There are ways to “wow” people and there are ways to “wow” people. A simple principle to live by: Do the opposite of what Mel Gibson does. Yes, he “wows” you but in a bad way. Let’s focus on the good ways that you can impress people you meet and work with.
While I read many business books and have good intentions to use what I’ve learned, I find it hard to keep on task. Whether it’s projects at work that tie me up or changing dirty diapers, I end up thinking about a few ideas I learned and then the book collects dust bunnies on the bookshelf. Does that happen to you? Maybe you send it to your Kindle recycle bin? Of course you’ll still brag to your friends on what a great book you just read (I wouldn’t do that!).
I had a chance to read Frances Cole Jones’ popular “How to Wow ” which is designed to help you present and sell yourself. It was too good a book to just toss away without sharing my insights with you.
I’ve summarized my lessons learned from this book below. These are tips that anyone can benefit from whether you’re working a tradeshow booth, leading a team, selling to a prospect, or assisting a customer. I hope you enjoy these and that they’re beneficial to you. I’ve also added in my own tidbits here and there. I recommend purchasing this book to get all of her great tips and to hear about her life experiences. Cole adds context to these tips with stories and personal anecdotes that make the book interesting and easy to read. The book was broken down into many topics and I’ve included the items that I thought were most applicable to my experiences serving customers. What do you think?
General Principles to Live by
- When introducing yourself (your name), use it as a presentation opportunity. Think of how James Bond does it
- When communicating, 55% of your impact comes from your body language, 38% from the tone of your voice and just 7% from the words you say. It’s how you say it not just what you say.
- Stories are a great way to get your message across and to get people to remember what you said. I remember a time when I wrote this great post on “How To Wow…”.
- The word “You” has been deemed the most persuasive word in the English language. I want to thank you for reading this
- When preparing for a big meeting or presentation, visualize it in your head. This will help you perform better.
- When trying to get people to do what you want, don’t just state your demands. Include the background of your request so others understand where you’re coming from. When you give people the reasoning behind your “call to action”, you drastically increase buy-in from 60-94%.
- Make the difficult things seem easy. Don’t always say you are stressed or overworked to those around you. Take a breath and slow down. Get in tune with those around you. It will make the surrounding atmosphere much more pleasant and you will be perceived as being more confident.
One on One Encounter Tips
- What are the strengths of the person you will be meeting with? What unique quality can they contribute? What successes have they accomplished in the past? These are items you can discuss.
- Pay attention to the other person’s posture and gaze. If they are not looking you in the eye try and find out what why but do so in a delicate fashion.
- I personally think this is bogus but Jones suggests that by looking at someone’s left eye makes them more receptive to what your trying to convey.
- If you don’t have much in common with the person you’re chatting with, don’t agree with their beliefs/opinions or dismiss them. Try and put yourself in their position. For example, if they love golf, try and understand why that’s the case (picture them as a hero such as Tiger Woods – Ok, bad example). This will help when you’re trying to convey a point.
- If there is an elephant in the room, acknowledge it – don’t ignore it.
- Don’t use the line “just joking” as you rarely are just joking.
Tips for Running Meetings
- Have a concise meeting objective that can be easily conveyed.
- Know who will be in the meeting and why.
- If a conversation is going off course, watch how you interject. Avoid words like “no” or “but”. Try and use responses such as “Yes, and…”, “To add to what you said, …” or “To clarify what…”
- In difficult situations, begin by focus on what’s working or what has been accomplished. This concept can also be applied when providing negative feedback.
- When providing constructive criticism, try to depersonalize it. For example, don’t say “You need to this” say “X needs to be done this way”. Therefore the criticism is tied to process and not personality.
My own advice on meetings – set the outcomes of the meeting up front and makes sure that everyone agrees to them. If it’s going to be a tough meeting, set some ground rules on what you’re attempting to accomplish. If you have common outcomes, you’ll have less of a chance on getting stuck on how you get there (the tactics).
Advice for Giving Speeches
- Start off with a story (a life experience that resonates with the crowd), leave the “thanks for coming” noise for the ending. Steve Ballmer from Microsoft showed us below how not to start off a speech. I would have fired all of my speech writers for that one. It looks like he was doing speed.
- Establish your credibility up front to get people’s attention.
- If you get nervous, make it a strength. It means you care about what you’re presenting.
