Using “Seinfeld” to hit a home run in communication skills

Are you a fan of the television show Seinfeld? It was one of the great all-time sitcoms that will live on in reruns our grandchildren will watch. If you don’t believe me, just think of how many generations still watch I Love Lucy, which was the top sitcom from the 1950′s. If you communicate in a way that is entertaining, an audience will listen for as long as you want to talk.

How long do your clients or co-workers listen to you?

Do you hold their attention long enough so they actually listen to what you want them to hear? I hope so, because verbal communication is still the key for successful customer service, teamwork and networking.

In the video conference on communications I taught for a high school last month, I gave the students an in-class assignment. I asked them to list three things that actually happened (truth) during their journey to school, followed by how each experience made them feel. The key to the assignment was that they had to express their feelings (personal thoughts or opinions) using only positive terms.

school busThen I asked each to tell us about his or her journey (driving, riding a school bus, or walking) to school, combining the three facts and their positive feelings in a way that might make their friends or family laugh. The results were creative and entertaining stories that held everyone’s attention.

All the students could relate since it was an experience they had all shared. After all, none of them had spent the previous night at the school. They all had to travel from somewhere else that morning.

Finding common ground – something your listeners can relate to – is a great method on how to attract and hold someone’s attention long enough for them to hear what you really want to say. It’s a technique that breaks the ice and makes a memorable impression. Once you do that, you’re on the journey toward better and more productive professional and personal relationships.

Truth + Creativity & Humor (Thoughts & Opinions) = Conversations

Too easy?

Does it sound too easy? It is. The secret is to take a positive outlook on a shared event, tap into your personal creativity, (we all have feelings, thoughts and observations), and turn it into a conversational tool. I learned this method from some of the experts at relating to – and conversing with – an audience, which takes us back to Seinfeld

When I was scheduling performers for The Improv Comedy Club in New York City, I worked with the sitcom’s creator and many of the writers. And it wasn’t just at the comedy club located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, but also as a member of our softball team that competed in the Performing Arts League in Central Park. Since we were sponsored by The Improv, our team was made up of comedians, comedy writers and one talent booker (me!).

One teammate was Ray Romano, who went on to star in Everybody Loves Raymond, but this story involves our first baseman, Larry David. Along with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry created Seinfeld and his own show on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fortunately that particular season we won more games than we lost and made the playoffs, which was our first goal. Our second was to win the playoffs and be the funniest champions of the league.

Unfortunately, on the day of our first playoff game, many of the best players, (who were also good comedians), were performing outside of New York City. That meant some of us who were more comfortable sitting on the bench watching would have to play in the field. And others, who were used to a regular position, had to play somewhere else. I was pried from the bench to play second base and our first basement, Larry David, was moved to shortstop.

Baseball fans know shortstop is the most demanding defensive position. The best shortstops are usually smaller and quicker than the other players. It was not the best place for a tall, lanky first baseman and there were a number of balls hit between Larry and myself that added up to more runs for the other team. To put it gently, we lost and were eliminated from the playoffs after one game.

It was not a positive moment since we now had the unwanted task of telling our returning teammates that our season was over. I also remember standing near our bench when Larry threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Fast forward a few years…

Heading for home!

Seinfeld was the number one show on television. One night I tuned in and saw the character George Costanza, (based on the real life Larry David), running down the third base line during a softball game in Central Park wearing an Improv t-shirt.

My first thought was, “That’s my team!”

After a losing effort, George Costanza threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Can you guess my second thought? I played in that game!”

The lesson behind this long dissertation was that Larry had taken a moment that wasn’t very positive at the time, creatively found the humor and made it entertaining. It was a one way conversation with the viewing audience and all he did was tell the truth with creative license.

Anyone who had ever played or watched a softball game, or even experienced the “agony of defeat,” (a quote borrowed from another television show), could relate.

The Home Team

This and other episodes of Seinfeld based on real experiences that viewers could relate to from Larry, Jerry, and other writing contributors held their audiences’ attention for nine seasons and still continue today in reruns. Talk about making a memorable and lasting impression!

The bottom line is not always what you say, but how you say it.

The best part is you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to grab your listener’s attention. Find out…

  • What you have in common
  • Take a positive outlook and…
  • Enhance it with personal creativity and humor

It’s a great way to break the ice, start a conversation, and build a relationship with someone you want to do business with.

Go ahead and give it a try. Tell the person next to you about your drive to work today. Use a few facts, be creative, stay positive and tell it in a way you think will make them smile or laugh. Chances are you’ll strike up a conversation – and you never know what doors that may open.

Comment? Use the “leave a reply” link below – thanks!

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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

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

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How to hold someone’s attention for longer than 20 seconds

We’re traveling along the communication highway at top speed. But instead of using one of the latest techno methods mentioned in the last article (such as Twitter, texting, or online networking), we’re going old school.

A face-to-face conversation.

Looking at laptopScary – isn’t it? Suddenly I can visualize a lot of eyes peeking up over cubicle walls or peering from behind computer screens questioning that communication tactic. But it’s still an important business technique. It’s called the personal touch.

In the last article we talked about how modern technology has changed the way we communicate. For example, why television commercials are rarely longer than 20 seconds when years ago they could last one minute or longer. Technology  has changed our attention spans.

People want information now or they’ll search somewhere else for it. As Bruce Springsteen once sang about his shrinking attention span while surfing through the stations on his cable TV:

There was 57 channels and nothin’ on.”

