How to Pull a Bad Interview out of the Fire

 If you sense a job or media interview is going up in flames, use this trick to refocus the conversation in your favor.

If you sense a job or media interview is going up in flames, use this trick to refocus the conversation in your favor.

Ever had a job interview, media interview or even a key meeting that seemed to go south before it started? Or perhaps strayed off topic mid-way and never got back on track?

Whether it’s a radio interview that dwells on what your new product CAN’T do, or a job interview that focuses too much on your shortcomings, you can still pull it out of the fire with one simple trick.

Just as things are about to wrap say, “If I may, I’d like to add one more thing…”

Then deliver a simple summary statement that succinctly states the point or points you need to make.

By being direct and concise, you’ll recapture the focus of the person on the other end of the phone or across the table. In fact, in most cases, he or she will even write down your key points and—even better—remember them.

This tactic is so effective, I recommend clients write out a summary statement in advance of their interview or meeting, just to be sure they take advantage of this strategy by the end of the conversation.

Here are some examples of how to put this simple trick to work.

To refocus a job interview:

“We’ve talked a lot about my work history, but if I may add one more thing, I’d like to summarize what I think makes me a strong candidate: I have more than two years experience selling ball point pens. I’ve also worked as a purchaser of office supplies. And my other work history, though varied, all shows I’m a fast learner.”

To save a sinking media interview:

“If I may take just one more moment, I‘d like to summarize why our Teeny Tiny Hearing Aid will be successful in today’s market: One, more people than ever are entering their senior years. Two, for today’s seniors, staying vital and connected is a priority. And three, today’s younger people see hearing aids as helpful technology, not something that will stigmatize them.”

And suddenly, you’re back on track.

By the way, this tactic doesn’t only work well for interviews gone BAD. For strong interviews too, a summary statement can be the bow around the package, tying up a great conversation and making it all the easier for your audience to understand your message and more importantly, repeat it.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

How to Tell a Story with Your Resume

 A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

A great resume should read like a story, not a rap sheet.

Not long ago I had lunch with a former TV reporter who was ready for a career change and wanted me to review his resume. I agreed. But when the resume arrived in my inbox a few days later, I was taken aback. What he sent looked more like a rap sheet than a resume and certainly wasn’t an argument for his success in a new role.

How could someone who had spent a career poetically telling the stories of others come up so short in telling his own? Happens all the time.

All journalists know their job involves more than just cataloging the facts. They must weave them into a relevant, compelling and accurate narrative. Yet, when it comes to telling their own tale, they---like all of us---often revert to a data dump. Every location, title, date and award is recorded. What’s missing is good information about how those previous jobs have prepared them for the next.

Journalists and all resume writers should ask themselves  “What’s the storyline that shows my future employer I’m a great candidate for this job?”

Here are a few ways to use storytelling to improve your resume:

Summarize your storyline. Briefly stating an objective is an excellent way to connect what you’ve done and what you want to do next, particularly if you’re changing careers and it’s not obvious. For example: “Veteran salesman seeks to apply competitive spirit, passion for science, and 25 years success in automotive to new role in pharmaceutical sales.” Just keep it short and steer clear of meaningless clichés like “proven track record,” “results-driven” and “demonstrated success” that typically signal the opposite of what they intend.

Paint a picture. Take the hiring manager’s view and think, “In what way does this person fit our company, our culture and our challenges?” Then accentuate experiences and skills that align with what your new employer needs and let go of some of the others. If you focus too much on the details that don’t apply to the next job, you’ll look like that’s all you can do or want to do.

Use slow mo and fast forward: Movie directors do it all the time: They draw out every detail of a key scene, then compress years or even decades that are less important. When writing your resume, the “real estate” you allot your experiences need not be proportional to the years you spent toiling at them. So long as you don’t distort the truth, it’s OK to elaborate on the few projects that most pertain to your next job while glossing over the time consuming tasks–or entire jobs–that don’t.

Bottom line: Apply a few simple storytelling techniques to your resume and interview process and your job search just might have a happy ending.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

Next Time, Try Skipping the Agenda

If you begin every presentation with an agenda, here is a quick and helpful hint to make your next presentation instantly better:

Stop doing that!