- Come out from behind the podium to make yourself appear more accessible. But… don’t do what Mr. Ballmer is doing.
- If you screw up, use it to your advantage. It makes you more human
- This should be a general principle: If you’re stuck while writing your speech, go outside for a walk and get some fresh air. On a personal note, I do this almost every day. I also use the shower to think about what I’m going to put into a speech.
- Standing with your arms at your sides is a position of strength. Get comfortable doing it. Don’t cross your arms or put them in your pocket.
- You may consider writing the last sentence first so you know where your speech should end up.
- If you have a Question/Answer period, plant some questions so you don’t hear grasshoppers chirping when you say “Are there any questions?”.
- Know how to handle questions so that they apply to the majority of the people in the room. This prevents early exits. There are a number of ways to do this based on the question being asked:
- For the question that seems to never end, has little relevance or is boring the crowd try cutting the person off and say “I’m going to interrupt you…”. Be firm.
- If a question pertains to someone’s specific situation, try and apply it to a broader context so others in the room pay attention.
- Remember to keep control and table items that can only be handled by a one on one discussion at conclusion of the speech. Let people know where they can find you afterwards.
Getting the Most out of PowerPoint
- This is obvious but completing the slide deck doesn’t mean you’re ready to present – you still need to practice.
- Use numbers to back up points and emphasize those numbers. However, you need to make things exciting or you’ll get daydreamers and early exits.
- The text on the slide should not be your presentation. The slides should be there to amplify your points and not be a crutch.
- A few rules to consider when power pointing:
- Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule: A presentation should be no more than 10 slides, last 20 minutes and use 30 point font.
- The left/Right rule. If you have two images/graphs side by side, have the one that you want people to agree with on the right hand side.
- Tell people up front when they can ask questions so you set the right expectations.
- Avoid saying “Good question” as a way to gain time unless it really is a good question. If you need time to think about the question, pause for a second and consider the question.
- Consider using a prop. Lots of people use video to add more context and tell a story.
Write things down
- If you’re going into a tough call or have a cold call, write down exactly what you’re going to say. In addition, write down how you will handle objections. This will prepare you.
- Remember to use the whiteboard in meetings for brainstorm sessions or to visualize our points.
Handling Yourself at Social Events
- If you dread social situations, think about your strengths – those things that you’re really good at doing. Keep those in mind when addressing people.
- Know who will be at the event and prepare.
- Great questions to break the ice include asking someone why they are at the event or how they know the event hosts.
- Introduce yourself with your name immediately to those around you.
- You don’t have to be right all the time. Do you really want to hurt friendships over something like that?
- If it’s hard for you to get to know more people at a party, think of yourself as a politician trying to get votes from everyone in the room or have a contest with yourself on how many people you can meet.
My own advice: Make a conscious effort to learn people’s names. There are a number of ways to do this: Use word association or use the person’s name three times when talking to them without sounding stupid. I believe it starts with really making an effort to hear the person’s name (concentrating on learning the name), or asking for a business card.
Additional Communication Tips (Verbal Finesse)
- When someone asks you a question, don’t assume the worst. Respond with a factual answer and go from there. You can always clarify “I may be off base but did you mean x?”. For example, if I ask you if you ate a salad for lunch, assume I’m just asking if you had a salad for lunch and not if you health issues.
- Pick your words carefully. For example, don’t use the word “crisis” – “situation” is better. This will help you maintain the calm that is required by leaders. I remember when someone told me that we don’t have problems – just opportunities. I like “situation” better.
- To avoid a negative reaction to a hostile question, take a pause and then respond with a prepared answer (one that doesn’t show your emotions). Keep up a poker face.
- If your open ended questions are going nowhere (What do you think we should do?), ask more direct questions (Should we do X or Y?).
- If someone responds with a “flabby” answer like “I’m fine”, you can ask them to clarify their answer but also let them know that it’s important to you to better understand them. You can also ask more general questions: “It seems to me that there may be more to you’re thinking on this”.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Chances are, others have the same question.
- Take full responsibility when you’re at fault – Be accountable.
- When you’re at stalemate, consider the following “You’ve obviously given this matter much thought and it’s been interesting to hear your views.” Exit gracefully.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these. I have left out a number of sections and points so I would encourage you to give the book a whirl and start wowing your customers.