So during a conversation – when you’re meeting a new client or advertising your product (for someone to buy, buy, buy), how would you hold their attention if you were talking for longer than 20 seconds?

The days of the long-winded sales pitch are over. You need to grab someone’s attention and hold onto it. Thanks to 20 second commercials and other methods that deliver information fast, your competition is technology. And if you can’t compete, no one will bother to listen. Worse yet, they might listen to someone else. And then remember that person’s conversation – and their message – instead of you.

There are three important conversational techniques that will keep your listeners focused on what you’ll say next. And of course, what you will say after you have their attention would be the  message you actually want them to hear:

Three Conversational Techniques that will hold someone’s attention for longer than 20 seconds:

  1. Keep them interested
  2. Entertain them
  3. Humor them

Sound simple? It can be – once you learn the proper way to use these techniques. After all, I’m not writing these articles to train people to be stand-up comedians. I’m training people who want to stand above the competition in business and education by using effective and productive verbal communication skills. And sometimes you only have 20 seconds or less to make an impression. Are you prepared?

looking at watchWhen you work in customer service, sales, education, or as an administrator / supervisor, you are expected to be informative and have solutions. But whether your clients, students, or co-workers have the attention span to hear, listen to, and remember what you are saying (your message) depends on how it is delivered.

What you say and how you say it matters more now than ever before. Personality counts – and if you have one (and I’m sure you do!) it’s time to use it for your advantage.

Be interesting, entertaining and humorous (when given the opportunity) and most people will pay attention for 20 seconds or longer. That’s longer than most television commercials – which come with big price tags from advertising agencies that already know this.

When you have their attention, they’ll hear your message. We’ll talk more about these communication enhancements the next time we communicate. Stay tuned…

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

Musical Interlude: 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) by Bruce Springsteen

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author of six books including How To Be A Working Comic. He has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. Dave is a keynote speaker and break-out session leader (for your next event!) and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on comedy, communication skills and pop culture.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s training seminar or interactive keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

The secret to customer service, teamwork and networking

I thought the above title would grab your attention. It could be interesting, entertaining, and maybe (if you know my background) even humorous. You won’t know for sure unless you continue reading.

So… what is the secret to great customer service, productive teamwork and successful networking?

aie6gdGi4A study released in the journal Psychological Science found meaningful conversations (actual talking between people) increased productivity and the happiness factor – which is a guaranteed way (the secret!) to improve customer service, teamwork and networking.

Psychologists at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Washington University in St. Louis have finally discovered what some of us have known for years:

Small talk doesn’t cut it.

Here’s what researchers did to learn about the importance of strong conversational skills. They had volunteers complete personality and well-being assessments. Then over the next four days the volunteers wore recording devices that recorded 30 seconds of sound every 12 minutes. After sifting through 20,000 recordings, the researchers put the conversations into two groups: trivial or substantial.

two-groups-of-peopleSort of like what we do every time we’re talking with someone – right?!

They concluded that the most productive and satisfied (there’s the happiness factor again) participants spent 25% less time alone and dealing with trivial conversations – and 70% more time having substantive conversations. Researchers suggest meaningful conversations breed stronger interactions.

So let me ask you a few questions:

  • Do you want to improve customer service?
  • Do you want to increase productivity through team-building?
  • Do you want to build your client base by networking?
  • Do you want to increase sales?

This is only a guess, but I would say you answered “YES” to all of the above questions. And the answer (again, the secret) is to have more conversations your listeners will relate to and therefore, listen to and remember.

In a nutshell, here’s a winning technique:

  • Keep them interested
  • Entertain them
  • Humor them

The idea is to involve your listener by building an immediate relationship through common interests or experiences. The result should help you stand out from someone who doesn’t.

In other words – they’ll remember you.

people-laughingAs an example, in my keynotes and training seminars, I rely a lot on audience participation. Not that I don’t have a lot to say (I do!) but it’s good to build interaction and keep everyone involved. I mean seriously, who really wants to just sit there and listen to someone lecture for an hour or more? I’ll admit there are speakers who can hold our attention for a good length of time and get paid TONS of money to do it. But I’m sure we all have memories of long-winded instructors at school or group leaders at work that… well, I’m getting bored just writing about them.

If a topic isn’t presented in a way that will hold your interest, chances are it will be an hour of your life that is hard to describe to someone else:

Bored You: “Yes, we had a speaker. He talked about… something… (Insert sounds of yawning or snoring).

Interested You: “Yes, we had a speaker. He was very entertaining. Here’s what he talked about… (Insert sounds of fireworks and cheering crowds).

As any good speaker or trainer will tell you, keeping an audience’s attention is not much different than doing the same during a one-on-one conversation. The goal is to keep the listener interested in what you are saying. And a good way to do that in today’s high-speed techno society is to include an enhancing dose of personal creativity to make your informative or ice-breaking conversations entertaining and when appropriate (and always politically correct) humorous.

Informative and entertaining conversations are always memorable. It’s a winning technique in customer service, team-building and networking.

My goal as a communications trainer is NOT to change your message, but to enhance the way it is delivered. Even the psychologists agree:

Small talk doesn’t cut it.

Employ these enhancements and your conversations will not only be heard – but also listened to and remembered.

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

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author of six books including How To Be A Working Comic. He has designed and instructs university courses in communications and presentation skills. Dave is a keynote speaker and training seminar leader (for your next event!) and CILC Pinnacle Award Winner for video conferences on communication skills, comedy and pop culture.

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

For information about scheduling Dave’s training seminar or interactive keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

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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