You may have seen ukulele phenom Jake Shhimabukuro’s YouTube video, shot in NYC’s Central Park, of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which has more than 11 million (!) views.

You might also have seen Jake’s TED video where he performs a masterful version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” all on four strings…:-)

I’m here speaking in Waikiki and chanced upon an excellent PBS-Hawaii documentary last night about Jake, a virtuoso who has “hit it big,” yet remains grounded in his values.

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings

A favorite segment of the PBS special was when Jake played his ukulele in Sendai, Japan (ravaged by the 2011 tsunami), at a senior care center.

The expressions on these people’s faces, their tapping along with Jake’s strumming, was particularly poignant and profound.

Perhaps most powerful was Jake’s statement, “My goal when I play is to connect with my audience, to play music that moves them.”

Kudos to Jake. His goal deserves to be our goal as speakers and writers.

The goal of speaking is not to get a standing ovation. It is not to get a perfect 10 on our evaluations or to generate lots of “back of the room” sales.

The goal of writing is not to have a book that serves as a business card (gak). It is not to have a bestseller or to have “product” that drives our career.

Those are nice; those are welcomed; they’re just not the primary reason we speak and write.

The goal of speaking and writing is to connect with our audience members and readers; to share ideas, insights and stories that move them to feel something, to rethink something, to do something differently.

A participant came up after my presentation on Friday and said, “You just radiate joy. What is your secret?”

First, I thanked him and then told him, “I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak for a living.

To stay centered in my goal of genuinely connecting with participants and sharing something that puts the light on in their eyes; I repeat the following mantra to myself in the minutes before a presentation.

I am here to serve; not to show off.

I am here to inspire; not to impress.

I am here to make a difference; not to make a name.

Then, I start every presentation with Arthur Rubenstein’s quote … “I have found if you love life; life will love you back.”

I have found that if I center myself in that mantra and start off with Rubenstein’s quote, it grounds me in how much I love speaking.

And when we love what we do, people often love being around us and want to be part of it.

Any nervousness or self-consciousness disappears.

What takes its place is a sublime stream-of-consciousness where we’re swept up in an exquisite state of flow in which we’re one with our audience.

What mantra do you use to ground yourself in your clarity that the purpose of your speaking is to serve, not to show off; to inspire, not to impress; to make a difference, not to make a name?

When writing, I picture someone specific across the desk from me and write to that person. It could be one of my sons, a client or a friend, someone who could benefit from what I’m trying to get across.

It transforms writing from being an intellectual exercise, a brain dump of “What do I want to say?” to “What would put the light on in this person’s eyes?”

When I mentally reach out to a specific person, when my purpose is to write something that would resonate with them; the words flow out so fast my fingers can hardly keep up.

How about you?

Who are you going to speak to – write to?

How are you going to keep them top-of-mind by focusing on how you can reach them, resonate with them?

How are you going to center yourself in your intent to connect; which is the real reason we communicate?

Always has been. Always will be.

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I rediscovered an old friend today.

Reader’s Digest.

I’m visiting my sister and brother-in-law this weekend – Cheri and Joe Grimm – who have been running my business and website for the past 15 years.

They gifted me with a stay in a delightful bed and breakfast here in Los Osos, CA (on the coast 40 miles south of Hearst Castle).

I noticed a copy of Reader’s Digest on my night table, and impulsively took it with me this morning to read while enjoying my coffee and a fabulous view overlooking the bay.

After the first few pages, fond memories came flooding back.

I was first introduced to Reader’s Digest when my family and I would go to our Granny’s house in Eagle Rock, CA for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

If the weather was good, my sister, brother and cousins and I would play outside.

If the weather was bad, we were “banished” to the back porch.

And there, on the bookshelves, were stacks and stacks of Reader’s Digest.  On some particularly rainy weekends, we would work our way through years of issues.

I was once asked by a reporter where I got my “literary training.”  Did I study journalism in college, have an English degree or a Ph.D. in Communication?

No, no and no.

My teachers were Walter Farley (The Black Stallion series), Nancy Drew and Ed McBain (our librarian was a bit scandalized when this 12 year old kid checked out the racy 86th Precinct books from our small town, one-room library).

After delving into the May 2012 issue of RD,  laughing out loud at pithy one-liners , raising my eyebrows at “didn’t know that” insights, and tearing out article after article offering testimony to man’s HUMANITY to man … I am struck by the profound influence Reader’s Digest has had on my writing, speaking and approach to life.

For example, this My Most Unforgettable Character article entitled The Night I Met Einstein, (which RD notes is one of the most requested essays of the thousands in their archives), moved me with its timeless wisdom.

http://www.rd.com/true-stories/inspiring/the-night-i-met-einstein/

Take a few minutes to read it and you’ll easily understand why.  This was written more than 60 years ago (!) and is as powerful today as it was when Jerome Weidman first wrote it.

It is an illustration of why I loved reading Reader’s Digest growing up – and was profoundly shaped by its recurring themes of decency, honor, resourcefulness, bravery, adventure and gratitude.

I remember to this day reading a story about a mother standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes while watching her two kids outside flying kites on a windy spring day.

One of them saw her watching and called out to ask her to join them.

She waved them off and said she couldn’t because she had too many chores.

She reminisced that now that her kids were out of the house and on their own, she often thought about that windy spring day and wished she had said YES when they asked her to come out and play.

She realized, too late, her chores could have waited;  their precious, all too fleeting, childhood wouldn’t.

That article came to mind many times when my sons Tom and Andrew were growing up.  They would come up while I was writing and ask, “Let’s play ping pong” or “Let’s go to the beach.”

I would think of the presentations I had to prepare, the handouts I needed to create, or the calls I needed to be make … and then I would think of that article.

Remembering that mom’s remorse about not playing with her kids while she still could – and while they still wanted her presence – prompted me to say YES  instead of telling them I had work to do and was too busy.

Do yourself a favor.

Buy a copy of Reader’s Digest and read it cover-to-cover while sitting somewhere in the sunshine – in your favorite chair by the window, at a local park surrounded by nature or out on your back patio.

It will make you smile  … i.e., an article in the May issue from children’s book author and Simpsons writer Mike Reiss who says a publishing house called him in a panic because a superstar celebrity client had turned in an unusable, overdue manuscript.  They wanted Mike to re-write the book and have it ready – the next day.

Mike said huffily, “A children’s book is not a fast-food hamburger, and I am not McDonald’s.’

They told me, ‘We’ll pay you $10,000.’

I said, ‘You want fries with that?”

Reader’s Digest will get your eyebrows up with recent research.

This month’s issue features tidbits on Decision Fatigue, and the fact that,  just as we always suspected, Yawns Are Contagious,  which is why we often release one of our own when someone nearby opens wide.

It may even warm your heart and motivate you to be kinder to people you encounter.

It may remind you, as does the article about Einstein opening the eyes, ears, heart and mind of a musical neophyte, of what really matters – listening, learning, loving and marveling at this wondrous world of ours.

Mostly what Reader’s Digest will do is showcase that its editors understand that Carrie Fisher is right when she says, “Instant gratification takes too long.”

They are masters at condensing their content into intriguing  20 word, 50 word, 150 word insights that POP!

Their headlines,  “Cash Mob,” “Inspiring Minds Want to Know,” “We Couldn’t Make This Up,” and “50 Secrets Your Vet Won’t Tell You” create curiosity and compel you to keep reading because you want to know more.

Their visually accessible copy with short paragraphs and frequent boxed off graphics show they know people like to dip in and derive value even if they only have a few minutes to spare.  No dense, daunting text here.

In short, all of us communicators – speakers, writers, advertisers, journalists, ministers, professors and sales and marketing professionals – can learn from their example.

If you want to create intriguing headlines, insights and essays that pass Sam Horn’s Eyebrow Test®,  you can.

Purchase a copy of POP! and discover for yourself why it’s been sold around the world, featured on MSNBC, FastCompany and Business Week and hailed as the best source for crafting content that captures and keeps interest in what you have to say.

http://www.amazon.com/POP-Create-Perfect-Tagline-Anything/dp/0399533613/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335718015&sr=8-1

Do you have any favorite Readers Digest memories?  Let’s hear them . . .

“The only danger is not to evolve.” – Jeff Bezoz, Amazon.com

How could I have known my whole approach to communication would evolve because of a petite powerhouse named Dr. Betty Siegel?

Here’s the back-story of how I came to believe our traditional, information-based way of communicating is outdated and sorely in need of being overhauled – and came up with a methodology for doing so.

Several years ago, I was asked to be on the closing panel of a major conference held over the holidays. Pulitzer Prize winners, astronauts, political leaders and Nobel physicists were on the panel and in attendance, so I was excited about this opportunity.

The challenge? I had two minutes max to share an intriguing epiphany with the group.

The night before the panel, I skipped the New Years’ celebration to work on my remarks. My son Andrew came back to our hotel room after midnight and found me still up. “Whazzup, Mom?”

“Well, I’ve got something to say, but I know it’s not special.”

“Do what you always tell me to do when my brain’s fried. Get up early in the morning and the ideas will come when you’re fresh.”

“Good advice, Andrew. Thanks.” I set the alarm for 6 am and went to bed.

The next morning, I went in search of some caffeine to kick-start my creativity. I turned around after getting my coffee and bumped into the aforementioned petite powerhouse who was wearing big red glasses. I smiled and said, “Happy New Year.”

