Busting the Mehrabian Myth

 25th July 2009 by gihan

For years, speakers, trainers, consultants and other educators have quoted Albert Mehrabian’s “55/38/7” research, saying that only 7% of the meaning of your message comes from the words you use. And for years, I’ve been telling them that this is wrong. Not the research itself, but the way it’s wrongly quoted as if it applies in all communication situations. As Mehrabian himself points out on his Web site, the research applied in very specific situations:

“Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

Now this brilliant YouTube video explains it clearly:

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>You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

 15th July 2009 by gihan


So the crowd gave you a standing ovation after a great keynote
… or that hot prospect gave you a verbal agreement at that crucial sales meeting
… or your newest coaching client finally committed to taking clear, specific actions
… or a reader told you that your book changed her life.

Feels great, doesn’t it? But … Have you ever had that feeling, and then discovered the audience walked out and didn’t change anything? Or that hot prospect never got back to you – or chose somebody else? Or that coaching client never did end up doing what they said they would do? Or that reader forgot what she’d read within a few days?

How could this be??? They loved you! You knew it, and they knew it!

So what made them fall out of love with you?

Today’s audiences, clients, prospects and consumers fall in and out of love with stuff a hundred times a day. They haven’t got time to go on a date – the best you can hope for is speed dating.

Sure, your idea was gorgeous, witty, brilliant, ruggedly handsome, Down To Earth and had a Good Sense Of Humour. But, as far as they’re concerned, so is every other idea they see, hear or touch in the day.

So when something better – or maybe even worse – comes along, that gets their attention – and yours goes to the back of the line.

What can you do to fix this?

Simple: Attach your idea to their future.

You know your idea is good – after all, that’s what they fell in love with at the start. The problem is, you made it too easy to forget, because you didn’t connect it to their future.

You see, a new idea is – by definition – new, different, unfamiliar, maybe even a little bit uncomfortable to them. So it’s not surprising they have a natural tendency to go back to their old, same-same, familiar, comfortable way of life.

As John Lennon famously sang:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

OK, so how do you do this?

Use these four simple phrases:

  • “When you …”
  • “Whenever you …”
  • “The next time …”
  • “Every time …”

Here are some examples:

  • “Give yourself a big mental hug when you pass by the ice-cream freezer at Coles and head for the fresh vegies instead.”
  • Whenever you turn the key in your ignition, hook up your phone to the hands-free kit.”
  • The next time your network crashes, call us – we’ll be waiting.”
  • Every time you turn on the tap in your kitchen, remember that half the world’s women have to walk an hour a day to get fresh water.”

Get the idea? These simple phrases take your idea from the present (now) and attach them into your audience’s future.

Is that all it takes to be memorable? Of course not. You still need the brilliant idea, the receptive audience and the elegant presentation. But you know you’ve got those things already – that’s what made them fall in love with your idea in the first place. These phrases help them remain in love with it.

So use these phrases – they do work.

Err … I mean: The next time you’re preparing a presentation, remember to use these phrases – they do work.

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>Reflections on a fabulous month away in Prague

 4th July 2009 by gihan

>I’ve just returned from a month in Prague, which was a combination of work and pleasure (“weisure”, as New York University sociologist Dalton Conley calls it, or “furking” (combining fun and working), as Kirsty Spraggon calls it).

Here are some of my insights, reflections and ideas.

1. Yes, you CAN do it.

Travel no longer has to be about EITHER work or pleasure, or even a work trip with a holiday tacked on to the end. It really is possible to combine work and fun into your everyday life while travelling. That doesn’t make you a workaholic who can’t switch off work even when on holiday. It means you’re in the lucky position of being able to work in an exotic location!

I first realised this a few years ago when I started spending Fridays working outside by the river at Matilda Bay here in Perth. I pack my laptop, mobile phone and wireless Internet card into a backpack and ride my bike down there, sit myself at an outdoor cafe and work there all day. Occasionally somebody passing by would say something like, “What a shame to be working on such a beautiful day”. But they were the exception. Far MORE people would say, “How lucky that you can work in such a beautiful environment”. Of course, both attitudes are equally “right” or “wrong” – I just happened to adopt the more useful one!

