Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

high school studentI did a seminar recently for a group of high school seniors. I was told they were not necessarily underachievers, but had no firm plans after graduation. Some had thought about college, a job or the military, but most seemed only interested in hanging around waiting for something to happen. The common thread was a strong case of “Senioritis” and a short attention span for remaining school requirements.

The teacher that sponsored the seminar told me previous speakers had used the standard follow your dreams advice and ended up with a group of bored and distracted students. They had heard the same message since preschool days watching Barney and Friends, and he was concerned it didn’t say enough about what they would encounter in the real world.

Even though I don’t wear a purple dinosaur outfit, I’m the last person to discourage anyone from following their dreams. But the reality of the real world is not everyone will win The Voice or have their idea bankrolled on Shark Tank. My assignment that day was to keep the students interested and involved in my seminar on communication skills and share practical real world advice.

But as usual, I also had my own agenda…

Everyone has a talent and a desire for something. It may not even involve becoming The Voice or the next Bill Gates. But whatever it might be, it doesn’t have much of a chance becoming a reality by “hanging around waiting for something to happen.”

Groucho 2

The Wacky Professor

Lucky for me, the seminar was in the school’s library. So I opened with a very effective follow your dreams message by pulling two of my books from the shelf. It got their attention. Then to hold their attention (staring at book covers for more than ten seconds is not as interesting as checking text messages for most high school students), I turned the attention to them.

I asked about their personal interests.

With this particular group of students, no one said a word about math, science or history. They talked about music, poetry, fashion and art. And when they expressed their ideas, the enthusiasm was obvious. They wanted to talk about it and involve the others. I imagined it was quite different than their normal participation in math, science or history classes.

So I took it a step further and asked for two volunteers. Most of them raised their hands (probably unlike during the classes mentioned above), but since we had a limited amount of time until the class bell, we could only go with two.

One was a girl into fashion and the other a boy who played guitar.

I told the girl she was going to tell us about her favorite sweater. With the boy, we wanted to know about his dream guitar. Then I gave them a quick assignment. I asked each to write down twothoughts about their item. I wanted to know:

  1. How owning the item it made them feel and…
  2. How owning the same item could make someone else feel.

Then they would each talk about their item in a way that would convince the other students they HAD to have either the sweater or the guitar.

Sounds like a sales pitch – doesn’t it?

Then I borrowed an exercise from my stand-up comedy workshops. I told them to imagine we were at a party. All their friends had told interesting and funny stories – and now it was their chance to talk. How would they tell us about their item in a creative way that would express their feelings AND make us laugh?

This is similar to an audience participation game I use at conferences with business people and educators looking to improve their communication skills. In a nutshell, the idea is to make your message more effective while using creative and humorous enhancements to keep it interesting.

Guitar PlayerIf I could, for my next business conference seminar I’d bring these students with me, take a seat in the audience and let them talk. She basically told the other girls how great they would look in her sweater and how, of course, they would attract more boys. He told the guys how they could look like rock stars with his dream guitar and of course, attract more girls.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Yes, they were a lot goofier (for lack of a better term) than you’d expect during a real business world sales pitch or networking opportunity. But the end result was the same.

* They held our attention by delivering their message in a way we found very entertaining and memorable.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

In this case it was using creativity and humor to express and share their interests. In the case of high school students, their interests are what could determine future careers. For others in the real business world already pursuing careers, looking to expand or even make a change, better communication leads to better opportunities. The real world is competitive and to stand out from the competition you must know how to express yourself in a productive and interesting way.

Sounds like the average television commercial – doesn’t it?

Better communication leads to better opportunities. And along with that purple dinosaur, I’m not going to tell anyone they shouldn’t try to make their dreams come true. Sometimes it all depends on how you communicate them.

*

Comment? Please use the form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, and nationally recognized humor and comedy coach. For information about training seminars and keynotes for your next event or conference visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Positive listening keeps the customer satisfied

Stay positive.

We’ve all been given that advice at one time or another. But I work in the humor industry and when it comes to making comedy audiences laugh, the opposite is often true. Adults and children laugh when a more important person is the victim of a joke. That’s why comedians poke fun at royalty, politicians and famous celebrities – and get away with it. They’re not picking on someone struggling, down on his luck, or without the ability to put up a good defense.

