I spent the better part of this last week at the SCORRE Conference instructing folks on how to become better, more dynamic communicators.
Even though I have been a part of teaching this same material for close to twenty years I still discover something new about communicating almost every time we get together for the conference.
Imagine with me two different scenes:
The year is 1970. Disco hasn’t quite made it’s appearance on the scene yet but like a fowl smell on the breeze it is coming. Plaid shirts and corduroy pants with widely flared legs are quite the style. You make your way through the doors of the New Bank of My Town to transfer your account, the dulcet tones of the Girl from Ipanema playing softly in the background. Within moments, your transaction complete, you stroll back out the door, smiling, with a brand new toaster under your arm!
It’s your birthday! You wake up hoping that folks will remember but not quite ready to wear a sign on your chest announcing the importance of the day. You arrive at work and find an envelope on your desk. Inside is a card directing you to the break room. You smile to yourself thinking someone has gathered the crew together for coffee and donuts but when you get to the break room you find…another card. The process repeats itself several times. Each clue leading you somewhere else in the building until finally one leads you back out to your car! Surprised an curious you make your way back out to the car and notice a wrapped present on the front seat. You climb in and eagerly tear open the wrapping to find a toaster and note. “Please come join me for breakfast. Happy Birthday!”
In either case you get a toaster. Cool, you needed a toaster. So what’s the difference? The process of receiving.
Too often as communicators we get in a hurry to deliver the goods. Like the bank that gives away the free toaster we give our audience exactly what they expect. In our desire to provide them some benefit in exchange for listening, like the bank wants to in exchange for our business, we lay the good right our there to be picked up and taken home.
Allow me to suggest three reasons our communication should be more like birthday treat than a bank toaster.
1. The joy of discovery
People, in general, like surprises especially pleasant ones. Whether we’re giving a speech, a sermon, or a product presentation people like those moments of surprise when they get more than they anticipated getting at the start.
2. The appreciation of elegance
Folks recognize when you’ve taken the time and made the effort. Even the simple difference between tossing a birthday present into someones lap unwrapped and handing them a well wrapped package catches peoples attention. It communicates that you care enough about the recipient to make the presentation part of the gift rather than just doing your duty. Even if you’re overly excited to give them their present they’ll appreciate the time and attention you took in the wrapping of it.
3. The effect of effort
If I walk into the bank expecting a toaster and get what I expect I critically examine to toaster to see if it matches my expectations. If, on the other hand, I get a surprise gift I am moved by the surprise and look at the toaster from an attitude of continued discovery to see what it has to offer. You audience will to your communication in the same way. Either with a critical eye to see if you’re delivering on the promise you dumped out in the your agenda, introduction, hand-out etc. OR with an eye towards discovering what you’re offering in a carefully crafted surprise package.
Whether you’re giving a speech, preaching a sermon, or writing a blog post don’t just dump it in their lap. Take the time to wrap the gift so that your audience can experience the joy of discovery and the appreciation of elegance. You will see the effect of your efforts. They’ll get the toaster either way but they’ll be moved by the surprise in a way that makes them appreciate you every time they make toast.
How can you make your communications more like a wrapped present that surprises and delights?