Using “Seinfeld” to hit a home run in communicating

Tuning In

Are you a fan of the classic television show Seinfeld? It was one of the great all-time sitcoms that will live on in reruns our grandchildren will watch. If you don’t believe me, just think of how many generations still watch I Love Lucy, which was the top sitcom from the 1950′s. If you communicate in a way that is entertaining, an audience will listen for as long as you want to talk.

How long do your clients or co-workers listen to you?

Do you hold their attention long enough so they actually listen to what you want them to hear? I hope so, because verbal communication is still the key for successful customer service, teamwork and networking.

In the video conference on communications I taught for a high school last month, I gave the students an in-class assignment. I asked them to list three things that actually happened (truth) during their journey to school, followed by how each experience made them feel. The key to the assignment was that they had to express their feelings (personal thoughts or opinions) using only positive terms.

Then I asked each to tell us about his or her journey (driving, riding a school bus, or walking) to school, combining the three facts and their positive feelings in a way that might make their friends or family laugh. The results were creative and entertaining stories that held everyone’s attention.

All the students could relate since it was an experience they had all shared. After all, none of them had spent the previous night at the school. They all had to travel from somewhere else that morning.

Finding common ground – something your listeners can relate to – is a great method on how to attract and hold someone’s attention long enough for them to hear what you really want to say. It’s a technique that breaks the ice and makes a memorable impression. Once you do that, you’re on the journey toward better and more productive professional and personal relationships.

Truth + Creativity & Humor (Thoughts & Opinions) = Conversations

Too easy?

Does it sound too easy? It is. The secret is to take a positive outlook on a shared event, tap into your personal creativity, (we all have feelings, thoughts and observations), and turn it into a conversational tool. I learned this method from some of the experts at relating to – and conversing with – an audience, which takes us back to Seinfeld

When I was scheduling performers for The Improv Comedy Club in New York City, I worked with the sitcom’s creator and many of the writers. And it wasn’t just at the comedy club located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, but also as a member of our softball team that competed in the Performing Arts League in Central Park. Since we were sponsored by The Improv, our team was made up of comedians, comedy writers and one talent booker (me!).

One teammate was Ray Romano, who went on to star in Everybody Loves Raymond, but this story involves our first baseman, Larry David. Along with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry created Seinfeld and his own show on HBO, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Fortunately that particular season we won more games than we lost and made the playoffs, which was our first goal. Our second was to win the playoffs and be the funniest champions of the league.

Unfortunately, on the day of our first playoff game, many of the best players, (who were also good comedians), were performing outside of New York City. That meant some of us who were more comfortable sitting on the bench watching would have to play in the field. And others, who were used to a regular position, had to play somewhere else. I was pried from the bench to play second base and our first basement, Larry David, was moved to shortstop.

Baseball fans know shortstop is the most demanding defensive position. The best shortstops are usually smaller and quicker than the other players. It was not the best place for a tall, lanky first baseman and there were a number of balls hit between Larry and myself that added up to more runs for the other team. To put it gently, we lost and were eliminated from the playoffs after one game.

It was not a positive moment since we now had the unwanted task of telling our returning teammates that our season was over. I also remember standing near our bench when Larry threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Fast forward a few years…

Headin’ for home!

Seinfeld was the number one show on television. One night I tuned in and saw the character George Costanza, (based on the real life Larry David), running down the third base line during a softball game in Central Park wearing an Improv t-shirt.

My first thought was, “That’s my team!”

After a losing effort, George Costanza threw down his glove and said something to the effect of, “I’m never playing this stupid game again.”

Can you guess my second thought? I played in that game!”

The lesson behind this long dissertation was that Larry had taken a moment that wasn’t very positive at the time, creatively found the humor and made it entertaining. It was a one way conversation with the viewing audience and all he did was tell the truth with creative license.

Anyone who had ever played or watched a softball game, or even experienced the “agony of defeat,” (a quote borrowed from another television show), could relate.

The home team

This and other episodes of Seinfeld based on real experiences that viewers could relate to from Larry, Jerry, and other writing contributors held their audiences’ attention for nine seasons and still continue today in reruns. Talk about making a memorable and lasting impression!

The bottom line is not always what you say, but how you say it.

The best part is you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to grab your listener’s attention. Find out…

  • What you have in common
  • Take a positive outlook and…
  • Enhance it with personal creativity and humor

It’s a great way to break the ice, start a conversation, and build a relationship with someone you want to do business with.

Go ahead and give it a try. Tell the person next to you about your drive to work today. Use a few facts, be creative, stay positive and tell it in a way you think will make them smile or laugh. Chances are you’ll strike up a conversation – and you never know what doors that may open.

Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

Social Networking: Turning Conversations Into Connections

Social networking is a term my wife says I use too much. But for me it’s what business and life in general is all about:

Communicating with each other.

R2D2When you stop and think about it, how effective would your customer service, sales, teamwork, or networking be if you communicated like an android (think Star Wars robotic dialogue) by leaving out the human factor – the social element – of talking?

Too many people hear the term social networking and immediately think of Twitter, Instagram, email, and online sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and probably dozens more I haven’t heard of. Except that’s not what I’m referring to when I talk about social networking.

What I’m referring to is the social networking that happens face to face or even by phone when personally interacting with clients, co-workers, or during training seminars. The person sitting next to you at work, standing in line for your business, interested in your sales pitch, or waiting for your experienced words of wisdom expects – and deserves – more than a text message or written greeting on his Facebook page.

Deliver your message verbally – actually put the words together and say them – and your conversations can turn into connections. And we all know connections lead to more opportunities, which is the benefit of social networking.

Want more benefits? Okay, how about these…

  • Better customer service
  • Increased sales
  • Improved teamwork
  • Memorable training seminars

It’s an age-old theory and nothing I’ve made up. But sometimes we need a reminder about how a personal touch can make a difference.

Example: Instead of announcing “Next,” and bracing himself for another problem, it’s more effective for a customer service rep to smile and ask, “How may I help you?”

Happiness FactorI know because I’ve been there and tried both. The happiness factor may not fix the problem, but it can certainly help relieve a potentially stressful situation. That’s why so many successful businesses include these stress-busting tips in their employee training.

If you don’t believe me, check out an earlier article about a certain airline based in the Southwest and turning a profit in a competitive industry. Their employees receive mandatory training in the happiness factor.

In the university course I’ve developed for public speakers (Tips, Techniques & Top Secret Information on How to Become a Better Public Speaker) I talk about how to deliver your message in a way it’s not only heard, but listened to and remembered. And if you’ve been following my communications tips in these articles, I listed three guaranteed ways to do this. Here’s a reminder:

The problem many of us have as communicators can be compared to the same reason why television commercials usually last 20 seconds or less. Audiences have a short attention span. Go ahead – blame it on technology. I do. People today are used to getting information fast.

Now, I could suggest going back to an earlier newsletter, but to save time and not tax both our attention spans, I’ll repeat three solid tips.

If you want to keep someone’s attention for longer than 20 seconds:

  • Keep them interested
  • Entertain them
  • Humor them

Sorry for the 3-peat information, but at least now we’re on the same page. And speaking of pages, here’s one from my Presentation Skills Workbook on how to achieve the first goal – keeping your listener interested through verbal social networking communication:

Commit To The Message

Keep him interested!

Keep him interested!

Here’s a secret from the entertainment world shared by professional speakers, comedians and actors. If a listener thinks you’re not being honest with them, you’ll lose his respect and attention. The first step in communicating your message is to believe in what you are talking about. Truly be committed to what you are saying. In other words, cut the fat from your true message (the information you really want to convey) and deliver it with conviction.

