A surprising number of humans have a major fear of public speaking. Or maybe it’s just surprising if you are not one of them. I have no issue giving a speech, presentation or eulogy. Although I do limit eulogies to one per person.
I once had a supervisor ask me if I ever got nervous about public speaking. I replied, ‘I get nervous that they’ll cut me off.’ But a major reason I feel comfortable speaking in front of others is that I prepare.
When I address an audience I often begin in a way that feels very informal. Usually there is some kind of ice breaker or introductory humor. But what appears to be a casual start to my talks is designed.
I learned many years ago that my energy and my eagerness to talk about anything can work against me if I am not careful. I can start a presentation or speech hard and fast with loads of enthusiasm. But that can approach can feel like bull riding, with lots of surprising jumps and turns, but not much forwards progress.
To control the story flow, and make sure I hit the key points I need to hit upfront, I use a special technique: I always script my opening.
Even if I am only given a brief moment to prepare to speak I use all the time I have to craft my opening. I know the first word, sentence, and paragraph, cold. (Which means I have it memorized, not the my knowledge is temperature-dependent.)
I have found that if the first 60 seconds of my talks are predetermined, everything goes well. I spend time learning and perfecting that opening. And by delivering that well, I know I am staying on track. Then, like a freight train, I find my rhythm and follow the track all the way to the destination.
Whenever you speak in public script your opening. By organizing your introductory words and ideas you will point your speech, presentation, or toast in the intended direction. When the beginning goes well, it is easy to relax, enjoy and pick up momentum as you roll. Preparation is the best way to minimize your fear or anxiety. And it’s the best way to do your best every time you talk.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
According to the Chinese calendar, 2020 was the year of the rat. No one is likely to argue that designation. But for most of us, 2020 was also the year of the video call. In 2020 I used Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Go To Meeting, Ring Central, Skype, and PantsOptional. (Ok, I may have made the last one up.)
Zoom and its various alternatives have provided a way for life to continue with some sense of normalcy since covid-19 burst on the scene and began stealing our toilet paper. Thanks to these platforms we can still have meetings and meetups. We can still conduct business. We can still educate our youth. And we can still answer No when asked if we drink alone on those pesky diagnostic questionnaires.
The Zoom Advantage
While it is easy to think of a Zoom meeting as inferior to in-person meetings, there is at least one major advantage Zoom offers over in-person get-togethers. And it’s not related to deodorant.
Zoom offers you the unique opportunity to see yourself the way others see you in meetings. It is arguably the greatest gift of 2020. And it’s a gift you should take advantage of.
When you are on a video conference, and you select to view the meeting in gallery mode, meaning that you can see all participants, you also get to view yourself, in real-time.
This self-view is extremely valuable whether you are talking and presenting or simply listening to others.
7 things to look for when you see yourself on Zoom.
How do you look? Check your attire and your grooming. Do you look professional and respectable? Are you well dressed? Are you properly groomed? Or do you look like you just stumbled in from a pajama party? Your clothing and your hair still matter on Zoom. Look the part.
Are you smiling? Do you look friendly? Are you scowling? Do you have RBF? It makes a big difference. Especially when you are not in the room together. A pleasant smile is a good default.
How is your posture? Are you upright and attentive? Or are you lounging like you are watching a late-night informercial? I am surprised at how many loungers I see on Zoom. Especially among the student population. Don’t be that kid.
Do you appear engaged and interested in the conversation? Or do you look like you would rather be anywhere else? People take as much interest in you as you take in them. So engage.
Do you come across as energetic or lethargic? When you bring energy to the screen others do too. When you lack energy you put people to sleep, like narcolepsy.
Are you providing affirmations? On video conferences, simple head nods go a long way to convey that you agree and support the points being made. However, one long head nod means you have fallen asleep.
How are people responding? You can easily tie your delivery to the response you see on screen form others. Are you connecting? Are you knocking it out of the park? Or have you lost the audience? Make adjustments to make sure you are getting the response you are looking for.
To make sure you are presenting yourself well check the following:
How is the lighting? Are you bright enough? Are you too bright? Do you look like you are beaming in from Heaven? Adjust your lighting using lamps or windows until you look great.
Does your background help your brand image or hurt it? Be aware of what is behind you. It has the ability to make you seem more interesting, or reveal that you are really a slob.
