If you want business success then you need to be memorable. No matter how good your product is, no matter how experienced you are, if people forget about you then they won’t think about you when they need something done. And with all the noise and media trying to grab...
As entrepreneurs, it’s important that you learn from great examples of leadership and innovation. That’s why so many entrepreneurs read about successful business leaders. It isn’t about trying to recreate someone else’s path and goals, that’s not possible. It’s about looking at the goals, philosophies and achievements of another person’s life and trying to find where you could do better.
There are a number of qualities you could use to choose your business heroes. You could choose them based on their wealth, on their influence in the world, or on their innovations. Those are all good measurements of success, and you could probably learn a lot from people who embody those qualities.
But you could also look for more from the business leaders you admire. You could look at their impact on the world, on the changes they are trying to make. You could choose people who align with your own personal values, and the legacy you want to leave. By choosing to learn from business leaders who embody more than wealth and power, you send a powerful signal about the type of entrepreneur that you want to be.
What business leaders do you admire? And which ones could help you on your path to your business or life goals?
Lessons for entrepreneurs from Bill Gates
Bill Gates is probably one of the most influential business leaders on the planet. The creator of Microsoft, his company and his vision have changed the world, directed its path, and directly impacted billions of people.
The facts of Bill Gates’ life are commonly known. He discovered a passion for computers while in school and later moved on to study computer science in college. However, he dropped out to found Microsoft, which then created operating systems for other companies. And when his company created Windows in 1990, it cemented his place as one of the most influential figures of the modern day.
But Bill Gates’ legacy goes beyond creating computer systems. Since 2008 he has worked almost exclusively on his philanthropic endeavors. His company, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, works to improve global issues such as education, health, and disease prevention. It’s estimated that he’s given away over 28 billion dollars through this charity.
Bill Gates is a phenomenal business leader, and has achieved things that most people can only dream of. But as a businessman and philanthropist, he can be admired for far more than his wealth and influence.
Elon Musk’s lessons for entrepreneurs
Elon Musk is one of the most innovative minds and business leaders in the modern world. He is an inventor and a creator, and founded the famous Tesla Motors in 2003. But this was far from his first company. The sale of his first internet company made him a multimillionaire in his late twenties, and since then he has founded companies as diverse as SpaceX and X.com, which later became PayPal.
But Elon Musk’s primary concern doesn’t seem to be money. Instead it is creation, innovation, and making sustainable energy a reality. He works constantly to make the world better, to facilitate the exploration of space, and to always do better no matter the opposition.
For entrepreneurs, Elon Musk is an example of a business genius who can embodies the idea of always striving to do more, do better. And to never give up, no matter how impossible, or how far out in space, a goal might be.
Richard Branson’s life lessons
For entrepreneurs who want to learn how to create, fail, and get back up again, Richard Branson is a great businessman to study. He was a high school drop-out when he started his first company in a church at the age of sixteen. Since that time, he’s continued to create companies and products that show his innovation and unique vision. One of his most successful ventures, Virgin Airlines, has become a pivotal part of connecting the world through cheap flights.
He takes opportunities where he can find them, and makes them when he can. As Richard Branson says “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later.”
He is also heavily involved in charitable work, and promises to take civilians into space into the future. For entrepreneurs who want the inspiration to reach for the stars, Richard Branson shows how it can be done with unique style and determination.
Lessons on inclusion from Howard Schultz
The CEO of expensive coffee doesn’t seem to have a place on this list. Until you look at the company’s employment policies. Starbucks has a policy of diversity and inclusion that has drawn criticism from some. But this hasn’t changed Howard Schultz’s determination to make Starbucks a welcoming place for everyone. As business leaders, people often lose their concern for the people who work for them and make their success possible. But Howard Schultz proves there’s another way, one that shows respect for everyone.
For entrepreneurs who want to learn how to run a business, and gain the loyalty of their staff, Howard Schultz is a good example to follow. His policies are slightly unusual in the modern, competitive world, but they definitely seem to be working. Starbucks has weathered many tough times, and is now found all over the world.
Tim Cook teaches entrepreneurs to have thick skins
After the death of Steve Jobs, someone had to step into his shoes. And these were big shoes. Tim Cook was the man chosen, and despite some public doubts, Apple has flourished since his appointment. For entrepreneurs who face the doubt of others, Tim Cook is a symbol of what can happen if you stay firm and focus on the product and the business. And develop a thick skin.
Under Tim Cook’s leadership Apple has released new, popular products, fought the government over privacy laws, and started doing business in China. But Tim Cook’s vision for Apple goes further than the production of phones. His own vision is gradually changing the company, with a focus on global issues such as health and education. He is making Apple his own, despite doubt and opposition, and his strength and tenacity make him a good example for every entrepreneur.
Jack Ma and perserverance
Jack Ma is China’s richest man. A giant in the computing industry, he started from humble beginnings and worked his way up through hard work and determination. In China’s competitive market, he was denied access to university 3 times, and was rejected for more than 30 jobs before he founded his own company. Now he is the majority shareholder of Alibaba.
Jack Ma’s success is inspiring, but more so is his stated goal for the future of his company. He wants to use his power and influence to help small and medium sized businesses in China and abroad. This goal is enormous but hugely worthwhile, and his dedication to helping others makes him an entrepreneur and businessman to learn from.
Sheryl Sandberg and giving back
For entrepreneurs who are looking for a female business leader to learn from, they could learn a lot from Sheryl Sandberg. The first woman COO of Facebook, she has proven that she can make it in the business world. But it’s not just her business sense that makes her a leader worth emulating.
She is dedicated to helping other women find success despite opposition. Her charitable organization, Leanin, is dedicated to the support of this goal. It works to empower women through education and through mentorship programs. Her determination to help other women through her success makes Sheryl Sandberg a great role model for both male and female entrepreneurs.
Sergey Brin and innovation
Google is the most popular search engine in the world and the company is known for an innovative approach that constantly pushes the boundaries. This is in part due to co-founder Sergey Brin, who is now the president of Google’s parent company Alphabet.
For entrepreneurs who want to innovate, to create new things and new ideas, Sergey Brin’s path is definitely one to learn from. He is the director of special projects at Google, and has driven countless innovations and upgrades. Never satisfied to rest on accomplishments from the past, this company bought Youtube in 2006 and their wearable technology has found applications in the healthcare and military sectors.
Brin’s personal life is controversial, but his professional life can offer many lessons to entrepreneurs just starting out, or those looking for a new direction.
The number one thing you should take away from this
Having heroes is good and when you’re an entrepreneur, it’s even better to have heroes who have done what you want to do. It gives you something to strive for, the belief all the hard work will pay off. It teaches you what you want, and what you don’t want. You should learn about your heroes with the goal of learning about yourself. Strive to emulate the qualities you admire, and avoid those you don’t. And most of all, see in your business heroes that everything you dream about really is possible.
There’s been a lot of research and talk about introverts lately. In fact, it’s becoming commonly understood that about 30% of the population are introverted and function differently. This knowledge has started debate in a number of circles, including those that research leadership qualities.
Extroverts are traditionally thought of as leaders. They’re usually louder, they socialize and network well, and enjoy being in the spotlight. This doesn’t apply to every extrovert of course, like with any measurement of personality, there are differences. But in general, extroverts are more likely to be leaders like this.
Introverts are different. They usually only enjoy socializing in small groups and don’t really like to be the center of attention. Because of these tendencies, many have speculated whether introverts can be effective leaders. The idea being that a leader has to be loud, extremely socially minded, and even pushy when necessary.
But further research, and a look at the business leaders in the world today, prove that idea wrong. In fact, some studies suggest that introverts can actually make more effective leaders in certain working environments.
And in real life we have the example of Bill Gates, who is one of the most famous examples in the world of an introverted leader. Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg are also introverts who have had massive success, perhaps in part because of their introverted qualities. The evidence and these examples all show that introverts can be massively successful leaders. They just lead differently.
But how can an introvert stay true to who they are and still lead others? And how can they balance their unique needs with the demands of leadership?
The problem with networking and introverts
Introverts typically don’t like to socialize in big groups. There may be exceptions of course, but generally a big party or meeting is an introvert’s worst nightmare. There is some evidence that this is due to introverts’ sensitivity to dopamine. Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system, and some studies suggest that introverts react differently to the release of it in the brain. This means that while an extrovert may enjoy the rush of dopamine from a new or exciting activity, an introvert will find it overwhelming.
This tendency can create a barrier to an introvert’s business success. To be successful in business or entrepreneurship requires networking. It requires the ability to quickly connect with strangers and to push their business or product in a subtle but effective way. This can be hard to do when you quickly get overwhelmed by interacting with others, or being in crowded areas.
The stereotype of an introvert is someone who has little social skills and prefers to sit alone in their room to read. There may even be some truth to this stereotype. Introverts use time alone to recharge their energy, to think deeply and process the world, and to properly relax after the demands of everyday life. But the idea that introverts are incapable of smooth and effective social interactions is completely false.
The solution? Push your comfort zones
If you’re going to be a leader, you need to be able to socialize effectively. This means pushing past your comfort zones while still acknowledging your unique energy needs. Every introvert’s need for alone time and their tolerance for socializing is going to be different. That means that each introvert needs to find their own way of answering the social demands of their business.
If you find this part of your business difficult, set in place goals to overcome your reluctance. This might mean taking courses that include a public speaking component, attending a networking event, or learning different sales techniques. Whatever your goals are, make sure they move you towards becoming a more effective, confident leader.
Don’t compete for verbal space
The world is full of very loud people, and most of them are extroverts. When you’re an entrepreneur, it can be tempting to try to compete with this noise, to try to shout to be heard in business and in life. Unfortunately, this rarely works for an introvert, who will probably burn out very quickly if they try to use this tactic.
Fortunately, this isn’t necessary. People who are loud may get attention, but there are other ways to do so. Plus, the attention you get using this tactic probably isn’t the kind of attention that an introvert or their business would really want.
Leaders who don’t try to compete for verbal space may be able to create and manage more effective groups as well. Research suggests that group productivity suffers when teammates are constantly competing for dominance. This is called the complementarity dominance theory. It suggests that the most effective group leaders are those who are more in tune with the needs of their group. This means that leaders who are focused on co-creation rather than control often get better results, and happier workers.
Develop your listening skills
Research shows that most people don’t have very good listening skills. When they do listen, they’re often thinking about when they can talk, or letting their attention drift to other matters. Listening involves more than sitting and nodding in the right places while somebody talks. The breakdown of these abilities can cause massive problems for businesses and in personal lives.
But introverts are naturally good listeners and this is one of their biggest advantages in business, and as a leader. Because they naturally prefer to listen rather than talk, they have the ability to properly focus on another person. By training and using this natural skill, they can build better business and personal relationships. It will also help them to lead their business according to the needs of everyone involved.
As an introvert, listen to your clients, your employees, and to anyone who has something interesting to say. Listening to other people makes them feel valued. It makes them feel heard and understood. It forms connections, and isn’t that really what you need to do as someone trying to grow your business?
Use your love of self-reflection
Introverts often have a gift for self-reflection. It seems to be a natural part of introversion. Most introverts spend a lot of time on their own thinking, and self-knowledge can be a natural outcome of that. That’s why introverts are often natural problem solvers, they enjoy sitting quietly and thinking about different solutions.
This skill can be useful in business as well. Running a successful business naturally requires contemplation and problem solving skills. This is one of the biggest benefits that introverts can bring to a business, and it can be one that gives them an edge that other companies don’t have.
Finding balance is important for introverts
As an introvert, you will need to balance your life more than most extroverts. This doesn’t refer to the activities you do, but to your own energy needs. Introverts often complain that spending time with other people drains their energy, which they can only get back by spending time alone. This represents a major problem for most introverts in business. It’s not like they can go and hide in the bathroom for an hour in the middle of the work day.
This means learning to balance your needs and your energy with the demands of your business. And these needs can’t be ignored for very long without the deficit having a catastrophic effect on every part of your life.
The tactics that an introvert uses to balance their energy levels and their need to be alone is usually different from person to person. Some introverts need a few minutes alone to feel refreshed, whereas others need days or even weeks. When you’re the leader of a team, or working on building your own business, you must work to find this balance in your life.
Don’t be afraid to team up
Introverts can be great business leaders, but often they prefer to team up with a more extroverted partner. This allows them to do their favorite part, often the creative parts of the business, while their partner does the socializing and networking. This can be a great strategy if you really hate some parts of running a business.
This has been a winning combination in a number of businesses. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were an excellent example of how this combination can work. Whereas Wozniak was introverted and preferred to create without public scrutiny, Jobs was the public face of this dynamic team. This combination worked amazingly well for both partners, and for Apple.
This strategy is a good example of how you can use your strengths to lead a creative team while avoiding some of the social aspects of business management. If you truly find these aspects too stressful, it might be a good compromise.
The number one thing you should take away from this
Introversion and extroversion have nothing to do with the ability to create, or to lead. This is just a societal stereotype that isn’t connected to any facts. Introverts can and do make amazing leaders, they just look different to the stereotypes of a leader while they’re doing it. If you’re an introvert in business, ignore everyone who tries to tell you that your leadership style isn’t right. Learn to work with your strengths while still honoring your unique needs and viewpoint on the world. Introverts have done amazing things in this world. Learn from their examples.
