Are you quotAble? Or do people stop listening before you stop talking? Being heard and frequently quoted is essential to attracting more opportunities and friendships. Without that talent you may be rich, smart, well-connected, well-intentioned, and hardworking yet you are likely to lose to the person who paints a more compelling and relevant picture, in-person or in writing.
Method: Make your key messages almost as vital as oxygen. It is deceptively simple. To be remembered and repeated, include the three elements of A.I.R. in your message:
Actionable: Motivate people to take some first action, however small, and they are more likely to take another. Reduce the number of actions it takes for them to participate or to buy. To secure connection with your intended audience or market, aspire to offer the equivalent ease of Amazon Prime's one-click buying.
Early in some of my keynotes I'll sometimes say, "Turn to the most normal-looking person near you, shake hands, and ask them to be your partner" which usually evokes startled laughter as they look around. Then I add, "Move quickly or your options may get even more odd," causing a second wave of titters. They turn their bodies, smile and mirror each other in shaking hands -- all behaviors that make them feel more open, and closely connected to each other and to me. That's because these actions evoke their warm side and make them look and act more alike.
Interestingness: Make your message so unexpected, novel, provocative or otherwise odd that they are compelled to pay attention even if they are supposed to be doing something else. "Love of the new," or neophilia, is hardwired into our brains at the deepest levels according to Winifred Gallagher, author of New who wrote that we "are attuned to things that are new or unfamiliar because they convey vital information about potential threats and resources."
Interestingness is perhaps the most powerful cue for grabbing attention when other messages are always fighting for it. For example, instead of admonishing Texas for dumping garbage on the roadside, a public service campaign appealed to their Texas pride with the behavior-changing, actionable slogan, "Don't mess with Texas." Piggybacking on the long-running advertising campaign for milk, some blood banks appealed for donations with the pithy call for action "Got blood?" (Being brief also helps these slogans be memorable.)
Relevance: When you hear a speaker who appears to be speaking directly to you, or you read about a situation that you are facing, you are much more likely to remember it. For example, building on the well-known police order, "Step away from car" the clever headline, "Step Away From the Device" can be quickly understood, relevant -- and actionable for many of us who spend too much time with our screens.
You can increase your relevance by getting specific sooner with something that is top of mind with those you seek to reach. That may mean you capture the attention of fewer people overall -- but you will pull in those who most matter to you.
Hint: A specific example proves the general conclusion, not the reverse. Yet most conversations, speeches and even advertising campaigns begin with generalizations. By beginning with background, or qualifiers, as we instinctively do we are creating underbrush to obscure our point. Only the most optimistic will remain listening, thinking. "With all the manure in here, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere."
Look for the specific detail that can buttress your general conclusion, your main differentiating benefit, and start with it. Then build your story, point by point, like pulling them to step on each stone across a pond, with strong seques between each point to motivate them to keep taking steps into your message.
The Extra Bonus Benefit: Furthermore, the more clear and specific you become about your top mission in life -- and messages you deliver -- the more likely you are to benefit from serendipitous encounters because you have a context in your mind for seeing exactly how individuals and other resources fit with your vision and you can speak more clearly and credibly to the sweet spot of mutual interest for "us" in the situation.