The Power of Storytelling
In financial services you describe some very complex concepts and you use terminology that most people don’t understand – so metaphors are a way to make your information understandable and transferable.
I started as an entrepreneur when I was 21 years old. And one of the challenges that I faced in getting my business going was establishing credibility with people because of my age—or, more accurately, my lack of age. I tried several different ways to overcome the perception that I was too young to be taken seriously. What ultimately worked best was a metaphor-based story I developed. When I sat down with people who clearly had a bias against me because of my youth, I’d start off by saying, “You know, it’s interesting as I’m talking to you because I know some people look at me and they think what does this guy know about business? He’s young, He’s 21. He really doesn’t have a ton of experience. But you know, I kind of feel like a young Bill Gates.” And when I put it that way, most of the time they would smile and then I’d say, “What I mean is, you know, Bill Gates was 19 years old when he started Microsoft. He dropped out of college and he had this vision, he told everyone that he was going to take computers, which were the size of refrigerators, and he was going to put one in every house in the world. People probably thought he was nuts. Who was this young, naïve entrepreneur?”
Then I’d continue: “Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to change the world, and I’m not saying that I’m going to make as much money as Bill Gates. What I am saying is that I have something here and I know where I’m going with this, and I want you to really sit down and take a look at it. Are you willing to do that?”
That metaphor-based story worked like magic to establish credibility. I compared myself, an unknown entrepreneur, to a known entrepreneur, Bill Gates, and that little story caused people to forget about my age and concentrate on our product. Eventually we ended up building an incredibly successful business.
Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins
Tapping Into Your Team’s Brilliance To Solve the Hardest Sales
By Tim Sanders – Former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer Tim Sanders has sold over a half a billion dollars of products and services during his career. He’s worked for hard-charging luminaries such as Mark Cuban and weathered multiple acquisitions and mergers along the way.
The bestselling author of Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends unveils a methodology that sales managers and account executives can use to get high-potential deals un-stuck by combining the wisdom and creativity of everyone who has a stake in the sale. There is not a single big idea that saves the account or closes the deal. It’s a matter of organizing the right team for the challenge, then giving them the tools and motivation to create solutions faster than the competition. He’ll reveal the dealstorming methodology that includes creating the Deal Brief, running the meeting and executing on the best of the ideas to move to the next level of the sale.
Selling is getting more complicated: technology is increasingly a part of services, competition from the cloud and the crowd emerges daily, and account penetration won’t always land you the deal. Too many companies are leaving huge, game-changing deals for dead, stuck in their pipeline, the kind of multimillion dollar strategic deals define the success of your sales team and your company.
At the root of the problem, Tim Sanders says, is that too often, strategizing a sale takes place between a sales person and a sales manager in an age old deal-review process, where they return to the same old scripts and frameworks that have let them down in the past. When a deal gets stuck, the standard procedure is to make one more attempt to close, offer better terms, or move on. There’s a better way to close high-potential, high-difficulty deals: through dealstorming.
Dealstorming is the scalable, repeatable process that any B2B sales team can use to find a breakthrough on a high potential sale that has gotten bogged down at some point along the way. By including every person who has a stake in the sale in this highly-structured process, questioning existing assumptions, and channeling the collective experience of the group, sales teams will uncover creative solutions to move along the deal that would be impossible otherwise. In Sanders experience as a sales executive and consultant, this process has led to a stunning 70% close ratio.
Sanders explains how dealstorming works to break a deal deadlock, how to organize a successful dealstorming session and who to include, and how to use your results to push a stuck deal to the next stage of the sales cycle.
Moe Abdou and Lior Arussy discuss how to rise up to the exceptional performance within organizations and as individuals.
Exceptionalizing Your Customer Experience
Have you tried to call your mobile phone provider lately? How about your cable or satellite service? If you have, chances are, you experienced a mechanical operator, long hold times, and a less than satisfactory result. As consumers, we expect those from which we buy to deliver extraordinary service, but because such experiences are so rare, we’ll often settle for anything above average. The puzzling thing, however, is that those same individuals who are delivering such subpar service are themselves consumers; and I’ve often wondered how they’d react if the roles were reversed? I posed that question to a highly respected customer experienced connoisseur and Founder of the customer service consultancy, Strativity Group. Lior Arussy.
Having dedicated his entire professional career to the study of service excellence, Arussy just revised his customer experience manifesto, Exceptionalize It! to help you transform each of your customer touch points.
Here’s what guides our conversation:
- The first thing your customer will notice about your company
- Why bad customer service is contagious, while exceptional experiences are rarely imitated
- The missing ingredient that’s likely prevent you from exceptionalizing your service
- The ethos at the heart of exceptional service
- The correlation between workplace culture and customer experience
- The price of loyalty
- What distinguishes top-tier content providers
If You Aren’t Using Your Data, It’s Just Taking Up Space | Mike Walsh
The government collects a lot of data.
Tax records, financial transactions, census information, demographic intelligence and a myriad of other data sets on millions of American citizens make the federal government the largest data collector on the planet.
Yet that data does little more than take up space in agencies if it’s not being analyzed to change leadership decision-making or to improve the experience of users and customers. That’s according to Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a consultancy and research firm.
The big question is: “How will the rise of the Internet of Things and growth of data change the way we approach decision-making and leadership?” Walsh said, speaking at the Management of Change conference May 18. “In the era where we not only have data but also have it in real time, how will we change our applications, how will that data empower leaders in organizations to make better decisions?”
The use of real-time data to rapidly alter decision-making is poised to help agencies reinvent themselves, Walsh said. That’s already happening in arenas like emergency response, where a single tweet can spring the Federal Emergency Management Agency into action as it responds to disasters.
At the federal level, though, those examples are more the exception than the rule. Still, Walsh cited several examples across other levels of government that highlight the success of real-time data solving real-world problems.
San Francisco, for example, posts the food-inspection scores of restaurants on Yelp to give customers — in this case, tax-paying citizens — additional information when reviewing where to wine and dine. One of the criticisms of Yelp is that restaurants can use a variety of tactics to bolster their review scores. The city of San Francisco, though, realized it’s impossible to fudge a health score.
The city of Arlington, Massachusetts, produces an immersive “visual budget” to its citizens that allows it to “communicate more effectively with stakeholders, users and citizens.” Tax-paying citizens use the budget to catch a glimpse of where their tax dollars are being spent at any given time.
Louisville, Kentucky, collects GPS data to determine where local pollution triggers asthma attacks. This can act both as a warning for those susceptible to asthma to stay away from certain areas but also can help city officials determine a measured response to mitigating pollution spots.
Still, it might be difficult for the federal government to take a clue from local innovators, Walsh said. Culture can be resistant to change, and the larger an organization is, the more likely it is to experience the effects of a negative culture, he said.
Walsh issued an important decree to an audience comprised mostly of federal employees and federally-focused industry personnel.
“Data is only valuable if you can redesign the way government works or redesign the actions of decision-makers,” Walsh said. “If we as leaders don’t use data effectively in what we do, in improving our user experience and our own decision-making powers, we’ll be in trouble.”
The problem with today’s advertising industry is not what they do, but the way they sell what they do. Rather than solving your problems, they pitch fragmented solutions based on their own internal structures.
You know the drill. Creative agencies want you to make expensive TV spots. Graphic design firms recommend that you update your corporate identity and packaging. PR firms suggest a big launch party while digital agencies put together a plan involving micro-sites and a flashy media buyout of high traffic websites. Basically, when faced with your brief, agencies tend to solve for their own channels.
Unfortunately, while agencies might think in channels, customers do not. Today’s consumers are both sophisticated and demanding. They interpret brand signals from a wide variety of sources, and expect consistent treatment regardless of the platform they are using. Winning their attention is an exercise in problem solving, not ticking the boxes.