Check the camera angle. Think about TV news anchors. The camera should be at eye level. It should not be looking up your nose. Use books or boxes to raise your computer camera if necessary.
Are you looking at the camera? If you have a second monitor it can appear as if you are never looking at the camera. This happens to me sometimes. It is weird. Fix it if you can. It makes you appear distracted or disinterested.
Take The Fast Feedback
Zoom and other video conference platforms provide you with a mirror during meetings and meetup. They allow you to monitor, evaluate and adjust how you are presenting yourself to the world. This is a rare opportunity to see what you are offering the world in real-time. It is like watching game film. It enables you to see how you are being received. And it allows you to change up your style and delivery, on the fly, and see how your audience responds.
Take advantage of the opportunity video conferencing offers and tune in to see how others see you. Notice how others respond to you. And experiment with adjustments. Zoom will teach you how to become a better presenter and a better audience. All you have to do is pay attention.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this idea, please share it with them.
Today, nearly everything that is fun or interesting has been cancelled thanks to COVID-19. In this desert of action, the smallest activities you are doing appear fun and interesting to the rest of the stuck-at-home world. Which means that right now there is a better than average chance you will be interviewed by the news media. Even if you haven’t done anything truly interesting. Or illegal.
Your place. Not mine.
However, due to social distancing, stay-at-home regulations and lockdowns, no reporter will show up at your home or business to talk to you. And they aren’t going to invite you and your potential cooties into the news studio for a chat. Instead, you will be asked to give your interview at home on your computer, smart phone or tablet.
I have been asked to do 2 TV interviews in the past week. The first was with Julia Fello about how our team at The Weaponry is adjusting to working from home. The other was an interview with George Balekji about a video chat reunion that 16 of my University of Wisconsin college track teammates held last Friday to revive the camaraderie of our locker room during this time of social and physical isolation.
In case you get called by the local or national news to do an interview from home, here are a few tricks to increase the likelihood of you giving a great interview that will actually get used.
9 Tips For A Great Interview From Home
1. Find A Good Background
Find a simple, uncluttered place in your home to conduct the interview. To find an appealing background you may have to get creative. Prop your backdrop if necessary. In the Pro Tip below, my friend Katrina Cravy, a media training expert and long time news anchor demonstrates that the setting you choose sends an important message about your brand.
2. Adjust The Camera Height to Eye Level
Our computers and hand-held phone cameras are typically well below our natural eye line. Which means that we look down at them when we are in our normal operating mode. But for an interview it is much better to raise the camera up to eye level. This will make it look as if you are having a conversation with a real human, not your little digital buddy. Use boxes or books to elevate your laptop. If you have a music stand in your home, it will work perfectly to hold your smart phone at eye level. Best of all, it will prevent the rest of us from staring up your nose and seeing bats in the cave during your interview.
3. Go Landscape Mode
We naturally hold our smartphones vertically when we use them. Which is called portrait mode (named after Francois Portrait*). But a television has a horizontal orientation. To make sure your picture properly adapts to the TV screen, turn your phone sideways into landscape mode for your interview. It will look much better on TV.
4. Hold Still
There will likely be a lag in the video based on your technology, wi-fi strength or internet speed. So the more you move (like I tend to do) the funkier your interview is likely to look. Keep you body movements to a minimum in order to not draw attention to picture quality.
5. Improve the Sound
Bad sound will ruin an interview. If you have a good microphone, use it. A headset can work well too. Earbuds are good. Air Pods work really well, because they don’t dictate where you sit. Even better, they don’t have wires to dangle and distract viewers.
Ray Davies Tip: Remember to workout the kinks in your audio technology well before the interview starts.
6. Prepare Your Talking Points
TV news is all about the sound bite. So make sure you have some strong, simple sound bites to share. Before the interview write down your thoughts on the topic. Craft them into short, interesting or memorable statements. A unique, but easily understood statement makes for great TV. Keep your notes nearby to reference during the interview.
Pro Tip: Practice delivering your talking points before the interview. Write down the name of the reporter on your notes. If you are nervous, write down your own name too.
7. Properly Frame Yourself.
Position yourself within the picture so that you look great. You should be centered left and right. Don’t leave a lot of room over your head. If you notice the ceiling in your shot you are doing it wrong. If you can smell your own breath through the screen, back up. And have a mint.
