but you’ve got to do these next four things to get it done!) Enjoy this part! It’s the mindset part that fuels the next step.

M = Make a Mark

Open the word processing document or paper notebook and write something on it. Anything. Write a sentence. This sentence may end up somewhere in the middle of your book, it may be your closing line – or it might get completely rewritten. Just make a mark on the page. Then make another one. This is how creation begins. Let it keep flowing for a while. Worry about nothing else.

P = Pause and Pull Back

After you write for a while and you can feel the process of creation flowing, you will likely feel a natural pause. It’s time to look up from the page. Do that – look up. Pull back from what you’ve written. See it from the outside, as opposed to the gut-level, intestinal view that can happen when we are in the depths of creation. See if it is revealing a structure. Maybe an outline or some edges and headlines. If you see those, pull them out. Make them into their calling (as headlines or an outline.) Don’t make it perfect. Just let it show up and document, an innocent bystander you are.

L = Leave

Now, plant your feet firmly on the ground, engage the muscles in your legs and lift your bottom from the chair. Carry yourself out the door and, preferably, into the sunshine and fresh air (or whatever your air and sky bring you.) If that’s not feasible for any reason, go into a completely different room/environment. Go somewhere private because you are going to talk to yourself and that usually looks crazy to other people (though we all do it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) Walk for a bit.

After 5 minutes or so, ask yourself this: “Hmmm… what did I write in there?” Then tell yourself what you wrote. Not verbatim – just tell yourself the story. When you get to the part where you stopped, ask yourself, “Then what?” and talk some more.

E = Engage Again the Same Day

Now this is really critical! Sometimes that walk outside can inspire us to…oh, say, begin gardening. Or, toss on our wetsuit and do a bit of body surfing. If you’re like me, it might just invite you to bake a giant batch of cookies and listen to some Janis Joplin. But that’s not going to get ‘er done, is it?

So, the last step is to smile at the lovely idea of planting those azaleas that have been waiting in their store-bought pots for a week and promise yourself that you’ll tuck those beauties into their rightful earth-home later today. But for right now, you must go back to the page and make some more marks. Any marks will do, though often richness comes from writing down some of those things you talked about with yourself on that walk you just took. So, do that first.

**Not to get ahead of ourselves here since our only goal in this lesson is to begin, but I’ll give you a hint as to how you finish the project, too… it looks really similar to beginning.**

Now, you dear soul – Well Done! You began. This – beginning at all – is a huge, beautiful thing. Give yourself one of those yummy, stretchy self-hugs and smile inside.

Then, carry on with beginning… over and over, until you are done. 

And remember what they say about eating an elephant…

though frankly, I find that disturbing to even consider.

You can do this! Let me know if I can help.