I'm constantly drawn outside the usual orbit of federal acquisition regulations to the art of engaging people in conversation.
For starters, if you are growing your federal business, someone (usually many of them) has to know you, like you, and trust you...when they are almost always doing business with somebody else or solving problems some way that doesn't involve you. Yet.
The conversation sure doesn't open with what kind of small business you are. Try starting with the unique way you solve a problem you know your listener has.
To change someone's mind, or even open it in the first place, you have to connect through the heart. Publications from the New Yorker to TechVibes have gone looking for the "TED talk formula:" how to share an idea in a compelling way in 18 minutes or less?
That took me to hear Chris Anderson, head of TED, a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation that since 1984 aims to "make great ideas accessible and spark conversation" on ideas from science to business to global issues in more than 100 languages.
"We all need better presentation literacy: public speaking for the internet age, said Anderson. "More people need to raise their voices. Our campfire is now the whole world. We need to stand up and speak in a way the people would want to hear."
Writing used to be our best shot [at communicating an idea], he explained. But along came YouTube (popularity driven in part by about a hundred thousand cat videos). There is so much more you can communicate with voice. "Let's see each other's humanity," he urged.
TED isn't about inspirational performance. "What makes a talk go viral? It touches people in a special way, with an idea that resonates with them and makes people passionate. You need substance, not just form. And you need to talk about something that matters. Are you willing to park your ego and show up in service to an idea?"
Anderson characterized it not so much as a formula, but a combination of preparation, motivation, connection, plus the gift of an IDEA -- something that matters.
- Start strong: give people a sense of the idea. Start where your audience is. Make a case. Share a vision. Inspire people to find their better selves.
- Be human: show them a bit of who you are. That includes the essentials of eye contact and vulnerability.
- Explain: use metaphor in the audience's language to assemble the idea from pieces. Take a cross-disciplinary approach, come at it from different directions.
- Persuade: dismantle or displace another widely-accepted view, or show the absurdity of an idea and replace it with something more credible
- Rehearse: Memorize but be fresh. You can't be obviously reciting: you need to be able to keep the human connection the whole time you're speaking. So you choices are either to work from notes or to memorize your talk so thoroughly that you don't have to think about it.
- Fear & adrenaline: either work it out, or acknowledge it.
Find out more: