Did I get your attention? Are you wondering where I’m going with this week’s communication tip?
“Coffee Shops” and Windows in the Red Light District
Here’s the deal. We just returned from a wonderful family vacation in Amsterdam (pictures). Many people who travel to Amsterdam are initially attracted to the city by the legalized prostitution in the Red Light Districts and marijuana and hash in the coffee shops found throughout the city. They enjoy the spectacle of walking down the streets in the Red Light Districts and gazing at women sitting in the windows selling their wares. What might be taboo in other parts of the world is as easy to get in Amsterdam as walking into a Starbucks in Los Angeles and ordering a triple, venti, soy, no foam latte. Actually, the lines are shorter in Amsterdam.
The Long-Term Benefits of Amsterdam
For some, the allure of sex and drugs is what brings them to Amsterdam in the first place. For most people the real attraction is the enchanting historical city of 700,00 bicycles, 165 canals and 1,281 bridges. Dam Square, The Anne Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum, The Rijksmuseum will all leave you in awe of its history. Traveling outside the city to the windmills and cheese factories found in the Dutch countryside of Alkmaar, Volendam, and Marken will result in lifelong memories.
Amsterdam is known as the most liberal city in the world. That initial attention grabbing title is supplemented and then overshadowed by the quality and quantity of his historical landmarks. When you think about it, how the city promotes tourism is really an effective one-two marketing punch.
On the long flight home I thought about our week in Amsterdam. The experience and dynamics of the city reminded me about a communication approach good trial lawyers have been using in court for years, but something most people either don’t know about or fail to do when trying to share their message.
As is intentionally or inadvertently done by the City of Amsterdam, our family trip reminded me how important it is, when communicating, to always immediately capture the attention of your audience. In Amsterdam for example, that immediate attention grabber might be sex and pot. Once you get over that initial experience, the incredible long-term value of the city (amazing history and culture) is what will keep most people coming back again and again.
Knowing we would be traveling to a historical city surrounded by deep pockets of sex and drugs caught my immediate attention. Hey, I’m only human and I was curious about what I was going to see. Experiencing and digesting the beauty of Dam Square, history of the Anne Frank House, and trip outside the city to the windmills of Alkmaar, Volendam, and Marken is what made me want more. For whatever the reason my initial interest was peaked, my takeaway was focused on the more valuable content and context of our site seeing and cultural experience.
The Same Approach Applies to Communication
There’s good reason why my friend, Chrissie Lightfoot titled her first book, “The Naked Lawyer- RIP to XXX – How to Market, Brand and Sell YOU!” She continues to get your attention after you open the book by naming chapters using erotic descriptions such as “Talking Dirty to a Saint When I’m a Pure Little Devil” and “Touch, Touch and Touch Me Again.”
The title to Chrissie’s book is provocative. It gets your immediate attention. It makes you want to know more. The content of her book is what will get your long-term attention and make you want to take action. Specifically, how to change the way you practice law. If you’re not already doing so, you should follow Chrissie on Twitter!
As a trial lawyer, when I share a case with the jury and tell my client’s story, I make it a point to grab the attention of my jury in the first two minutes of my opening statement. During the one or two week trial, I keep their attention and gain their respect and trust by presenting the evidence I told them I would show them. In the end, I believe I win my cases because in my closing argument, I remind them of how I kept my promise, delivered the evidence like I told them I would, and provided value during the trial. I then very specifically empower my jury to bring a verdict home for my client.
Here’s a Good Communication Approach That Will Knock Your Socks Off and Leave Your Smiling!
When communicating one on one, in front of an audience or jury, or in a written article or blog post, start your presentation off with a strong, captivating and provocative oral or written headline. I did this in this post with the title to this post, “Sex, Drugs, and Our Family Vacation to Amsterdam”.
Follow up your heading or if speaking, the introduction that was given about you (you prepared some or all of it and made sure a specific provocative attention grabber was included by the person introducing you) with a captivating 1 to 2 minute attention grabbing statement or proposition– “Turn down the lights and make yourself comfortable…”
Share your written or oral presentation in a personal, story type of format. For this blog post, I shared just a bit of our family vacation with a few pictures. I personalized my presentation and probably stirred up a bit of emotion in some of you (Why is Mitch writing about sex and drugs and his family in a communication tips post?).
Just like the famous landmarks and hotels in Amsterdam provided me with an incredible experience and lifelong memories, during a long trial, I use oral and written sub-headings and bullet points when communicating to my jury. This keeps everyone on track and also makes it easy for my jury to digest the important points. Because of today’s short attention span, I also link to keep things short and sweet.
I brought maps and excursion information home to review before our next trip. During my trials, many jurors will actually write down the sub-headings and bullet points (the maps that I give them) and use these back in the jury deliberation room when discussing the evidence and outcome of my trial. In every single case I take to trial, I always give my jurors all the tools they need to help make my case.
Just like the people of Amsterdam who were real and didn’t care what others thought, when you are communicating it’s critically important to be yourself, to be authentic, and to speak from the heart. This is what builds rapport and trust. Having said that, I also want you to always reach a bit outside your normal comfort zone and do what you need to do to keep the attention of your audience by being provocative. Doing so will also keep things a bit sassy and fun.
I tried to do this when coming up with the title to this post and writing the article. You can do the same.
Keep in mind that as is often the case with sex, one thing leads to another. During a good communication experience, you are talking the audience by the hand and leading them, step by step, to their next experience.
Once you get past your attention grabbing opening, take your time. Don’t go in for the kiss right away. Set the stage and take your time before making your final move and going for the close.
Use pictures and metaphors. Don’t be lazy and just lie there. Take the initiative and make things happen so that the experience is interesting, exciting and memorable.
Going about your communication effort this way will help keep the attention of your audience. It will keep things interesting and stimulating. It will keep the dance moving in the right direction. Invest some time and effort preparing for your presentation and so that each step along the way is designed to lead to a mutually satisfying and well timed ending.
At the end of your presentation and when the time’s right, go for the close. Let your audience know exactly what they need to do. Don’t jump the gun and prematurely ask your audience to do something you have not yet earned. Present your call for action only after you’ve done all of the above and made your case.
My trip to Amsterdam was a family trip. Yes, the smell of marijuana fills the air as you walk from one museum to another but truth be told, it wasn’t a big deal. In some parts of the city, scantily clad women sat on the other side of glass windows as we walked by on the sidewalk but for the most part they just smiled and waved. Once again, no biggie.
While the sex and drugs initially caught my attention, what will bring me back to Amsterdam and the takeaway message for me were the amazing landmarks, scenery, museums, and historical sites. If you ever have the chance to visit Amsterdam, you should go.
In a similar fashion, when traveling down the communication path, remember to start strong and close with specificity. Timing is everything so don’t rush things. After your first move and before you finish, carefully make your case one step at a time. Use sub-headings, personal stories and metaphors to keep the attention of your audience and make your point. Close strong so that there is no misunderstanding about what just happened and what you need your audience to do.
Try using this approach and let me know if you left your audience smiling and asking for more.
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