I met Johnny Vulkan a number of years ago, when we were both speaking at a conference in Oslo together. His agency, Anomaly, has attracted some of the biggest clients in the world including P&G and Google based on their unique approach. Although they don’t call themselves an ad agency, they conceived and produced the most popular Super Bowl ad two years in a row. They are not a design company, and yet they designed the number one lip balm in the U.S. They are also not a broadcast media company, but they have won awards for the cooking show they produce.
In Vulkan’s view, what makes Anomaly successful is not what they do, but how they approach their work. When they start working with a client, their first goal is to clearly identify and articulate their problem. Carl Johnson, one of Anomaly’s other founders cites Charles Kettering as inspiration, the famed inventor and head of research for GM, who said, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” Once the real marketing issue has been identified, the Anomaly team is able to select the right set of tools, people and platforms most relevant to fixing it. If the right answer is better packaging, then that is what the team does – even if making a TV commercial might have meant more fees.
As CMOs become more sophisticated in the way they buy marketing services, it is not just individual agencies that will need to adapt their approach, but also entire marketing networks.
I recently joined the board of The North Alliance (NOA), a collection of marketing companies that originated in Scandinavia but has since established a global footprint. NOA was founded by Thomas Hogebol, a former head of McCann Worldgroup in the Nordics. Backed by private equity, the management group acquired the best creative and digital agencies from Stockholm to Copenhagen, Oslo to Warsaw – combined with an engagement model that allowed clients to tailor-make a dream team of problem solvers from a diverse talent pool, whilst retaining regional scale.
One of NOA’s first regional clients was Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the leading airline in the Nordics. SAS were facing growing competition in its market from low cost carriers. Like many brands, much of its communication was traditional – not just in choice of channel, but also in the style of messaging. When it spoke to customers, it picked concepts it believed were important to travellers—price, reliability and the speed of its fast-track service. Interestingly, once the NOA team started analyzing the issue, it became clear that people were willing to pay a premium for their travel tickets –not because the service was efficient, but because they wanted to be part of a community, to feel the joy of travelling and share those experiences with other people. Acting on this insight presented its own challenges. Clever creative was not enough. To enhance SAS’s community platform would require fundamental changes to commercial strategy, the loyalty program and the underlying technology infrastructure. Hence, a very different type of agency engagement model.
CMOs face the paradox of actionability daily.
They have the clearest visibility of the customer’s unmet needs. However, acting on those insights requires big changes, both in the design of their own teams, as well as the way they work with external agencies.
As Hogebol puts it, “CMOs may have larger IT budgets than the CIOs in the future, but they will also need fewer partners that understand more. The best place for CMOs to start is by clearly defining what their real problems are, agnostic of media and channels. From that perspective, they can direct their energy and investments on exactly the ideas most likely to transform their business.”
To Download the entire playbook and read all 10 ideas please Click Here
Interview with Yossi Ghinsberg by Speaking.com
International bestselling author of Jungle, (over one million copies sold), a true story of survival against all odds in the Amazon rainforest, Yossi Ghinsberg is one of the most celebrated inspirational speakers of our time.
SPEAKING.COM: Why do you think storytelling is such an important aspect of the human experience?
GHINSBERG: I am a natural storyteller and I was never trained. The body language, the tone, the vocabulary, the timing, and the silence – all these emerge naturally. This is my gift and talent, and my calling as well. People respond to a good storyteller in a way that is much different than good lecturers or presenters. People in general don’t like to listen; they have stories and voices inside their heads they would rather listen to. When ideas are presented they tend to judge them, oppose them and quickly get bored by them.
Good storytelling is different, as it instantly turns adults into children. They lean forward, are attentive and absorbed. They not only listen but also actually feel the story inside themselves, processing their own emotions with their full attention.
In this optimal state the ideas and insights presented are far more effectively received as they are not encountering objection and boredom. Instead they are like seeds sowed on fertile grounds, ideas that will live and grow. There is no question that the value is many times greater when a good storyteller takes the audiences on such a journey.
SPEAKING.COM: What is “corporate spirituality” and why is it important?
