Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't Sacrifice the Eyes

Yesterday I led a presentation skills training for a group of nonprofit fundraisers.

As we practiced "connection techniques" (ways to use voice, body language, and eyes to connect with the listener), one participant asked,

"Many times, we have to make phone calls to people we don't know. How can we apply this training?"

I had a difficult time answering him.

On one hand, I could help him find ways to connect with a stranger over the phone. (vocal variation, warmth of tone, etc.) But really, I knew this would be insufficient.

Phone solicitations work when the listener has already made a commitment. The phone call merely seals the deal. The goal here is not connection - but rather completion.

The power of conversation can only be truly realized in a live format.

While so much is lost in non-live exchange, perhaps the greatest sacrifice is eye contact.

As a speaker, the most powerful way to engage your listener is by truly looking him in the eye. This is true whether you are speaking to an audience of 1 or 1,000.

On a fundamental level, human beings want to be seen.

And making eye contact is the most fundamental and the most powerful to do this.

From the Green Room: If you really need something from somebody, don't sacrifice your greatest asset - your eyes. Take the time to meet face to face and make sustained, direct eye contact. Even if you are speaking to a large group, this is the most powerful way to connect.


Anonymous said...

You're so right about phone solicitations. I can't remember ever being convinced to make a donation by a caller. When I do agree to donate, it's because I'd already been predisposed to do so. That said, however, from my all too vast experience with solicitation calls, the particular tone, manner, & approach of the caller can still have a real impact
on my response. Some callers are so skilled in the use of their voice and in the intelligence of their approach that it feels almost as effective as eye contact.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you for your response. I would be curious to hear - what tone, manner, and approach would make you stop and listen?

Anonymous said...

What makes me stop and listen? Nothing extraordinary. It is what ought to be a quite ordinary common sense approach that gets my attention because these days it has become all too rare. The caller has taken the time to learn my full name and pronounce it correctly but does not presume to call me by my first name. The caller gives her full name; skips the "and how are you today" spiel; and goes straight into a pithy explanation for the call (i.e. "your membership in the Diabetes Ass'n is about to expire, and I could help you renew it now if that would be convenient."). The caller does not sound as if she is reading from a script; her voice conveys warmth but not a false friendliness; she also manages to convey some interest in or commitment to the cause she's calling about; and she is a good listener -- picking up on my cues & responding appropriately.

Sarah Gershman said...

Well said. Thank you!