“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!
How this transformative Hebrew word can clarify the way you think, communicate and act ➜
Dayenu (die – YAY – nu) defined
The Hebrew translation is “That would be sufficient”, and boiled down to one word … “ENOUGH”.
It’s also the title of a traditional one-thousand-years-old upbeat song that’s part of the Jewish holiday Passover. Every year as my family celebrates Passover we have a “Seder”, a special dinner, and we each read a paragraph from the “Haggadah” – the telling of the story of the exodus from slavery in Egypt to the freedom beyond; and we sing “Dayenu”.
This song is about being grateful to G-d for the gifts given to the Jewish people. A few lines:
“If G-d had brought us out from Egypt … Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!”
“If G-d had fed us only matza … Dayenu, it would have been sufficient!”
Dayenu in your life
❓ What’s “Dayenu / Enough” for you regarding money, possessions, or even Linked In likes & impressions?
❓ What’s “Dayenu / Enough” in terms of your professional achievements?
❓ What’s “Dayenu / Enough” when thinking about the relationships in your life?
❓ What would make you say, “Yes, that (fill in the blank) would be sufficient. That would be enough”?
You tell me… or rather, you tell yourself.
Dayenu in my life
This pic is our out-door Seder during the pandemic. Thank you, Nina & Bob, for being such gracious hosts every year. Dayenu.
We will once again sit around this table this week with loved ones and sing this song. That would be sufficient. Dayenu.
Stories make your message stick long after you’ve revealed your product benefits, shared your company’s new strategy or even emceed an event.
I had the honor of emceeing my National Speakers Association – North TX Chapter meeting recently. While introducing the featured speaker I shared a personal story highlighting the speaker.
“A while back, for another convention, I had the chance to drive our featured speaker from our airport to the venue. We got lost. Twice. At the same place. Underneath a pile of highway intersections in a restaurant parking lot with dumpsters to our left and the back of the restaurant to our right. Now, granted, we did not have sophisticated GPS systems nor cockpit panel screens in our cars yet, but I was one second away from crying/laughing with hysteria when we landed next to the dumpsters the second time. She grabbed my phone … and guided me out of this spot.”
“Why am I telling you this story?” I asked this current audience. “Because 2 weeks later she sent me a hand-written thank you note and never mentioned that this was the ride from hell. As speakers we talk about ‘walking our talk’ – being the same off the stage as on the stage. Our speaker did just that – she is a really nice person, even when no one is looking.”
The audience grasped the depth of her business credibility from the prepared introduction. The personalized story showed her kindness.
The story worked.
What I did NOT say in that driving story
Before picking her up at the airport I had an oncology doctor visit discussing my breast cancer diagnosis. I’m fine now (thankfully) but I was not fine that day. I’m sure that added to my driving duress.
What NOT to say in your stories
Don’t add extra info that sidetracks your story or does not move your story forward.
The story, as stated, is funny due to using self-deprecating humor. I expose my crummy driving. No one needs to know the real reason I kept getting lost.
Don’t overshare unnecessary info about yourself.
You may feel compelled to share ALL the details, but don’t do it IF it takes away from your story’s relevance.
Even before the pandemic the emphasis has been on digital communication. During the pandemic you may have experienced minimal conversation especially in person.
Now you might be feeling the pain of resuming small talk back in the office.
Jim and I meet in-person with our financial advisor group after two years of periodic virtual meetings. I find myself saying, just seconds after sitting down, “Ok, what’s our plan? Do we need to review, reframe, revisit…?”
Tommy replies with a smile, “First… how are you? What’s going on with your work and family?”
Oh… that’s right … I forget the chatting part of our visit.
What is the value of small talk?
According to Fast Company, “From the polite chitchat among coworkers that eases the start of a stressful meeting to building powerful bridges at networking events, small talk has always been an important ‘social lubricator’ that builds trust and relationships across cultures—even more so for early-career professionals after graduation.”
Is small talk a waste of time?
You might say “yes”. Covid created a time warp. Namely – 30 minutes is the new hour. You’re busy, stressed and want results… now. You only have so much Attention Economy.
Small talk is not a waste of time.
Think about an interaction you’ve had with a barista. Smiling, making eye contact and exchanging a few sentences while ordering your Venti Chai has been found to boost happiness and feelings of belonging.
A quick chat with someone you barely know can uplift your mood or avert feelings of loneliness.
A few brief interactions help gauge the mood of a room and the tone of a discussion.
Professionally, small talk presents opportunities to get to know and hear your clients. You may learn something new about the customer that you can then use in later conversation, or one interaction may turn into someone signing a deal with your company.
Most of all … according to psychologist Susan Pinker, social interaction (including small talk) is the #1 secret to living a longer life.
So, how are you? What’s going on with your family and friends these days?