8. Light It Up.
You are not in a perfectly lit studio. So you will have to control the lighting yourself. First, make sure there is enough light on your face so you don’t look dark and creepy. Natural light works great. If you can position yourself to get even light from a window it will make you look even more naturally beautiful than you already are. Then consider grabbing an additional lamp, especially a flexible, direct-able lamp to add additional light if needed.
Side Note: I believe in Crystal Light, cause I believe in me. #nowthatswhatIcall80s
9. Next Level Background
Zoom enables you to use a virtual background. To do this you will either need a very good computer, a plain wall, or a green screen backdrop. Grab a green blanket, sheet or towel, and hang it behind you to create your own green screen at home. On Zoom, go to Preferences…Virtual Background, and then manually pick the background color by clicking the small oval. Then click on your background to sample the background color your photo will replace. You can upload any photo to create your perfect backdrop.
This is a great time to share a little of your good news with the world. Make the most of your opportunity by preparing yourself ahead of time. A little planning will go a long way towards ensuring that you look good and sound good on TV. Good luck. And Stay Classy San Diego.
*Don’t waste your time googling Francois Portrait. I just made that up.
**If you know someone who could benefit from these tips, please share this with them.
On Thursday, November 19 in Pennsylvania, two men gave back to back speeches. The first man had served as the Governor of Massachusetts, U.S. Senator, and United States Secretary of State. He also taught at Harvard and served as its president. He was in a position to talk as long as he liked. And he liked to talk. His keynote address lasted 2 hours.
The second man took a very different approach. His followup speech consisted of only 271 words, and lasted only 2 minutes. Witnesses say there was no gesturing. No theatrics. And no pyrotechnics.
The second man was Abraham Lincoln. His speech, which has come to be known as The Gettysburg address, is one of the most famous speeches in American History. Perhaps it is rivaled only by Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’, and Billy Madison’s ‘The Puppy Who Lost His way’.
Don’t say everything you can. Fewer words make sharper sentences. Sharp sentences penetrate. And only ideas that penetrate are remembered.
Here are those 10 sentences that make up The Gettysburg Address:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Have you ever thought about how you look when you make a phone call? It is easy to think that your appearance doesn’t matter. After all, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t see you. Unless you are a Close Caller. Which is like a Close Talker, only you use your phone, because you can. Which is weird.
But your appearance on a phone call does matter. Because how you look influences how you feel. Even if you are thousands of miles away, the person on the other end of the conversation will pick up on how you feel. And it will influence what they send back to you.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.
When I make or take a phone call, I always put a smile on my face before I start talking. It magically brightens my mood. Because smiling is the ultimate human happiness hack. You don’t have to be happy to smile. You can smile to be happy.
In fact, many a scientific study have proven that your responses to questions are significantly more positive when you hold a pencil between your teeth the broad way. Holding a pencil this way forces you to smile. And the forced smile has the same effect as the real thing. And while Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would have you believe there ain’t nothing like the real thing (baby), Guy Smiley and Happy Gilmore would disagree.
When you put a smile on your face before a phone call it makes good things happen. It influences what you say, how you say it, and how you respond to your telephonic partner. It makes the call more enjoyable for the other person. It helps you overcome anxiousness when making an important call. And if the call goes poorly, well, it’s easy to laugh it off if you are already in a smiling position.
Next time you pick up the phone, first pick up the corners of your mouth. Wearing a smile will positively impact everything about the call. It will make you sound warmer and more likable. It will influence the words you choose. It will leave a lasting impression on the person on the other end. It can even make them look forward to talking to you again.
If you want to try it now, put on a smile and call my number at 614-256-2850. If I don’t answer, leave a message and let me know you’re practicing your Smile Call. When I call you back you can bet I’ll be smiling too.
People regularly ask me if I am a full-time blogger. This always makes me laugh. I assume that would mean that I blog 24-hours a day. Which would make it really hard to shower. Or trim my fingernails. I actually have several other responsibilities. I am the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And when I am not blogging or foundering I spend my time husbanding and fathering.
I got my fist job as a father in 2005. Since then I have tripled my responsibilities. My youngest son is a 7-year old viking named Magnus who inherited my love for football. In fact we toss a football around every morning while waiting for the school bus.
Yesterday Magnus must have eaten his Wheaties (which is a reference that you’ll only understand if you were born before 1980). Because every time Magnus tossed the ball he threw it way over my head. So I jogged to pick up the ball, and tossed it back. But after several of these Wheaties-fueled throws I stopped and asked Magnus,
‘Are we playing catch, or are you just playing throw?’
As I asked the question I recognized that Magnus’ approach was emblematic of a common problem that occurs every day in communications. Both personal and professional.
Tossing Marketing Messages
In the most basic form, marketing communications are a simple game of catch. The game starts with a marketer throwing a message to a prospective buyer. The prospective buyer catches the message and throws his or her message back. That message could be, I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m confused, or Tell me more. As long as you are communicating there is an opportunity to get to a mutually beneficial transaction.
But far too often marketers throw their messages the way Magnus threw the football. Hard. Fast. High. Marketers are focused on their own perspective. In their eagerness to drive results (ROI) they shout what they think is important. They don’t think enough about the person at the other end of the message. Thus, their message sails way over the head of the intended recipient. And there is no reply at all.
Before you throw your next message:
Know who you are throwing to.
Understand how they like to catch.
Account for the distance.
Throw something catchable.
Observe what happens when you throw your message, and recalibrate accordingly.
Prepare to receive the message that gets tossed back to you.
Remember, communication is a two-way interaction. Account for your audience in everything you do. Make it an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. When you do you’ll be surprised how many people will happily play catch with you.
If you found anything I threw your way useful, or think I am off target, please share a comment or subsrcibe to this blog so we can keep playing catch.
I want you to try an experiment. Over the next 24 hours note how many people you encounter that you don’t know. I warn you, it may freak you out. Most of us live anonymously in a sea of strangers. They are everywhere. Like minivans. Yet we have become immune to these strangers that surround us. It’s as if they disappear when we ignore them. Like reality TV stars.
I was reminded of my own anonimity recently at my gym. After I scanned my membership card, the guy who routinely works at the reception desk said, “Have a good day, man”. A normal person would have just done what they were told, and had a nice day. But instead, I had a flashback to college…
It was my freshman year at the University of Wisconsin. I was on the track team, and was lifting weights in the weight room (research indicates that’s the best place for such activities). One of the football players who I saw regularly walked through the room. When he passed by he said, “Hey! What’s up man?” I replied with something like, “Hey, Man. What’s up?’ I thought nothing of it.
But then he stopped and asked, ‘What your name?’
I said, ‘Adam’ (that’s my go-to answer).
We shook hands.
He said “My name’s Aaron. Enough of this bullshit, saying, “Hey man.” or “What’s up bro?” F-that! I see you in here every day. We should know each other’s names!’
Aaron ‘Scrappy’ Norvell was right. It was bullshit that we would repeatedly see each other, even greet each other, and not know each other’s names. After this introduction he was no longer a guy I saw. He was a guy I knew. The difference is profound.
I expect I wasn’t the only person Scrappy made an effort to get to know by name (he currently has 4,912 friends on Facebook). He is funny, outgoing and entertaining. We would see a lot of each other over the next few years in Madison. Today, he is an actor in Hollywood. If you ever need to cast a police officer, Obama look-a-like, former college linebacker, or someone who can deliver the line, ‘Hey, what’s your name?’ he is your guy.
Now, back to the story…
With this random flashback playing in my head, I asked the guy working the counter at Elite Sports Club, “What’s your name?’ He replied, ‘Andrew’. I said, ‘My name is Adam’ (that’s my go to). We shook hands. Now, every time I walk into the gym we greet each other by name. We have real conversations. Instead of an awkward, “Hey-Man” relationship.
Insiders vs Outsiders
Everyone we encounter in business, at social gatherings and at the grocery store are either Insiders or Outsiders. The difference is whether or not we know each other by name. That sense of familiarity and friendship that can only develop once you know a person’s name makes an enormous difference on this planet, where we are so often surrounded by John and Jane Does (that was supposed to be Doe-plural. But it looks like does, doesn’t it?).
I think about names at work. At the advertising agency, The Weaponry, we encounter people when we visit our clients that we don’t have to know by name. The receptionists. The people who sit next to the conference rooms where we make too much noise. The IT person who inevitably saves every presentation. But I want to meet them too. So I make a habit of introducing myself, by name. Suddenly we are not just people who see each other regularly. We become people who know each other, by name.
I encourage you to convert more of those people you see or say hello to regularly into people you really know by name. It’s easy. Introduce yourself, by name and ask for their name in return. Write the names down. Start a list with a description of who they are on your phone or in a notebook. Refer back to the list as neccesary. The rewards are profound. Just ask Andrew from Elite. Or Norm from Cheers.
When I woke up Monday morning my iPhone was practically on fire. It was glowing and crackling with texts, tweets and push notes. The world was dying to tell me about the disaster at the Oscars. The wrong movie had been announced as Best Picture.OMG! Hollywood had been embarrassed on national TV! Those poor, wealthy celebrities…
It did not disappoint. The seven minutes of crazy was even better than I could have imagined. It was a train wreck. I squirmed through Warren Beatty’s confusion. I cringed through Faye Dunaway’s quick scan of the card. I felt terrible for La La Land’s la-cast and la-crew celebrating, and thanking, and feeling honored, before having their pants pulled down on stage in front of the world.
I felt even worse for the Moonlighters, who couldn’t really celebrate. After all, they just lost. Now, they didn’t know if they were coming on stage just to have their pants pulled down, before being forced to hand their hand-me-down awards to Manchester By The Sea. I watched it all several times. I will remember those seven minutes of award show infamy longer than I will remember the movies.
What we can learn.
However, it is important that we take away more from this than the uncomfortable entertainment. Following the debacle I heard many people exclaim, “Someone should get fired over that mistake!” Let’s think bigger.
We now know that the presenter, Warren Beatty, was handed the wrong envelope by a Price Waterhouse Cooper accountant. PWC has done this for 83 years. Which means a new gremlin was introduced that exposed a flaw in their process. As the founder of the ad agency The Weaponry, I see Envelopegate as a welcomed reminder that we should all use our mistakes to help improve our processes. Not to punish the mistakers.
In the book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right(yes, I really read a book about checklists) Atul Gawande, a renowned surgeon, champions checklists as a way to ensure processes are implemented that help save lives in hospitals. He also cites checklists for having done more to prevent airplane crashes than any other innovation. If a checklist helps save lives in hospitals and on aircraft, certainly a checklist could be used to help save some unfortunate moments at The Weaponry and in Hollywood. And probably when you leave a restroom.
A simple checklist used by the PWC accountants backstage, and the award presenters, would have prevented the mistake.
Ask presenter what award they are announcing.
Check run of show list to make sure the award they are scheduled to present matches answer.
Read the award category written on announcement envelope aloud to make sure it matches before handing it to the presenter.
Make presenter read the category on the announcement envelope aloud to make sure it matches before allowing them on stage.
Boom. Done. Bonnie and Clyde get away.
Once upon a time I was shooting a TV commercial in Indianapolis for Donatos pizza. When we arrived at the production company’s office for the wardrobe fitting, I was shocked to see the wrong actress there, trying on clothes. After a quick and panicked huddle we understood what had happened. It seemed that once the client signed off on our talent choices for the commercials, a message was relayed to the production house that we would be using all of our first choice talent. So the production company called, and hired, all the first choice talent. However, the first choices were not the same on both the agency’s list and the production company’s list. Yikes!
That afternoon, the production company made magic. They tracked down the actress who should have played the lead, and got her on a flight that night from Iowa City (which is where you go when you don’t think you got the lead in a pizza commercial) to Indianapolis. The next day we shot the commercial and it turned out great. More importantly, we improved our process. After that, my teams have always confirmed the talent choices by name, not first choice or backup.
What you can do now.
Today, I encourage you to watch the clip from the show again. Because it reminds us that mistakes happen. Mistakes are great at indicating flaws in our systems and processes. If we respond correctly, we come out stronger, with a better way of doing things and a lower chance of that same mistake happening again.
Through better processes we can save more lives, we can avoid plane crashes and we can prevent a lot of embarrassment. Getting angry doesn’t prevent a mistake from happening again. Getting better does. There is no need to fire anyone. I think we can all agree that the person responsible for the Best Picture goof will never, ever make that mistake again. Just as Steve Bartman will never again interfere with a fly ball.
If you have a process improvement story spurred by a mistake please share it in the comment section. You may help others avoid the same mistake. Or maybe you’ll just make us laugh. I’ll take either.
We’ve all been told not to talk to strangers. But I love strangers. The stranger the better. This may be because I have moved a lot. Which means I’ve often found myself amongst people I don’t know. But most people are less comfortable with total strangers than I am. This is probably a good human survival mechanism. A mechanism I lack.
