“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people
how life-changing our widget is.
If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them.”
Prior to working with any audience, I invest a number of hours in emails and phone conferences with the contracting institution or organization. I ask a lot of questions about their expectations and needs. Having sat through my fair share of irrelevant speakers and inconsequential programs, I make it my responsibility to understand what my audience needs. Yes, I have certain programs, messages and themes that I am known for and that I “market,” but in order to be relevant to my audiences I have to be meaningful to the audience in front of me. My appearance on stage has to be about the audience not about me. That means tailoring the message to their situation as best I can.
In her book Meaningful: A Story of Ideas that Fly, Bernadette Jiwa drives home one main point. “Start the innovation journey with the customer’s story and allow our customers to become not just our target, but our muse.”
Whomever sits in our “audiences,” we would do well to consider Jiwa’s advice. What is the purpose of our talk (or service or product)? Is it to be relevant to us or the people we serve? If it is not relevant to them, are we truly serving them?
What comes first, the marketing or the audience needs? Is your programming or product developed and then marketed to people? Or do you get the pulse of your audience and then develop what they need?
Video recommendation of the week:
Again from Jiwa: “What companies and entrepreneurs sometimes forget is that the purpose of innovation is not simply to make new, improved products and services; it is to make things that are meaningful to the people who use them.” It taps into a feeling.
The first day of the semester (in my student success classes) I started with my students’ dreams and went from there. Yes, there was a course outline and the textbook—but the approach to the material had to resonate with and connect to the people in front of me. I had to make an attempt to understand their story rather than force feed my story. I attempted to tap into their feelings and emotions. To them college was not simply about a degree. It was about a better life for them and their families.
My history students received my promise that each day they would be able to apply the assigned readings and class discussions to their lives beyond campus. If they could not, then why waste their time? To be certain, the students had responsibilities in this dance; they needed to pay attention to guidance provided. However, as Jiwa pointedly proves with various case studies, “The best way to get attention is to give it unconditionally first.”
Relevance. Meaning. Connection.
Do we take time to experience what our customer, client, or student is experiencing? Stephen Brookfield puts forth a simple reminder in his book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. Teachers need to remember what it is like to be a learner in a “foreign” (read: unknown; difficult; demanding; uninteresting to them) field. One way for those of us in “front of the class” to stay in touch with our inner learner is to take a course in a “foreign” field. Perhaps a history instructor enrolls in a chemistry class or the English teacher signs up for Algebra. I did this sort of learning when I learned to play guitar, wrote and recorded songs, began blogging, participated in an 8-week improv workshop, and, most recently, started a podcast channel.
Each experience helped me understand not only how I learned (and how that has been tweaked over the years) but also what I expected of my “teachers” and myself in each new and challenging situation. This exercise puts us in the seat as the student, client or consumer.
Jiwa’s book reminded and reinforced for me that success is not what we make but, rather, the difference we make with our product or our service in people’s lives. She challenges us to consider the following:
Before you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?
After you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?
“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people how life-changing our widget is. If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them,” Jiwa says.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.