Tags: communicationpower communicationpresentations
Episode 187

High Impact Communication with Hilari Weinstein

Enoch SearsMar 3, 2017

Today is part 2 of my interview with Hilari Weinstein, the president of High Impact Communications. Hilari Weinstein is the author of 2 books, Selection Success and More Selection Success.

Go here to watch the first half of our interview on How To Communicate With Persuasive Power

In today's episode you'll discover powerful tips for becoming a better communicator, something Hilari calls “high-impact communication.”

You'll also discover:

  • The critical mistake we make about how we come across to others
  • An effective ‘confidence hack' for introverts
  • 3 tips for giving a client-getting presentation
  • 4 tips for winning your next RFP

Resources for today’s show:

High Impact Communication

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Speaker 1: Knowing your client, knowing what's going to hit them, not just intellectually, but emotionally, that's essential. Also, trying to figure out what can we bring that nobody else can bring?

Enoch Sears: The business of architecture, episode 187. Hello. I'm Enoch Sears. This is the podcast for architects where you'll discover tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture firm income and create you dream practice of freedom in impact by downloading my free four part architecture firm profit map.

As a podcast listener, you can get instant access by going to freearchitectgift.com. Today is the second half of my interview with guest Hilari Weinstein, an expert in the area of communication, speaking, and presentation skills for architects. She's the author of two books, Selection Success and More Selection Success, on how you can do your best in a situation where you are competing in a presentation setting.

In today's show, you'll discover how to be a better communicator and a concept that Hilari calls high impact communication. Now, let's get down to business. Hilari, welcome back to Business of Architecture.

Hilari : Thank you so much.

Enoch Sears: On your web site, the URL is highimpactcommunication.com. Tell me about what do you consider to be high impact communication.

Hilari : High impact communication is communication that is effective. It's impactful and that it has the desired effect on others. The reason why we communicate to others is partially to make a connection, but partially to take something that's up here and connect it with those that are receiving it.

Even though we communicate constantly via text, via email, via voice, via in person, many of us don't take the time to really understand how we're communicating and whether or not we're having the desired impact on others that we want to have.

Enoch Sears: What are some tips for having high impact communication? I know last segment you talked about really understanding the needs and what keeps people up at night. There's obviously laying that foundation. Talk me through that process of being able to get to a point where my communications are high impact.

Hilari : There are many different elements. There's not just one thing. Part of it is the message and part of it is the messenger. Last segment, we talked a little bit about clarity. We talked a little bit about making sure that your message resonates with those that you're speaking with by understanding what matters to them.

Many of us have a distorted sense of how we come across to others. There's a lot of research out there that suggests that we always assess ourselves more positively. As a result of that, we may not accurately assess what's going on with our listener.

One of the tools that I've created is an assessment called Your Impact 360, which helps individuals and organizations get a better idea of how their people are affecting those that you interact with on a daily basis. Even though, in the business of architecture, one of the things that can be very costly for an organization is things like quality, or reputation.

How many contacts does an individual within your organization make on a regular basis that could either have a positive, or a negative impact on the organization's ability to get more work?

We may communicate with others via phone, email, in person between 20 and 50 times a day, internally and externally. How people communicate affects an array of things.

The assessment, what it enables you to do is evaluate how you come across in a variety of communication context. One on one, in meetings, in formal presentations like project interviews, but it also enables you to better understand how your communication impacts the various relationship types that may be around you in each of those contexts.

For example, someone who is a supervisor, someone who is a peer, maybe a subordinate, maybe a long standing client, maybe a new client. Each of those perspectives give us a clear picture about the effectiveness of your communication. How we communicate varies depending on the context.

We may communicate very clearly with our boss, but when it comes to communicating and giving instructions to our subordinates, we may not be that effective. If your boss has only seen you communicate with them, they may assume that how you communicate with them is how you communicate with others and it's not true. The context changes how we communicate.

