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Action, Interaction and Reaction from the Ritz team

Finding my voice

Posted: February 9, 2012 - 4:00 PM ET - by Elisabeth

Some time ago, I wrote about “finding your voice” in response to a blog by Seth Godin on “quiet customers who are unhappy but not making a big deal out of it.”

It reminded me that sometimes I am the quiet customer who has left a store, restaurant or even a relationship with a service provider without voicing my displeasure. I may have vowed never to return! As a business owner, I hate to think of my own clients doing that.

The question I asked my readers was “are you listening to what customers are saying to and about you?”

The question I need to ask myself is “why aren’t you speaking up?”

Why is it sometimes so hard to find my voice? I could blame context – one meal in a restaurant is different than the years-long relationship we establish with clients and there are thousands of restaurants to choose from. I could blame complacency – it stunk; it’s over; I want to go home and forget about it. I could even admit that sometimes I’m kind of a wimp about complaining.

But the truth is … sometimes I don’t know what I want and, therefore, I’m not clear and direct about my expectations.

Some of my clients are a great example of how important it is to know what you want. My team and I spend time with them before we begin a project to ensure that we understand what “moves the needle” for them. The best clients give us a balance between good direction and room to be creative. They have a sense of what they want to achieve and the sense to let us help them achieve it. We’re trusted to help clarify – even quantify – objectives; we’re given the latitude to bring our knowledge and experience to the assignment; and we develop a plan based on our capability and insight.

And there you have it … from the very people we counsel on communications comes a critical lesson! Lucky for me, I have this blog to speak up and share it.

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Bracing for impact

Posted: November 3, 2011 - 8:10 AM ET - by Elisabeth

I’ve had the opportunity to attend several incredible events since my last blog post: TEDxMidwest and TEDMED. If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of the TED concept: riveting talks of no more than 18 minutes by world-class speakers … and they really are! Riveting and world-class, that is.

Why?

My head is still spinning from the impact. All I can really eek out of my brain while the details come into focus is “why?”

Here’s the secret (it’s really no big secret at all): because they get personal, and it’s daring to get personal! Each of the speakers, familiar to us from the pages of newspapers, research journals or even the big screen, dares to share something personal about his or her life. From Kevin Bacon, who initially thought “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” was a joke at his expense; to Wes Craven, who endured a childhood bully named Freddy; to Paul Stamets, who introduced his mother, a breast cancer survivor thanks to her treatment with Taxol, Herceptin and his own Turkey Tail mushrooms; to Michael Graves, who brought his own experience in a wheelchair to more thoughtful design of hospital rooms and furniture; to Diana Nyad, who dared to ask they audience how they demonstrated grace in the face of defeat as she described her attempt to swim from Florida to Cuba. These personal details brought to life each speaker’s story in a way that was relevant and poignant for the audience. … and this wasn’t just any audience, they were innovators and dealmakers. The kind of men and women who take the inspiration and turn it into action. The kind of men and women who mean business.

It’s worth remembering that when you really want to have an impact on people – even in business – you need to get personal.

Please check out the embedded links to learn more about these amazing individuals and their personal stories.

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“Ideas worth spreading” are worth spreading well

Posted: October 29, 2010 - 9:30 AM ET - by Elisabeth

It’s hard to convey the amazing experience of attending TEDxMidwest in a brief post (and a long post wouldn’t be true to the nature of TED*); there’s so much information and inspiration from individuals who are changing the world through their ideas and actions. One of the most impressive aspects of TED was the quality of the presentations. Each speaker’s style was as exceptional as his or her content.

My colleagues and I are often asked to speak to groups and to prepare experts and executives for a variety of talks from conference lectures to media interviews, so it was interesting – and instructive – to reflect on what made the TED presentations so engaging. The best presenters shared three common traits:

Passion for the topic
How strongly do you feel about the topic?  Whether its life changing, task changing or just keeping up with what’s changing, how much do you care … because that will be evident to your audience.  As a presenter, your interest and attitude are a significant part of what engages us.

Enthusiastic delivery
Passion about a topic doesn’t always translate to enthusiasm for sharing the information with an audience.  If you’re shy, if you’re a writer not a speaker, or if you’re one of the people statistics claim are more afraid of public speaking than dying (as Jerry Seinfeld says, you’d rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy), how do you muster up the confidence, let alone courage, to portray your passion to an audience?  You really have to tap into whatever it is that makes you so passionate about the topic to find self-assurance.  The energy with which you deliver the idea is as important as the idea itself.

A point to make
This one should be obvious. The topic matters so much to you that you have become an expert. Tell us what you want us to know about this issue or idea. Be as crisp and compelling as you can. Provide a startling statistic or a gripping anecdote. Sum up with a memorable phrase or a picture worth 1,000 words. Even weeks after TEDxMidwest, attendees were tweeting about Sylvia Earle’s presentation on the importance of protecting the ocean in order to preserve the entire planet “No blue, no life. No blue, no green.”

… and if you want to see some great examples, check out http://www.ted.com/talks.

* If you’re not familiar with TED, it is ”riveting talks by remarkable people” delivered at annual conferences and now online. TEDx is a program of independently organized events that follow the TED format.

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