Sure, your high school speech teacher hammered home that foolproof formula: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em; Tell ‘em; Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.” But today’s audiences expect something different----or at the very least a modern riff on that familiar refrain.

When an executive stands to deliver a presentation, then pauses to “review the agenda,” he or she risks slamming on the brakes before things even get rolling. In many cases, the executive senses the audience’s boredom and starts adlibbing details about each agenda point, dragging out the painful opening and stealing the thunder of the actual presentation.

Yes, your audience wants and deserves some assurance that you’re going to cover the points they want to hear. But perhaps a better plan is to craft a great open that leaves no doubt your presentation will be both interesting and relevant. Consider scrapping the agenda altogether and diverting the extra time and effort to a compelling open, persuasive key points and a provocative close.

Of course, if you’re part of an organization that requires presentations begin with an agenda (and don’t assume that because everyone else does it, it’s a requirement), you may have to go along with the program. Still, there are a few ways to comply with company policy without sabotaging your show.

1. Let a paper agenda suffice: Distribute a printed agenda ahead of time so audience members can peruse it before you take the stage. They’ll know what to expect, but you won’t waste precious moments (or their attention span) going over rote details.

2. Give a quick verbal agenda, rather than a visual one. Skip the agenda slide and instead quickly run through your game plan verbally, before launching into your carefully planned open.

3. Outboard the agenda. If your organization absolutely insists that you begin with an agenda slide, treat it as its own entity. Keep it as short as possible. Then stop. Give your audience a signal that the REAL presentation is about to begin by taking a long pause, changing your floor position, flashing a blank slide, telling an interesting story --- or all of the above.

The best way to captivate audiences is to convince them early on they’re about to hear something they’ve never heard before. Do that, and they won’t be wondering about what you’re going to cover. They’ll just be looking forward to it.

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog posts at “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec. 

Media Won't Cover You? Cover Yourself.

Years ago when I was the lead spokesperson for Boston Edison, the company went through a brutal six-month stretch during which it was pounded in the press for an unusually high number of power outages and accidents---and THEN suffered an ugly labor strike.

So when I heard that, in the wake of a series of Florida hurricanes, our crews were heading south to help restore power, we made a serious round of media calls. I wanted to be sure every local TV station and newspaper got the word that, in this case, we were the good guys, stepping up to help those in need.

Sure enough, on the day our crews were leaving, a bank of TV cameras and print photographers showed up in the parking lot to capture pictures of the caravan rolling off company property toward the freeway.

But that was it! Not a single Boston media member conducted even one on-camera interview about why we were pitching in. And none of them bit on our offer to arrange phone interviews with the crews once they arrived in Florida.

I knew we needed to get a bigger bounce out of this event to offset the negative press we'd been taking on all year. So, I decided we would make our own news.

At the last minute, my colleague and I flew to Florida to meet our line workers, hired a video crew and followed our employees around for two days as they chain sawed fallen trees, installed new power poles and strung the electrical wire that would help Florida get back to normal. We interviewed our workers as well as locals, and captured tender moments of storm-weary Floridians hugging and thanking our crews.

Then we rented satellite time from the local public TV station and offered free feeds of the video to every news outlet in Boston.

That night and all the next day, on every Boston newscast, our guys were the heroes. Why? Not because they did any extra work (they were going to do it anyway.) But because we had video of it and we made it easy, free and irresistible for the media to use it.

If you have a great story that the media won't tell, try making it easier for them. Hire a crew to shoot video, then send it to media outlets in edited and unedited form. Include suggested news copy in the form of a short broadcast script or print story. (Sure, most journalists prefer to write their own, but they'll still appreciate the head start.) 

But don't stop there. Leverage your own platforms for coverage with the audiences that matter most to you. Put a version on your website, play it at employee events and post it to social media so supporters can easily pass it along to their own followers.

After all, if you've got a great story to tell, the media and your other audiences will want to hear it, see it and share it. And if you make it easy for them, they'll do just that.   

Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog "Let's Be Clear,visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.   