There are so many assessments out there. Most of them that focus on communication and personality style put you in a box. They say, “This is your type.” Regardless of your personality type, the contextual elements affect how we communicate.

What my assessment does, also, is it doesn't put you in a box. All it says is, “These are the areas that you can improve upon.” Everything within the assessment is improvable, everything from body language to voice, to clarity. All of those things, regardless of personality type, affect your ability to have high impact on others.

Wouldn't you just like to know? It's like don't you always want to know when you go into the restroom and you say, “Oh my gosh, I've had that spinach in my teeth for two hours and nobody told me.”

The same is true with our communication. It is very rare for people to tell you very clearly what you're doing that either is affecting them positively, or potentially affecting them negatively. We keep doing the same things over and over again unless somebody brings it to our awareness.

Enoch Sears: How does someone go about getting this assessment, Hilari?

Hilari : The best thing to do is to go my web site, www.highimpactcommunication.com. You can also email me. There are ways that we can set it up, not just for an individual, but also for an organization. Any questions related to that, feel free to give me a call. Being high impact requires you to know what you're doing and what needs to be changed.

Enoch Sears: This assessment that you offer is something that's conducted in person?

Hilari : Actually, the great thing is that it's web based. When we set that up for you, or for your organization, people don't need to do it live. They don't need to do it on paper. They don't even need to do it all at once. They can do it over the course of a week, if they have time.

The more important thing is the selection of the assessors. Who are the people that are going to provide us really good useful feedback that's honest, that can help us help this individual who could be at any level of the organization, to have the desired impact that they want to have?

We work with you to help identify, “Who would be the best candidate to be a part of this assessment?” The great thing about this assessment is unlike others, where it's one and you're done, because I don't put you in a box, we can re-assess certain elements of it to figure out how somebody has progressed.

The best thing that you can do is to focus on one, or two elements that may need the most work and maybe focus on some other things later. When it comes to communication, there's no such thing as perfection. The good news and the bad news is we get the rest of our lives to become more effective as communicators. The bad news is is that if we don't do it now, it could have a disastrous effect on not only our career, but also the organizations that we're a part of.

Enoch Sears: Let's talk about that. In the profession of architecture, what I find and perhaps you can agree with this, or not. I find that a lot of architects are more on the introverted side. I don't know if that's the correct definition, but definitely being in an office drawing, not necessarily the back slapping, outgoing type of people. What hope, or what suggestions?

Is it possible to thrive in a presentation situation when your normal personality is not to be gregarious, is not to be really loud and outspoken, but is rather to be more of a listener and more of a quiet type of personality? What can you say that can help a lot of our audience who have that kind of personality trait be more effective when they're trying to persuade people, or trying to be perceived in a certain way?

Hilari : First off, I appreciate that. I recognize that for many creative people, designers, that they do a lot of internal processing. They're visual. They're not necessarily verbal, which is why they chose this profession. Part of the reason why introverts don't feel good about communicating, or sharing their ideas is that lack of confidence, is they feel like they express themselves best visually.

It doesn't require you to be an extrovert. In fact, on the Myers Briggs personality test, I am actually an INFJ. I'm more of an introvert that I am an extrovert. I've worked with introverts for such a long time. I, too, have felt the discomfort of sharing my voice and speaking in front of others.

When I was younger, I was a part of the University of Texas speech team, but I was doing things like performance of literature. It's more like acting. I get to say words somebody else wrote and pretend like I'm somebody else. My coaches said to me, “We really want you to do an informative speech.” I'm like, “Would I have to write that?” and then I have to be up there as me.

You would have thought they had asked me to jump out of a plane with a parachute. I was petrified. I have had that fear, that horrible fear. I can relate to it and I can appreciate it. I don't dismiss it. I don't minimize that sensitivity. An introvert is a beautiful human being.