Everyone has bad habits. Some of them are obvious, like smoking, whereas others are subtler. You may procrastinate on big projects, or avoid networking opportunities because you don’t like to socialize. Over time, these little choices can become habits that affect your life and your business success.
But it isn’t easy to get rid of bad habits. Human beings establish habits for a reason. They’re easier and take less energy than deliberate decisions because we do them automatically. This frees up our brain to think about other things, and make seemingly more important decisions. It also makes them very difficult to break.
A recent study at MIT suggests that habits actually change neural activity patterns in the brain. These patterns will change when you break a habit, but will also swiftly change back in an associated context. This means that the learned behavioral patterns of a habit remain under new routines, ready to be triggered at any time.
It’s even worse if the bad habit is something which gives you pleasure in some way. Certain behaviors cause a rush of dopamine in the brain. The release of this feel good chemical can reinforce the bad habit even further and can make people perform the habit even when the behavior itself makes them feel bad. This chemical is probably responsible for food addiction, smoking and even drug use. People continue doing the behavior even though it’s actively harmful because they’re addicted to the chemical rush.
So when you’re working to change a bad habit, you’re literally working against your brain. That’s why you need all the tools, help and tricks you can find to help you. So what steps can you take to drop those bad habits?
1. Choose one bad habit at a time to change
People often try to do too much at once when they decide to try to change their bad habits. This splits their focus and willpower, diminishing their chances of achieving their goals. A new habit takes thought and focus until it becomes automatic. By dividing that focus you diminish the chances that you will be able to repeat the new behavior until it becomes automatic.
This is also linked to the idea of implementation intention. Research shows that if you have a specific plan for how you’re going to implement a new habit, or get rid of an old one, you’re at least two times more likely to achieve it. However, this only applies to one intention at a time. If you have more than one, the advantage disappears.
This is not set in stone however. A recent study suggests that a multifaceted approach to change may work better in healthy adults. The study suggests that a range of new habits may work together to suppress old habits and reinforce the healthier way of living. This research is based on the plasticity of the brain, and its ability to improve with ever greater challenges. However, this research is in its infancy, and only time will tell if it’s a worthwhile approach to habit change.
2. Study and change your routines
Habits are usually context dependent. If you smoke for example, you will have a number of triggers in your life that make you feel the urge to light a cigarette. These triggers could be as simple as getting up in the morning and sitting outside with coffee, or finishing a meal. The triggers could also be more complex, such as people who feel the urge to smoke when they feel stressed. What is important here is the trigger and the environment you’ve set up that reinforces the bad habit.
When you’re working to change a bad habit, you need to remove the triggers as much as possible. This means you have to take junk food out of the fridge if you want to eat well. It means you should put healthy food in its place so you have good options when you feel like snacking. There is some disagreement about whether willpower is finite or not, but by removing the triggers for your behavior you reduce the need for it anyway.
3. Write down why you want to change bad habits
When you start changing your habits, it’s easy to see which ones you want to get rid of and why. The reasons seems obvious at that stage. But later, when you’ve been triggered and feel pressured by your own mind, the reasons will probably seem very far away and unimportant. That’s why you should write them down, in a place you can easily find them. That way, when you feel weak, you can look at your reasons and remind yourself why your efforts are so important.
4. Replace bad habits
This idea doesn’t work for everyone. However, some patients with addictions report success in replacing drug use with other ritualistic habits such as exercising. The urge to take drugs can be satisfied with other habitual behaviors.
This idea doesn’t actually erase the original behavior. Research suggests that the old habit is still in the brain, waiting to be triggered. However, as the new behavior is strengthened over time it can help to suppress the old behavior.
This idea can be used for less serious habits as well. For example, if you tend to eat junk food late at night, try eating fruit instead. That way you’re not actually erasing the habit, but replacing it with one that’s better for your health and your body. Because it’s easier to form new habits than to remove old ones, this idea might make the whole process easier.
5. Set up a punishment system
This is a fairly controversial tactic that goes back to BF Skinner’s research on behavior reinforcement. It’s also a deeply controversial tactic when it comes to punishing others for behaviors. However, in the context of changing your own habits, it can be helpful.
Websites such as stickK set up a behavior change system where, if you fail, money is deducted from your bank to a group you hate. This is a double punishment, because you both lose the money and support something you don’t believe in. For people who need extra motivation to break a really stubborn habit, this can be a good option.
6. Plan for problems
When you’re working on breaking an old habit, you will have moments when you fail. You will have days when your willpower seems weaker, and you just can’t control yourself. On those days, when you encounter a trigger for the old habit, it may seem difficult if not impossible to resist. This is where your planning comes in.
Early on in the process, plan for problems. Visualize issues or triggers that might come up and derail your efforts. You should also visualize solutions that don’t end with you performing the habit. Write these down and refer to them in case of problems. This saves you having to come up with solutions when you are stressed and under pressure.
The visualization itself can be helpful in breaking bad habits. Visualization is used by athletes and other performers to mentally rehearse desired behaviors. According to a number of studies, the brain can’t tell the difference between actions and this rehearsal. So by mentally visualizing the desired behaviors, you may be further helping to strengthen the new habit.
7. Get support
It’s simple fact that humans are social creatures. We like to live in groups. That tendency can be a great advantage in habit change. If you try to change your habit alone, there are no social repercussions if you fail. But if you tell people about your efforts, ask them to help or cheer you on, it’s much harder to quit and have to admit it. That’s why so many people go public with their habit changing efforts, to gather the support and the accountability of external connections.
This is called the Hawthorn Effect, which means that people change their behavior when they’re being observed. If you know people are watching, you’re far more likely to behave in a way they approve of.
8. Forgive your mistakes
Do not use slip ups as an excuse to fall back into bad habits. Too often, people punish themselves for failure by turning back to the habit. The thinking seems to be ‘well, I’ve already done it once…’ This is incredibly destructive behavior. Failure is a normal part of life, but shouldn’t be used as an excuse for falling back into bad habits. If you use your small slips as an excuse to give up, you really have failed.
The number one thing you should take away from this
Changing habits is hard. There are a number of mechanisms in the brain and in your life that work against your efforts. However, research into the brain and into behavior also show that it is possible. Work through it at your pace and using the tools that work for you. Don’t be ashamed or scared away if you fail. Just look at it as a learning experience, work out what you did wrong, and move forward.
Crush It Every Day (and Make It Look Easy)
What Do Highly Confident People Do Differently?
