You’re wasting crucial digital real estate with weak email openers.
Don’t state the obvious. Especially in your first sentence.
You’re thinking, “That IS obvious. Why would I start an email with info my audience already knows? I don’t do this.”
But, you do.
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company, the president of a small business, or writing your annual holiday letter to friends/family/clients … you’re starting your emails with this: “As the year draws to a close, we reflect on the challenges…”
Can’t argue with that sentiment, but is this Non-Newsflash the way you want to gain your audiences’ attention? Hint: you’re NOT!
Our finger is itching to smash the Delete Key before we even read your second non-helpful line, “To be honest, this hasn’t been the year we had planned.”*
Your #1 clue:
✅ Lead with your need.
❌ Do NOT state the obvious. (And please stop saying “to be honest”! Is everything else you write/say dishonest?!)
Your BONUS CLUE:
✅ Start your emails with the word “You” or “Your” and make your info about your reader. Ex: read the first line of this blog!
❌ “I wanted to follow up with you about…” 😬😬😬
You can do better!
*Source: we won’t reveal it! This sentence is verbatim from a city-wide newsletter we received.
“Increasingly powerful systems seek to ensure that our attention is never truly ours… We are witnessing the dark side of our new technological lives … Vast quantities of high-pressure media content are pumped into our faces.”
You know this because you too are distracted by emails, breaking news and discounts.
This guest opinion NYT essay goes on to share, “You are lucky these days to get 47 seconds of focused attention on a discrete task.”
How do you get heard above the noise when you only have 47 seconds?
Be unique from the get go. Do not begin a meeting, presentation or even a Linked In post with generic pleasantries. Start with a startling statement, a story, a quote, or a solution to a problem targeted to your listeners.
Tell good stories – in a speech, at your holiday party table, or in the hallways at your next conference.
Schedule carefully. Place your presentation mid-morning if possible. Caffeine has been injected and your digital life is under control.
Insert breaks – if you’re talking for more than 90 minutes.
Mix it up. If you’re giving a presentation of any length keep your content moving and include your audience in nonthreatening ways.
Be organized. Tangents will kill you.
Use humor. Carefully. I’m not a fan of jokes because you might alienate others. Use self-deprecating humor. One time my computer blew up. Another time someone stole it. Painful then, funny now … and lessons abound. (Always bring a backup and put your info/ppt in the cloud.)
Bribe often! I always throw snickers into the group to bring home the point that we need to snicker/chuckle more. Take your work seriously, take yourself a little less seriously.
Catching a small piece of chocolate – perfect attention crisis antidote!
Think of a 500-piece puzzle. Heck, think of a 50-piece puzzle. Either way you begin by dumping out all of those pieces on a table and finding the four corners. You build from there.
Same principle applies to the way you communicate. Whether you are delivering a company business update, or you’re on a panel about how Wall Street evaluates your organization, or you’re writing an email – you begin by developing your “four corners”.
You need to construct these four “corners” to get heard above the noise ➜
🎤 CORNER #1 — Your Audience: Who are you talking to and what do they need/want to know? How can you meet and exceed their expectations?
🎤 CORNER #2 — Your Statement of Purpose: What’s your overarching theme? If this is a book, what’s the title? If this is an email, what’s your concise subject header?
🎤 CORNER #3 — Your Return on Investment: What’s the ROI for your listeners … at your quarterly town hall, in a zoom meeting, on the golf course, or by email? Will you save them time or money? Will you increase their competitive advantage? Will you make them happier or stop their headaches? Sharing your ROI creates buy in.
🎤 CORNER #4 — Your Call To Action: After listening to you or reading your digital info what do you want them to do, think or feel? What are your “next steps”? Without a “call to action” you have wasted everyone’s time, including yours.
Your next steps: When you communicate formally, informally or electronically, develop your Statement of Purpose, ROI, and Call to Action while knowing exactly who your audience is and what they want.
“Credibility Sprinkles” ➜ When you sprinkle your past experiences into your narrative to increase buy-in from your audience. Ex from Scott Galloway’s recent blog – “I got my start building companies, telling stories. Later I became a professor at NYU. Now I tell stories on a stage in front of 150 to 15,000 people who pay between 100k to 250k…”
“Gen Zs” ➜ The generation born between 1995 – 2012, ranging now from age 11 to 28. Main qualifiers of this group: Tech dependent, gender neutral and cause driven.
During a speaker training workshop I said, “Add in some Credibility Sprinkles while sharing stories. This will increase your believability with your listeners.” A millennial dentist then commented, “Gen Z’s don’t like that. Adding in your track record, no matter how subtle your approach, will alienate them.” I replied, “Know the age ranges in your audience.”
To this workshop attendee’s point, this generational shift is happening and here are the reasons why Gen Z’s don’t want to hear about your stellar track record.
Gen Z convictions.
According to TrendsActive.com, Gen Z’s resentment stems from “older generations thinking they know better than younger generations – with age comes wisdom and all that. Considering the state of the environment, the housing market and various societal inequalities at the hands of older generations, Generation Z is forced to question whether older really does mean wiser.”
Gen Z is DONE with older generations deciding what is best. Their collective exhaustion derives from feeling misrepresented with a dash of condescension.
How can you engage with this Gen Z mindset?
TrendsActive provides these wise suggestions:
Understand that Generation Z are progressive, realistic and responsible.
Treat them as adults.
Be open and honest and hear what they have to say.
According to the Forbes Coaches Council these communication habits get in your way. Whether you are chairing your quarterly board meeting or responding to an email these unconscious habits can damage relationships and impact your business growth.
Hitting ‘Send’ Too Quickly
Are you brave enough to share your email nightmare moments in our blog comment section? These disasters happen when you press ‘send’ before realizing you’re sending to the wrong person, or expressing frustration without calming down first, or replying without the info. Got more examples?
put your own email address in the “To” line and delete the real recipient address(es) until ready to send and
give yourself some time to reflect before pressing “send”.
Failing To Listen With Intention
Are you a robotic listener? Do you nod, slap an open expression on your face, and wait till you get to share your own comment?
Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D suggests that instead, you need to “listen with the intention of helping colleagues feel heard, valued and understood.”
Not Asking Questions
Are you doing “Verbal Ping-Pong”? Are you going back and forth doing alternating mini-monologues? Christopher Jones, LeaderSharp Group Inc. comments, “We tend to swap opinions and stories rather than ask questions.”
He suggests taking a “coach-approach” to conversations that create a more meaningful dialogue. Ask questions vs. ping-ponging. One of my favorite phrases, also suggested by Jones, is: “Tell me more”. You create an atmosphere that builds rapport and increases trust.
What are some other bad communication habits that drive you nuts?
We are back with our annual selection of the best Super Bowl Commercial.
For starters, the Roman numerals for this year’s Super Bowl are LVII. Remove the “L” and you’re left with “VII” that = 7. And THAT is what a 30-second commercial costs these days: 7 million bucks (before adding in talent and production dollars)!
Drum Roll…. This year Breaking Good PopCorners commercial wins.
Use this list of strategies for your next board presentation, zoom meeting or project review all modeled in this commercial.
Self-deprecating humor. Laugh at yourself – it makes you more approachable. We will then want to listen to you. Our beloved Breaking Bad characters, Walter, Jesse and Tuco make fun of themselves and the original show throughout this ad.
Good story arc. Many of the ads tried too hard and became disjointed. You could not figure out what they were selling till the last second. Our Breaking Good ad reveals the product up front and the PopCorners take center stage.
Clear CTA. Eat PopCorners. In other commercials you had to really search for the product relevance & Call to Action.
Logical support material. Rather than have gratuitous celebrity placement our commercial gives us a great throwback to the Breaking Bad main characters and their van… which moves this story forward.
Strong finish. And they’re air popped, not fried. Now in seven flavors.
Real takeaways for you – find the humor, move your story forward with logic, add good support material that makes sense and create a clear message/solution. Finally, don’t get stuck in a van in the desert near Albuquerque.