Being an effective communicator does not require somebody to be an extrovert. In fact, I find some of the most effective communicators are actually introverts. They tend to have a greater sensitivity and a greater ability to key into what matters to others. I don't want anybody to ever feel like being an introvert is a disadvantage. In fact, it's an asset.

I worked with a young woman who was part of the American Council of Engineering Companies Leadership Development Program. Every year, in the state of Arizona, the firms will submit candidates to be a part of this program. This young woman, first of all she is a young female in engineering, which can be a little bit uncomfortable at times.

She was also very self-conscious. One of the early exercises involved each person getting up to the front of the room and telling about themselves. When she got up there, she looked down. Her body language was such that she was trying to cover herself up and didn't want to be seen.

Through the course of this program, her commitment to continuing to break through that discomfort … About a year later her boss came up to me at a networking event. He said, “You are not going to believe this.” He mentioned her name. He said, “She just made a presentation to the city of Phoenix. They said it was the best that they had ever seen.”

I tell that because a lot of folks don't realize the work that it can take to become effective. We just see our discomfort and we often see people who have had more experience than we do and we're comparing ourselves to them.

The biggest thing that introverts can do is stop comparing yourself to anybody else. You're a work in progress. You have great ideas. The reason why you communicate them is because the ideas that you bring forth into this world change lives, so bring them forth. They should be voiced. If they always stayed inside of you, our world would be much worse for it.

The reason that you're here is because of the ideas that you create. My job is to help you communicate them using a different medium, which is words, as opposed to just images.

Enoch Sears: Hilari, I do a fair amount of speaking engagements where I'm in front of people. People always come up to me and say, “Enoch, that was wonderful.” whatever, but no one would actually ever guess that when I was in elementary school, I was so terrified about talking to people that I literally wet my pants in front of my class, because I was scared to ask the teacher to take a potty break.

My question for you is how do you take someone like that who's literally petrified of what other people think, or talking to other people and then turning them into someone who's able to communicate more effectively and be more impactful as a communicator?

Hilari : There are so many different elements that affect that. One of them is one that you mentioned, having an experience at a very young age that had a very dramatic impact on your sense of self. Those things linger with us. They really do. Sometimes it can be difficult to share those experiences with co-workers, or people that we see everyday. That's why having somebody on the outside that's a coach to really work through that.

Carrying that with you forward, the only thing that keeps it alive is you, is inside your head. Not to diminish the trauma of that event, but how long do you want to take it with you? What would you say to that kid now? There's so many different ways we can work together to first off eliminate some of the psychological and emotional barriers that are keeping you from your full potential.

Then we can start working on things like messaging. Then we can start working on things like delivery. When we get rid of that potato sack that you're dragging behind you that is keeping you in a place of emotional vulnerability, it may not go away completely. If we can just minimize it, if we can make it so that it doesn't get in the way of your ability to communicate some things that only you in this world can do.

Enoch Sears: I hope my listeners got a little laugh out of that. That was many, many years ago. It used to be my most embarrassing moment. Now it's probably one of my funniest moments that I share.

Hilari : Aren't you grateful now that it happened? The fact that it happened probably challenged you. You said, “No. I am going to be able to do this.” in spite of that.

Enoch Sears: When you gave the example of the lady who went from being a body language that was very closed up and very inconfident of herself, or her self image and then went to being one of the people who they said it was one of the best presentations she had.

In my own little head, I was thinking that that's probably because she had to try harder than other people to whom it came naturally. Maybe that put her ahead of the pack. Is that the case, or ..?

Hilari : Yeah, that really happened. That can happen sometimes. Sometimes people, for whom it's relatively easy, don't feel like they need any work. Those that work for it pay more attention to the details. They decide that there's something within them that they want to accomplish. Whereas, those for whom it comes easy, they go, “I'm not going to worry about this.”

I'll tell you the ones that typically will go rogue on a project interview are not the ones that are the most uncomfortable. It's the ones that think they know it all and think they don't have any room for improvement.

