Being right vs. getting it right

Being right feels good, doesn’t it? Being wrong not so much.

In fact, for many being wrong feels so bad that they will go to great lengths to certify why it wasn’t their fault, why it’s because of this and that, and if only they had known this and that then – of course – they would have been right.

Yet, what if it’s not about being right but about getting it right? What if it wasn’t about knowing all the answers but about being able to ask valuable questions? What if the point is not about knowing but about learning? Improving? Seeing with different eyes? From different perspectives?

What if there is no right? If only because we’re on uncharted ground.

Being right is what school taught us to strive for. Often, though, getting it right is much more useful.

What kind of “yes”?

What kind of “yes” are you seeking with your presentation?

Are you looking to just close that deal? Or are you looking for deep commitment?

Are you looking to make a quick buck? Or do you want to build a long lasting relationship?

Are you satisfied when you made the sale? Or do you want to go all the way until you solved the problem?

If it’s the former, then craft a presentation that doesn’t make me think. Make it an easy choice. Make me say “yes” quick. Give me an offer I cannot resist because it’s “too good to be true”.

However, if you’re looking for commitment, if you want to build a relationship, the opposite might be better suited for you. Make it a hard choice. Make me consciously decide that yours is the right solution for me. Make me struggle with the decision so that once I choose you, then I’m totally convinced and I’m all in.

Easy choices appear tempting. But trust isn’t built on easy choices. It’s built on honesty, empathy, and commitment. It’s built on thinking things through and sweating the details.

What kind of “yes” are you seeking?

3 percent

What if you improved your next speech just a little bit? Let’s say (just to put a number on it) by 3%?

It’s not much. Your audience probably won’t notice the difference. But let’s just assume you did. And then you did it again for the next speech. And then the next.

It’s not that big of an effort, either. Just 3% more effort. You probably won’t even notice the difference. But let’s just assume you committed to it. And then you did it again for the next speech. And then the next.

So, what if, each time, with a tiny bit more of an effort, you delighted your audience just that tiny bit more? What if you consistently did it each and every time?

Eventually, your audience will notice.

If you consistently overdeliver on what your audience expects, even just a tiny bit, it will pay in the long term. How many people do you know who would be willing to do the same? It catapults you in your own ballpark.

Just 3%. Every time.

(Of course, the fascinating part is that – if you really do this consistently, if you really do make improving a habit, the impact on the result will add up, but the effort won’t because as you get used to overdelivering, your baseline will adapt. So, in the long run, you will be able to deliver much better results with similar amounts of effort.)

How to get your audience to like you

Often, I get asked how one can work towards ensuring that your audience likes you. In general, people are much more open towards people they like. If you want to inspire your audience and – even more – if you want them to buy from you, this will be much more likely to work out if they, well, like you.

So, how can you improve your “likability”? How can you make your audience feel like you’re a nice person?

Well … be a nice person! It’s as easy as that! Instead of working hard on a facade to give the impression of being nice, why not work on the real thing?

Because if you genuinely care for your audience and treat them with respect, if you are honest in what you say and believe in it yourself, if what you have to offer is, in fact, helpful to your audience, then why should they not like you?

That’s the key: Be nice! Don’t act “as if” but do it because that’s who and how you are! And if you are, your audience will notice – because they always do when people speak right from their heart.

From bad to good to great speakers

What separates a good teacher from a bad one? Here’s Keith Johnstone’s take – one of the pioneers of improvisational theatre:

People think of good and bad teachers as engaged in the same activity, as if education was a substance, and that bad teachers supply a little of the substance, and good teachers supply a lot. This makes it difficult to understand that education can be a destructive process, and that bad teachers are wrecking talent, and that good and bad teachers are engaged in opposite activities.

The same applies to speaking in general.

What’s interesting is this: Whether you are a good or a bad speaker in Johnstone’s sense is not so much about whether your audience liked your presentation. You can give exciting speeches and still destroy your audience. For example, you can point in the right direction and at the same time discourage to follow it. You can speak in a motivating way and your audience feels pumped after your speech, yet can’t put it into action and feels bad because of it.

The important question to ask is in what way are Taylor and Casey and Kim transformed by your speech. Do they see the world with different eyes? Can they act upon what you made them see? Can they do it on their own?

This is what separates good from great speakers. Good speakers make their audience see. Great speakers enable, even empower their audience. Bad speakers, on the other hand, do not just waste their audiences’ time. They crush the audience by misleading them and treating them with ignorance.