GHINSBERG: It is a term that is attributed to what people perceive. I do not adhere to any spiritual practice that ends with an ‘Ism.’ Yet I have found that life is a spiritual experience. I have experienced the miraculous and been touched by the mystery and grace of life. I have studied all philosophies and religions in my pursuit of wisdom, yet I never became a disciple of any. I found enlightenment in nature itself and that had consequential impact on my understanding of life, and my conduct.
The principles of corporate spirituality are simple yet deep and powerful. In essence they are seeing oneness and the futility of separation. Understanding that a company is an eco-system, our planet is an ecosystem and that ecosystems adhere to the following spiritual principals: we are all interrelated, we are all interconnected, and we are all interdependent. Such principals mean we are a family and that we all have to take care of each other for any of us to thrive. But this doesn’t conflict with profits and increased returns to shareholders. On the contrary, the economic rewards are much greater with corporate spirituality. It makes greater profits.
SPEAKING.COM: What are three of the most important “laws of the jungle” and how do they apply to daily life?
GHINSBERG: Each of the laws contain all the rest of them so I cannot judge which is the most important; however, the most basic ones are:
If you want to be human be a beast first: it is opposed to the very popular belief that we are not a superior species positioned here to rule and exploit nature. Instead, we acknowledge that we are also an animal. The notion that we are an integral part of nature and part of the family of all life is a colossal paradigm shift. It opposes the monotheistic notion that we humans were appointed to rule, exploit and manage the world of flora and fauna. We are not good managers. We have pillaged the planet, raped the lands, despoiled the waterways, depleted the seas, contaminated the atmospheres – all because of our notion of separation from nature and a lack of understanding that hurting nature is in effect hurting ourselves.
The second law of the jungle is be the music not the conductor: it explores the possibility that we are here to play an important role rather than manage, with an attitude of harmony through specialization. Each species is thus like a musician in a symphony, a valid and indispensable part of the most amazing artistic creation ever made, and while humanity can play the first fiddle there is no need to be the conductor.
The third law is the seasons always change: understanding the transient nature of existence brings deep wisdom and the discovery of equanimity. Everything is moving, so passing phenomena is best experienced without too much attachment. Objecting and clinging to phenomena is a futile yet common approach. This principle leads to acceptance and contentment, and at its highest level it is this principle that is the gateway to enlightenment.
SPEAKING.COM: How can people and organizations welcome and adapt to change?
GHINSBERG: Change is difficult because on the one hand time is the most real and precious resource we have and it passes without stopping. It is rarely acknowledged and valued in this way. On the other hand time can only be experienced as now, an eternal moment from which we cannot escape. So understanding both the fleeting and ever present nature of time is tricky.
Understanding the nature of time and the role of change can be instrumental to individuals and organizations in adjusting attitudes, releasing attachments, being fully present and engaged and hence first to take the right action to adapt and proceed.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some ways in which people can overcome adversity and keep their dreams alive?
GHINSBERG: I touched on this issue earlier. The point is that sooner or later everyone experiences adversity during their journey. The dream is the most important aspect of life as it gives a person a sense of calling, a purpose without which life is quite shallow and empty. Without purpose it is hard to find true motivation to keep going. There’s a great danger, when adversity conflicts with the dream, that people will perceive the adversity as bad luck. They then become victims of it, they fail, their spirit breaks, they become subdued and never dare to dream again. They do not fulfill themselves or their potential.
On the other hand when we understand that adversity is there for a reason, that it provides the resistance that causes strength and growth, we may still have to go through some hardship and pain but we do not see ourselves as victims and let the adversity kill our dream. Instead we become stronger, smarter, and more creative. We shift, we move, we pivot to find a way, or we make one.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes your clients have achieved with your help?
GHINSBERG: I’ve worked around the globe with hundreds of companies, from round tables with a team of executives to auditoriums filled with thousands of people. I have hundreds of endorsement letters from clients and many anecdotes – some are most amazing.
A good example is the VP of a huge Australian corporation who quit his job after hearing me and took a sabbatical to tour the world. The company endorsement read: “we wanted you to inspire them but not that much!” It was a light-hearted statement and a year later the executive was back.
Other companies have created projects named the ‘Ghinsberg challenge.’ But most precious to me are the private letters I get from audience members who share with me how I touched their life. This is sacred, and intensely rewarding.
SPEAKING.COM: What do you want people to learn from your presentations?
GHINSBERG: To be inspired to live life fully, to know that challenges are part of the path and that sometimes the bigger your vision the greater the resistance to it, but that this is part of the journey and not a reason to give up. I want to inspire people to dream without the hindrance of self-limiting beliefs and/or limiting cultural conditioning.
I’d like them to find the courage to revisit and reexamine some of their fundamental thoughts, beliefs and emotions by vicariously experiencing them rather than just intellectualizing and entertaining them. I’d like them to feel invigorated, to regain a spark in the eye and a spring in the knee, to know they, and no one else, is the protagonist of this life they are living, that their uniqueness is something they have to find, hone and shine on the world; that they are strong, worthy and beautiful.
I’d also like to challenge the paradigms they are trapped in and living by, and so expand their perception and the opportunities in their lives.
SPEAKING.COM: What kind of special prep work do you do prior to an event? How do you prepare for your speaking engagements?
GHINSBERG: I like to learn about the company or organization, and get an in-depth briefing from the relevant executives. I like to arrive on the scene as early as possible and get a feel for the place and audience. That way I can adapt more naturally to how the event rolls out. As to inner preparation, I take some notes to create a structure to fit the event, theme and timeframe.
I like to sit quietly and meditate on the event, so I can disconnect from other issues and be 100% present. I enjoy meditation, as I know inner balance is what is most valuable when I speak. It is not about what I say but how I am saying it. Audiences sense this and respond to it, knowing my presentation is real, alive and authentic.
SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements or unusual situations arise while on the road?
GHINSBERG: So many it’s hard to choose just one. I had many adventures in exotic places like the deserts of Dubai and Oman. Most memorable are those events where I met people who touched my life, in places where I’ve made new friends for life. Yet the ultimate experience is to know I was of service to someone, touched them, alleviated their pain and inspired them. This is what makes my work such a humbling privilege.
SPEAKING.COM: Who are some of your favorite audiences?
GHINSBERG: I have no favorites, because every mind and heart that is wide open and allows me to come in with my stories and insights is showing a generosity and trust that I consider sacred, so I tread gingerly. So there are no preferences. In some places, like India, the culture is such that sometimes I get a standing ovation before I started speaking. It is always great fun to know the room is there ready for you, loving you and ready to be taken by you.
SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?
GHINSBERG: They all do, because my message is universal and I adapt very well to different audiences. My message is not specific to any industry, age or gender, nor do I teach a method to improve any particular department such as HR or Sales.
I touch consciousness and empower the individual, expanding their capacity to deal with circumstances and leverage hidden opportunities they couldn’t see before. I speak to all types of audiences around the world, though I usually speak in corporate environments to inspire and empower the individuals and the company.
SPEAKING.COM: What made you decide to start doing speaking engagements? What got you started?
GHINSBERG: I’m a storyteller. Addressing audiences is a gift I feel the calling to share, an innate need; there’s an aspect of me that only comes to fruition and life when I speak in front of audiences. I love this aspect of me that rises up. I’m in awe of it and the first to get inspired and listen to it. In a way I need my talks as much as my audiences – sometimes I feel I need it more. It is very aligning for me.
When you do what you are supposed to do, it feels naturally good, and that sense accompanies my speaking. What got me started is a story that needed telling: my experience surviving in the Amazon against all odds. It has inspired millions around the world in the form of books and a documentary series. Soon it will be a motion picture.
SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote topics are the most popular? How are your keynote presentations unique? Which of your keynote speeches do you enjoy the most and why?
GHINSBERG: The following are my topics:
‘The Power to Survive’ – Telling the story of my harrowing experience being alone in the Amazon and bare to the bone for weeks, isolated from society, deep in a hostile forest during the worst rainy season in a decade.
These circumstances caused me to discover that victimhood is a choice; adversity is something we all encounter and can deal with. I find that for the first time I can trust and rely upon myself. It is a powerful story of self-discovery, and vicariously takes people through the experience instead of just listening. In this deep space, where the audience and I are one and our emotions exposed, the insights and inspiration become cathartic and transformative, even life changing to many.
‘The Wevolution Revolution’ – The harrowing Amazonian survival story sets the background and deeply engages the audience. At that point I reveal the enlightened insights that transformed and changed my life forever.
I then tell the story of my return to the Amazon and the building of Chalalan, the most celebrated and award winning resort in the Bolivian Amazon, fully owned and operated by the most isolated Indigenous community.
It’s a real Cinderella story that shows that sometime the amateur can achieve more than the professional since their dream is not tainted with doubt and assumptions about what is not possible. Yet this story has far greater meaning, showing that the rainforest is an ecosystem that thrives on synergetic cooperation and that this is a metaphor for life on the planet as a whole. Core paradigms of scarcity as our reality and competition as the optimal way of dealing with it are revisited and challenged. Nature demonstrates that abundance is a better description of reality and that niche dominance and cooperation are more effective and more profitable.
I prefer the second topic as it takes my personal story far beyond self-discovery to actual global redemption, working towards the tipping point when the paradigm shifts and a new era begins–nothing less than that.
SPEAKING.COM: How much do case studies, personal stories and humor factor into the content of your keynote speeches?
GHINSBERG: I only tell my own stories. I have lived a rich, interesting and diverse life so the audience doesn’t get teachings I have learned but experiences I have lived. I open my heart and mind with complete devotion in a space of pure giving, sharing my life experiences.
All the content is original and personal, all the insights and messages are mine or internalized through life experience. My sense of humor is also authentic, because people react with laughter at various points when the intensity and the charge of the story require some relief.
This interview was originally published in the Speaking.com blog.
If you’re like most business people, you want to know how to more effectively hire the right employee, and how to more effectively use social media. MSNBC interviewed Lior Arussy for the answers to those common questions. Lior’s the founder and president of Strativity Group (a global customer experience, research, and consulting firm) and the author of “Exceptionalize It!” In the interview he shares his expertise on best practices for hiring, how to identify the ideal client and the best approach for your social strategy.
An Interview by Speaking.com with Tim Sanders
Tim Sanders, a former Yahoo! executive, uses his experience and business expertise, to help some of the biggest brands in the world as a corporate consultant. From Leadership Consulting to Strategic Marketing Consulting, Tim has helped clients explore new opportunities and develop new innovations to drive growth and maximize revenue.
SPEAKING.COM: Can you give us five tips for how to build better business relationships?
1 – Listen more than you talk.
2 – When you can, teach others and share knowledge.
3 – Connect people with new contacts and expect nothing in return.
4 – Be thoughtful about the emotional experience others have as a result of our actions. Approach relationships from a design standpoint, to weed out pain points and whenever possible, deliver signature moments.
5 – Hug people, letting them know that you care about them as a person.
SPEAKING.COM: What is “emotional talent” and why is it an important leadership quality?
SANDERS: Emotional talent is your ability to manage your own emotions and respond generously to the emotions of others.
Leaders must “Define reality, then give hope,” according to Napoleon Bonaparte. To do this, a sense of emotional balance is required.
Followers stop listening to leaders that consistently produce negative emotions or ignore/judge their emotions. Dr. Daniel Goleman wrote that the emotional brain is 35 times more powerful than the logical brain – So leaders must seriously evaluate the Emotional Comp Plan they are offering talent.
SPEAKING.COM: How can organizations integrate employee experience design into leadership?
SANDERS: By segmenting the employee’s experience down to every transaction around the talent life cycle (hiring, onboarding, development, reward).
By observing the mood state with the same level of attention as one measures the profit and loss statements. After all, it’s the #1 way to predict future levels of service and innovation.
SANDERS: When people are sad, they tip their heads. When they are surprised, most cover their mouth with their hand or bottom lip. Knowing the difference between the two can make you the smartest, most perceptive person in a meeting.
