Many advertisers think you’re stupid

… and this is an opportunity for marketing your own offerings.

Because simply by showing up as the person who thinks their customers are smart and deserve to be treated as such, you’re going to make a huge difference for them.

Dumb marketing slogans, lazy empathy, and sneaky sales tactics work as long as there is no better alternative. But once someone shows up who trusts their customers to make the right decision, things change. Because this someone understands that she needs to start with work that matters, with a product that’s actually great. And when she does, all she needs to do is to tell a true story about it – which creates trust because the product delivers on the story that’s been told.

Are you that someone?

Communicating for the boss

… is a real problem and leaders should be extra careful when they observe their team members doing it.

Communicating for the boss means saying things that the boss wants to hear. It means preparing the pitch to please the boss – as opposed to the customer. It means shifting the content so it makes them look good rather than being truthful.

Fixing this is the leader’s job. They need to create an environment that’s built on trust, honesty, and respect. One that values getting it right rather than being right. A team where failures are an opportunity to grow rather than a reason to blame.

The Lucy approach

Charlie Brown knew it every time. Yet, next time he bought Lucy’s trick regardless. Every. Single. Time. It’s heartbreaking to see. We wanna shout: “Noooooooo!” We want to shake Charlie.

The Lucy approach is devilish. It’s one promise broken after another. And again. And again. But because Lucy’s joy in pranking Charlie Brown is limitless, her effort is as well. Her eloquence in tricking him once again is off the charts.

The Lucy approach is built on a deep sense for what resonates with Charlie.

It‘s the same art and craft that gets salespeople of the Lucy-style the deal. They substitute Charlie with their customers and they have limitless joy in tricking them into the deal, not really caring for what happens thereafter.

Of course, one of the things that Lucy’s approach doesn’t earn you is trust. In fact, it erodes trust. Drip by drip. Time after time. And that is the reason why your effort will never decrease. Either you’ll need to find new customers over and over again. Or you’ll need to trick the existing ones ever more creatively.

And that’s the irony. While the Lucy approach might be fun – and likely a lot easier to get you quick wins, it’s so much more tedious in the long run.

While communication that’s built on trust gets easier each time you use it, the Lucy approach gets harder each time you try it.

Where are you?

Are you 100% present in the moment when you give your presentation? 100% focused on your audience?

Or are you with your topic? Or with your own interests? Maybe already thinking about your next customer?

Are you thinking about the little time you have left to catch the train after the presentation? Or are you concerned about what the audience might be tweeting about you and your presentation?

Are you thinking about the next slide? Or focussed on not doing the wrong things with your hands?

The audience wills sense it when you aren’t completely present. Probably they won‘t be able to pinpoint their feeling, but they will feel it.

Conversely, if there’s nothing more important to you right now than your audience, they will sense that as well.

If you treat your audience with this kind of respect, they will treat you accordingly.

A nightmare of a meeting

The very first meeting I participated in was a pure nightmare. We were 10 people. Exactly one was paying attention. Wanna know who? The one who was currently presenting. (And even that is up for debate.)

It was also the first day of my future career as a communication skills coach as I swore myself that I never wanted to experience meetings like this again. They are a huge waste of resources. They are a grave for great ideas. They kill creativity.

Back then, I believed in better. Today I know that better exists.

There is no way that it makes sense for 10 people to decide that the best use of their time would be to gather in a room with people who they have no intention of paying attention to.

What was the worst meeting experience you had?

Audiences don’t care for quick answers

Many presenters fear Q&A sessions for a couple of reasons. One of them is loss of control. You give control over parts of the content away to the audience.

For example, sometimes it occurs that questions are really tough. They might even challenge you personally.

For most, the typical reaction on stage is to answer quickly. Silence in a conversation feels awkward, on stage even more so. When you’ve been attacked, just staying there, saying nothing, can make you feel embarrassed with all these people staring at you, wondering whether the attacker might be right. So, people feel like they might loose even more control when thinking up a good answer.

But … often, the quick answer is not the best answer. Also, it’s often not the most respectful answer.

Audiences really appreciate thoughtful answers, respectful answers. Answers that are not just a defense to an attack but a thorough assessment that provides a glimpse into who you are and how you think.

In this short video clip, Steve Jobs is attacked on stage with such a tough question.

It’s a direct attack on Jobs as a person, accusing him of not knowing what he’s talking about. Instead of firing back, he takes a long pause (as he often did in Q&A): 14 full seconds of silence, followed by another 6 seconds as he recognizes that his first attempt to answer the question wouldn’t have been the most respectful.

Jobs takes this question seriously, even though it’s highly personal. He takes his time to think up a respectful answer. One that allows a deeper look into how decision were made at Apple at that time. And the audience seems to really appreciate it.

Audiences don’t care for the quick answer. The media might care, but not your audience. Audiences care for thoughtful and respectful answers. And they grant you a lot of silence if that’s what you need to think up a great answer.

So, take your time!

You might not be able to control what questions are being asked. But you are always in control of your posture.

Don’t sell bad news as great news

A question I get asked a lot is how to offer bad news.

The thing with bad news is that they won’t magically turn into better news if you put a sugarcoating on top.

So, if you ask me, then just tell the bad news. Make it short and stick to the point. It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt, anyway.

One thing that this attitude does for you is that it increases your credibility. If you earn a reputation for meaning what you say then people will trust you not only when you offer bad news but also when you offer great news, especially then.

However, if you hide bad news behind a curtain of dust and smoke, or worse, if you sell bad news behind a façade of great news, sooner or later people will notice because sooner or later it is going to hurt. And so, whenever you have news, they will be unsure about what to make of it.

Don’t sell bad news as great news.

Not my fault

“On slide 19, I clearly stated this …”

Of course you did. But your audience didn’t get it. And that’s the end of the story. If they didn’t get it, they didn’t get it. It’s our job as a speaker to make our point obvious. To speak with clarity. And to light the path so our audience is willing to follow.

If they don’t it’s not their fault. It’s ours because either we haven’t been able to create that clarity to follow our line of thought or we haven’t researched well enough what resonates with our audience. If we want to make an impact, we’re better off taking responsibility for it. This way, we can improve the next time.

Gedanken zur Diskussionskultur

Meinungsfreiheit bedeutet, dass man seine eigene Meinung haben darf.

Meinungsfreiheit bedeutet nicht, dass man immer seine Meinung äußern muss.

Eine Meinung zu haben, bedeutet noch nicht recht zu haben.

Recht zu haben bedeutet nicht immer, dass die anderen unrecht haben.

Dass die anderen unrecht haben, bedeutet noch nicht, dass man recht hat.

Recht zu haben macht noch nicht moralisch überlegen.

Nur weil jemand unrecht hat, ist er noch nicht böse.

Man darf seine Meinung ändern.

Es hilft, erst zuzuhören, bevor man sich eine Meinung bildet.

Es hilft, Fragen zu stellen.

Eine Frage ist nicht unbedingt eine Meinungsäußerung.

Nicht jede Äußerung ist eine Meinungsäußerung.

Kein Mensch formuliert perfekt.

Das, was jemand sagt, ist nicht unbedingt das, was sie meint.

Es hilft, erst nachzudenken, bevor man anderen eine Meinung unterstellt.

Sarkasmus hilft selten.

Arroganz auch nicht.

Beschimpfungen und Hass erst recht nicht.

Es lohnt sich, für eine offene Diskussionskultur einzutreten, in der jeder tatsächlich sagen darf, was er denkt – ohne Angst haben zu müssen, dafür beschimpft, beleidigt oder ausgelacht zu werden.

Es lohnt sich, offen für andere Meinungen zu bleiben.

Es lohnt sich, respektvoll miteinander umzugehen.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz

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