Meeting the lovely Anita for a glass of wine (while still hungover from the previous day’s wine) she raves about a fine dining establishment, The Drawing Room. Turns out among their many charms, the waiter brings you the check inside an old book.
If you check out their website, you can’t help but notice they offer “complimentary valet parking”. Am I the only one who finds it weird that going to a place to drop $100 bucks for dinner cares so much about free parking? Paying $100 for dinner is fine, but adding $10 for parking is a deal breaker?
Nespresso sends you bags for your used pods. You fill them and send them off for recycling. On their dime.
When you buy tassel earrings from Hart, you get a tasteful note guaranteeing you’ll get compliments any time you wear them.
These kinds of surprises attract customers because they’re fun. Clients love being delighted in unexpected ways, and so do employees. (See Notes from DisruptHR Charleston)
It’s true for any significant message.
It used to be enough to merely be clear and concise. #longagoinafarawayplace
Today we want it delivered, custom and instant. And to really get our attention, delight us in a surprising way. In other words, make it fun for us. It’s like you have to buy a gift for the man who has everything, every single day.
Simple but hard.
Delightfully surprise your audience. (But not by going into overtime.)
Example: Simon Sinek‘s 18-minute talk about millenials went viral. The surprise element was his frankness, especially round the causes of millenials’ rather high professional expectations. #notspecial #helicopterparents Simon also enjoys the distinctly unfair advantage of his cool British accent.
Example: LA-based Dr. Ray Jiménez, micro learning architect & evangelist, creates great short videos on youtube for us training pros. In this one, his message is to make your trainings shorter, which means putting in less content. Teaching less, instead of more, is hard for many (including moi). Brilliantly he adapts his message to the Gladys Knight hit, “Neither One of Us Wants to Say Good-bye.” Literally, he sings new lyrics about saying “Bye Felicia” to your training content to this oldie tune. It’s absolutely fun and I can’t get it out of my head.
Example: Eduardo Briceño’s TEDx talk on Growth Mindset and Success leads with how NOT winning a chess championship eventually made Josh Waitzkin a master. Actually the whole concept of Growth Mindset turns conventional wisdom about achievement on its head. That’s a pleasant surprise for those who are brave enough to look stupid (or be vulnerable) on the path to domain mastery. (Briceño also has a cool accent. I might have a thing for accents.)
Example: With no foreign accent to help me, I talk (and write) about leadership lessons, drawing from the movie, La La Land. Pulling from a romantic musical, I ask the non-obvious, “How can you disrupt not only your mindset, but the mindset of your whole team to get them aligned with your vision?” (I’m fairly certain my slide of Ryan Gosling helped make the talk popular.)
Example: I talk (and write) about feedback, but the take-away is to seek it, not give it. I also pull in the topic of soul-slitting Corporate Zombie Speak. (Corporate Zombie Speak is nothing more than jargon, but how boring to discuss “jargon.”)
It’s finding the unexpected angle or twist. That’s what advertising people are paid to do. Fun = memorable. Unless you have a PR person on your payroll, you have to do this for yourself if you want to stand out from the crowd of talent.
Let me list some ways to add that element of unexpected delight to your audience:
- be weird, which is also being vulnerable
- relate your message to you personally
- keep the message shorter than expected
- funny (study comedians)
- draw (or hire visual communicator like The Ring Effect)
- different kind of visual (consider props instead)
- biggest smile ever
- ask unusual questions (for suggestions click here)
- surprising metaphors (for suggestions see How to Make Your Message Stick)
- unexpected data or surprising fact
- amazing infographic
- have the audience move around or dance
- invent a word or phrase (but explain it)
Some people say you should just be yourself when speaking before a group, or any sort of scary conversation. While true, you want to bring your best self, not the version of the real you in pjs drinking coffee in bed (unless maybe you sell mattresses.)
Leveraging this creativity takes time and effort but is totally worth it. The good news is that with practice, it becomes second nature. When you’re putting the finishing touches on that presentation or email, ask yourself how can you make it fun for your audience.