Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Lather-Rinse-Repeat Approach To Being A Master Engager

People who are charismatic, personable, and are able to effortlessly draw people to them usually have one thing in common: They understand what it takes to be engaging, and they have it set to automatic.  When we think of these people, we typically think of celebrities, politicians, and others in the public eye.  These folks are successful at cultivating their persona through their appearance, speech, and engagement skills.  You just know when you run into these folks.  They make a strong impact and they're unforgettable.

So how can the rest of us engage at the same level and be able to do so consistently?

Learn how to properly ask questions.  

Sounds simple enough, but first I want to list a few reasons why proper use of questions are important for engagement:
  • It demonstrates genuine interest in who you're speaking with.
  • It puts you in a better position to understand.
  • It facilitates conversation, which encourages discussion.
  • It promotes the exchange of new ideas.
  • It aids in diagnosing a problem.
  • It allows you to control the direction of the conversation.
  • It positions you as a brilliant conversationalist.
The list does go on, but the above should be enough to encourage you to incorporate questions into even your most everyday interactions.  So then, how best to use questions to maximize engagement?

Be genuine.  Don't ask questions just for the sake of asking a question.  Authenticity in your questions stems from a genuine interest in the person you're speaking with.  Just remember that no person is 100% uninteresting.  There should be at least 1 thing about each person you interact with that is worthy of further questioning.  If finding something interesting with someone you're talking to is a chronic issue, you might want to check out an earlier post about curiosity and the value of nurturing a curious mindset.

The goal within the goal here is to be observant and receptive to your audience.

Keep questions open-ended.  Make it easy for people to open up and talk about themselves.  Remember, everyone has an opinion and most are only too happy to share.  Initially, it's a good idea to focus on questons that solicit opinions instead of facts.  Questions eliciting facts tend to be more limiting due to the right/wrong component that's built in to it (and also comes across as interrogatory).  Questions on opinions keeps the responses subjective and will tend to shed more light about the person you're talking to.  Some great questions to use typically begin with:

  • What do you think of...?
  • What are your thoughts on...?
  • How do you feel about...?
  • How do you see yourself...?
  • What's your opinion on...?
The goal within the goal here is to seek to understand.

Listen actively.  Maintain your focus on their response to your question.  If done correctly, this should uncover further questions, which will only render the conversation more effortless.  Unfortunately, most people tend to worry about what they're going to say next that they miss a lot of what is being said.  Closed-ended questions are great to use here to confirm understanding or to help clarify a point.

The goal within the goal here is to identify areas where you can be most valuable to your audience.

Technology, in and of itself, doesn't make you more personable, interesting, or likeable.  Being genuinely interested in people, even if you don't always see eye-to-eye, does.  Facebook, Twitter, etc, only amplifies your personality (or lack thereof) to other people. 

I'd love to hear some of your favorite techniques to build audience engagement.  Please share in the comments below!

Also read: How Are You Engaging Your Customers?

Image source: jscreationzs /

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is Social Media Burnout A Rite Of Passage?

It's out of control.  You know what I'm talking about, I'm sure.  Always having to be 'on'.  After all, social media never sleeps, right?  You've decided that your business would be better served by becoming social and now it seems like it's taking on a life of it's own.  Social media doesn't recognize bankers hours, or holidays, or vacations.

It doesn't help that it seems like every day there's a new social platform being released which only adds to the noise we're already inundated with.  Dabney Porte mentioned in her post the importance of knowing your social media objectives and planning your social schedule.  This helps tame the beast in several ways:

Know what to say no to.
With so many new platforms and 'shiny new things' out there, it's easy to lose focus and spend a great deal of time being distracted.  By truly understanding your social media objectives, you position yourself to focus only on tools that will further those objectives.  This then makes it easier to NOT be so enamored with pretty new things that are just going to waste your business resources (read: time AND money AND sanity).

More is not better, consistency is.
I learned this the hard way.  The (incorrect) objective then was for me to be involved with every single new piece of technology out there and maximize each one to capacity.  Needless to say, I hit the wall rather quickly.  I have since learned to stay within my vertical and focus on blogging on things that I've experienced firsthand.  This allows me to work within a schedule that is comfortable for me while still adding value to my audience AND avoiding the burnout trap.  As Liz Strauss advises, everything in moderation.

Burnout is the enemy of creativity.
Just like tweeting while under the influence is a really bad idea, so is carrying out your social duties when you're burnt out.  Your audience can see it a mile away because your attempt at engagement will lack genuineness.  Save everyone the trouble and if you know you're burnt out, take time off.  Get recharged, even if it means getting behind.  Then, when you're back, scale back.  We all have our limits, only you know what yours are.

My weekend was spent recharging.  Were you able to do the same or were you 'working'?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Social Media like it's 2012

Quite often when speaking with clients, I run into folks who are more than intrigued about social media.  They hear about it everywhere they go and understand that they need to integrate it into their strategy, but somehow they're not sure about how it's supposed to work or what they're supposed to do.

I see examples of misuse where various SM platforms are used just like how one would a bus bench, or a billboard.  Essentially, folks are adopting new digital media tools whilst employing traditional marketing techniques.     

Don't get me wrong, I give props to those who have the courage to embrace change, especially in this field.  Social media can be confusing, at best, especially when you're new to it.  My friend Gene Kilgore would say to me, "Sometimes you just gotta put the saddle on the horse and go for it".  Therefore, to help with the transition, I thought it would be best to describe how it works using an analogy most of us can relate to:


You heard right.  Most of us have been to a party or a get-together (some of us more than others).  For those that haven't, well, you'll just have to take my word for it (and see about getting invited to a few).  With that context in mind, I'm going to draw some parallels:

1. You're the host/hostess.
Every party has a person that organizes and hosts the party.  That person is you.  You're hosting this party in hopes of meeting new people, networking, and making new connections.  You realize that you're not going to click with every single person at the party, but there's also a good chance of forging some good long-term friendships.

2.  Parties & get-togethers take place in different venues.
There's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, etc.  You don't need to host every single party out there, just the ones that make sense for you and your business.  Not everyone will respond to your invitation to your party, by the way.  The ones that find your party interesting will either follow, like, circle, or subscribe to you, depending on the venue. 

3.  Be a compelling & gracious host/hostess.
Acknowledge & interact with your guests.  Try not to monopolize any one guest to the exclusion of others.  Circulate.  Mix.  Participate.  Boring parties tend to lose people.  Lively parties attract people and helps spread the word.  Offer to help, connect & introduce people to each other.  Try to refrain from giving everyone that comes into your party your business card & your sales pitch, only do so if someone asks for the information.  Nothing kills a party faster than a host with commission breath!  

4.  Always thank your guests!
Your guests have taken time out of their busy schedule to join your party, thank them publicly.  Don't worry if people leave your party either.  The party may just not be a good fit for them!  

Now that you're in the party spirit, what plans do you have to liven up your party??