The One Question Every Presenter Should Ask

Clients often ask us to review major presentations at the eleventh hour, hoping we can make the tweaks that will take their material from good to great. In the best cases, our job is to put icing on the cake and who doesn't love to do that? 

But sometimes, the cake isn't ready for icing. In fact, in some cases, everyone is still scrambling around, trying to find the ingredients.

Often those frantic, final meetings are spent searching for photos, fretting over font sizes, adjusting bullets and reordering slides ad nauseum.

While we applaud efforts to continually edit and refine (there's always room for improvement), too often those last-minute efforts are misguided. In fact, the weeks of planning and preparation beforehand are often misguided too. That's because while the team was wrangling over minutia, they forgot to ask the most important question of all: "What's the goal?"

When we ask---and answer---that simple question at the outset, something magical happens: All the other details somehow just fall into place.

The introduction is suddenly obvious.

The slides all point to a singular argument.

Relevant stories, examples and analogies naturally work themselves into the script.

And the closing statement practically writes itself.

All because at the outset, someone asked---and answered---that critical question: "What's the goal?"

Try writing that on a sticky note and posting it to your computer screen. Or if you're working as a team, consider taping it to the conference room wall. You'll be surprised at how much perfunctory content you can suddenly scrap, making way for fresh ideas that are far more impactful.

For example, if the goal is to justify the purchase of new software to the Board, instead of beginning with the technical specs, perhaps you opt to start with the story of how outdated technology almost cost a key account.

If your goal is to attract new talent, rather than bullet-pointing the company's attributes, maybe you begin with a full-screen picture of your latest, cool company outing.

If your goal is to sign a new customer, instead of talking endlessly about your company history, perhaps you share three case studies, demonstrating how you've solved problems similar to theirs for customers in the past.

These are bold strategic moves that can dramatically improve a presentation and its impact. But to attempt them, or even conceive of them, presenters must first have laser sharp focus on their goal.

The next time you're tasked with creating a presentation, pause a few moments before launching into your normal drill. Don't rush to open a new PowerPoint file---or (gasp!) repurpose an old one. Instead, simply take a breath and ask the one question every presenter must ask "What's the goal?"

You---and your audience---will be happily surprised by the result.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, visit bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.

 

 

The Wingman: Your Secret Weapon for Speaking Success

 Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Just as one pilot supports another during a dangerous mission, your Wingman can protect you from distractions.

Strong speakers know an important element of a great speech or presentation is focus. Speakers who can block out distractions and zero in on the audience are more likely to be engaging, interesting and effective.

And yet, more often than not it seems there’s a concerted campaign underway to distract the speaker from the moment he or she arrives at the venue. The host wants to clarify something about the introduction. A guest is clamoring to point out a mutual acquaintance. The AV tech has questions about technical needs. On top of it all, there are legitimate business leads that deserve attention.

How can a speaker possibly concentrate and make final preparations when there are so many other demands for attention?

Enter the Wingman.

No matter the size, formality or venue of an event, if it’s a performance that matters, the Wingman is the answer.

A Wingman can be male or female. Your Wingman might be a colleague, might be an intern, or in some cases, might even be your boss. But in this role, the Wingman’s number one job is to manage logistics, shield you from distractions and do whatever it takes to make you look good.

Think you’re better off flying solo? Consider these ways the Wingman can help:

Before your talk: The Wingman can help you get to the location on time and looking your best, set up and run your technology, run interference with clingy members of the audience, and work the room for leads while you focus on your impending remarks.

During your talk: The Wingman can take photos of you speaking, solve unexpected technical problems (or enlist someone who can), quash distractions like a vacuum in the hallway, and if necessary get the ball rolling with Q and A.

After your talk: The Wingman can help you engage important leads, shield you from less important contacts, and pack up your materials while you’re basking in the glory of a great speech. Maybe most importantly, the Wingman can later can provide you with feedback so you can be even more effective next time.

How you use your Wingman is up to you. The only requirement of the job is that he or she can put you at ease and help you look great when it’s your turn to shine.

Give it a try and let us know if it works for you or what else has worked better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.