Highly confident people aren’t secretly superheroes. They don’t have any unfair advantages. So, what do they do differently? In fact, confidence is a skill that can be learned by anybody. Embody these seven habits of highly confident people to become a person worth following.
1. They chase their dreams with relentless enthusiasm.
Highly confident people aren’t afraid of a challenge. They’re willing to put in more work than the average person. As a result, confident people tend to earn an above average return.
They don’t merely put in the work. They do it with a smile on their face. Their enthusiasm attracts people to them. The days never become “dry” or “dull,” because every action has a specific purpose.
2. They don’t wait for another person’s permission.
Highly confident people are bold and decisive. If they believe a decision is in the best interest of their client or company, they don’t waste time waiting for authorization. They get moving.
That said, they aren’t reckless. Confident people calculate the potential risk or downside of any decision before they go “All in.” Assuming those calculations pass a sniff test, they plan and execute their strategy immediately.
3. They take intelligent risks that make sense.
Highly confident people aren’t opposed to trying new approaches. They know any strategy, regardless of how effective it was initially, can become stale or out-dated as time passes.
They’re not the kind of person who pursues change for its own sake. “Different” isn’t always “better.” However, they are willing to adopt a new policy or procedure when the evidence suggests it’s for the greater good.
4. They don’t live for other people’s approval.
Highly confident people know they won’t be liked by everyone. They’re totally fine with that. Sometimes you have to push away the “wrong” kind of person to attract the “right” one.
They don’t abide by anybody’s script but their own. Do the wishes of their family and friends matter? Sure. But confident people always prioritize what’s best for them, because it’s their life, and they’ll live it however they see fit.
5. They seek feedback and constructive criticism.
Highly confident people don’t need a “safe space” to protect them from being criticized. They have no tolerance for “yes men” who will say anything to avoid offending them.
Confidence is not given. It’s earned. And to earn confidence, you must embrace the learning process. That means you’ll mess up sometimes. No big deal. As long as you frame “mistakes” as “growth opportunities,” they’ll transform you into a smarter version of yourself.
6. They don’t perceive failure as a “negative” thing.
Highly confident people are used to failure. They’ve been rejected so many times that getting a “No” doesn’t cause an emotional reaction. Instead, they get back up and try again.
When you have the ambition of a highly confident person, failure is a given. You can’t aim so high without failing a few times. Find a lesson in every miss. Apply that lesson to the way you do business. If you make enough adjustments, your accuracy will drastically improve.
7. They have no time or tolerance for gossip and drama.
Highly confident people don’t put others down. They’re so confident in themselves that it’d be a wasteful use of energy. They treat everybody with a positive and accepting attitude.
Complaining and condemning are not constructive things to do. In fact, judging somebody will only cause them to become defensive. When that happens, they won’t hear anything else you have to say. It’s better to emphasize people’s strengths and similarities. Now they’ll listen…
Do you think your friends would like to become highly confident people? If so, share this article on Facebook and Twitter.
Who Has Time for Amateur Hour? Not You!
How to Be Known as a Professional
What’s the difference between an amateur and professional? It comes down to how you present yourself. Professionals command attention as soon as they enter a room. Amateurs struggle to quiet a noisy crowd before they speak. If you want to be known as a professional, read ahead. I’ll reveal six ways to sharpen your professional image…
1. Speak with confidence and clarity.
Words have power. If yours are too scattered or quiet to be understood, they’ll have none. Professionals earn trust and prestige by communicating more effectively than anybody else.
Do you speak so quickly that people don’t have enough time to process your brilliant insights? If so, slow down your speaking tempo. Let there be a pause between words and sentences.
Do you talk so quietly that people ask you to repeat yourself constantly? If so, step up your speaking volume. Open your mouth wide. Emphasize every single vowel and consonant.
Do you ramble on so extensively that people’s eyes glaze over? If so, scale down your speaking frequency. Stay on point. Don’t get side-tracked. Say more with less words.
2. Don’t play favorites with your staff.
The way you treat people matters. If you do anything that makes your employees suspect you give preferential treatment to certain members of your crew, you’ll seem like an amateur.
Professionals don’t play favorites. They reward whoever does the best work without regard for whose personality they prefer. That’s beside the point. For a professional, results matter. Everything else is a distraction.
Have expectations for your staff. They should know exactly what it takes to meet or exceed their goals. Track those metrics with a whiteboard in your office. When employees see their performance is being measured according to the same standards, they’ll do a better job.
3. Embody your policies and procedures.
You can’t tell a team member, “Don’t come to the office without wearing a tie again,” while you’re wearing a ratty tee shirt. If anyone needs fashion advice in this situation, it’s you!
This is a silly example. I hope you wouldn’t wear a gym shirt to work. That said, it illustrates my point. You can’t ask someone to abide by a policy or procedure that you don’t even follow. Well, you could. But it won’t be effective. And you’ll look like a hypocrite.
Your policies and procedures should justify themselves. Be a walking, talking example of the change you want to see. You might be surprised by how many people naturally take your lead… no instructions required!
4. Motivate people to do their best work.
An employee calls you to their office. They’re struggling with a difficult assignment. They’ve never felt so overwhelmed in their entire life. What insights do you have to offer this person?
“Just do it” worked for Nike. It wouldn’t be sufficient here. “You’ll figure it out” sounds nice. But it’s not helpful advice. Only an amateur would rely on such an empty response. You’re a professional, so you can do better.
Help your employee understand the project. Are they overthinking trivial aspects of the task? Or did they fail to consider essential details that would help them connect-the-dots mentally? Either way, remind them of the reasons they’re 100% qualified to do this job.
A better response might be: “I hired you for a reason, Steve. You’re the best designer I know. Your ability to turn my concepts into beautiful art always makes me feel relieved I hired you. Now, I know you have questions about this project, and I want to help you answer all of them. What do you need to know? You have my undivided time and attention until we figure it out.”
5. Refrain from sharing political opinions.
Everyone has a political opinion. But more people would benefit from keeping those private. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, American politics have never been more divisive.
As soon as you mention supporting a particular politician or political party, people will see you with a whole new lens. And it might not be an appealing one. Your best move? Do not engage.
Some liberals think every conservative is a racist, homophobic, Bible-thumping Fox News fan. Some conservatives think all liberals are socialist baby-haters who depend on free handouts. I’m okay with not having either of these labels applied to me!
If someone asks for your thoughts about (insert political news story here), change the topic or find a way to make a joke without revealing your true feelings on the subject. Humor is a fast way to diffuse these situations. By keeping people in the dark about your political opinions, you’ll be perceived as a professional by both Democrats and Republicans.
6. Keep your promises (or at least apologize).
There’s nothing less “professional” than failing to keep your promises. If you say you’re going to do something, then you need to follow-through. Why else would anyone trust your words?
Don’t over-commit. Only say “yes” when you have the time, energy, and availability to deliver. Refuse to answer every question. If a crew member comes to you with a concern that should be shared with their supervisor, correct them.
And when you do fail to keep a promise — it happens to everybody eventually — apologize. Damage control is best performed as swiftly as possible. Explain why it occurred, emphasize that it won’t happen again, and empathize with anyone whose feelings were hurt. Professionals are willing to own their mistakes. Be a professional. Apologize.
Share this article with your friends so they can learn how to sharpen their professional image, too. They’ll thank you later.
Set. Strategize. Shoot
Having an idea or a dream is all well and good but what do you do when you want to take it to the next step? What do you do when you’re ready to make it a reality and achieve your goals?
We’ve all been learning about goal setting and long-term/short-term goals since grade school but for most people, that lesson never really sank in. Maybe it’s because we weren’t listening or maybe as adolescents, we’re just not ready to wait that long or think that far ahead.
The exceptional few that do get it down early are generally very successful.
So here it goes! Here’s how you can make your dreams reality! Here’s how you can achieve your goals.
3 Simple Steps to Achieve Your Goals
Set your goal. That seems pretty cut and dry, right? But it actually requires a lot of thought. If you’re going to give something your all, you’d better be pretty confident that’s what you want to do. Ask yourself what you want to be doing in 5 or 10 years and if this goal will help you get there.
Don’t rush into setting a goal but don’t let it sit on the back burner and become forgotten either. Give yourself a timeline to decide and write a reminder on your calendar.
So, now that you’ve got your goals all ready to go, you need to develop a plan. And to do that you need to learn to prioritize and organize.
Which steps are the most important and urgent? If you’re interested in becoming a doctor, what’s more important in the beginning: putting together a study plan or writing your college application letters? Ask yourself this kind of question when prioritizing the steps you need to take.
Now that you’ve set your priorities, you need to separate your goals into long-term and short-term goals. A short-term goal is generally defined as something you want to achieve in 12 months or less, so even a so-called short-term goal may need to be split into several smaller tasks. Using the previous example, obviously one of your short-term goals is to become accepted into a medical school. The smaller tasks you’d need to do this would be to write an outstanding allocation letter, choose your top picks for college, and decide if you need to take out a loan, apply for scholarships, etc. The long-term goal in this example is to become a doctor. Focusing on a long-term goal alone can seem overwhelming. If you give yourself manageable tasks and put them on your calendar or to-do list you’ll feel less stressed and you’ll know that you’re on track as you tick off your list.
Once you have your goal and your basic strategy, it’s time to go for it! Don’t hesitate at this point. Give your goal all of the energy it needs to become reality. Don’t stop when things get tough, or slow, or boring. You’ll only end up regretting that you quit.
If your strategy starts to fail, don’t panic! Take a step back and re-evaluate your situation. Things change in life all the time and you MUST be flexible. If you can’t learn to do this, you’ll never reach your destination
The hardest point at this point will be to stay motivated. As external motivations wear off, the temptation to quit may become unbearable. Internal motivation will be your guiding star at this point, and that’s fine! Most psychologists believe that internal motivation is much more effective in helping to achieve long-term goals than external.
For those of you who don’t know, external motivation refers to the motivation to achieve that comes from things like financial stress, parental pressure, and desire for admiration. Internal motivation usually comes from your own desire for self-improvement or the love for what you’re doing.
Too many people fall short of their dreams and desires, opting to make excuses rather than make try and risk failing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure isn’t permanent unless you decide it is. So, sure, you could avoid trying; you wouldn’t risk failure that way. But you certainly wouldn’t risk success, either. The only way to achieve your goals is to take risks and put yourself out there.
Is there anyone on planet Earth who doesn’t know who Arnold Schwarzenegger is? Probably very few; such is the level of popularity and success that this icon has achieved.
Born in the small city of Thal in Austria, Schwarzenegger arguably rose to the very top of every field he decided to apply himself to.
In bodybuilding, he was a three time Mr. Universe and seven time Mr. Olympia winner; an unprecedented feat.
In acting, sure he never won an Oscar, but through his roles in movies such as the Terminator, Predator, and Conan, he became the biggest action movie star of all time.
And in politics, a field not many thought he would succeed in, he was elected the Governor of California; a position he used to push through many of his personal initiatives in areas such as the environment and public health.
Throughout it all, Schwarzenegger was also a successful businessman. Not many people know that by the time he landed his first starring role in Hollywood, he was already a millionaire from investing in Californian real estate using his bodybuilding winnings. Today, Schwarzenegger has an estimated net worth of $300 million.
To be sure, Schwarzenegger is a flawed individual, especially in his personal life, where his failings were highly publicized. But to ignore his tremendous success in light of some of his failings would be foolish; Schwarzenegger has a lot to teach us about success.
A few years ago, Schwarzenegger published his autobiography: Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story which details many of the lessons in this post. Here’s what we can learn from the man.
Nine Success Lessons We Can Learn From Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lesson #1: Believe 100% in Yourself
Self-belief is the most important ingredient for success. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you? Without the belief that you will be able to achieve your goals, there is no way you’re ever going to get there.
This does not mean blind belief, but rather the kind of belief that arises when you truly know yourself, what you want in life, and what you are capable of. Schwarzenegger’s father wanted him to become a soccer player, but deep down he knew he wanted to become the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger also believed that he could make a difference to the people in California, no matter what others said. As he said “Impossible was a word I loved to ignore when I was governor.”
Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk also sums up the importance of self-belief, stating that without self-belief, the deck is simply too stacked against you. If you are against yourself, how can you ever win?
Lesson #2: Define Your Goals
If you don’t know where you are going, how can you ever get there? Schwarzenegger believed in SMART goals; goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time sensitive. As he says in his book:
“I always wrote down my goals [and] I had to make it very specific so that all those fine intentions were not just floating around. I would take out index cards and write that I was going to:
- Get twelve more units in college;
- Earn enough money to save $5,000;
- Work out five hours a day;
- Gain seven pounds of solid muscle weight; and
- Find an apartment building to buy and move into…
Knowing exactly where I wanted to end up freed me totally to improvise how to get there.”
Some people don’t like setting goals; worrying about how they would feel if they failed to achieve them. Schwarzenegger believed in the opposite; clear goals revealed a clear purpose and allowed him to focus all his energy on achieving them instead of wandering aimlessly.
Lesson #3: Work Hard, Then Work Harder
The saying ‘work hard’ is almost a cliché at this point because it’s repeated so often. But just because it’s a cliché doesn’t make it any less true. You won’t get anywhere without hard work, a point that Schwarzenegger emphasizes over and over again.
Schwarzenegger applied the simple weight lifting philosophy to his life: Reps, reps, reps. To him, everything was about repetition. Reps equaled hard work. As he said:
“Everything is about either reps or mileage. If you want to be good at skiing, you have to get out on the slopes all the time…On the movie set, the only way to have your act together is to do the reps. If you’ve done the reps, you don’t have to worry, you can enjoy the moment when the cameras roll.”
So ask yourself, how many ‘reps’ are you putting in each day toward achieving your goals? Schwarzenegger made use of the full 24 hours in the day, something each of us has, toward this.
“As a student I trained five hours a day, gone to acting classes four hours a day, worked in construction several hours a day, and gone to college and done my homework, and I was not the only one. In my classes at Santa Monica College and at UCLA extension school there were people who were also working full time jobs.”
Lesson #4: Don’t Let Your Mind Hold You Back
We are more powerful than we know. Much of our actual limitations are not actually real limitations as defined by the laws of the universe. Instead, they are limiting beliefs; our own self-imposed limits on our potential as a result of negative experiences. If we want to reach the limits of our true potential, we have to banish these limiting beliefs from our minds.
Here, Schwarzenegger tells a story of witnessing an event in the gym that helped overcome some of his own limiting beliefs.
“I’d worked my way up to three hundred pounds of weight in calf raises, beyond any other bodybuilder I knew. I thought I must be near the limit of human achievement. So I was amazed to see Reg doing calf raises with one thousand pounds. ‘The limit is in your mind,’ he said…The limit I thought existed was purely psychological…It showed the power of mind over body.”
Lesson #5: Ignore the Doubters
On your path to success, there will always be naysayers and doubters who try to keep you down. Some may be doing it out of genuine concern, but others will do so because of the crab in the bucket mentality. When one crab tries to climb out of the bucket, the other crabs pull it down.
Schwarzenegger had many doubters on his way to the top. From those who doubted that the skinny kid from Austria could become the world’s greatest bodybuilder, to those who said he would never be a movie star because of his accent, or those said he could never be a politician.
“It was very difficult for me in the beginning – I was told by agents and casting people that my body was ‘too weird’, that I had a funny accent, and that my name was too long. You name it, and they told me I had to change it. Basically, everywhere I turned, I was told that I had no chance.
You realize you have to pay no attention to the naysayers. When you learn those lessons in sports, you can apply those lessons for the rest of your life.”
Lesson #6: Don’t be Afraid to Fail
The road to success is paved with failure. When you strive as high as Schwarzenegger did, there are bound to be failures along the way. Not all of his movies were box office successes; many of them were utter failures.
Schwarzenegger tells people that when you fail, contrary to what you may feel, most people actually don’t notice. The whole world is not focused on your failure. When his movie The Last Action Hero flopped, he said “You tend to assume that the whole world is focused on your failure.”
When you fall, pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try again.
Lesson #7: Leverage Your Quirks
Many people, despite what they say, are actually afraid to stand out from the crowd. When you stand out from the crowd, you invite judgment and criticism, something that is hard for many to deal with. So instead of openly displaying their unique traits, they hide them to try to blend in with the crowd.
Schwarzenegger didn’t fall into this temptation. He had always wanted to stand out; and to do it in his own way. No changing or shortening his name to sound more American. He maintains his Austrian accent till today. He did not slim down to get a more Hollywood-friendly physique.
Because Schwarzenegger embraced his quirks, he turned them into some of his greatest assets. These quirks allowed him to stand out from the crowd and achieve the level of fame he has today.
Lesson #8: Stay Hungry
Many a successful person has fallen victim to the lure of complacency. Once they achieve some success, they lose the drive that got them there in the first place and soon find themselves overtaken by hungrier rivals.
Arnold Schwarzenegger himself always stayed hungry. After achieving success in one area, such as bodybuilding, he quickly moved on to the next challenge, never letting himself settle for less. Here’s his philosophy:
“I liked the idea of staying hungry in life and never staying in one place. When I was ten, I wanted to be good enough at something to be recognized in the world. Now I wanted to be good enough at something else to be recognized again, and even bigger than before.”
Lesson #9: Give Back
The final lesson that Arnold Schwarzenegger imparts may just be the most important; not to you, but to everybody. And that is giving back to the community once you’ve achieved success. While many look at Schwarzenegger as the embodiment of the self-made man and the American dream, he emphatically denies this.
“I am not a self-made man…. Like everyone, to get to where I am, I stood on the shoulders of giants. My life was built on a foundation of parents, coaches, and teachers; of kind souls who lent couches or gym back rooms where I could sleep; mentors who shared wisdom and advice; idols who motivated me from the pages of magazines and personal interaction”
By acknowledging the important roles that others played in his success, Arnold Schwarzenegger then understood the importance of giving back. Its importance is the ultimate payoff: a meaningful life. He sums it up:
“Help others and give something back. I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Only Human, Just Like You
When you look at the lives and achievements of august individuals such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is normal to compare and contrast our lives with them. However, comparison is the thief of joy. The only thing that matters is becoming the best version of you. And by implementing the success lessons that Arnold Schwarzenegger used in his own life, you can.
7 Profound Quotes from the Greatest Investor Alive
Let These Warren Buffett Quotes Guide Your Important Decisions
Warren Buffett is a highly successful investor. He’s witnessed the stock market crash and rally. No matter how the market behaves, Buffett maintains a calm attitude and patient demeanor. Any business owner can learn from his beliefs. Here are seven of the best Warren Buffett quotes.
1. Be proactive.
“Predicting rain doesn’t count. Building arks does.”
You identify a huge threat to your business… but you don’t do anything to minimize your risk. Instead, you complain about how “times are changing” and “life isn’t fair.”
How productive is that reaction? It doesn’t even register. You might as well lay down in the path of a train and say: “Who does this conductor think he is? Can’t he see I’m napping…?”
Progress can’t be stopped. If a technological advance is “bad” for your business but “good” for the planet at large, good luck stopping it. Accept the change and determine how to deal with it.
2. Have patience.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a few years ago.”
People are so impatient. They don’t want to spend hours at the gym. Instead, they want to do one workout and wake up with a six-pack. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.
Significant progress requires a substantial amount of patience. You might have to dedicate many hours, days, weeks, months, or years to the pursuit of your goal (depending on its size).
Don’t be afraid. Here’s the good news. Most people are too impatient. They realize how much time and effort is involved. As soon as that happens, it stops being worth it. They play small. In other words, you’ll find less competition at the top, where only the patient can survive.