How can you move your audience to action? How can you empower them?

Who’s gonna decide?

When you have an awesome product, it’s tempting to decide for your customer. To just assume that if only your audience knew what you know it would be a no-brainer to choose you, right? And so it’s no wonder that many communicators act as if the information itself was a good enough reason to choose you.

It’s not.

It’s not sufficient to provide all the good reasons to convince the audience. Because it’s not even about the good reasons at all in the first place.

If you’re trying to convince someone, you have already decided for them. You act as if you know the truth and as if they need to agree with you.

They don’t.

And you don’t need them to. Not if your product is actually that good.

Instead, lead your audience to the point of no return. The point where they see and feel what your idea means for them so that they are able to make a conscious decision – no matter what their truth is, no matter how they see the world and what’s important to them.

If you’ve done your homework and your idea is actually good, they will decide for your idea. Even if their truth is totally different than yours. Even if they don’t care for the good reasons at all.

It’s a much more satisfying experience for your audience when you let them decide. When you respect their truth. Their worldview. Their perspective.

Do the right thing. Make it obvious. Let them decide. That’s how servant speakers treat their audience.

It’s their time

At the time I published this post your day had 900 minutes left. When you finish reading, it will be down to 899 minutes.

Why did you choose to invest your time in reading this? What else could you do? Will you feel like the time was worth it? Because you’re not going to get it back.

How about your audience? Why did they choose to invest the time to listen to you? What else could they do with the 60 minutes they are investing in you?

It’s a privilege to get access to their time. We should treat this privilege with respect. With the respect of keeping it short and relevant. So that every minute they invest is worth it to them. So that they feel that there wouldn’t have been a better investment of their time than spending it with us.

Servant speakers respect the time of their audience.

Speaking is a privilege, not an obligation.

It’s an opportunity to get access to the exclusive attention of an entire audience. It’s the opportunity to make them see and feel what matters to you. To open their eyes, to warn them, to inspire them, to lead the way, …

It’s an opportunity to change minds and lead your audience to take action.

It is your chance to make change happen.

The obligation is in making use of that privilege.

The Servant Speaker

The common way of presenting is the selfish way. It’s all about what the presenter wants. She wants the audience to buy her product, to approve her project, to donate for her cause.

The overwhelmingly dominant way to get there is to praise the product, the project, the cause. She tells us how awesome it is, how gorgeous it looks, and how much better it is than the previous version.

About the only thing she doesn’t tell us is why this is for us. Why should we care about the new AI powered steering wheel? Why would we want a camera that has even more megapixels? She expects us to chime in when she cheers for her product when she didn’t even spend a minute on listening what we care about.

The servant presenter has a different approach. She makes it 100% about the audience. She makes us feel welcome and heard. Because she did hear us. She did the hard work of understanding what matters to us. She cheers for us. Not by praising us but by acknowledging us. By understanding what’s important for us.

So she starts with why we should care and develops everything from there. That, by the way, is why she didn’t even think about increasing the megapixels, in the first place, but instead improved night vision. It’s why the servant speaker doesn’t talk about storage but about carrying 1000 songs in your pocket.

The servant speaker wants to make change happen. By caring deeply for her cause and for her audience, she makes her audience see and feel why that change is important. And as a result people will buy her product, approve her project, or donate for her cause.

Read the The Servant Speaker Manifesto.

Reflections

Hope, you are well.

So much is turned upside down these days. Businesses all over the world are struggling to understand what the current situation means for them. Those who can have already begun to adapt their offerings to serve new needs around a physically distanced, anxious society.

On short notice, the virus forces us to reflect fundamental questions: Is this still the offering that serves our customers in their new needs? Can we use our employees’ strengths in new ways? Can we apply what we did in the past to create new services for the present and future? What is it that our customers need urgently?

The virus forces us to reflect our values. Where yesterday wealth and growth were important, today health and safety are. Where yesterday individualisation was important, today connection is. None of us knows what will be important tomorrow. But now is the time to start thinking about it.

The virus forces us to reflect who we are and who we want to be, especially how we want to treat others. Where in the past we’ve seen greed and hard selling, today we’re seeing businesses all over the world being helpful, being generous, and communicating with empathy. People will notice.

As we get more used to the changing conditions, these reflections will help us regain our strength even if in vastly different ways than before.

Take care.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz