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Connect with anyone? Book offers techniques

“Got Your Attention – How to Create Intrigue and Connect with Anyone” by Sam Horn (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, $17.95).

In a 2014 article, Nancy Koehn, a Harvard Business School researcher, reported that goldfish have a longer attention span than humans — nine seconds to our eight. That doesn’t give you much time to connect with an audience when pitching a product or service, or simply engaging someone in conversation.

Horn’s INTRIGUE (Intro, New, Time-efficient, Repeatable, Interact, Give, Useful, Examples) model passes the “eyebrow test.”

Intro — People are quickly bored by facts and data. Transform statements into “Did you know that …” questions. The use of a question piques their interest, which means you captured attention.

Part of preparation involves identifying your audience’s hot and cold buttons. While pushing the hot ones, devise ways to warm up the cold ones. Why? People who have “no” on their minds need a reason to listen.

New — Don’t talk about low-hanging fruit. Show you’re on the cutting edge. When people hear something they haven’t thought about, they listen. To back you up, use quotes from current thought leaders. They’re easy to find on the Internet; type in “quotes on (your topic)” and choose those with whom the audience identifies.

Time-Efficient — People want to know who are you, why you’re here and what action you expect them to take. Your challenge: Answer those questions in less time than they carved out of their schedule. The time constraint forces you to stay on point. Also, leaving some time opens dialogue’s door.

Repeatable — Develop a “phrase-that-pays.” It’s a catchphrase (eight words max) people will remember and pass along. The use of safety belts increased when “click it or ticket” supplanted “Buckle up for safety.” It works for products, too. Java Jacket, a company that makes the cardboard insulating sleeves for hot coffee, has an easy-to-remember name that tells customers all they need to know about its product.

Interact — “If you can’t converse, you can’t connect.” Forget closed-end questions. Use “tell me” and “what do you think?” to create conversations. When people know you’re interested, they reciprocate.

When you’re at a conference, sit with those you don’t know. It’s the only way to extend your reach. Create a table top(ic) conversation by asking questions like: “What’s a takeaway that that you plan to apply?” and “What new resources have you found?”

When it comes to your meetings, rotate the chair. By sharing control, you’re telling colleagues that their contribution has value. Don’t be surprised if attendees come better-prepared and chime in on the discussion.

Give — Don’t focus on what you want to say; find out what they want to say, and pay attention to how they say it. Horn suggests studying their websites, marketing material, annual reports, etc. and using “their exact language in your outreach to them. It shows you’ve paid attention and done your homework. The Internet provides source fuel, too. Search for info about your targets. LinkedIn has profile information and mentions groups to which they belong.

When another speaks, practice active listening. Make and maintain eye contact; nod understanding. Never interrupt. If you can, take notes because they’ll be useful in future conversations. If you’re unable to take notes, make mental notes and jot them down afterwards.

Useful — If what you’re sharing has no relevance to them, they won’t pay attention. Ask people to raise their hands to indicate their connection to a topic. Find ways to rephrase questions to get more people raising their hands. Create a sense of urgency through the “did you know?” questions in your intro.

Examples — Real-life stories help people imagine their roles in similar situations. When they picture themselves as part of the story, they become part of your scene.

Check out Horn’s blog at samhorn.com/blog.

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated reviewer of business books.

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