Sixty Seconds to Make Them Care

Charlotte Ashlock Posted by Charlotte Ashlock, Executive Editor, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Charlotte Ashlock is a crazy idealist trying to make the world a better place! 


Sixty Seconds to Make Them Care

Did you know decision-makers invest in countless bad ideas every single year? Do you have any idea how many fantastic ideas are ignored by decision-makers? And did you know there’s one simple way to solve that problem?

Authors who can’t get publishers-- nonprofits who can’t get donations-- entrepreneurs who can’t get investors-- they all have one thing in common. They can’t figure out how to make themselves seem intriguing in the sixty seconds they have to capture a decision-maker’s attention.

Imagine a world where dreamers didn’t have to go into a conversation with a decision-maker unarmed-- but instead had all the weapons of rhetoric at their disposal. Imagine a world where intriguing someone, was as simple as following a recipe to bake a cake.

Berrett-Koehler author, Sam Horn is working to create that world. The tragedy of all these good ideas being ignored, is what inspired Berrett-Koehler author Sam Horn, to start her business, “The Intrigue Agency.”

Beginning with an example from the world of publishing, Sam made us realize how important “intrigue” really can be to someone’s career. Sam worked with John and Shannon Tullius to organize a writer’s conference where unpublished writers had the chance to pitch to VIP editors. To her horror, she saw a writer stagger out of the meeting hall with tears running down her face.

“Why are you crying?” Sam asked. “I just saw my dream go down the drain,” the author replied. When the author put her 300 page manuscript in front of the editor, he said, “I don’t have time to read that! What’s it about?” and it was like her tongue had gone numb. Stumblingly, she began to talk, but the more she talked, the more confused the editor became. She walked out of the hall knowing she had failed.

As Sam paced through the hall where the writers were pitching their books, she could tell without even listening, who was going to succeed. She could tell from the editor’s face. If the eyebrows were all squinched up, the writer was failing. If the eyebrows were rising in interest and intrigue, the author would probably get a contract.

Sam Horn’s book with Berrett-Koehler, Are You Intriguing? will help people crystallize and communicate their dreams. That way, no dreamer needs to go through the torture of hearing their dream flushed down the drain. Sam works to help people prepare them for the most important meetings of their lives. She helps fundraisers talk to donors, entrepreneurs talk to investors, and authors talk to publishers. She gives people the communication skills they need to be the masters of their own fates.

So what’s the secret? Say you are riding in an elevator with a person who has the power to make your dream come true? What should you do? How are you going to convince Mr. Very Important Person how awesome you are?

Whatever you do, DON’T tell Mr. Very Important Person how awesome you are!!

Seems counter-intuitive, right? You have been misled by the classic proverb, “You must have an elevator pitch.” NO. A pitch is not what you need. What you need, Sam explains, is to make an “not an elevator pitch, but an elevator connection.” So when someone in the elevator asks what you do…. DON’T launch into a speech about yourself.

Instead, ask the questions which will establish a connection between their life and yours. For example, say you’re a software engineer who works on building secure data connections. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” skip the techno-babble. Instead, ask THEM a question. Show interest in THEIR lives. “Do you enjoy shopping online, or know anyone who does?” (Pause to listen.) “Well, I work on the technology that makes online shopping safe & secure.”

I deeply appreciated Sam’s advice, because I always struggle to answer the question, “What do you do?” I’m definitely guilty of giving bland, boring answers. “I’m a digital editor for a nonfiction publisher.” Yawn.

Let’s give it a whack using the Intrigue Expert’s method:

New friend: “So what do you do, Charlotte?”

Charlotte: “Well. Let me explain it this way. Have you ever been in a job where you really disagreed with the way the company was doing things— but you were helpless to do anything about it? Or perhaps you know someone else who’s had that experience?”

New friend: “Hey, now that you mention it… I used to work as a pharmacy technician for CVS pharmacy, and it was terrible. They were trying to save money on staff costs, so they didn’t schedule us for enough hours to finish our work. So we either rushed the job (which can be really dangerous for the patient, in pharmacy) or we worked unpaid overtime.”

Charlotte: “That sounds terrible! It’s people trapped in situations like that which make me passionate about pursuing my work. You see, I work for a business book publisher that advocates for democratic and humane business practices. Our books convince CEOs and other leaders that making the ethical choice will help their company’s profits.”

New friend: “What books? Can I mail some of these books to my former boss?”

The world is full of people who are selling themselves. In a world of self-absorption and self-advertisement, the most surprising (and intriguing!) thing is someone who wants to hear about others. 

The best way to make the world love you, is to love the world, with a sincere and earnest love that will not be denied.