Medium 9781626562509

Got Your Attention?

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Did you know:

• Goldfish, yes, goldfish, have longer attention spans than we humans do?

• One in four people abandons a website if it takes longer than four seconds to load?

Imagine if there were ways, in a world of impatience and INFObesity, to quickly intrigue busy, distracted people and earn their interest, trust and buy-in?

Imagine if there was a process for pleasantly surprising decision-makers and convincing them you're the right person for the job, position, project or contract?

You don't have to imagine it, Sam Horn has created it. Sam's innovative techniques have helped her clients close deals and raise millions of dollars and will be your “secret sauce” to getting funded, hired, elected, promoted or referred.

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24 Chapters

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Introduction: What is INTRIGUE and Why Is It Important?


I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.


Did you know goldfish, yes, goldfish, have longer attention spans than we humans do?

Nine seconds to our eight. At least that’s what Harvard Business School researcher Nancy F. Koehn reported in a February 2014 Marketplace Business article.1

It gets worse. Fast Company reported in March 15, 2012, that one in four people abandon a website if it takes longer than four seconds to load. And Drs. Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz reported in the Utne Reader, “Two recent studies suggest our society is in the midst of a dramatic and progressive slide toward disconnection.”2

Clearly, we have an impatience epidemic, and we’re suffering from alienation and attention bankruptcy, all at the same time.

That’s a problem because if you can’t get people’s attention, you’ll never get their connection. The good news is, there are ways to overcome people’s impatience, alienation, and chronic distraction, and this book teaches them.


Chapter 1: Ask “Did You Know?” Questions


It’s not overly dramatic to say your destiny hangs on the impression you make.


It’s daunting, isn’t it, to think the destiny of something you care about depends on your ability to create a favorable impression for it in the first minute?

That was how Kathleen Callendar, founder of PharmaJet, felt when she told me, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. Springboard Enterprises is giving me an opportunity to pitch to a room full of investors at the Paley Center in New York City.”

I told her, “That is good news. Springboard has helped female entrepreneurs like Robin Chase of ZipCar receive more than $6.4 billion dollars in funding. What’s the bad news?”

“I’m going at 2:30 and I have only ten minutes. You can’t say anything in ten minutes. How can I possibly explain our team credentials, clinical trials, and financial projections in ten minutes?”

“Kathleen, you don’t have ten minutes. Those investors will have heard sixteen other pitches. You have sixty seconds to break through the afternoon blahs and earn their attention.”


Chapter 2: Show Them the Fish


A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.


Jobs was right. People don’t know unless you show them.

Here’s what I mean. Did you read the book or see the movie Jaws? Do you know the backstory behind its iconic cover? Bantam Books president Oscar Dystel rejected the original cover, which simply depicted the word Jaws in white text on a black background. Dystel was afraid readers would think it was about a dentist. He ordered his design team back to the drawing board with the admonition, “I want to see that fish.”

The designer came back with the famous image of a woman swimming in the ocean, unaware that a huge shark is lurking beneath her. That eye-catching image proved to be so popular that the film studio asked to use it for the movie poster. It may have been years since you’ve seen that cover art, but I bet you can still picture it in your mind.


Chapter 3: Share What’s Rare


Anyone who waits for recognition is criminally naive.


Many people are humble to a fault when trying to get their decision-makers’ attention. Humility is a lovely trait but, taken to an extreme, it can become your Achilles’ heel. Understand that business communication is a competition for your customers’ attention. You can’t afford to be subtle and wait for them to recognize your value. That’s naive, idealistic, way too passive.

It’s up to you to share what’s rare so you’re the one decision-makers notice. Your ability to do this can be a career-maker or career-breaker.

My son Tom is an excellent example of how taking responsibility for sharing how you’re rare can help you land your dream job. Tom and his brother grew up in Maui, Hawaii. One starry night, we went out for our customary walk-and-roll. What’s a walk-and-roll? I would walk the quiet streets of our neighborhood while the boys rode alongside on their skateboards or bikes. I asked Tom, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”


Chapter 4: Turn a No into a Yes


If you stick to what you know; you’ll sell yourself short.


If you stick to what you know … you’ll get a No. Instead, ask yourself, “Why will my decision-makers say No?” and say it first. Here’s an example of someone who did this brilliantly.

Several years ago I went to the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) conference in Providence, Rhode Island. It was a fascinating couple of days with leading-edge innovators from around the world including Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Alan Webber of Fast Company.

The most impressive speaker was a surprise. She walked to the center of the stage and waited until she had everyone’s attention. Then, with a big smile, she leaned out to the group and said, “I know what you’re thinking. What’s a thirteen-year-old going to teach me about innovation?”

She paused for a moment with a twinkle in her eye and said, “We thirteen-year-olds know a thing or two … like how to flip our hair.” In thirty seconds, Cassandra Lin had everyone on her side.


Chapter 5: Psych Yourself Up, Not Out


I get nervous if I don’t get nervous. I think it’s healthy. You just have to channel that into the show.


An entrepreneur asked me, almost in a state of panic, “My laptop froze in the middle of a crucial presentation last week. It took me forever to get my slides working again, but by then it was too late. I’d lost everyone’s attention and couldn’t get them back. I’ve got another presentation coming up and I’m afraid of another meltdown. Can you help me regain my confidence?”

I asked her, “Are you an athlete?”

“Yes, but what does that have to do with regaining my confidence?”

“Because you’ve played sports, you know there are two kinds of athletes when the game’s on the line. The kind who step back and say, ‘DON’T give me the ball.’ And the kind who step up and say, ‘Give me the ball.’” I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I bet you’re the latter.”

She laughed and said, “You’re right.”

“That’s why, from now on, you’re going to see speaking as a sport so you can walk in and project a ‘Gimme the ball’ kind of confidence that helps you feel, look, and act like a winner.”


Chapter 6: Create the Next New Thing


The only danger is not to evolve.


A special double issue of Vanity Fair magazine entitled “How the Web Was Won” featured interviews with online icons about the early days of the Internet. In that issue, Jeff Bezos revealed that Amazon was successful from the start despite naysayers who predicted failure. In fact, they were quickly backlogged with orders, so Jeff and a fellow executive headed to the shipping room to help process orders. They were on their hands and knees, packing up books, when his colleague turned to him and said, “This is really killing my knees and my back.”

Jeff mulled it over, then said, “We should get kneepads.”

His friend looked at him like he was crazy. “No Jeff, we should get packing tables.”8

What a great example of how intriguing it is when someone bypasses a “low hanging fruit” answer and introduces a more innovative, evolved way to solve a problem.


Chapter 7: Keep Current


If you learn to like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you.


The speaker before me at a global young entrepreneur conference was an advertising legend who had founded a top agency in New York City. He launched into his keynote with a story about Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Arcaro, who won two horseracing Triple Crowns more than seventy years ago. He then referenced World War II, quoted General George Patton, and told the often-used “motivational” story about how elephants are trained with a chain around their leg until they stop trying to break free and you can tie them up with a shoestring. Hmmm.

I looked around. No one was listening. These students weren’t being rude; they just couldn’t relate to anything he was saying. Not only did all his references occur before they were born; they were US-centric. He either hadn’t asked himself if his remarks were current or didn’t care.

Please note: I’m not disrespecting this individual’s contributions to his industry. It’s just that there was an easy fix. If he had spent even a few minutes researching his group, he would have discovered they were all in their late teens and early twenties. He could have made his talk more topical by holding up a newspaper (props!) that dissected the top ads at the Super Bowl, which had taken place the previous weekend. He could have asked the students their opinions of which ads worked, which didn’t, and why.


Chapter 8: Look at the World with Reawakened Eyes


When the eye wakes up to see again, it suddenly stops taking anything for granted.


I remember reading this article in the Washington Post Magazine, Sunday edition, blogging about it afterward and thinking to myself, Just give the man the Pulitzer.

Gene Weingarten’s “Pearls before Breakfast”11 was such a brilliant piece of journalism. He wondered, “What would happen if you took a renowned violinist (whose latest album was called “unfailingly exquisite, a musical summit that will make your heart thump and weep at the same time”) and positioned him inside a DC metro stop during the morning commute?

What if you asked him to play six compositions, each “masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone”? What if you took this experiment one step further and asked him to play these musical works of art on a rare, multimillion-dollar Stradivarius?


Chapter 9: Cause Aha’s with Ha-Ha’s


It has always surprised me how little attention philosophers have paid to humor, since it is a more significant process of mind than reason. Reason can only sort out perceptions, but humor can change them.


Smart man, that Edward de Bono. Humor (ha-ha’s) not only has the power to capture people’s favorable attention, but it can produce epiphanies (aha’s) by helping them see things in new ways.

Is there any surer sign you’ve got people’s favorable attention than when they’re laughing? As comedian Joan Rivers said, “When you’re laughing at something, you remember something.”

One client told me, “I know humor is important, but I’m not funny.”

I said, “You may think you’re not funny, but everyone has funny things happen to and around them. All you have to do is start noticing things that make you laugh and hook and hinge them (with attribution) to your topic.

If you don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon, you find the humor in everyday life. And sometimes, it can be a lifesaver.


Chapter 10: Keep it Brief or They’ll Give You Grief


Let’s address the elephant in the room. “YO Elephant!”


Do you know what the elephant in the room is in every business interaction? The underlying concern of “how long will this take?”

As a popular office poster says, “Opportunity knocks. People barge right in.” If people barge in and don’t ask if this is a good time, we become resentful and anxious.

Anxious? Yes, anxiety is defined as “not knowing.” If we don’t know how long someone wants our attention, we don’t pay attention. We’re thinking, Don’t you realize you’re interrupting me? Hurry it up. I’ve got things to do.

It’s like the famous New Yorker cartoon from Bob Mankoff that shows an executive on the phone saying, “How about Tuesday. No? How about never? Is never good for you?”

From now on, if you want people to pay attention, preface your interaction by asking for a specific amount of their time, and pleasantly surprise them by asking for less time than expected.


Chapter 11: Craft a Phrase-that-Pays


If you see something, say something.


Garry Marshall, the director of the film Pretty Woman (which has grossed more than $463 million worldwide), said something so profound during his Maui Writers Conference keynote that I remember it as if he said it this morning. He said, “Hollywood directors can predict when their movies will make money. The question is, ‘Do people walk out of the theater repeating something they heard, word for word?’ ”

Think about it. If you walk out of a movie voluntarily repeating its signature sound-bite, (for example, “Make my day,” “I’ll be back,” or “Show me the money”) you’re taking it viral. If someone asks, “Seen any good movies lately?” you’re talking about that movie in a way that motivates others to want to see it. You’ve become a word-of-mouth advertiser for it, all because its screenwriter crafted a catchy phrase-that-pays that stuck in your mind.


Chapter 12: Never Again Deliver an Elevator Speech


There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who walk into a room and say, “Here I am” and those who walk into a room and say, “There you are.”


An IT executive approached me before a program and said, “I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told many people. I’m an introvert. I go to conferences like this all the time, but I often bug out of the group meals and receptions because I don’t have the patience for small talk.”

“You’re not alone. A colleague, Jennifer Kahnweiler, wrote an excellent book about that titled The Introverted Leader. She believes many professionals are closet introverts who are out of their element in social situations and business networking events.”

He said, “Another reason I don’t enjoy meeting people is I can never explain what I do in a way people get it. It’s always so awkward.”

I asked, “Want to brainstorm a new way to introduce yourself that isn’t awkward, that can actually lead to an intriguing conversation and meaningful connection?”


Chapter 13: Create Mutually Rewarding Conversations


You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.


A client called to tell me she would be attending a high-powered meeting of CEOs at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner and wanted to know if I could help her prepare. Could I?!

Maria is a financial adviser who presents money management workshops for corporations. She told me, “Sam, I’m not going to know anyone there. Frankly, I’m a little intimidated by this group, and I want to make the most of it instead of ending up being a wallflower in a corner.”

I said, “Done. Get a copy of the January–February 2012 Harvard Business Review issue, which contains ‘The Economics of Well-Being.’ It’s got articles with metrics that show the bottom-line benefits of ‘soft skills.’19 They cite research showing that the happier people are with their finances and health, the higher their morale, performance, and productivity.”


Chapter 14: Facilitate Interactive Meetings and Programs


I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.


Did you see the 2014 Academy Awards? Host Ellen DeGeneres delighted 43 million viewers by turning a three-hour marathon of “thank-you” speeches into a delightfully interactive evening that was wonderful. She ordered pizza (really!) and had it delivered to the theater, where she handed out paper plates and napkins (with the help of Brad Pitt) to some of the planet’s biggest movie stars including Meryl Streep, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts.

She asked people in the audience (“Come on, Harvey Weinstein, get out your wallet. I know you’ve got money”) for some cash to pay for it and took a selfie (now being called a groufie) with Kevin Spacey, Jared Leto, and others that was retweeted millions of times in the next hour.21

Instead of running the show, Ellen gave the audience a chance to be the show. Good for Ellen for realizing it’s passé to force people to be passive. She created an experience where people were on the edge of their seats due to the sheer unpredictability of what was happening. Ellen’s interactive approach not only paid off in improved ratings (as heralded in a Yahoo! headline the next day, “Oscar viewership the best since 2000”22), but it made a statement, answering the following questions: Why run programs the way they’ve always been run? Why not showcase attendees as much as the emcee? Why not involve people instead of simply informing them?


Chapter 15: Customize to Connect


The blank page. The blinking cursor. Writer’s block. Sting faced it for eight years after a lifetime of fertile song-writing. The ideas stopped. No new songs came.


Imagine not having any ideas for eight years when your livelihood depends on it. Ouch.

That’s what happened to musician Sting, who Logan described in a Vanity Fair article as being “burned out.” What did he do to break through that block? He returned to his English hometown near the shipyards of Newcastle where he grew up watching “great iron ships grow until they blotted out the sun.” He let the “shipwrights, welders, and riveters speak to him and through him.” As a result, Sting’s creativity came alive again. He was inspired to write a new musical based on the stories he heard that opened on Broadway in 2014.27

Sting’s experience offers a lesson for anyone who’s running low on intrigue. Chances are you’re not suffering from a creativity block; you’re suffering from a connection block. Perhaps you, too, need to get out of your head and into the field to connect with the people you want to connect with. Perhaps it’s time to stop trying to “think up stuff” and ask the individuals you want to reach what they think, what they suggest. When you do, the fount of intrigue will once again begin to flow because you’re focusing on its true source, empathy not intellect.


Chapter 16: Listen Like You Like to Be Listened To


I don’t mean to interrupt. I just remember random things and get excited.


Years ago my sons and I were planning a holiday weekend. Should we have friends over for a backyard barbeque? Go to Lake Fairfax for the fireworks?

Tom seemed a bit distracted so I asked, “Tom, are you listening?”

“Sure, Mom,” he said, “You have my undevoted attention.”

Out of the mouths of teens. In our distracted world (“Look, there’s a kitty”), the norm is to give our undevoted attention. This is not petty. Undevoted attention loses customers and employees. In fact, a US Department of Labor Statistics study found that 46 percent of people who quit their job said it was because they didn’t feel listened to, and therefore felt unappreciated.28

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.


Listening completely is not only the core of charisma; it is at the heart of connection. Yet listening completely is rare. The norm is for people to interrupt, finish others’ sentences, give their undevoted attention. Think about it. Of all the people you know:


Chapter 17: Establish Real-World Relevance


We’re all in a race for relevance.


It’s not enough for people to agree with you in theory. They must be able to apply what you’re saying in practice. If what you’re sharing doesn’t have real-world relevance for them, why should they pay attention? It’s simply not a high-enough priority.

When I worked with Dr. Joan Fallon of Curemark on her TEDx talk, we knew it was crucial to establish that her topic of autism is not just something that affects a few people, it impacts the majority of people in the United States. That’s why Joan opened with:

How many of you here know someone who has autism? Please raise your hand.

How many of you here know teachers or therapists who work with children who have autism?

How many of you are familiar with the heartbreak and difficulties families encounter when they have a child who has autism?


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