2. Plan a soft landing.

When planning my trip, my biggest concern was for the first few days, making sure I would be able to set up everything easily in Prague for a smooth transition. It made it a LOT easier that I was staying with a friend, so I knew I would have Internet access, a desk, a local Czech SIM for my phone … and a friendly face when I arrived.

For my next trip (next year), I won’t have that luxury. So I have to do more planning ahead. But it’s worth the effort, because I know if those first few days go smoothly, it makes everything else so much more relaxing.

3. Don’t work too hard.

One of my goals was to spend the month in Prague doing “business as usual” – as easily as I would work in Perth. On reflection, that was an unrealistic goal. Not because it was more difficult than in Perth – it wasn’t – but because I wanted to spend more time doing personal stuff.

“Well, duh!”, I hear you cry – and you would be right. But it just hadn’t occurred to me. I thought I could fit in a full day’s work and get a full day’s play as well. Something had to give, and luckily for me, my work was flexible enough that I could reduce those hours in order to give myself more play time.

4. Start before you’re ready.

As I said, one of my goals was “business as usual”; and, despite the reduced working hours, I was able to make this work fairly easily. This was mainly because I had already set up my business to be able to work in this way.

Perth’s isolation can be an obstacle, but it also has the advantage that if you want to reach beyond Perth, you just have to figure out ways to do it without constant travel. For me, I do most of my consulting and mentoring by phone; I do presentations by webinar and teleseminar; I do almost all my sales calls by phone; I use Skype for long-distance calls; I have a good mobile phone plan; I record podcasts and interviews by phone; I have an on-line membership site for clients; I publish e-books, online courses, blogs and podcasts; and so on.

So all of this stuff happened exactly the same way when I was in Prague – as far as my clients, subscribers and network were concerned. I do do some stuff face to face, but because most of my clients aren’t in Perth, that’s a minority of my work, not the bulk of it.

If you’re planning this sort of trip, I suggest you start implementing some of these things as well. Don’t wait until the month before your trip – that’s too late. Start now, so that when you do announce you’re going away, your clients and business contacts won’t really be affected.

5. Stay in touch in a controlled way.

The Internet makes it so much easier now for us to stay in touch. But be careful and choosy about what you share with whom. I had four levels of contact:

  1. Phone and e-mail for specific people
  2. Facebook for family and friends – for general, chatty travel news
  3. My blog and newsletter for my business contacts – for a more business-like tone of voice
  4. Twitter for anybody else

This meant I could keep in touch, but do it in an appropriate way for each group. It meant business contacts didn’t see my personal travel photos, and friends and family don’t have to wade through business-related stuff. I do that anyway when I’m at home – so I was keen to keep that discipline while travelling.

Of course, sometimes I could share my communication among different groups. Nowadays, Web 2.0 technology makes that easy. For example, if I put some photos in an album on Facebook, I can choose to make that album visible to others. I used that feature, so I could share (some) photos with my business network as well, in case they were interested (If you’re interested, click the pictures below to see some of my photos of Florence, Prague and Berlin).

6. Just do it.

At the start of the year, I set this goal for spending a month in Prague. But I kept dragging my feet and putting it off. Finally, two things forced my decision: My friend Brandon was going to leave Prague soon; and I read that Singapore Airlines was offering very low fares.

Looking back now, I can’t believe I procrastinated so much. I’m so glad those two external things forced my hand! My advice to you is: Don’t wait. Yes, do all the appropriate planning and preparation; but don’t get bogged down in it. It’s better to do it too soon than too late.

You won’t regret it, and you’ll have a wonderful experience.

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>What are you doing with your excess capacity?

 22nd June 2009 by gihan

>I was chatting to a friend about a workshop he attended years ago. At the time, he was a manager in one of Australia’s largest companies, which ran a management retreat to brainstorm ideas to increase profits without costing money.

Sounds like they’re hoping for a miracle, right? No. As it turned out, the focus of the retreat was to ask each manager to examine their own business units for excess capacity – in other words, things that aren’t being used to their fullest extent. These were the first targets, because it’s often possible to just work them a bit harder to create “free money”.

