“You can’t build on broken.” – Angela Blanchard, http://www.Neighborhood-Centers.org

Wise advice from Angela Blanchard, the visionary leader of the team who turned Houston’s AstroDome into a home-away-from-home in one day following Hurricane Katrina to provide much-needed services to the thousands of refugees arriving on buses from New Orleans.

“Imagine losing your home, job, community and almost all your possessions . . . and not knowing what happened to your family members and friends.

One woman told us, ‘No one came, no one came for days. We thought the world had come to an end. We thought something much worse had happened ‘out there.’

We realized asking questions such as, “What happened? What did you lose or leave behind?’ would only drive these individuals deeper into despair.

We decided instead to focus on what they did have instead of what they didn’t; to build on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong by asking, ‘What skills and knowledge do you have? Who might you know in this area?'”

Angela spoke of the across-the-board decency and dignity of these uprooted Louisiana residents.

“When Neighborhood Centers and other philanthropic organizations filled gyms with donated presents to give at a holiday celebration, many only took 1 or 2 gifts. ‘There are a lot of people worse off than us who need them more than we do,’ they said graciously.”

Angela’s “You can’t build on broken” epiphany is universal and enduring.

Next time you’re facing a challenge, remember, “The best way to move things along is to focus on what’s strong, not what’s wrong.”

P.S. In terms of POP!, why was Angela’s message so intriguing and “sticky?” Why did people continue to come up to her after her 15 minute presentation to thank her for her stirring insights?

One reason is because her conviction was so convincing. We were swept up in her heartfelt passion and vivid story-telling.

Another reason was she crafted her enduring insight – her eBIFany – into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymed.

Alliteration (words that start with the same sound – such as build-broken) gives our mind a hook on which to hang a memory.

Rhyme (wrong-strong) makes our language lyrical and our ideas instantly eloquent.

If you want people to remember and repeat YOUR insight – so they’re thinking about it, talking about it and acting on it days, weeks, months later – craft it into an alliterative sound-bite that rhymes to give it a long tail of influence.

Doing so will scale its impact – and isn’t that the point of communication?

Want more eBIFanies from BIF-7?

This inspiring conference, hosted by Saul Kaplan, showcases visionaries who saw a problem or opportunity and thought, “Somebody should do something about that.”

Then they thought, “I’m as much a somebody as anybody; I’ll do something about it.”

Their stories of how they figured out what to do when they didn’t know what to do show how we set our SerenDestiny® in motion when we care enough about something to do something about it.

E.L. Doctorow was asked what it was like writing a novel.

He thought about it for a moment and said, “It’s kind of like driving a car at night. You can only see to the end of your headlights; but you can make the whole trip that way.”

The innovators featured at BIF-7 weren’t quite clear what their destination was at the outset. They weren’t exactly sure where they were going or how they were going to get there.

They didn’t let that stop them.

Their instinctive desire to solve and serve told them, “Just ‘cause you don’t know isn’t an excuse not to go.” They just started driving.

And because they did, http://www.GlobalGiving.org exists. http://www.BigPictureLearning.org exists. http://www.WillowCreek.com exists. http://www.FutureLogic.com exists. http://www.Climb7.com exists. http://www.HealthLeadsUSA.org exists. http://www.Seriosity.com exists. http://www.Intent.com exists.

You’ll hear more about the above organizations (which represent just a few of the brilliant 30 thought-leaders who spoke at http://www.BIF-7.com ) in upcoming blogs.

Subscribe if you’d like to know how they got out of inertia and uncertainty and drove to the end of their headlights when there was no “there” there.

And, be sure to go to http://www.BusinessInnovationFactory.com to check out their BIF-7 highlight videos and @thebif Twitter feed, to join their community of “transformation artists and audacious change-makers,” and to access their blog, book club and video studio that can help you and your colleagues “unleash and accelerate the transformative power of innovation.”

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Go a sentence deeper

Go a sentence deeper

I just had an ultimate compliment from a consulting client.

We’ve been working on his book and he said, “You’re my muse. You always encourage me to go a sentence deeper.”

What he meant by that is that we often gloss over an idea or experience.

When we stay on the surface, people read or hear what we said and move on.

That means it had no enduring impact.

If we want an idea or experience to truly reach our listeners/readers and resonate with them on a visceral/emotional level, we must “go a sentence deeper.”

For example:

How did you FEEL about what happened?

What did you SAY to yourself or others when this happened?

What were the exact words of what they said in response?

How did that impact you, exactly?

Put us there in the scene so we see and feel it right along with you.

Now you are creating interactive communication about the human experience that transcends the page and stage.

What you have written or said just made time and distance a non-issue because we are experiencing what you experienced as if we were “there.”

What are you writing right now? What presentation are you preparing? Go back over it. Did you stay on the surface?

If so, go back and go a sentence deeper.

Everyone will benefit – including you.

“Remember, you’re a lot more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is.” –
Andy Rooney

Are you going into a meeting today to introduce an idea, request funding or propose a program?

Did you know its success depends on whether you get people’s eyebrows up in the first 60 seconds?

Sam Horn eyebrow test

Sam Horn's The Eyebrow Test®


People at many meetings are either jockeying to get THEIR idea heard – or they’re bored, distracted or just waiting for the meeting to be over so they can go back to work on the UPO’s (Unidentified Piled Objects) stacking up on their desk.

The good news is, you can test in advance whether your idea is going to get any traction.

Just ask a colleague for 60 seconds of their time.

Explain your idea/proposal/request to them . . . using the exact same 60 second opening you’ll use in the meeting.

Now, watch their eyebrows.

If their eyebrows are knit or furrowed, they’re puzzled. They didn’t get it.

And if they didn”t get it, you won’t get it.

Because confused people don’t ask for clarificaiton and they don’t say yes.

You want their eyebrows to go UP. That means they’re intrigued. They want to know more.

That means you just got your idea or request in their mental door.

If what you’re pitching gets their eyebrows up, good for you. That means, “Game’s on.”

If it doesn’t, back to the drawing board.

Or, as comedian George Carlin said, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?”

Want specific ways to win buy-in to what you’re proposing?

Email us at Sam@SamHorn.com with The Eyebrow Test® in the subject heading and we’ll send you three ways to get people’s eyebrows up in the first 60 seconds.

Or, purchase a copy of POP!

It has 25 innovative ways to create communication that quickly captures favorable attention from your target customers, investors and decision-makers, has been featured on MSNBC and in the NY Times and Washington Post. Sam’s keynote with these techniques has won raves from convention audiences around the world.

And subscribe to this blog if you’d like additional ways to craft intriguing openings that pass The Eyebrow Test® so people are motivated to give you their valuable time, mind and dime.

During a recent Win Buy-In: Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything in 60 Seconds workshop I gave in Europe, a participant raised his hand and asked, “What can we do if we anticipate our decision-maker is going to say no? Do you have a way to turn that into a yes?”

“Certainly. What do you have in mind?”

“Well, my son is on a traveling soccer team. We just hired a professional player to coach his team and we need to raise money for his salary.”

“So, how are you planning to do that?’

“Well, we’re going to approach our local bookstore, but we know the owner gets hit up for donations all the time.”

“Good for you. You’re already half way to winning buy-in because you’ve already put yourself in the shoes of your decision-maker and read his mind.”

Sam Horn Turn No into Yes

Make it easy for him to say yes.


“What do you mean?”

“Ironically, the key to getting a yes is to ask yourself, ‘Why will they say no?”

“Why is that so important?”

“If you don’t voice your decision-makers’ objections right at the start, they won’t be listening to you – they’ll just be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why this won’t work.”

“How can I do that in this situation?”

“Let’s read the mind of this bookseller. The good news is, I know this industry pretty well because I Emceed the Maui Writers Conference for 17 years (MWC was to the publishing industry what Cannes is to the film industry). I know how booksellers think and what’s important to them.”

He said, “Ok, how do they think and what’s important to them?

“What’s important to every retail business owner – whether that’s a bookstore, dry cleaner, florist or restaurant – is having paying customers onsite or online buying their services and products.

What they don’t like is people taking up their valuable work time asking them for money without offering something in return.”

“That makes sense. How do I do that?”

“Here’s how. When you walk into the store, wait until the owner is finished taking care of paying customers so you’re not pulling him away from his #1 priority.

Then, make sure the first words out of your mouth are, “I know you’re busy, and may I have 3 minutes of your time?”

“Three minutes?!”

Three minutes of your time?

Three minutes of your time?

“Yes, putting a time parameter around your request immediately lets the owner know you’re aware of his busy schedule. It increases the likelihood he’ll give you his time of day.”

“Then what?”

“Use the magic words, ‘I can only imagine . . . ‘ as in “I can only imagine how many times you get asked for donations by local organizations.”

“What does that do?”

“He’s probably too polite to mention it, but it lets him know you know the school band, scout troop and local charities are constantly asking for donations.

It shows you’re not just thinking of what you want, you’re empathizing with what it must be like to be put in this challenging situation where he’s pressured to give to every worthy cause that walks in his door.”

“What do I say next?”

“Immediately jump in to how you’re going to make this a win for him. Say, ‘So I’d like to propose an event that draws people to your store, boosts your sales and gives you lots of positive press.”

The participant smiled and said, “That probably would get his interest.”

“You’re right. It at least motivates him to keep listening because this time-sensitive approach is so rare and welcome.

Then say, “I’d be glad to arrange for a professional soccer player who’s written a successful book to appear at your store on the day of your choice for a book signing/mini-seminar. In fact, in exchange for becoming a financial sponsor for our youth soccer team, we’d be glad to put your logo on our team jerseys.”

Soccer Pro book signing, good for the Pro and good for the store. -sam horn

Soccer Pro book signing

The participant asked, “What if he isn’t convinced?

Anything else I can do to turn a potential no into a yes?”

“Yes, continue to put yourself in his shoes. Ask yourself, ‘What matters to him? What else would make it easy for him to say yes?’ Chances are, asking these questions will help you think of even more ways to make it a double win.”

The participant thought for a moment and then said, “I know. My friend is a reporter for the local paper. We could ask her to interview the soccer pro and cover this event so the bookseller gets lots of publicity. He could put the clipping up in his store to show how he supports his community.”

“Great, but don’t stop there. Keep brainstorming. Anything else?”

His eyes lit up. “Yah. One of our team parents owns his own internet marketing company. I bet he’d be glad to blog about this and promote it to his social media network so even more people are aware of it and show up.”

“Good idea. That will put even more ‘cheeks in the seats.’ Keep thinking, because the more ways you can make this a win for him, the more likely he is to say yes.

For example, if one of your team parents is a good photographer, you can sweeten the pot by saying you’d be happy to arrange for someone to take photos of the soccer pro with customers in front of the bookstore’s logo for $5 a pop. That money will go toward the soccer team, making it even more of a successful fund-raiser . . . plus, it would give the bookseller a long tail of good will because those photos will stay on people’s refrigerators for a long, long time.

Notice, all of the above actions benefit the bookseller and your son’s team. That’s the beauty of this approach. When you create a win for everyone involved; you’re more likely to get a yes.”

Want more ways to quickly win buy-in to a priority project?

Contact us at Cheri@SamHorn for details on Sam Horn’s upcoming teleseminar on Win Buy-In: Get Anyone Intrigued in Anything . . . in 60 Seconds.

Earlier this year, I read an article in The Washington Post Sunday Magazine about a tanker that had caught fire 800 miles off the Hawaiian coast.

Fortunately, a cruise ship happened to be going by and was able to rescue the 11 crewmen.

However, as they pulled away, a passenger heard the sound of a dog barking. The captain’s dog, Hokget, had been left behind.

When the cruise ship got to Hawaii, the crew held a press conference. The captain said how grateful they were to be rescued, but all he could think about was his dog abandoned, alone, on the tanker.

The world mobilized. Emails and donations flooded in. $5. $500. $5000.

The U.S. Navy actually changed the exercise area of the Pacific Fleet to search the part of the ocean they thought the tanker might have drifted.

The Coast Guard dispatched a C-130. Miraculoulsy, after searching 50,000 square miles of open ocean, they located the tanker and flew low to see if there was any sign of life.

Sure enough, there was a brown-and-white blur racing frantically up and down the deck. The crew couldn’t land so they dropped their power bars, pizza and oranges so Hokget would have something to eat.

More than a month later, a quarter million dollar (!) rescue mission was mounted with the donations that had poured in from around the globe.

Against all odds, they were able to save Hokget and bring him back to Hawaii.

Here’s the question.

Why did people from around the world mobilize to save the life of one dog – when there are thousands of people in their own cities, states and countries who also desperately need food, water and shelter?

The answer, posits Shankar Vedantam, the author of the article, is something called THE EMPATHY TELESCOPE.

Simply said, we can put ourselves in the shoes of one person – we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of many.

Our mind (and heart) can’t comprehend mass numbers. It’s too overwhelming. Our mind shuts down. Our eyes look away.

One person (or dog) is doable – a magnitude of millions is not.

What does this mean for you as a communicator, business owner or non-profit leader?

Where is your dog on the tanker?

What do you care about? Your cause? Your company? A new idea? If you try to get people interested by talking about the thousands of people you serve or the millions of people who will benefit; it will be almost impossible for anyone to grasp the essence of your message. The numbers simply won’t equate.

It is far better to talk about ONE client you serve – ONE person who will benefit. Tell the story of that one person – who will act as a universal stand-in for everyone.

Now, your listeners, viewers and readers can relate. Now, they can PICTURE what you’re talking about.

Next time you’re preparing a sales presentation; writing a blog post or article; creating a fund-raising campgain or working on your web copy – keep this in mind.

Where is your dog on the tanker? Where is your Hero Journey story of a single person who has a problem or challenge; deals with it successfully and returns home triumphant?

Tell the story of that one person (or dog) so vividly; people experience it as if they’re there; as if it’s happening right now.

And yes, this can be done with integrity as opposed to being manipulative. The goal is to remember that sweeping terms will go over people’s head – in one ear, out the other.

If you want to win buy-in, use a single individual’s real-life example to engage your audience’s emotions and mind’s eye so they viscerally “get” what you’re trying to get across.

That will capture their imagination and intrigue your audience. Better yet, they will care about what you care about because they SEE what you’re saying.

Curious about what happened to Hokget?

Here’s the link to that article in case you’d like to know, (as Paul Harvey used to say) . . . the rest of the story. http://bit.ly/7tfBYN

Do you have a favorite example of an individual or organization who captured the interest and empathy of their audience through a “dog on a tanker” story?

I’d love to hear it.