One of the best conferences I’ve ever attended was BIF-6, held in Providence, RI and hosted by Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.

was BIF-6, held in Providence, RI and hosted by Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.

Saul Kaplan of the Business Innovation Factory.


Saul and his team collect an eclectic mix of pioneering thought leaders ranging from Tony Hsieh of Zappos to Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company, Jason Fried of Rework and Keith Yamashita, who believes many of us “fritter away our greatness.”

Each presented a TED-like 18 minute presentation introducing their latest invention or insight.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire two days.

There was a recurring, underlying theme to each presentation. These visionaries had either:

A) seen something wrong and thought, “Someone should DO something about this. After being bothered about it for awhile, they finally concluded, “I’m as much a someone as anyone. I’LL do something about this.”

B) witnessed something that wasn’t what it could be. They thought, “It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s got to be a better way. An easier, greener, more satisfying, profitable way. And I’m going to come up with that way.”

I’ll be featuring some of their intriguing stories in upcoming blogs.

For now, I want to share the opening of the individual who did the best job at winning buy-in the first 60 seconds.

Are you wondering, “Was this someone who’s given hundreds of presentations, who’s done lots of media?”

Nope. The person who had us at hello was a surprise.

She walked to the center of the stage, centered herself (literally and figuratively) and stood tall and confident until everyone in the room gave her their undivided attention.

Then, flashing a playful grin, she said, “I know what you’re thinking.”

Long pause.

“What can a 7th grader possibly teach me about innovation?!”

Big smile.

“Well, we 7th graders know a thing or two. Like,” and here she spoofed herself, “how to flip our hair.” At this point, she tossed her long hair over her shoulder.

The crowd laughed, (with her, not at her). Everyone was instantly engaged and impressed with this young woman’s moxie and presence.

“We also know we have the power to make things better if we put our minds to it. For example . . . ” and she was off and running.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

12 year old Cassandra Lin had us at hello.

The Cliff Notes version of her story is that she and her class discovered the clogged sewer pipes in their city were the verge of causing a disaster because so many restaurants and industrial companies were pouring their F.O.G (Fat, Oil, Grease) down the closest drain.

After doing some resarch, she and her classmates started T.G.I.F – Turn Grease into Fuel – an award-winning recycling effort that generates money for needy families.

You can find out more about her brilliant social entrepreneurialism in the BIF-6 Summit Book and also find out how to register for this year’s BIF-7 summit.
Why did Cassandra have us in the palm of her hand in 60 seconds?

She anticipated what her audience might be thinking – and said it first.

She anticipated these successful executives and entrepreneurs might be a bit skeptical that a 12 year old could have anything valuable to contribute – so she addressed it and neutralized it up front.

She established instant credibility and earned the respect of everyone in the room.

How about you? Are you giving a presentation in the near future? Who are your decision-makers? Will they have their mental arms crossed?

If so, SAY WHAT THEY’RE THINKING.

If you don’t voice what’s on their mind, they won’t be listening. They’ll be resisting everything you say.

For example, if they’re thinking, “I can’t believe you’re asking for money. We don’t have any left in our budget” . . . then guess what your first words better be?

That’s right. “You may be thinking I’m crazy coming in here and asking for money because we don’t have any left in our budget . . . and if I can have your attention for the next three minutes, I can show you where we’re going to find this money and how we’re going to make it back, and more, in the first three months.”

Now you have your audience at hello . . . and now your idea has a chance.

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