That wouldn’t be funny.

When I work with students, from junior high to college, it’s important for me to emphasize the importance of being positive in productive communication skills. It’s common and trendy today to be sarcastic, insulting or cutting edge. It’s easy to point a finger of blame at the recent generations of stand-up comedians, but this is nothing new. In fact, it’s still the way my college pals and I communicate. I’d be shocked to receive an email or phone call from one of the guys that didn’t open with an insulting comment about my intelligence, age, looks, weight – or whatever is trending on their mind at that moment.

9T4AGEETEIt’s how we communicate on a personal, as close friends level. It’s also very acceptable in the comedy world and why a pie thrown in the face of “the boss” is just as funny in the movies today as it was when Charlie Chaplin was the brightest star on the silent screen.

But what’s considered cutting edge in the comedy industry is not usually funny or productive when it comes to customer service. Using negative humor for laughs outside of a close friendship can send the victim on a defensive course by feeling inferior or unwanted. And as we all know, that’s not a way to build or continue a business relationship.

Keep the customer satisfied.

As a consumer, my business is earned because the product or service is what I’m looking for. I’ll become a repeat customer because I’m a happy customer. In the best scenario, the people I’m dealing with make me feel important; even if I know very little about how they give me good results (in my case, anything to do with cars). I don’t feel inferior or unwanted and that’s good customer service.

Is the customer is always right?

No, of course not. Sometimes they misunderstand what they are buying or being promised. It’s usually a miscommunication. But when dealing with a product or service, even when terms are written out or explained by a sales representative, misunderstandings might occur.

circleThere’s a game we’ve all played at one time or another where your friends or classmates would sit in a circle. One person whispers something in the ear of the person sitting next to him. Then that person whispers it in the next person’s ear, and it continues around the circle until it comes back to the one that started it all. Usually the original statement has been misunderstood, changed and shared in various ways until it’s completely different than what was said originally.

I remember playing this with our teacher when we were in first grade. The teacher started by whispering something very innocent to the first student. By the time it went around the circle and back to the teacher, it had turned – either through a misunderstanding or one player’s attempt at being funny in a negative way – very, very insulting to the teacher. I distinctly remember her turning a bright shade of embarrassing red and the game was over.

In fact, the game was never played again in our classroom.

That’s a good lesson in customer service. A misunderstanding or miscommunication can quickly turn a positive situation into one that is negative, embarrassing, or even to the point of anger. The best we can do to prevent this is to listen and try to understand.

And of course, stay positive.

In my training seminars I play a game with two audience victims… I mean volunteers. They come to the front of the room and the audience assigns each an alternative career. Since I always insist on creativity and imagination (elements of good humor) some fun examples have included an astronaut, pro surfer, television game show host, and… well, use your imagination.

I ask the two volunteers to have a simple conversation as if they were in the profession given to them. Every once in awhile during this conversation I’ll shout, “Stop!” and ask one to reach into a basket and pick a notecard that has a printed random (funny) sentence. They read this as their next line in the conversation. The astronaut, pro surfer, game show host – or whoever they are – has to reply and keep the conversation going.

It’s all about listening.

chinese-whispersOf course it always takes the conversation in a completely different direction and often ends up like the “whispering around the circle game” with the ending nowhere near what they had been talking about at the beginning. The main difference between a group of mischievous first graders and our training audience is that I insist we stay positive. When it comes to customer service, the goal is to have your customers return satisfied and happy, rather than leaving with a bright shade of embarrassing red on their faces.

Listening to what was said and being positive are the first steps in productive communication. This is a solid foundation for good customer service and can lead the way to the ultimate goal of keeping the customer satisfied.

Musical interlude: Keep The Customer Satisfied by Simon & Garfunkel (enjoy for the fun of it!)

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Dave Schwensen has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. He is an author, speaker, trainer, consultant, nationally-recognized comedy coach, and two-time CILC Pinnacle Award Winner “For remarkable quality of educational content and exceptional skill at program delivery.” For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive training programs and breakout sessions for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

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