Yeah… I know… this advice alone could make a conversation really boring. But remember, I’m also a humor / comedy coach and stress the value of communication enhancements using humor and creativity. Combine those tips with committing to your message and you’ll be a lethal communicator with a License To Talk (sorry, too many James Bond movies). But for right now we’re still competing with technology and your clients and co-workers don’t want to sift through a lot of adjectives to hear what you have to say.

Make The Message Interesting:

Know your message is important, which is why you are delivering it. If you are or appear to be sharing information that will benefit your listener, he will listen. Your message will be remembered if your client or co-worker perceives it as:

  • New
  • Different
  • Personally beneficial

Now, since I also practice what I preach, I’ll stop here. The workbook for my training seminar is 46 pages long and I’m sure both of us don’t have the attention span to review all the highlights in one article. Besides, it took longer than 20 seconds for you to read this. Without any humorous or creative enhancements, I ran the risk of sounding like a Twitter, text, email, or android – and that’s no way to build a connection.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

How To Hold Someone’s Attention For Longer Than 20 Seconds

We’re traveling along the communication highway at top speed. But instead of using one of the latest techno methods mentioned in the last article (such as Twitter, texting, or online networking), we’re going old school.

A face-to-face conversation.

Watching at laptopScary – isn’t it? Suddenly I can visualize a lot of eyes peeking up over cubicle walls or peering from behind computer screens questioning that communication tactic. But it’s still an important business technique. It’s called the personal touch.

In the last article we talked about how modern technology has changed the way we communicate. For example, why television commercials are rarely longer than 20 seconds when years ago they could last one minute or longer. Technology  has changed our attention spans.

People want information now or they’ll search somewhere else for it. As Bruce Springsteen once sang about his shrinking attention span while surfing through the stations on his cable TV:

There was 57 channels and nothin’ on.

So during a conversation – when you’re meeting a new client or advertising your product (for someone to buy, buy, buy), how would you hold their attention if you were talking for longer than 20 seconds?

The days of the long-winded sales pitch are over. You need to grab someone’s attention and hold onto it. Thanks to 20 second commercials and other methods that deliver information fast, your competition is technology. And if you can’t compete, no one will bother to listen. Worse yet, they might listen to someone else. And then remember that person’s conversation – and their message – instead of you.

There are three important conversational techniques that will keep your listeners focused on what you’ll say next. And of course, what you will say after you have their attention would be the  message you actually want them to hear:

Three Conversational Techniques that will hold someone’s attention for longer than 20 seconds:

  1. Keep them interested
  2. Entertain them
  3. Humor them

Sound simple? It can be – once you learn the proper way to use these techniques. After all, I’m not writing these articles to train people to be stand-up comedians. I’m training people who want to stand above the competition in business and education by using effective and productive verbal communication skills. And sometimes you only have 20 seconds or less to make an impression. Are you prepared?

Looking at watchWhen you work in customer service, sales, education, or as an administrator / supervisor, you are expected to be informative and have solutions. But whether your clients, students, or co-workers have the attention span to hear, listen to, and remember what you are saying (your message) depends on how it is delivered.

What you say and how you say it matters more now than ever before.

Personality counts – and if you have one (and I’m sure you do!) it’s time to use it for your advantage.

Be interesting, entertaining and humorous (when given the opportunity) and most people will pay attention for 20 seconds or longer. That’s longer than most television commercials – which come with big price tags from advertising agencies that already know this.

When you have their attention, they’ll hear your message. We’ll talk more about these communication enhancements the next time we communicate. Stay tuned…

Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below or send an email to dave@davepresents.com

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

The secret to customer service, teamwork and networking

I thought the above title would grab your attention. It could be interesting, entertaining, and maybe (if you know my background) even humorous. You won’t know for sure unless you continue reading.

So… what is the secret to great customer service, productive teamwork and successful networking?

phoneA study released in the journal Psychological Science found meaningful conversations (actual talking between people) increased productivity and the happiness factor – which is a guaranteed way (the secret!) to improve customer service, teamwork and networking.

