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About Philippa Kennealy

Philippa Kennealy MD MPH CPCC PCC is The Entrepreneurial MD Business Coach who wants to help you build your business!
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Networking Made Natural Part 3: April 2007

Last month, I focused on what to communicate in your "message" when you seek to connect with others in a networking or even interview setting.

Not many others will have mastered the clarity and "benefits-orientation" of your message, but the listener may still have a hard time recalling you above the clamor of all the differing messages he or she heard in a meeting.

Think about the last cocktail party or social get-together you attended. Who stands out as a memorable encounter?

Or the last conference you signed up for? Whom did you feel compelled to follow up with because they interested you for one reason or another?

How do you stop yourself from being forgotten?

I'd like to draw your attention to a recently published book, Made to Stick, that I believe is going to become a communications classic. My reasoning - the authors, brothers Dan Heath and Chip Heath, have identified and dissected "Why some ideas survive and others die" (the book's subtitle) and provided clear answers as to how to make your own ideas, or messages, stick. Plus it is written in an engaging manner, filled with stories and anecdotes that make their ideas stick!

According to the Heaths, the most memorable messages have the following six attributes (that create the acronym SUCCESs):

Simple.

It is essential that you find the core of the idea or message that you want to communicate. For example, the core of my message in this newsletter is to have you realize and believe that you too can stand out in a crowd if you craft your message using these principles I'm outlining here.

This means 1. stripping your message of all that is superfluous and that adds "noise", 2. prioritizing your content to come up with the one critical idea to communicate and 3. using "visual communication cues" such as analogies ("getting your ideas to stick like duct tape").

Unexpected.

Some of the most memorable ads or messages occur because they induce surprise - they get your attention and hold your interest because they interrupt your linear thinking. Think of a funny joke. We listen and automatically attempt to guess the end. It's our failure to guess the twist at the end, and be surprised, that makes us laugh.

The trick with this trait is to avoid being gimmicky (think stupid dot-com ads in the 2000 Super Bowl game!), and instead get someone guessing, jolt their attention by having their guessing mechanism "fail", and then resolve the surprised emotion by providing a meaningful insight.

This seems like one of the most challenging attributes to figure out for a message - but it certainly makes for a winner when you can do this successfully.

Concrete.

It is much harder for us to grasp abstract concepts than it is for us to visualize concrete objects. The definition of concrete - something you can examine with your five senses.

The problem with experts is that they have grasped the nuances of a concept and suffer from the "Curse of Knowledge". They have forgotten what it was like not to know something.

Picture an interaction with a patient. She has newly-diagnosed adult-onset diabetes and is curious what that means. You begin telling her about how her insulin isn't able to attach to her cell receptors adequately and that her glucose can't be processed correctly in her cells. Her eyes glaze over and she stops asking questions. What has happened?

The Curse of your extensive Medical Knowledge has stopped you from communicating challenging concepts in easily understood language.

Now imagine telling her that the sugars that are absorbed from the cookies or fruits she eats normally go into the body's muscle and fat tissues to be burned as fuel for our everyday energy. With diabetes, the helper substance called insulin that pushes the sugars into the cells can no longer do its job. The sugar levels start to rise in the blood....etc. You get the idea!

Credible.

Doctors are fortunate. They are naturally invested with a great deal of credibility, inherent in their role, when it comes to medical advice and messages.

Credible messages have an air of authority. Either they come from someone who is considered an expert, or they reference expert sources. I am not an expert on sticky ideas, but if you read the bios of the two brothers whose book I am referencing in this newsletter, I'm hoping that you'll believe me, because they are highly credible experts!

Celebrity endorsements are one example of how the media plays into this trait. If Oprah likes a book, then we should too.

Adding vivid details can also increase credibility. Especially if they highlight a core value. If I claim a core value for my business of "education and learning", you are more likely to believe me if I can provide specific lively details of instances in which I have invested in providing education and learning for my clients ... correct?

Emotional.

Think of a presentation in which the speaker uses words like "heartache", "overwhelmed", and "exhilarated". How much more likely are you to feel something with these words than in a presentation that talks about "not being comfortable", "has too much to handle", or "feels good"?

Whether we like it or not, we are highly emotional creatures. We are roused from inertia and spurred on to action by words that affect our emotions .... or should I say electrify our imaginations (see, much more emotional and concrete!)

Here are two books that stand right by my computer, and that you might consider buying if you are seeking to spice up your writing or presentations: Words that Sell and More Words that Sell, both by Richard Bayan.

Stories.

This attribute needs the least explanation as most of us understand the power of a good story. The case studies we used in medical school to illustrate points about clinical conditions or tricky diagnoses are forms of story. The plot of a movie grabs our rapt attention for a couple of hours.

Stories appeal to the child in us, the one that begged "can you tell me another story please mom?" (my daughter does that daily!). Stories teach lessons. Stories inspire. Stories get people to act.

From "Made to Stick":

... a credible idea makes people believe. An emotional idea makes people care. And .... the right stories make people act.

To craft your message and communicate what it is that you have to offer - to your patients, your prospective clients, your next boss, your students or your potential hires - it's important that you choose words that meet the above SUCCES criteria, and then arrange them using the Marketing Syntax that I wrote about last month.

In next month's newsletter, I will conclude this series on networking with several more very practical tips that you can use right away to boost your networking skills and perhaps even claim them as a special talent!

Happy Spring, Easter, Passover, Earth Day and Take Your Daughter to Work Day this month!

And did you know that April is National Humor Month? Have a good laugh!

Warmest wishes,

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