“Wow, you sure know how to make a point!”
When was the last time you received that compliment?
ANSWER: Too long ago.
Today we’re going to explore a list of strategies for making your point faster, stronger and better.
1. Attribute transferring. I’ve been a member of National Speakers Association for about eight years. Greatest organization on the planet. My career wouldn’t be the same without it. Part of that has to do with the collegial attitude shared by the members. When we attend conferences, the old joke is, “You learn more in the hallways than in the breakout sessions.”
The only problem with that is: Hallways are narrow. And at a four-day conference, there’s only so much time to schmooze.
So, in 2010, a few of us started a sub-group called NSA/XY, a collection of like-minded (and like-hearted!) speakers under forty who get together regularly for just that: Hallways. As a board member, the metaphor I use is, “When an airplane crashes, what’s the only thing that survives?
Right: The black box. So, my question is: Wouldn’t you make the entire airplane out of the black box? And the same idea applies to our association conferences: If the hallways are the best part, wouldn’t you make it all hallways?” Lesson learned: Transfer the attributes. Use metaphors from unrelated, unexpected sources to prove your point perfectly. Are you thinking laterally?
2. Create conceptual comprehension. In a 2006 study of Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, a week of prime time programming on the broadcast networks yielded 4,347 commercial messages, of which 536 (12.3%) contained some form of physical or verbal aggression.
Now, I’m not suggesting you make your point by hurting someone or yourself. But it is interesting to note the increase in destruction and aggression – mostly portrayed in a humorous way – to prove a point. For example, take Will It Blend? This viral marketing campaign consists of a series of infomercials with Tom Dickson, the Blendtec founder. He attempts to blend various items in order to show off the power of his blender.
From golf balls to marbles to iPhones to cubic zirconium, Tom made his point beautiful: Yes, it will blend. Sure enough, Blendtec went down in history for its viral video campaign. And I bet they sold a few blenders too. How could you provide striking testimony – on video – for everyone to see?
3. Hit them in the wallet quicker. Money gets attention. Period. Benefits, schmenefits. Whatever you’re selling, find a way to connect it to obtaining (or losing) money. And do it immediately. Because despite what people say, money is important. And while your point doesn’t need to be completely focused on money, having a faster financial connection strengthens your point noticeably.
For example, I used to ask people, “How approachable are you?” Good question. Makes ‘em think. But doesn’t hit them in the wallet. So, I started using financially framed questions and statements. Examples include: “Anonymity is bankruptcy,” “How much money is being unapproachable costing you?” “How many prospects went out of their way to avoid you yesterday?” and “Make a name for yourself and you’ll make a bank account for yourself!” Are you kidding yourself about what your customers really want?
4. Illustrate the cost of inaction. In March of 2003, Jesse Lee posted a special report on the White House Blog called The Cost of Inaction. It includes statistics that illustrates skyrocketing medical costs to the persistent gaps in health care quality.
A few that caught my attention were: “Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expense,” and “Lost workplace productivity and greater risk of illness and death cost employers $65 to $135 billion per year.”
Sure enough, Obama’s historic healthcare reform was passed one year later. So, even if you hate Obama, even if you think Obamacare is a government conspiracy trying to rob you of your freedom, recognize how well their made their point with this special report.
Remember: The cost of inaction tends to be much more expensive than action itself. The Costs of Inaction highlights the flaws in the health care system and demonstrates the cost of maintaining the status quo. Are you proving your point by demonstrating the cost of preserving the status quo?
5. Let the room vote. A little hand raising goes a long way. And instant group consensus is a beautiful thing. For example, let’s say you wanted to make a point about the irrelevancy and ineffectiveness of television advertising.
Try this: First, pose no-brainer question that everyone is likely to answer affirmatively, i.e., “Raise your hand if you have Tivo.” Then, just as people’s hands go up, immediately ask an opposing question that reverses the momentum of the room, i.e., “Keep your hand up if you still watch the commercials.”
Most of the hands will go down. This mini-exercise is drastic, entertaining and immediate. Plus, the visual of the hands combined with the kinesthetics of raising/lowering the hands makes for a memorable, emotional and, most importantly, personal experience.
Think of it as informal market research. Letting people prove your point for you. Are you persuading people with your words, or helping people persuade themselves with their own words?
6. Let your words breathe. Otherwise the point you’re trying to make will drown in the noise. Kind of like a caveman hunting for dinner. He stands there. Waiting. Spear in hand. And if there’s no movement around him – no change – that means there’s no threat. So he doesn’t respond.
Interestingly, this anthological tendency manifests in the business world daily.
Where do you think human attention originated? You guessed: Ug. And here’s why: Familiar structures and predictable rhythms lead to mental laziness. And you the human brain filters out unchanging backgrounds. Which means there’s no need to pay attention if nothing moves.
Sadly, most communicators mess this up. They don’t use enough line breaks in their content. They don’t pause enough when they speak. They don’t let their words ... breathe. And as a result, readers, listeners and customers tune them out. Your challenge is to keep your communication oxygen rich. To let the pearl sink. To allow your words to profoundly penetrate people.
Otherwise you’ll step on the silence, smother the sparks of your message and cripple the impact of your point. Is there enough space between your words?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
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Friday, May 14, 2010
“Wow, you sure know how to make a point!”