Enoch Sears: I've done that, too, but that's another story. All right. Hilari, give me some very actionable steps. You, looking out at this young lady, who, as she was involved in some coaching and then she had this dramatic turnaround. What specifically are some things that our listeners could do to progress in this particular area of communication?

Hilari : Communication is a very broad area. Part of it is understanding where things are working and where they're not. That's why the assessment is really helpful. Once we have an understanding of that, let's say that you're great one on one. You're great in meetings, but something happens in presentations that just isn't working.

Enoch Sears: Let's use presentations for an example. I think a lot of people, that's maybe where they would want to focus is the actual presentations.

Hilari : Usually, the first thing that is keeping somebody from being effective is what's going on up here. They are able …

Enoch Sears: You pointed at your head …

Hilari : Yeah.

Enoch Sears: … for our listeners.

Hilari : Inside your mind. It's inside your mind. If somebody is good one on one, good in meetings, there's something that shifts in their mind, which keeps them from being equally effective. We have to break that down and figure out what the source of that is.

The other thing is is stop being afraid of the things that make you uncomfortable. Instead of avoiding them, do it more often. There is a psychological theory called exposure therapy. What that means is whatever scares you, you need to get it in front of you frequently, so its power diminishes.

For example, I am not very fond of heights and went to the Disney parks and see this big roller coaster and see this Tower of Terror thing. I'm like, “Oh, my God. That's no, no, no, no.” In my mind I'm like, “I'm going to die.” The rational mind also goes, “If you could die, Disney would not have it open, so you can't die.”

I said to myself, “How often do I ask my clients to get outside of their comfort zone and to work through some of those things that maybe they're afraid of?” I said, “Okay.” I set myself up on a plan with the roller coaster. I said, “Okay, the first time I go on the roller coaster, I keep my eyes closed. I hold on for dear life and I just focus on not throwing up.” That's my first goal. That's similar to presentations. Most people want to get through it and just not throw up, but don't close your eyes, because you got to communicate.

The second thing you do … The second time I got on the roller coaster, I said, “Okay. Every so often, I'll just open my eyes slightly and then I'll hold on.” 'til eventually I could keep my eyes open the whole time.

Having little goals for yourself as opposed to the big goal is important. Don't focus on, “Okay, in one month, I'm going to be an extraordinary public speaker.” Set realistic goals for yourself, but also it doesn't take a whole speech to practice and get comfortable with presenting.

I recommend that folks prepare something like a one to two minute story about a success that maybe they've had on a past project, something going on in their life and get up and present it. By doing that on a regular basis, maybe once a week, maybe even if you can't find a buddy in the office, or maybe go into the conference room and invite a couple of people to give you some feedback.

Record it so that you can not just have a document to record your progress, but also so that you can look at yourself and go, “Huh, I'm making progress.” Have that validation to help you keep going. Doing it on a regular basis is the best thing that you can do.

Enoch Sears: Fantastic. Hilari, I'd like to transition. You have two books on your web site, Selection Success and More Selection Success. What will those books teach us?

Hilari : Selection Success is a collaborative effort with me and a woman by the name of Lori Stanley, who was the contracts administration officer for the city of Phoenix for almost 20 years. She was very instrumental in shifting from just the hard bid option for municipalities to alternate delivery methods.

At the time there wasn't really anything like this out there. We collaborated on some best practices to help individuals and organizations, from start to finish, on how to be more successful in the selection process.

The second book, More Selection Success is a followup to it and has some additional tips and ideas that I learned since authoring the first book. There's always a ton of new ideas and topics that I address on my blog on the web site.

Enoch Sears: Give up a couple of ideas from the first book, Selection Success, that you developed with your co-author.

Hilari : This is one that people always ask me about, so I'll bring this one up. The question is what do you give a selection panel before your presentation? Do you give them handouts? Do you wait until the end? Part of that's going to depend on the client. Some clients will say, “We don't want you to give us anything.”

