My daughter was listening to the song Firework by Katy Perry the other day.
The first line says: "Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?"
And I thought: "No, I don't actually". So I stopped listening.
Then, I received a marketing email with the title: "Are you a new author living near Croydon?"
I said to myself: "No. But I'm a best-selling author living near Liverpool." (Sorry if that sounds a bit big-headed but it's true; my books have sold pretty well.)
And perhaps my favourite of all…
I once received an email called "Looking for a hair makeover for the weekend?". One quick glance at my photo will show why I didn't think this email was meant for me.
The fact is, many communications start like this - with something irrelevant, or dull or both. But, if you want people to engage with you immediately, you have to start well.
When you do, you both feel better. Your recipient knows why they should listen. So they do. And this improves your confidence as you deliver it.
Everyone knows the importance of first impressions. I guess that's why, when I share this idea with people, they normally say "but my first impressions are always good."
But are they? Or do you sometimes use:
- Boring intros: "Let me update you with everything I have been doing since we last met".
- Boring titles: "About us" or "Our experience"
- Boring words: "agenda" or "summary"
Hardly riveting, are they?
Fortunately, it is pretty easy to do it better; and engage people better as a result.
In fact there are only two steps:
- Identify the #1 thing they're most interested in (the easiest way to find out is to ask them); and
- Include this #1 thing in your title/introduction.
For example, let's re-write the above three, assuming you're talking to someone whose #1 thing is to improve their competitive advantage:
- Interesting introduction: "Our key focus is to improve your competitive advantage. So, I'm going to update you with everything I've been doing to help you do this. And also what I'll be doing next."
- Interesting title: "How our experience will help improve your competitive advantage".
- Interesting words: "Agenda" becomes "The purpose of our meeting: finding new ways to improve our competitive advantage".
- "Summary" becomes "So let's look again at the main factors impacting our competitive advantage; and then decide what actions we'll take to improve ours".
A great start doesn't guarantee a great outcome, of course. The rest of your communication must be good too. But start badly, and you might well never recover.
My tennis coach's says I should improve my serve because, when I get it right, it enables me to dictate the point more than any other shot. In his words: "your serve is the only shot where you aren't reacting to your opponent. So it's the only shot you have 100% control over. Do it well, and they have to react to you. So it sets the tone for everything that follows."
When you communicate, is your first serve - your title and intro - impressive enough? Or do you sometimes feel like you're a plastic bag?
Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips.