I have lots of opportunities to visit with people who want to make a big move professionally–but they can’t convince the right people they’re capable. The ups and downs of the tickertape of my life moves on my ability to convince someone that they should hire me–and I’ll bet that’s true for you. So do I need additional skills to be a more convincing person?
The “big talker” and the “competent doer” are often seen at odds with each other. Yet people today who will take a chance on you –often investing as much as $250,000 in training and ramp up time–want both technical and verbal abilities.
In the days of Alley Oop, the 20th Century Comic Strip who rode a dinosaur with his girl friend, if you wanted to convince someone, you needed a big club like Oops. Overstuffed forearms helped to hit the person you needed to convince dead center in the forehead–and then you got your way.
In the 21st Century the tongue is truly mightier than the sword and is in fact the only tool you’ll be able to rely one is your capability to convince.
Here’s why. No matter what your skillset is–accountant, IT person, healthcare professional, sales and marketing professional–chances are 99.00009% that they will be obsolete in a few years as you use them now. As you probably already have, over the next several years you’ll end up in front people your income with depend upon whether they hire you are not.
You may very well thrive in this new environment 1) if you continue to update your skills 2) and if you can explain how what you do advances the goals of the organization. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Paint a vivid picture with your words. Make people see what you’re saying. Those of us who grew up in churches and synagogues understand the power of verbal visual images–short stories that pack power. Remember David and Goliath? With a slingshot and one smooth stone from the river, this little guy, who had spent his life with sheep, downed the mighty giant.
What if the story had explained in technical terms the composition of the stone and the trajectory of its arc as it flew through the air? If the storyteller had done that, no one would have remembered. Are you the person to slay the giant in this time of brutal global competition? You must paint the picture in words of how you’ll do it.
2. Remember the structure of language, “subject,” “verb,” “object”–you must connect with the power of basic language. When we are trying too hard to be convincing, we use technical, acronym ladened sentences–which will not impress senior management, investors, or key customers. Languages all over the planet or composed of subjects (who did this?), verbs (what did they do?) and objects (what was the result?) Try to use dependent clauses sparingly. A good example is Albert Einstein, who, when he came up with the theory of relativity, only a few people in the world could understand it. Yet when he explained the theory Einstein used vivid examples that could be understood by a child.
3. Avoid abstractions like the latest strain of the flu. When someone wants me to recommend their idea and they begin to explain it in technical abstractions, I know they are not ready for “prime time.” I keep pressing them by asking again and again, “But what will your idea do? Help me understand how someone would use it?” When they return again and again to abstractions and technical language, I know they don’t have their own idea worked out in their minds yet. I always ask them to get back to me when they can explain it, but they never do, and their idea never sees the light of day. What can’t be explained in vivid, visual language just isn’t real.
4. The “cool factor” is critical. People talk about being passionate about what they believe it, and I think that’s important. What’s really important, however, is what I call “the cool factor.” When I can convince you that something is cool, we’ll both be passionate about it. The only reason I really like to have a voice telephone is to have immediate access to 911 in case someone wants to mug me–I avoid telephone conversations. But I get so excited about a cool new app. So what’s cool to you? Chances are it won’t be difficult to convince me that it’s cool. That’s when you know you’re convincing.