3. Invest in yourself.
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
You are invited to a $500 marketing seminar. It’s led by one of your biggest influences. At best, you might get to meet them. At worst, you’ll gain insights to apply in your business.
After a few hours of deliberation, you decide to pass. $500 seems like too much money to pay for a speech. This influencer has a YouTube channel anyway. You can learn everything there.
Was this the right decision? Not necessarily. This entrepreneur could have networked with other professionals. They might have met a future collaborator or business partner. All of a sudden, $500 doesn’t sound so expensive, right? To excel, you must invest in yourself.
4. Calculate your risk.
“Risks comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
Risk is always present. There’s no way to escape that. Even the most well-made machines have malfunctions. The trick is to be 100% aware of how to manage those malfunctions.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? No one likes to reflect about that question. You might end up in the catastrophic side of your brain. It’s the little voice inside you that says: “New mole? Let’s read about that on WebMD. (A few minutes pass.) Yep! It’s skin cancer…”
Let’s not go that far. But you should brace yourself for risk. Keep an eye on your competitors. Watch out for trends and disruptions. Read industry magazines so you’re the first person to know about new innovations or technologies that could transform the competitive landscape. Take so many calculations that you’re rarely caught off-guard.
5. Learn from the past.
“In the business world, the rearview mirror is always clearer than the windshield.”
The past is a warehouse of insights. Applying those takeaways today will improve your future. You need to understand the past, present, and future are intimately connected.
Many people live in the past. They relive their worst decisions over and over again. Why bother? You can’t change the past. You can only modify your present actions in a way that will prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.
Unforeseen problems often seem obvious in retrospect. It’s like being in a toxic relationship. After the break-up, you wonder: “Why in the world did I tolerate this treatment for so long?” Develop situational awareness. If you pay attention, you’ll sense trouble before it arrives.
6. Don’t fall into toxic patterns.
“The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
Routines are great. When you follow a process consistently, you learn to execute it on autopilot. There’s no thinking about, “What to do?” You’ll just shut up and do it.
Bad habits are less helpful. If you repeat a behavior enough times in a row, it will become a pattern (whether it’s good or not). A restaurant cook drops a burger on the floor. Splat!
Instead of starting a new burger and apologizing for the delay, this cook just picks the patty up. Tainted with germs, it gets tossed in between a hamburger bun. I feel sorry for that diner.
The cook repeats this behavior two more times. Less-experienced cooks observe this happen. They follow his example. This restaurant has a serious problem. A single isolated incident just turned into a company-wide habit. Let this remind you of how important procedure is!
7. Surround yourself with geniuses.
“It’s better to hang out with people who are better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”
You have nothing to gain from being the smartest person you know. I’d rather spend time with people who make me feel ignorant in comparison.
Does my ego like that feeling? No. That’s okay. Associating with extremely successful people motivates me to raise my game. Maybe someday it’ll reach their level. Or not. At least I tried!
How can you apply these Warren Buffett quotes in your life? Tell us in the comments. Share this blog with your friends, because they would benefit from his wisdom.
How many of you have had a great idea but couldn’t get it executed because people simply wouldn’t buy in? How do you create buy-in?
If you are working in a typical corporate environment, this is an all too common scenario. And it’s a frustrating one; you just know that your idea will lead to great results, but your colleagues and superiors just won’t get on board.
I have no doubt that many great ideas have been left in the ether because of this, and the world is poorer for it.
But let’s face it, change is hard and as human beings we are naturally resistant to change. And if you’re going to get your idea to work, you need to work with people and not against them.
Once they buy in to your idea, however, they’ll be just as invested in you as seeing it all the way through. And that’s a clear recipe for success.
So let’s take a look at some of the best strategies to create buy-in.
6 Strategies to Create Buy-In For Your Ideas
#1: Make Them Feel the Problem First
More than likely the idea you need to get buy-in for will help your organization fix some sort of problem. This is more than clear to you, so it should be clear to the stakeholders as well, right? In actuality, the stakeholders might not even be aware that there is a problem. And if there’s no awareness of the problem in the first place, why should they buy-in into your idea for fixing it?
You have to present the problem in a way that makes it feel real. And forget dry business cases. Harvard Business School Professor and New York Times bestselling author John Kotter, recalls one such case in his book The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations.
In that particular case, a manager saw that because his organization’s factories were handling their own purchases, there was a lot of wasted money. His idea was to save money by consolidating the purchases. He first presented his idea by putting together a business case; which went nowhere. So he tried a different tack.
He brought 424 work gloves to a boardroom meeting, each tagged with a different price and supplier. Due to the separate procurements throughout the organization, this was how much variation there was in something as simple as work gloves. Right in front of the senior executives, he dumped them all on the table. They got the point, and procurement consolidation soon took over the meeting’s agenda.
#2: Have a Clear and Actionable Vision
You proposed the idea so you better have a vision and plan behind it. No one will buy in to your idea if you appear to be wishy washy about it. When you present your idea, you better have a clear vision of:
- What your idea will accomplish,
- What it will take to accomplish it; and
- An actionable and concrete plan to do so.
Not having at least those three points above handled make your idea much more vulnerable to objections and resistance, this of course hinders buy-in.
#3: Be Honest
When presenting your idea, don’t sugarcoat it. There is no such thing as an idea that is going to be 100% positive for 100% of the people involved. Somewhere, someone is always going to be at least a little negatively affected. This could be something as simple as having an increased workload, which let’s face it, very few people get excited about.
So, be honest about what it’s going to take to execute your idea, and what it means for each of the stakeholders involved. Not everybody is going to be elated about it, but if you explained the benefits of your vision well enough (see #2), they will still be willing to buy-in, but ONLY if you’re perfectly honest. No one likes feeling tricked, and if they perceive you as having tricked them, they’ll swing to the other side real fast.
#4: Address the Emotions
Continuing from the above, you should have done your due diligence to understand how each stakeholder might feel about the change brought on by your vision. A good reference point is the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross change curve, which roughly comprises six stages of dealing with change.
- Denial: Initial shock at the change and a sense of disbelief. May start looking for evidence that the change isn’t true.
- Frustration: Anger that things are different.
- Depression: Low mood and emotions from the change.
- Experiment: Initial engagement with the new situation.
- Decision: Deciding to learn how to work within the new situation. More positive emotional state.
- Integration: The changes are fully integrated into the individual. Good emotional state.
By understanding the emotional progression that people go through when dealing with change, you will be able to better manage their emotions. Not only will this lead to greater buy-in but a greater chance that your idea will be successful down the line.
#5: Nip Resistance in the Bud
You have to be aggressive in addressing resistance to your idea. If you let these objections go unchallenged, they will fester and create problems for you, if not at first, later. These objections may even end up poisoning the minds of those who have already bought in to your idea. Hence, you must address all these objections as soon as possible.
Now, don’t confuse aggression with hostility. While you do have to be proactive in dealing with resistance, you must not be hostile.
The most important thing you can do when addressing resistance to your idea is to show respect. If you don’t show respect, then it doesn’t matter how much objective facts and data you pull out; you will not be able to address the underlying resentment. In fact, you will probably make it worse!
#6: Be Flexible
No matter how confident you are in your idea and vision, realize that you are not infallible. Do not succumb to myopia, where you stubbornly plod forward with your initial idea despite valid objections or suggestions for improvement. Don’t mistake valid feedback with resistance to change.
So, while you should demonstrate total commitment to your idea and vision, you must still be flexible. Many times, the most valuable feedback will come from people who have already bought in to your idea, that’s why they’re giving you constructive criticism. But if they see that you’re stubborn and not open to change yourself, they may decide that buying in wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Remember, midcourse corrections and game plan adjustments are not ‘defeats’. They’re actually the best indicator that you value the buy-in the stakeholders have for your ideas.
How many times have you had the displeasure of sitting through a boring, dry, and banal presentation? The kind where the speaker went up there and just droned on and on in a seemingly endless monotone until his voice became background noise as your eyelids got heavier and heavier? That’s what happens when you fail to engage your audience.
Unless you’ve been exceptionally lucky, you’ve probably had to endure more than your fair share of such presentations. And while my description above might have been a little hyperbolic, the fact of the matter is that most presenters simply don’t engage their audience. They speak at them instead of speaking to them.
Public speakers know that one of the worst things that can happen, short of being jeered and booed, is seeing glassy eyed and disinterested expressions on their audience’s faces. It might even be worse than getting jeered and booed, at least then you know they’re listening!
8 Methods to Effectively Engage Your Audience
When you fail to engage your audience, you might as well be speaking to an empty room. Don’t let that happen to you. Check out the following tips to ensure that the next time you present, their attention will be fixed on you the whole time.
#1: Give Them the Takeaway Upfront
If your introduction is weak, you are immediately starting out behind. You need a strong introduction to hook the audience. And one of the best ways to do so is to tell them upfront how they will benefit from listening to you.
Remember, people are self-absorbed creatures. They don’t care about you; all they want to know is how listening to you can benefit them. So don’t ramble on and on, give it to them straight; what are the exact takeaways and benefits of your talk?
Have you heard of the primacy and recency effect? It’s a psychological phenomenon which demonstrates that the parts of a speech people remember most are the opening and closing. So make sure your main takeaways are included in the opening (and repeat them in the closing of course).
I’m not saying that you have to mechanically state the takeaways within the first couple of sentences of your presentation. Sometimes yes, but not always. Just make sure you do it before you launch into the body of your presentation.
#2: Keep the Takeaways to Three or Fewer
The Rule of Three. Keep the number of takeaways or main points in your presentation to three or fewer. Going over three main points risks your audience forgetting them as you move along in the presentation. And if your audience starts to forget your main points, they might start to lose track of the whole thing. The result? Reduced engagement levels and an overall less impactful and effective presentation.
So don’t go overboard with the information and remember that it’s all about what your audience can remember, not how much you know.
#3: Make It Visual
We are all visual creatures and we engage better the more of our senses are utilized. Adding visuals to your presentation, whether it is diagrams, infographics, or pictures will keep the audience’s attention focused and engaged.
However, don’t let your visuals overwhelm your presentation, they should be a complement, not a distraction. Don’t add visuals for the sake of spectacle; make sure each visual serves a real purpose within the context of your presentation.
#4: Poll Your Audience
The more interactive your presentation, the more engaged your audience will be. One way to do that is to take a simple poll from your audience. Questions like “How many of you here have experienced X?” or “Show me on your fingers how many times you’ve done X” make your presentation more interactive and engaging.
Here’s a tip, they don’t even have to be ‘real’ information-seeking questions, they can be rhetorical questions for the sole purpose of spicing up your presentation. Don’t feel embarrassed about using rhetorical questions, as long as you don’t overdo it. You can even call it out right after by saying “That was a rhetorical question”.
#5: Share Extreme Moments or Novel Statistics
Sharing extreme moments or novel statistics can immediately hook your audience. A common novel statistic you might have heard is that if you (in theory) fold a piece of paper 42 times it will create a tower that reaches the moon. The main point of this novel statistic was to show the power of exponential growth, but you can bet it’s far more effective than just showing a graph!
Extreme moments can also put your audience right into the thick of your story. Scott Dinsmore gave a TED talk about finding work you love. But his talk also includes an anecdote of how during an open water swim in the San Francisco bay, he thought a child was drowning. Turns out that the child was not drowning; he was physically disabled, and yet completed the swim anyway. Scott wanted to show the power of perseverance; and his extreme anecdote did the job.
#6: Show Vulnerability
Many people are afraid to demonstrate their true and authentic self, fearing negative judgment and criticism. But vulnerability, which is inherent in all of us, is what enables us to really connect with each other. Research has shown that vulnerability is the key component in sustaining a long term relationship.
I’m not suggesting that you treat your audience like your significant other; that would be completely ridiculous. You don’t have to expose all your inner fears and desires to them. But recognize the importance of vulnerability in connecting with each other, long term relationship or not.
So humanize yourself and open up. Show a little bit of who you are as a person to your audience. It can be something as simple as a moving story from your childhood to a recent business failure and what you learned from it.
There’s no set rule of what you have to share, but sharing something about what makes you a person is key for getting your audience interested in you. And when they’re interested in you, they’re also interested in what you have to say.
#7: Be Passionate
Carmine Gallo is the author of Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. She emphasizes that passion is one of the most important parts of any good storytelling. She shares scientific research which shows how passion is contagious and passionate speakers “stand a greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.”
Don’t worry if you haven’t yet discovered your passion, it might not be as obvious as you think. Gallo shares the example of Aimee Mullins a double amputee and Paralympics world record holder in running. Her TED talk might on the surface look to be about prosthetics and how society views people with disabilities, but look deeper and you’ll see that her true passion is about unleashing human potential.
#8: Have a Conversation
Which scenario would you be more engaged in; listening to a speech or talking with your best friend? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Giving a speech that appears as natural as normal conversation takes relentless practice. But if you can master this skill, you can engage your audience almost as if you are having a personal conversation with each one of them.
When practicing, pay attention to your verbal delivery (rate, volume, pitch, and pauses), effective gestures, and body language. Remember, it takes lots of practice to appear natural, so don’t sweat it if you’re not there yet. You’ll get there if you put in the work.