Thursday, March 05, 2009

How to Engage Any Audience Instantly

Your introduction is WAY too long.

During your speech.
On your website video.
In the beginning of your book.

Way, way too long.

This is dangerous for three reasons:

FIRST: The attention span of a human being is about six seconds.
So, if you don’t grab them RIGHT AWAY you may never get them.

SECOND: The choices people have (besides you) are approaching infinite.
So, if you don’t grab them RIGHT AWAY, they might find something else to do or somewhere else to go, instead of paying attention to you.

THIRD: The information overload your audience is experiencing is ree-diculous. So, if you don’t get down to the good stuff RIGHT AWAY, your content will to blend into the noise and soon be forgotten.

Therefore, the #1 secret to engaging your audience is...

Hit the ground running.

Which brings to mind one of my favorite quotations of all time. In Elmore Leonard’s famous book, The Ten Rules of Writing, he reminds us:

“If you want to be a good writer, just leave out the parts that people skip.”

Of course! Brilliant!

And that’s not just about writing, it’s about ALL forms of communication.

Let’s explore three practices of how to hit the ground running.

1. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE … of your speech. The most important words of your entire talk are the VERY first words that come out of your mouth. The minute you walk on stage, as soon as the applause dies down. These words set the stage for your entire speech AND are (probably) the only words your audience will actually remember.

In fact, most speakers fail to engage their audience in the first few MINUTES, much less the first few seconds. So, you challenge is to make them perk up, lean forward and think to themselves, “Ooooh, this is gonna be good!”

For example, think back to the last time you watched someone give a speech. During which sections of that speech did you “tune out”? Probably the intro, right?

DON’T START YOUR SPEECH WITH:
o It’s great to be here today… (Liar!)
o Thanks for having me… (Well, DUH!)
o Good morning… (Worst opening line for a speech EVER!)

INSTEAD, START YOUR SPEECH WITH:
o 2,743 days ago today… (That's what I do, changing the number each time)
o The biggest mistake I ever made as a doctor was… (Humanizing)
o Do these pants make me look bald? (Thanks for that one, Steve Hughes!)

Just go. Hit the ground running.

2. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE … of your website. Consider three statistics. First, the average amount of time most people spend on a website is only SIXTY seconds. Second, people’s brains decide whether or not they should trust you in under TWO seconds. Lastly, on YouTube, the average viewing time of any of their gazillion videos is only TEN seconds.

Stop wasting people’s time. They’re not going to sit there and watch your boring, low quality video if it doesn’t engage their emotions within the first couple of seconds. Instead, they’re going to hit that little “X” in the upper right hand corner and go to someone else’s website.

For example, think about the last time you arrived at someone’s homepage who had an automatic welcome video. Did you play the whole video? Turn it off? Mute your volume? Leave that annoying person’s website and hire someone else? Think about it.

DON’T OPEN YOUR VIDEO BY SAYING:
o Welcome to my website! (What is this, 2002?)
o Hello, my name is Ted and I would like to… (Zzzzzz!)
o I’d like to give you a tour of this site… (Sorry, but nobody has time!)

INSTEAD, OPEN YOUR VIDEO BY SAYING:
o Congratulations! If you’ve made it to this site... (Thanks, Harlan!)
o Ask yourself this question… (This is how I open my videos on NametagTV)
o The reason your company is LOSING money is because… (Who could resist?)

Just go. Hit the ground running.

3. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE … of your book. Go to Borders and pick up ANY non-fiction book. Odds are, you’ll spend the first 20 pages of the book flipping through all of the typical, annoying, valueless, self-flagellating garbage most authors insist on making you read before you get to their ACTUAL book.

Testimonials, Introductions, SECOND Introductions to the Updated Edition, Prefaces, Notes from the Author (um, isn’t he whole BOOK a note from the author?) Acknowledgments, Forewords, Dedications, About the Author, blah blah blah blah blah...

Nobody cares! Just start the damn book. On the very first page. Think of it as a teaser. Then, after you’ve hooked the reader with a few REAL pages, you can go back and do some of those introductory pages. Readers won’t mind reading through that stuff if you’ve already engaged them.

For example, think about the last book you read. What pages did YOU skip? The stuff at the beginning? The stuff at the end? Those unnecessary self-promotional, four page stories that poorly illustrated a key point you already understood?

DON’T MAKE THE VERY FIRST PAGE OF YOUR BOOK SAY:
o No content of this book may be reprinted without permission (Bor-ring!)
o What people are saying about Dr. Jackson’s new book... (Um, value?)
o I’d like to thank my two beautiful and patient cats, Tiberius and Smokey, who purred at my bedside for two years as I suffered through a painful divorce and wrote this book … (Oh. My. God. Vlaargh.)

INSTEAD, MAKE THE VERY FIRST PAGE OF YOUR BOOK SAY:
o You’re about to read a book that will change your thinking forever. (Really? Sweet!)
o Nobody notices normal. (The opening line of my new book, Stick Yourself Out There.)
o There’s a 90% chance that your restaurant will go out of business by the time you’re done reading this book. (Holy crap!)

Just go. Hit the ground running.

- - -

HERE’S THE DEAL: Your audience members are CRAZY-busy, choice saturated and overloaded with information.

It’s not that they don’t CARE what you have to say - it’s that they demand to be engaged first.

THAT is your primary task.

Right away. Right now.

Whether you’re giving a speech, posting a video on your website or writing a book, remember to leave out the parts people skip.

Just go. Hit the ground running.

LET ME ASK YA THIS...
How many audience members are you putting to sleep because you're not engaging them immediately?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "234 Things I've Learned about Writing, Delivering and Marketing Speeches," send an email to me, and I'll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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