She looked at me, eyes bright, and said, “Start to finish.”

I was instantly intrigued. “How did you come up with that great phrase?”

She said, “Want to sit for a spell and I’ll tell you?”

I had a decision to make. Was I supposed to go back to my room and work on my two minutes – or was Dr. Betty Siegel my two minutes?

Suffice it to say, I went with Betty (literally and figuratively).

Betty, President Emeritus of Kennesaw State University, is, quite simply, the best communicator I’ve ever known. She doesn’t tell, she shows. She introduces each idea with a vividly-told, real-life example so you see what she’s saying.

Our conversation not only yielded a fascinating story for my closing remarks and a rewarding friendship; it crystallized the following insight which has forever changed the way I communicate (and hopefully, the way you communicate too.) That insight is:

We live in a society stuffed with information; we’re suffering from info-besity.

We don’t want more information.

We want epiphanies.

And we don’t get epiphanies from wah-wah information.

We get epiphanies from real-life examples that cause the lights to go on and the band to play.

Vividly-told, put-you-in-the-scene examples have the power to turn wah-wah into aha.

As a result of that insight; I’ve developed something called The 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule®.

The 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® is an evolutionary approach for Socratically engaging people so they’re eager to hear what you have to say next. It “peoples your points” so they’re right-brain vs. strictly neck-up rhetoric (left-brain).

The 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® creates two-way connection (the ultimate purpose of all communication) because people relate what they just heard to their situations so it applies to them.

The 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® includes the 4 essential elements of communication – but in their proper order and proportion – and it works equally well for written and spoken communication.

The 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® increases real-world results because people are motivated to do something differently . . . not because they have to; but because they want to.

When best-selling author Elmore Leonard keynoted our the Maui Writers Conference, an audience member asked, “Why do people like your books so much?”

He smiled and said, “I try to leave out the parts people skip.”

Simply stated, the 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® makes you a more compelling communicator because it helps you leave out the parts people skip.

Would you like to know how to capture and keep interest – from start to finish?

Check out my Win Buy-In and my 70 – 10 – 10 – 10 Rule® e-book TODAY so you can start using their disruptive techniques to make your information infinitely more intriguing.

Thanks to Duke Ellington for his insightful lyric that inspired the above title.

This is the final post in a 5-part series sharing some of the coaching tips given to Springboard Enterprises clients.

Part of the advice given was “If you want investors to care, you’ve got to show F.L.A.I.R.”

Many investors have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. After awhile, they all start to sound alike.

One way to stand out and get noticed and remembered – for all the right reasons – is to use R = Rhythm and Ryhme.

Tip 1. Duke was right. When you put things in a beat; you make them easy to repeat.

Hence the enduring popularity of such “earworm” ad slogans as:

“I Can’t Believe I Ate The W-h-o-l-e Thing” (Alka Seltzer)

and

“Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking” (Timex)

Chances are, you haven’t heard those jingles for years: yet you can still repeat them, word for word, in the same cadence you first heard them.

When I work with clients, one of our priorities is to create a proprietary phrase that pays that showcases their strongest selling point.

We work on saying it with “pause and punch” so anyone can repeat it, word for word, after hearing it once.

Tiip 2. Be sure to pause and punch when introducing yourself and when wrapping up.

When nervous, or when trying to jam a lot of material into a short amount of time, many speakers jumble their words together.

The consequence is people don’t “get” your name – which means they won’t be able to repeat it a minute, hour or week later – which means you’re out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Not good.

Put a pause between your first and last name (i.e., Sam – Horn) so each word is distinct and can be heard clearly.

Then, e – nun – ci – ate each syllable of your business name – and put a 3 beat pause between words – to make sure it’s imprinted and so people get it the first time.

For example, In – trigue . . . In – sti – tute.

This may sound petty or like I’m making a big deal out of nothing.

However, if people can’t repeat your name, they didn’t get your name . . . which means you won’t get their business.

Tip 3. Rhyme is sublime . . . because it helps you get remembered over time.

One of my favorite examples of this comes from the U.S. Government.

They were concerned years ago about the number of fatalities and injuries in car accidents so they invested a lot of money to create a public service campaign called “Buckle Up for Safety.”

Hmmm. Are you motivated to just run out and fasten your seat belt?

No one seemed to care and no one was inspired to change their behavior.

So, they went back to the drawing board. Or, as comedian George Carlin was famous for saying, “What did we go back to before there were drawing boards?”

This time, they put their slogan in a rhyme that had a distinctive beat. I bet you know what I’m talking about.

Yep, Click It or Ticket.

Not only did that phrase that pays catch on, it’s motivated people to buckle up and, as a result, the number of injuries and fatalities has decreased.

All this goes to prove that phrasing isn’t petty.

