Work, Work, Work ... to Connect!
Always Make It Personal!
I gave 5 speeches last week, in 5 different countries-cultures. Watching (one can—must—learn to watch intently as one speaks!) audiences respond, I've re-learned a few lessons. None more important than ... CONNECT ... MAKE IT PERSONAL.
For one thing, I'm a nut about reading local papers, or chatting up anyone I can grab to get a flavor of what's afoot, or just hitting the pavement. So in Sweden, for example, I began by talking about my trip the day before to the giant local department store, NK, and shopping a long list foisted on me by my wife, who did 4 years of professional training in Sweden—in fact I described being on my cell phone to her, as she directed me around the store by memory from 3,000 miles away. (It didn't hurt that I called NK "the world's best department store"—which I think it is. Appreciating someone else's turf nabs mega-points! Duh!) (On the other hand, I've screwed up on this. I once offhandedly criticized a Tampa hotel I was staying in to a Tampa audience. My remarks were not perceived as generic "customer service lessons"—as I had intended; but as a frontal assault-insult aimed at Tampa, Florida, and each-and-every audience member!) In Germany, I played shamelessly to my German blood and my "Germanic" engineering background—and teased incessantly about the need for them, and me, to overcome some share of what we'd heretofore thought of as strengths (e.g., rigid adherence to the "one best way"). In Italy, as I reported in an earlier Post, I showed up in a gorgeous Italian shirt and tie, purchased the afternoon before, joked about the price—and then tied the whole thing to my spiel on design and new approaches to value-added.
Bottom line: A speaker is always ... even in a 10-minute interchange ... attempting first-and-foremost to form a common heritage with the audience. Any speaker worth her or his salt wants to move an audience to act. That is only accomplished, in my experience, when "they" are converted into "we." WE ... are confronted with this challenge or that. WE ... must get beyond the places we are ... JOINTLY ... stuck in today. WE ... are frail and battered ... but ... WE ... must act with dispatch. And so on.
For George Bush or John Kerry or me-in-Frankfurt ... it's all about ... Making Common Cause! The argument may be airtight, the data unassailable, but if it's not ... UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL AND "SOLD" AS A JOINT CHALLENGE ... AND OBVIOUSLY FROM THE HEART ... then it is perceived, especially in another culture, as an ... Assault By a Thoughtless Stranger!
BTW: To state the obvious, the tougher the sell (and mine are pretty tough ... as in "forget everything you thought you knew and that made you successful") ... the Tighter the Human Bond must be!
BTW: This is hard, conscious work!
And, on a related subject ...