As the Founder of The Weaponry, I know that the ability to talk to strangers is critical for entrepreneurs. If you don’t talk to strangers you are not growing your business. Or helping anyone else grow theirs. When I meet a potential new client, it is our ability to connect as humans first that leads to us working together.
I believe in building on my strengths. So recently I listened to the audio book How To Work A Room by Susan RoAne. I figured I would find a valuable new nugget or two. And I did.
The most important thing I learned from the book is this:
When people find themselves with other people they don’t know, they adopt one of two behaviors: 1. A guest mindset. or 2. A host mindset.
The guest mindset adopts the attitude of the outsider, of the person who waits for others to make the first move. They wait to be introduced, or welcomed or fed. They wait to join or participate until they receive an invitation. If you have a party full of guest-mindsets, you don’t have a party.
The host mindset means you initiate. You welcome others, introduce them, offer them food or drink or a crack at catching the greased pig (depending on what kind of event you typically attend). You activate the party. If you want to feel at home and enjoy any group of strangers, take on a host mindset.
This is what I do. I just didn’t have a name for it. I don’t wait for someone else to decide whether or not I am worthy to talk to (I probably am not). I make the first move. I create the introduction. I act as if it were my job to make people feel welcomed.
I’ve found that when you don’t worry about rejection you don’t get rejected. Think of it like a Junior High dance. You just have to walk up to someone and say, ‘Stairway to Heaven is a sweet tune. Let’s dance. And let’s not worry about the fact that this song will gradually speed up, and we’re going to go from a slow dance into a full-on rock song, and we won’t know when we should stop holding on to each other.’ Remember the Stairway analogy. Because holding on to one person too long at a social gathering also becomes awkward.
If you want to enjoy a room full of strangers more, lose the Stranger Danger, and act like it’s your party, your wedding, your conference or luncheon. Start by introducing yourself to others. Ask people about themselves. So, where are you from? What do you do for work? Where did you go to school? How do you know the homeowner? Why are your palms so sweaty? Why the neck tatttoo?
There are people at every gathering who are just dying for someone else to make the first move. They don’t know they should be doing it. Because they never read this blog. Or How To Work A Room. Or danced with me in Junior High. Help them out. Be a host. They may be extremely interesting or valuable to you. They’re just not comfortable initiating. So you have to be. And you’ll enjoy the rewards. You never know when that total stranger may have the kindness, connection or kidney you need.
I love words. I understand, value and utilize the power they each hold. As a professional creative, I prescribe words like a doctor prescribes medicine. People hire me to find the right words to make their brands, products and services sound as attractive as possible.
Just as words have the power to make people, places and things sound more attractive, they can also make them sound uglier. I know which words make me sound like me is dumb. And I know which words make you sound pervy.
In America, we constantly introduce new words and phrases into our banter to see what sticks. Some of these are interesting and innovative (Emoji, FOMO, Photobomb). Some of them are moronic (Totes, Obvi). Either way, blame Kanye.
Today, there are two unfortunate phrases that are clinging to conversations like cockleburs on corduroy. If they haven’t arrived in your neck of the cell tower yet, they are coming. I’m referring to the increased use of, “To be honest’ and her twin sister, ” To tell you the truth”. I know deep down you know this, but when you tack these unnecessary qualifiers onto any other statement, you have told the person on the receiving end of the statement, “Usually I lie to you.’ Or ‘Most of the time I just make up shit without verifying.’
At The Perfect Agency Project we are especially concerned about removing these phrases from business. We don’t want your salespeople or customers support staff dropping, ‘If I’m being honest’ or ‘To be completely truthful’ on your customers and potential clients. This undermines the trustworthiness bestowed upon your brand. And that will end up costing both you and I real money.
Please coach your team out of using these phrases. You can do that by sharing this post. Or you could do what I do when people drop these phrases on me. I respond immediately to the errant statement with, “Thank you for being honest with me.” The response I get is always very WTF-y. Because people are not thinking about what they are saying. But I want you to. I want you to sound smart. And trustworthy. And professional. But, hey, It’s all good.*
*’It’s all good’ has been rated as the funniest cocklebur-phrase of all-time by The Perfect Agency Project. Because it is almost always used in instances where something, if not everything, is not good at all.