You can spend hours and thousands of dollars on fancy power point slides, bar charts and graphics.

But if you rush through your material and your audience can’t understand or remember anything you said – it will all be for naught.

Remember these 5 elements when preparing for and delivering your pitch . . .to increase the likelihood YOU’LL be top-of-mind at the end of a long day.

F = Fun. If you’re not having fun; they’re not having fun.

L = Link. Compare what you do to something with which they’re fond and familiar to fast-forward comprehnsion and buy-in.

A = Alliteration. It’s working for Java Jacket. Why not for you?

I = Inflection and In Your Body. Tower (vs. cower) and speak out – loud and clear – with downward inflection so you have the look and voice of authority.

R = Rhythm and Rhyme. Craft a phrase that pays and make it easy to repeat so you’re the one who gets remembered.

Want more tips on how to POP! your pitch, close the deal and get the money?

Check out POP! – which has been featured on MSNBC and in the New York Times and Washington Post – so the next time you present, you are confdient of your ability to intrigue and favorably impress everyone in the room.

“My job is to talk; your job is to listen. If you finish first, please let me know.” – Harry Herschfield

I’ll never forget it.

This was a national conference featuring the big gun keynoters.

Seth Godin. Tom Peters. Jim Collins. Tim Ferris.

They were all there.

Everyone was on the edge of their seats, listening to every word.

Then, a female CEO of a BILLION dollar company was introduced as the next speaker.

She walked to the center of the stage and stood with her feet together and her hands crossed in the . . . Fig Leaf Position.

Mistake #1.

Standing with your feet together keeps you off-balance and makes you look like you’re teetering and going to fall at any second.

Holding your hands in the Fig leaf Position is a defensive posture that makes you look like you have something to hide.

It pulls your shoulders down and collapses them together which creates a Cower stance that makes you look submissive.

Then, she said softly, in a querulous voice, “I’m so happy to be here today. I was telling my grand-daughter . . .”

Mistake #2.

Whether it’s fair or not, people judge our leadership by the volume and tone of our voice.

A meek voice sends the message you have trouble speaking up for yourself.

A soft voice signals you don’t believe you deserve to be heard.

Those are red flags to anyone deciding whether to hire you, promote you or fund you.

Plus, ending your sentences with upward inflection and speaking in a sing-songy “Valley-Girl” voice makes you seem unsure, hesitant, like you’re seeking approval.

Unfortunately for this CEO (and for the audience because she’s a brilliant leader who is respected by her thousands of employees), the laptops and smart-phones came out within minutes. They had concluded she wasn’t worth listening to.

If you’re speaking to a group of sophisticated entrepreneurs and executives, what can you do differently in the first couple minutes to prove you’re worth their valuable time and mind?

Tip 1. Lose the “I hope you like me” Little Girl Voice.

A coquettish voice will undermine the perception you have the clout to lead a company and carry off a multi-million dollar venture.

Instead, do what TV broadcasters are taught to do their first day on the job.

End your sentences with downward inflection to project a voice of authority.

Try it right now.

Imagine you’re pitching to venture capitalists and they’ve asked, “How much money are you seeking?”

Say, “$500,000” with upward inflection at the end.

Hear how it sounds tentative? Like you tossing it out there and HOPING they say yes?

Now say, “$500,000” with downward inflection at the end.

Hear how it comes across with more certainty? Like this is a justifiable figure you deserve to get?

When presenting, don’t use a conversational tone. It’s too casual.

PROJECT your voice so every single person in the room can hear every single word.

Never, ever force an audience member to have to ask, “Could you please speak up? I can’t hear you.”

The truth is, if people have a hard time hearing you, they often just give up and tune out – or start checking their email.

Don’t risk getting tuned out.

Speak out – loud and clear – and with downward inflection (like your favorite current network news anchor) so you convince people you know what you’re talking about.

Tip 2.

When you get to the center of the stage, plant your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees slightly so you feel and appear grounded.

This atletic stance helps you feel in your body (vs. in your head).

This more-balanced stance helps you stay “rooted” in one spot so you’re less likely to rock or pace.

Nervous movement patterns distract from your credibility because they give the impression you’re flighty and can’t or won’t hold your ground.

Now, hold your hands out in front of you like you’re holdihg a baskeball. This Basketball Position helps you straighten up and stand tall.

Now, pull your shoulders back and hold your head high.

Aaahh . . .that’s better. Feel how this Tower stance makes you look and feel more confident? It gives you the look of a leader.

As discussed in the previous 3 blogs, if you want decision-makers to CARE, you’ve got to show F.L.A.I.R.

Today’s post was about I = INFLECTION and being IN YOUR BODY.

Check out my previous posts to discover how you can strategically kick-off presentations so everyone in the room is motivated to listen up.

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.