Psychologists at the University of Arizona in Tucson and Washington University in St. Louis have finally discovered what some of us have known for years:

Small talk doesn’t cut it.

Here’s what researchers did to learn about the importance of strong conversational skills. They had volunteers complete personality and well-being assessments. Then over the next four days the volunteers wore recording devices that recorded 30 seconds of sound every 12 minutes. After sifting through 20,000 recordings, the researchers put the conversations into two groups: trivial or substantial.

two-groups-of-people1Sort of like what we do every time we’re talking with someone – right?!

They concluded that the most productive and satisfied (there’s the happiness factor again) participants spent 25% less time alone and dealing with trivial conversations – and 70% more time having substantive conversations. Researchers suggest meaningful conversations breed stronger interactions.

  • So let me ask you a few questions:
  • Do you want to improve customer service?
  • Do you want to increase productivity through team-building?
  • Do you want to build your client base by networking?
  • Do you want to increase sales?

This is only a guess, but I would say you answered “YES” to all of the above questions. And the answer (again, the secret) is to have more conversations your listeners will relate to and therefore, listen to and remember.

In a nutshell, here’s a winning technique:

  • Keep them interested
  • Entertain them
  • Humor them

The idea is to involve your listener by building an immediate relationship through common interests or experiences. The result should help you stand out from someone who doesn’t.

In other words – they’ll remember you.

people-laughingAs an example, in my keynotes and training seminars, I rely a lot on audience participation. Not that I don’t have a lot to say (I do!) but it’s good to build interaction and keep everyone involved. I mean seriously, who really wants to just sit there and listen to someone lecture for an hour or more? I’ll admit there are speakers who can hold our attention for a good length of time and get paid TONS of money to do it. But I’m sure we all have memories of long-winded instructors at school or group leaders at work that… well, I’m getting bored just writing about them.

If a topic isn’t presented in a way that will hold your interest, chances are it will be an hour of your life that is hard to describe to someone else:

Bored You: “Yes, we had a speaker. He talked about… something… (Insert sounds of yawning or snoring).

Interested You: “Yes, we had a speaker. He was very entertaining. Here’s what he talked about… (Insert sounds of fireworks and cheering crowds).

As any good speaker or trainer will tell you, keeping an audience’s attention is not much different than doing the same during a one-on-one conversation. The goal is to keep the listener interested in what you are saying. And a good way to do that in today’s high-speed techno society is to include an enhancing dose of personal creativity to make your informative or ice-breaking conversations entertaining and when appropriate (and always politically correct) humorous.

Informative and entertaining conversations are always memorable. It’s a winning technique in customer service, team-building and networking.

My goal as a communications trainer is NOT to change your message, but to enhance the way it is delivered. Even the psychologists agree:

Small talk doesn’t cut it.

Employ these enhancements and your conversations will not only be heard – but also listened to and remembered.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a two time Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing

 

Anger Management

Was It Something I Said?

If I made a list of embarrassing experiences in my life, this wouldn’t even be considered. But I’ll share because it points out the importance of knowing your listener (comedians call it knowing your audience). It was a situation when humor didn’t work in my favor.

We were in the Las Vegas Airport catching a flight to St. Louis. I was traveling with my flight attendant wife Debbie, who can breeze through security while I wait in line other VIP wannabe’s.

As a seasoned traveler I’ve learned to shove everything into a carry-on suitcase that goes though the security checkpoint on a conveyor belt. I once considered wearing flip-flops to make taking off my shoes an easier process, but Debbie dashed that idea with sarcastic flight attendant advice:

Would you want to run out of a burning wreckage in flip-flops?” My non-sarcastic answer is to always travel in running shoes.

FabioI placed my suitcase and shoes on the conveyor belt and followed the guy in front of me to go through the body scanner. He was a few inches over six feet, had longish hair and looked like he worked out. For our purposes we’ll call him Fabio.

