Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Elephant in the Elevator


Imagine the sceneyou and your three business associates have just arrived in the lobby of a downtown conference hotel. You’re there to attend a 90-minute seminar to be held in the fifth floor meeting room. You press the “up” button, the elevator door opens and… you’re shocked beyond belief! Right there in the elevator is a baby elephant dressed in a business suit and tie! 
You and your associates are utterly speechless!  The elephant looks friendly enough, and so with trepidation you all get in. The door closes and in seconds it stops at the second floor. The door opens and the elephant exits the elevator, leaving all of you in amazement. How could this be? It’s remarkable! An elephant in an elevator!
Hurriedly you all make your way to the meeting room where the presenter greets you at the door. As you bombard him with what you just experienced in the elevator, the excitement spreads up and down the aisles. Throughout the room chatter abounds and amazement continues.
The presenter then checks his watch, steps up on stage and says, “Good morning. Today I have three important objectives for you to focus on. First, our quarterly goals. Second, how well we did last year, and third, my ideas on how we can improve.”
Stop right now! Is that audience ready to start thinking about the quarterly goals? No! About how they did last year? No! All they can think about right now is that there was an elephant in the elevator! If this presenter wants to move forward with his ideas, he would have to at least acknowledge in some way the amazing event that has preceded him and that’s plainly on everyone’s mind.
It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? First go to where they are! Then you can bring them to where you are! Yet, in front of millions of people, one of the most well-known communicators in America failed to do this.
The scene was the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.  As you probably know, Ann Romney spoke first. For 21 minutes, she delivered a moving and heartfelt message all about love… love for her husband, for her family and for America. The audience cheered enthusiastically throughout her speech, and gave her a rousing ovation at the finale.
The applause and cheering had not even died out when Chris Christie, the big man with the big voice, bounded on stage and immediately changed the focus without uttering a single word acknowledging Ann Romney in any way!
It’s so vital to connect to your listeners by tying back to what they are thinking and feeling in that moment, and to go to where they are! Then you can bring them to where you are!
Instead Chris Christie went on for 25 minutes focusing on his life, his accomplishments and, oh yes, lessons taught him by his mother. And the most important lesson he said his mother taught him was this: “If you have to choose between being loved and being respected, always pick being respected.”
What? Not love? We just spent 21 loving minutes with her, wrapped in words of love and loving stories.
No tie back from Chris Christie? Not even “Wow, Ann Romney, thank you for that wonderful message!”  Or, “Hey, let’s give the next First Lady another hand and show her your love!”
Obviously that’s where the audience was!  That’s what they were feeling, and he completely disregarded that! 
Sadly, most speakers never think beyond themselves and their message. But you can decide to be different!
Here’s what you can do...

  1. Find out if someone is speaking before you, and if possible, what they’re going to say, so you can be prepared to tie back to it. (Hey, Ann Romney’s speech was given to the press prior to her delivery. Guess Chris Christie never asked for it and sure didn’t read it.)
  2. Go to “where your listeners are at the moment” and then make a connection from there back to your message. What if Chris Christie had used this tie back: “Ann if you’d met my Mom you’d have loved her. She, like you, had a bunch of kids—and like you, she loved us all so much!”
  3. If you ever find yourself in an elevator with an elephant, be sure that when you tell your friends and loved ones about it, you find out where their minds are and what’s going on in their world! What if they had just met a donkey in the donut shop!!
MAKE it a great day!

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