SPEAKING.COM: How can developing a more empathetic culture lead to a more customer-centric approach to selling and delivering?
SANDERS: People emulate a leader’s style when they serve customers. If you treat your talent’s feelings as facts instead of replying, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” when they experience negative emotions, they will do the same. This validation factor underlies both the greatest leaders and most effective service providers in the world.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the talent management trends you see emerging within the next ten years?
• Finding ways to stretch and challenge the Millennials, who will ask for promotions when they really want a “harder level to play.”
• Restoring work life balance by cutting off the digital-leash that requires 24-7-365 attention to email and social media.
• Giving talent a sense of cause that’s deeply integrated into their roles.
SPEAKING.COM:What do you want people to learn / take away from your presentations?
SANDERS: The answer to all your business challenges, be they talent acquisition or dealing with technology disruption, is LOVE. It’s the breakthrough strategy for leaders to forge powerful connections, drive innovation and spur collaboration.
Rapid problem solving is the only sustainable competitive advantage in business. It comes from the tendency of leaders to treat innovation as a team sport, put a process in place to drive collaboration and to recognize success in a big way.
Relationships are the foundation of our leadership quality and professional success. They are built through our generosity to others and specifically, our habit of sharing knowledge, generously networking and giving compassion and empathy to those in need.
SPEAKING.COM: How to you prepare for your speaking engagements?
SANDERS: I conduct multiple phone calls with meeting stakeholders to determine their meeting objectives, audience needs and goals for my talk. If possible, I conduct even more interviews with meeting attendees to deepen my understanding of what they want to take home from the conference.
My team and I conduct research to understand the industry, market or company I’m speaking for. We look at trends, threats, opportunities as well as psychological issues underpinning the bigger picture.
We comb tweets and posts from previous conferences to better understand the tone of the key influencers and how to engage them.
SPEAKING.COM: Have you had any particularly memorable speaking engagements / unusual situations arise while on the road?
SANDERS: My talk for the CIA (Leadership Academy) was unique in that I was told that most outsiders and specifically non-intelligence community experts aren’t well received by this group. We rolled up our sleeves, did our research and won the group over with actionable advice, peppered with my out-of-their-box perspective about relationship building and what it can do for intelligence gathering and resource getting.
SANDERS: My favorite audiences are those who come to events seeking actionable advice and wanting something greater in their professional lives. I’m especially drawn to those that serve others, such as health care or financial service professionals.
SPEAKING.COM: What types of audiences would most benefit from your message?
SANDERS: Those dealing with change, disruption, complexity and fractured relationships. They are ripe for my key takeaways. These days, as I’m writing a book on Team Work and One Company, I’m looking to talk to cultures where leaders are looking for more cross-department collaboration.
SPEAKING.COM: What inspired you to start doing speaking engagements? What got you started?
SANDERS: I’ve been a speaker since I joined the debate team in the 8th grade. I was national collegiate extemporaneous speaking champion my freshman year of college and won several national debate championships. Whenever I could, I’d volunteer to speak at industry events while working at broadcast.com and yahoo.
When my first book came out in 2002 (Love is the Killer App: How To Win Business and Influence Friends), it was featured on the cover of Fast Company. When I got to work the week after it hit the newsstands, my voice mail was full of messages from speaker bureaus —
because their clients were asking them to book me for their next event.
Once I started to perform on the lecture circuit, I knew it was my calling. Since I’m a loyal business partner to speaker bureaus, they’ve reciprocated by giving the almost 800 engagements since then.
SPEAKING.COM: Which of your keynote speeches do you, and your audiences, enjoy the most and why?
- Love Is the Killer App: How To Win Business and Influence Friends
- The Power Of Great Relationships
- Sales Genius Is a Team Sport
- Lead Your Teams To Collaborate, Co-Create and Win!
Speaking on Love and generosity is my favorite thing. It’s a unique message that validates so many nice-smart people who need to understand that they are successful because of their intelligent giving nature and not despite it.
SPEAKING.COM: What are some of the successes you’ve helped clients make?
SANDERS: I’ve helped associations find new charters, based on audience feedback to their member education services. I’ve helped companies rally around senior leaders, who have been preaching my message (unsuccessfully), but through our event, we tipped the balance to acceptance. By the way, I think that’s the purpose of an outside professional speaker: To validate the agenda and perspective of inside leaders.
SPEAKING.COM: How much do case studies, personal stories and or humor factor into your keynote speech content?
SANDERS: Every talk has several case studies that lead to action items for the audience to seize. In some situations, we find ones just for the talk; and in others I cross-pollinate industries with “out-of-their-market” examples.
I love to share personal stories, so long as they lead to a takeaway. I like to talk about my relationships at work and at home, to illustrate the value of deep listening, mentorship, generosity and showing empathy.
And I like to make fun of myself, and things we all do that make us crazy.
This interview was originally published in the Speaking.com blog
SELF-Made Woman Who Inspires
The founder of Project Athena, a non-profit that helps women overcome life-altering medical setbacks, shares some major motivation tips with us.
By Madeline Buxton
When Robyn Benincasa, a life-long athlete and firefighter based in San Diego, had to undergo major surgery, she was inspired to start a non-profit organization, dubbed Project Athena, that would help other women experiencing medical setbacks regain physical prowess. Launched in 2009, Project Athena has helped over 150 women who’ve survived various medical maladies—think cancer, brain surgery—and have helped these ladies take on bucket-list-style adventures. The non-profit covers all of its beneficiaries’ expenses, like coaching and equipment, and has sponsored everything from a trek across the Grand Canyon to a climb up the San Jacinto Mountains. Benincasa spoke with us about her daily life as a full-time firefighter, why she doesn’t consider running Project Athena a “job” and what the keys are to really being a good leader.
A Good Leader Always… “Focuses on inspiring the people around her versus impressing them.”
Why I Love Volunteering… “I love helping people discover how strong they are, and what great leaders and teammates they can be. I’m lucky and grateful that I get to do that almost every day.”
On Achieving Work-Life Balance… “I always tell people that I haven’t worked a day in years. I actually have two full-time jobs, as a firefighter and as a motivational speaker, but neither of them feels like work because I love them both so much. My part-time, volunteer job of running the operations and adventures of the Project Athena Foundation is the icing on the cake. It all works because I’m surrounded by the best team in the world.”
On My To-Do List… “Clean, consolidate and reorganize my house! There’s half packed and unpacked bags and suitcases everywhere. I’d rather travel than have a nice house, so scaling down and reorganizing has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now.”
In My Purse Is… “I don’t own a purse, but I have a backpack that has my entire life in it! We call it the Intergalactic Headquarters for the World Class Teams and the Project Athena Foundation. Inside you’ll always find dental floss, a Think Thin or other protein bar, my iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, power cords, and, yes, an old school Franklin day planner. I love my paper calendar!”
My Daily Workout… “I use my indoor Kayak ERG machine and do intervals while watching sports on my iPad, go to workout classes at Orangetheory or run the stairs at the beach in Cardiff.”
The Most Influential Book I’ve Read… “The Catcher in the Rye. It was the first time I realized that everyone is weird and weird is pretty normal. In fact, the statement ‘people are weird’ is something I say just about every day. And it’s true—we all are. And it’s OK!”
The Last Thing I Do Before Bed… “Kiss my dog, Valentine—and my fiancé, Jeff, who has been my foundation and most awesome support system for the last sixteen years. We met in the fire academy.”
To learn more about Robyn Benincasa and her role as a leader check out her page here
New Book By Ty Bennett
Ty Bennett, in collaboration with Don Yaeger and Chad Hymas, has written a new fable about The Two Most Important Days of Your Life. The book tells the story of Coach Michael Coleman. One week before he gives the commencement address at Thompson High School’s graduation, Coach Coleman is asked to speak at the funeral of one of his former students who tragically took his own life. The funeral and subsequent encounters lead Coach Coleman to discovering what life is really about and to sharing a message at graduation that everyone needs to hear.
Watch the Video Trailer:
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