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

A memorable 1st impression is easier than taking a bite out of Elvis

How do you make a memorable first impression? I’ll tell you how one aspiring entertainer made sure The King of Rock’n Roll wouldn’t forget him, but before we go to extremes let’s try an easier method…

We live in a fast-paced world. I’ve discussed in past articles how technology has changed the way we receive information. Television and radio commercials have become 20-second blasts of entertainment, often humorous and creative, that grab our attention long enough to deliver the advertiser’s message.

A great first impression should do the same. Today it takes more than a firm handshake and a toothy smile followed by boring small talk such as:

  • “Nice weather we’re having, isn’t it?”

Your ice-breaker should lay the groundwork for new opportunities. And if you don’t know what to say, then it’s time to stop thinking about the weather and come up with a winning game plan.

Whether you’re looking to move up in your career or move on to a better one, what you say and how you say it can make you the “go to person” and set you apart from the competition. One way is to strike up a conversation by using a hook.

  • So… what is a hook?

The idea is based on the technique shared in a past newsletter (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations). It gives you an opportunity to show your personality, which always counts. And if you have one (I know you do!) there’s no reason why you can’t use it for your benefit.

  • So… what is a hook?

Imagine you’re fishing with an invisible rod and reel. But instead of going for fish, you cast out a conversation starter that grabs the attention of the person you’re meeting. If you make it interesting by referring to a topic they can relate to, it should hook them into continuing the conversation.

1016-www.funsniper.com-starting-a-conversation-on-facebookI’ll admit I didn’t invent this technique. I’m only sharing it, with a few refinements. During my career as a talent coordinator in Hollywood, I watched some of the best communicators in the world practice this night after night. Their goal, like yours, was to catch and hold the attention of listeners.

These great communicators were stand-up comedians. And their careers depended on having successful, creative and, of course, funny conversations with audiences. Here are a few examples of million-dollar, attention-grabbing comedy hooks:

  • “Did’ya ever notice…” (Jerry Seinfeld)
  • “I don’t get no respect…” (Rodney Dangerfield)
  • “You might be a redneck if…” (Jeff Foxworthy)

Of course these hooks wouldn’t work as well in a professional business setting, but they are attention grabbers and memorable enough to be called famous. And once you hear them, you want to know what the comedian will say next.

How do you create a business conversational hook?

It’s simple. Find a topic you know your listener can relate to. For best results, make it something current and you’ve both experienced. Look around your settings and become an observer and commentator. For example, you both might have encountered rush hour traffic driving to your meeting place, or met over a cup of coffee during a needed break.

Borrowing a song introduction that’s been overused by more than a few bad lounge singers, the potential conversation, “Goes a little something like this…

  • You: “How are you?”
  • Reply: “Fine. How are you?”

starwarsAnd like a bad lounge singer on cruise control, your verbal efforts could hit a dead end because all you can come back with might be…

  • Automatic You: “I’m fine. Thanks.”

Ouch! How often have we heard potential conversations stall because of this automatic (you’ve said it so often that no thought is required or needed) reply? It’s become such an instinctive and common reply that – from many people – it sounds insincere. They’re just saying “words.” It’s not conversation.

And even if you try to change it up with a different, but also overused reply, there’s a good chance boring small talk (yawn) will creep in…

  • Dull You: “I’m fine. Nice weather we’re having.”

That’s a conversation-starter that will single you out from the pack – right?

Wrong!

Instead, this is where you should be creative and hook your listener (Truth + Creativity & Humor = Conversations)…

  • Creative You: “I’m fine. In fact I’m great. This coffee tastes good after that drive this morning. Did you go through the same traffic? I’m positive they have speed limits around here…”

Okay, it’s not comedy club “Ha-Ha” worthy, but then again, we’re not trying to be stand-up comedians. The example was based on topics you could both relate to (driving and/or coffee) and included thoughts and opinions (personality). Chances are your listener will have a reply, allowing the conversation to continue. The goal is to make you remembered, build new connections, strengthen old ones, and improve networking.

If the person you’re talking to bites the hook – you’ll have a conversation that should make you more memorable than someone still dishing out boring small talk (yawn).

And now, speaking of bites, I promised you an extreme example of making a first impression. A newsletter subscriber who works at a very famous medical center emailed the following story. I know she won’t mind if I share it:

  • I recall a guy talking about meeting Elvis. He was an up and coming singer at the time so to meet Elvis, who was an icon, was very exciting. What he did though was drop down on the floor – grabbed Elvis’ leg and bit him on the ankle. Needless to say Elvis was taken aback and shouted, “What’s wrong with you man?” To which the less known singer said, “Well, if I had just shook your hand that would be it. But now you’ll remember me.” Elvis had to laugh as it was certainly true and this story has survived for 40 years.

It might have worked on Elvis, but for everyone else a creative verbal hook should be enough to (excuse me while I quote another million dollar hook) – “Git-R-Done.”

1st ImpressionMusical Interlude: Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley (good thing he wasn’t wearing ankle boots!)

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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 CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences. For information about scheduling Dave’s interactive training programs, keynotes and breakout sessions for your next event, visit www.TalkingForSuccess.com

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

Have a comment or need more information? Please use the contact form below – I’d love to hear from you.

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