People don’t pay attention unless it’s something they need to know

OK, I’m not a psychology professor. In fact I’ve never taken a psychology class in college. I was up in NYC a few weeks ago talking with a friend and we were talking about how about 90% of what we are talking about goes in one ear and out the other.

My takeaways come in two parts. The first is internally with people you work with. The second is for folks that carry a different business card than yours.

This will get people paying more attention to you.

In the Office

  1. Start and end on the same point: think of it like a super agenda. I start with what we need to do, and end with who’s doing what. Sometimes I’ll start with a question, and end with re-asking the question and reviewing the answer.
  2. Keep people on their toes, ask questions: College professor style. In my meetings at Livio, you better be ready. Sometimes I even pull a deke and look to one person, than fire a question to someone else.
  3. Require that everyone is ready to listen: At Livio, phones, and computer are not permitted in meetings unless you’re taking notes or updating live on the Google doc. Another great way to get people on board (and avoiding the dreaded mute button on conference calls) is to do video conferencing. When people are at the office, we have a NO EMAIL POLICY. We use Skype, and anything complicated is a face-to-face (F2F) conversation. Steve Jobs went as far as only putting in one bathroom per floor in the Pixar building to get people to bump into each other.

Out of Office

  1. Listen twice, talk once: The hardest time I have with this rule is with investors. I was on the phone (recently) with my largest and first investor. I basically lectured his ear off with updates and why we are the best of the best. I got cut off and was point blank asked: “Did anyone ever tell you that you talk too much and don’t let anyone else speak…” I felt like crying. He was right.
  2. Tell a story: In the office, people know who you are and usually know what you are talking about and (are paid to) have an interest in the conversation. Outside the office, I rarely the backgrounds of who I’m speaking to when I show up for a meeting. Usually title and name is as much prep as I can get. LinkdedIN-creeping and Googling isn’t always enough to really knowing your audience. I start off with a story about our customer. Most times I let a video do the talking for me, and relate back to the story throughout my discussion. I have never had anyone in a meeting whip out his or her phone and check emails while I was in the middle of a “story.”
  3. 3×3=1, 10×1=0: Learned this in a Delphi paid media training class from some New Yorkers. Say three things three times, and the person will at least remember one thing. Say ten things one time each, the person listening remembers ZERO. Just watch out that you’re not too polished. I’ve been caught sounding like a total sales idiot doing this. It’s a skill to balance clear messaging without sounding like a broken record.