There were two conveyor belts through security, but only one body scanner in the middle. The line was a “Y” shape with passengers coming from both directions. At least I thought that was the case. I’m assuming Fabio did also because after sending his suitcase on the conveyor belt through the x-ray machine, he simply stepped into the line. The guy behind him moved forward and I took my place behind him.

This guy wasn’t as tall or well built as Fabio. For our purposes, let’s call him Homer Simpson. I think you’ll get the picture in your mind. I stood in line behind Homer.

Homer turned and asked if I’d also like to go in front of him. I thought that was a very nice gesture. It’s too bad I didn’t recognize the sarcasm in his voice.

No, that’s alright,” I replied. “I’ll just go behind you.” And then I smiled and attempted a joke about not being in a hurry. Thinking back, it didn’t have the friendly effect I thought it would.

If I had x-ray vision like airport security I might have seen steam building up in Homer’s brain and shooting out his ears. I watched him go through the scanner, took my turn, and then grabbed my suitcase and tied my running shoes.

Then I was confronted with what was actually going on in Homer’s steam-filled mind.

Homer 1I began walking to my gate and noticed Homer talking to a woman and young girl. I’ll assume they were his wife and daughter and for our purposes we’ll call them Marge and… well, I’ll skip The Simpson’s reference, but I’m sure you’ll get the picture. His face was red and looked angry as he pointed his finger toward me.

Suddenly Marge RAN at me, started YELLING and ACCUSED me of cutting in line. I noticed Fabio was within shouting distance, but Marge said nothing to him. He continued walking and once again I followed, but at a faster pace since an angry looking Marge wasn’t on my itinerary of sights to see in Las Vegas.

At this point, Homer yelled something about me laughing at him and called me an “Arrogant ****!

I stopped. It was only for very brief moment, but long enough to say, “Don’t talk to me like that.”

Now, this may sound like a confrontation about to get out of control, but it wasn’t going to happen. Many years ago in New York City my karate instructor gave us the best advice for self-defense. The first step in avoiding a potentially bad situation was to walk away. Only react with our training when it was absolutely necessary. I continued walking from what was already a bad situation and toward my flight gate.

Homer 2But I was hit with a very uncomfortable realization.

Maybe there was no “Y” for two lines at security. Perhaps Fabio had also innocently (or on purpose?) cut in and I blindly followed. If this was the case, it was an honest mistake. And if Homer had calmly said, “The line starts back there,” I would have followed the rules of civilized people and taken my place at the end.

Instead his sarcasm did not communicate that message. And my humor only poured fuel on a simmering fire.

A simple statement would have corrected my mistake. But what I found not so simple was how fast he reacted with intense anger. If this type of reaction is a normal occurrence in front of their young daughter, what is this teaching her about adult behavior?

And what if Homer had turned his anger at Fabio instead of me? My guess is that he might have walked away with a few bruises – both to his body and ego. That would’ve only made the situation worse.

Humor is an important conversational enhancement to build business and personal relationships. But as mentioned earlier, it’s important to know your audience and when to use it.

With this experience I did not know the situation or my audience. But displaying a sense of humor or a smile would normally be received as a positive gesture. And even if there is disagreement, it should inspire a non-confrontational response. It was too bad Homer didn’t read it that way because the problem would’ve been simple to correct.

When I told Debbie what happened we both knew how to “fix” the situation. We had lunch and a few laughs, which was a lot less stressful and more fun than steaming over a miscommunication meltdown.

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Have a comment or want information about Dave’s presentations? Please use the contact form below. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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Dave Schwensen is a nationally recognized comedy coach and author. He facilitates training seminars, breakout sessions and keynotes in communication skills and is a two time Pinnacle Award Winner from CILC (Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration) for video conferences. Topics include leadership, networking, team-building and customer service.

For Dave’s author page on Amazon.com CLICK HERE.

For information about scheduling Dave’s audience interactive training seminar or keynote for your next event, or for any comments please use the contact form below.

Copyright 2017 – North Shore Publishing