For instance, my friend’s company was involved in production, so they had machines sitting idle at various times. By re-using those machines for other tasks, they were able to improve productivity and profitability. The point is, they wouldn’t have been able to do this if the machines had been at full capacity, or if they were paying for the machines on a per-hour basis. The idea worked because (a) the company owned the machines, (b) they were sometimes idle, and (c) there was another way to exploit that idle time.

Apply the same thinking to your business. What assets do you have that you’re not using fully? Look for something with the same three criteria: (a) You own it outright or pay a fixed fee for using it; (b) it’s not running at full capacity; and (c) there’s another way to use it.

Here are some examples:

  • Seats at a presentation: Unless every presentation you give is sold out, keep 2 or 3 seats available for prospects, so they can see you in action.
  • Your time: If you’re not busy delivering your expertise, invest more time selling it.
  • Monthly contracts: If you’re paying a fixed fee for something, work it really hard. For example, I pay a monthly licence fee for a webinar service. It’s worth it just for the paid webinar I do each month for my clients. But even so, it still has excess capacity. So I use it for free marketing webinars, hosting webinars for clients, and conference calls.
  • Support services: Do you have the world’s best PA when it comes to booking travel? Offer his/her services to others – either as a goodwill gesture or as a paid service.

These are just a few random examples, but I’m sure you get the point.

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>Expect More: Inspiration to keep going

 17th May 2009 by gihan

>Has anybody ever told you it can’t be done or you’re not good enough? Take heart – you’re not alone! Here’s a two-minute video clip I created to inspire you to be yourself and keep going through the tough times:

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If In Doubt, Do Something – Anything!

 30th April 2009 by gihan

I recently bought my six-year-old nephew Riley the book “Goha, The Wise Fool”, which we read together before he goes to bed. The main character Goha is an ordinary man who sometimes does clever things and sometimes does silly things.

My favourite Goha story (so far!) goes something like this:

Goha was taking a stroll one day, when he was accosted by some pesky kids, who started teasing him, taunting him and throwing stones at him.

He was getting annoyed, but then had an idea for getting rid of them. He said to them, “Listen, I’ve got some good news for you. The Governor is having a big party today, and he’s giving away cakes, ice cream and lots of presents. Go there quickly before you miss out!”

Sure enough, the kids were excited and rushed off down the road.

Goha watched them go with a smile on his face. Suddenly he started running after them. “After all”, he said to himself, “It might turn out to be true!”

I ask Riley after each story, “Was Goha being wise or foolish?” This time, of course, he wisely said, “Foolish”.

We’d all agree, right? And yet I wonder whether you’re acting like Goha in your business?

What stories have you been telling so often you’ve started believing them yourself?

Are you telling yourself times are tough and clients won’t buy, so there’s no point asking?
Or that your standard services are the best you can do?
Or that there isn’t anybody else doing what you’re doing?
Or that you can’t increase prices in this tough economy?
Or that audiences won’t buy from you during presentations, so there’s no point even trying to sell from the platform?

Whatever your assumptions are, they’re probably holding you back – even if they’re related to the economy. In fact, I should say especially if they’re related to the economy. It’s the perfect time now to try different things. We’re in uncharted waters, so anything you “know” to be true probably isn’t. The only way to find out is to try!

Here’s the good news: As a small business owner, you’ve got a huge advantage, because big business sucks at this. They’re slow, heavy and can’t change direction easily. They’re saddled by policies, HR, shareholder perceptions, office politics and protecting their turf. You’re different – you’re smart, nimble, agile and flexible.

Here’s the even better news: It’s so easy and cheap to do. You don’t have to re-structure your whole business; just make up some new offerings. After all, what does it take to make a sales call to a loyal client, promote a special offer to readers in your next e-zine, or quickly write up a new service on your Web site?

Will you be as wise as Riley or as foolish as Goha? Your choice.

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Sometimes It IS Just About the Wedding Dress

 20th April 2009 by gihan

I’ve seen some recent comments from speakers, trainers and consultants along the lines of:

“Companies that are cutting training budgets are shooting themselves in the foot.”

“Now is the time organisations most need motivation and inspiration.”

“If you don’t invest in the downturn, you won’t be competitive when the economy turns around.”

While these might be true, they don’t necessarily match what’s going on in your clients’ heads. For many people, the global financial crisis is a crisis, and that might mean a focus on short-term action rather than long-term benefit.

Businesses are looking at profit, not growth.
Employees are thinking about their jobs, not their careers.
Investors are considering cash flow, not wealth.
Sales teams are being rewarded for transactions, not relationships.
Workplace teams are being driven by fear, not trust.
Budgets are being evaluated for cutting non-essentials, not investing in the future.

So what does this mean for you?

If you’re fortunate enough to work in an area that isn’t being hurt by the downturn, great – this advice is not for you.

If you’re fortunate enough to work with enlightened clients who are still willing to invest in their future, again this advice isn’t for you.

But if your clients are hurting now and screaming out for help, focus on their short-term pain. And that might mean sacrificing what you’d like to do, and do what they need instead.

Ask yourself whether your sales conversations, marketing materials and presentation outcomes are based on long-term issues that might not be as relevant in the current economic climate. If they are, change them – even if you know this isn’t the long-term solution.

Sure, we all know that, all other things being equal, we “should” do leadership, teamwork, personal leadership, the triple bottom line, fire prevention and environmental sustainability.

But all things are not equal right now.

For some people in the midst of the crisis, management is more important than leadership; being directive is more important than being collaborative; individual productivity is more important than teamwork; firefighting is more important than fire prevention; survival is more important than sustainability; and urgency is more important than importance.

Every health expert tells us the secrets to a healthy lifestyle are regular exercise and a balanced diet. But sometimes it is about fitting into that wedding dress. And if you don’t address that need, your sales, marketing and presentations will fall on deaf ears.

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A Cure For Which There’s No Known Disease

 9th April 2009 by gihan

I was doing some group mentoring last week, and we were looking at evaluating new products and services in order to make them more successful.

Broadly, the success of any new product or service depends on three things:

  1. Who will buy it – i.e. the market.
  2. What you are selling – i.e. the product (or service) itself.
  3. How you will sell it – i.e. the marketing.

Most of the people in the group scored well on product and marketing, but their weakest area was their understanding of the market.

This is common!

Many infopreneurs fall in love with their products and services, and forget their market. They create a beautiful, sophisticated, high-quality product; but forget about whether there’s a market for it. They create a cure for which there’s no known disease!

I’m not saying this is true of everybody, nor even for the clients in my group mentoring. But it is a common trap.

You don’t have to obsess about your market and be totally market-driven. After all, one of the reasons people value your expertise is because you can tell them more than what they want.

But it’s also easy to over-estimate your knowledge of your market. If you think you know what your market wants, you could spend a lot of money creating useless products and services.

Here’s a quick quiz to help you …

Here’s a quick quiz to help you evaluate your understanding of your market. It’s easy – just answer (a), (b) or (c) for each of these five questions.

  1. Niche:
    a. I am aiming this product at a small, clearly defined niche market.
    b. I am aiming this product at a mass market.
    c. I’m not sure of the target market for this product.
  1. Problems:
    a. I have surveyed a broad cross-section of my market to find out their specific problems.
    b. I have done a few informal surveys of my market to find out their specific problems.
    c. I haven’t asked my target market for their specific problems.
  1. Demand:
    a. I have done significant research to measure the demand for this product.
    b. I have done a bit of research to measure the demand for this product.
    c. I don’t yet know whether there’s a demand for this product.
  1. Price:
    a. I have tested various price points to learn what my target market will pay for this product.
    b. I have some indicator of a good price point, based on competitive products and services.
    c. I don’t know what people will be willing to pay for this product.
  1. Trust:
    a. The majority of my customers will be people who have bought related products from me already.
    b. The majority of my customers will be people who know about me, though they haven’t bought from me yet.
    c. The majority of my customers will be people who have never heard of me before.

Now score 2 points for each (a), 1 point for each (b) and 0 for each (c).

How did you go?

If you have a high score, that’s a good sign. It means you’ve probably got a fairly good understanding of your market, which means you’re more likely to succeed.

On the other hand, if you have a low score, it might mean that you may have to rethink this before you start investing time, money, and energy into launching this new product or service. At least, think more carefully about your market!

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