You’ve Got 8 Seconds: A book review by Bob Morris

You’ve Got 8 Seconds: Communication Secrets for a Distracted World
Paul Hellman
AMACOM (March 2017)

“Never, never, never give up!” Winston Churchill

Churchill makes an excellent point, one that I selected to serve as title of this brief commentary. Here is a less familiar quotation that illustrates his advice: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever…Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack!”

In this book, Paul Hellman shares what he characterizes as “communications secrets for a distracted world.” I cannot recall a prior when competition for attention was more intense than it is today. Of special interest to me is what he has to say about The Fast-Forward Method ™, a means by which to help those who master it by being fully-prepared to “be the audience” by being able to answer these three questions:

“Why should I listen?” (purpose statement)
“ What exactly are you saying?” (main message)
“What should I do with this information?” (call to action)

This approach reminds me that, similarly, attempts to create or increase consumer demand must accommodate this question: “Why buy it from you?” Moreover, attempts to maximize employee buy-in of a major change initiative must accommodate this question: “What’s in it for me?”

Long ago, I realized that strategies are “hammers” that drive tactics (“nails”). Hellman recommends three strategies by which to “get ahead, get remembered, and get results.” Here they are:

1. Formulate and then focus on a compelling message.
2. Be slightly but significantly different.
3. Develop a presence/create an identity that makes you appealing —and memorable – to others.

He provides 100 tactics that are based on his wide and deep experience with decision-makers in all manner of organizations. For example, here are seven tactics if the given objective is to “own the room” in which a presentation is being made:

1. Avoid the podium
2. Move around
3. When you get a question, step forward toward who asked it
4. Keep your hands in front of your body
5. Gesture
6. Look at individuals
7. Speak louder

Hellman thoroughly explains how to implement each of the three strategies. With regard to the 100 tactics, I think her agrees with me that readers are best-advised to determine which are most relevant to the given situation and, more specifically, to the given objective(s). That said, a familiarity with all of the tactics could prove useful later in a global marketplace that seems more volatile, more uncertain, mire complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that I can remember.

With rare exception, decision-makers have more than eight seconds to answer a question or solve a problem. But often, there is not much more time, especially in a VUCA marketplace. Paul Hellman carefully explains how to make snap decisions or snap impressions when the average attention seems to be no longer than a Strobe light blink.

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