When they allow it, Lori, who's sat on many a selection committee says, “I want copies of the slides and I want two per page, so that I can write notes on each one.” What that enables me to do is write less. I've already got it in front of me.

My thought, coming in to this was, why give your audience anything that's going to distract them during your presentation? She responded by saying, “If they're going to be distracted, at least they're looking at your stuff.” We have differences of opinion on that. A lot of it really just depends on the client.

She likes to have those slides two at a time. If you know your client, if you know what makes it easier for them to focus on connecting with your presenters, that'll help you determine what you may utilize visually to help reinforce that message with them.

Enoch Sears: All right. Give me some other tips for selection success.

Hilari : One of the other ones that's essential is I find that many organizations only practice question and answer if they have time. So many teams that I have worked with, especially early on, they would doctor up slides so much, mostly to just avoid having to get up and talk it through.

The problem is the slides are not what's going to win you the job. It's your people. Are they coming across as confident, competent? Do they seem to know their project? Do they have passion in the opportunity that's before them? Practicing Q&A is essential, but also making sure that the team gets practice together as a collective to voice what they want to say. There's a big difference between what you say in your mind and what comes out of your mouth.

How many times have you thought of something that you were going to say and then you actually said it? You were like, “That didn't sound nearly as good.” That happens all the time. It always sounds better in your mind than it does coming out of your mouth, which is why you have to practice, so that you have more confidence in your ability to say what you want to say in the way that you say it, so that you don't feel like you put the shoe in your mouth.

With regards to Q&A, the best time to start working on Q&A is after you submit your proposal. Don't wait until the short list notification letter comes out. You don't need it. Focus on just answering the questions after the proposal gets submitted and that'll buy you time later on. For a lot of these interviews … In fact, I did one just last week where 50% of the score came from questions. 50% of the score came from the prepared presentation.

If you spend all your time on the prepared presentation and assume that the Q&A is just going to go right, it's very risky. How do you practice Q&A? Have somebody with some technical competence review the proposal and maybe come up with some questions. Look though any information you have about past interviews with this client and maybe what they asked in the past.

I like to keep an on-going collection of these questions to utilize with clients. Even though people answer questions every day, they may not be answering them effectively. Practicing it is essential. One of the things that is often asked is to give a story, or an example of something that happened on a past project.

Let's say the question is, “Tell me about a lesson learned on a past project that you would bring to bare on ours.” There are two things that will have the highest likelihood of coming to mind. Either the most recent, or the most painful in you past. The most painful may not show, or demonstrate your heroics, or paint you in a good light.

If it's a Titanic story, meaning the ship went down, everybody died, those you don't want to share with clients. Because of that, it's essential that you build a repertoire of good stories and examples for clients and for these interviews. I have a formula that ensures that people's stories stay tight and focused only on what matters to the moral of the story, or the point.

The formula goes like this. Part one is what was the situation? Help me understand the context in which this arose. What are the elements on that project that may be similar to something that may be on this project. Element number two, how did you solve it? Part number three, what was the outcome?

The outcome always has to be, “Yay.” it was phenomenal beyond what anybody could think. If you get to the outcome and it was like, “Yeah, yeah. Maybe I'll do better next time.” you need to find another story.

The fourth part is really essential. A lot of people skip this. What is the moral of the story? By that, I mean what is the takeaway that you want this client to take away? Is it that as a project manager, I'm always looking for creative ways to save you money? Is it that … Whatever that moral is, that's what you want them to take away. You can never assume that they'll get the moral of the story, which is why you need to state it clearly.

Yes, big thing that I encourage is on-going story collection, on-going feedback on those stories to determine if it's appropriate, if it's effective, so that you don't just let it be the chance and hope that in a stressful situation in front of a client when a big deal is on the line, someone magically is able to articulate what they need to.

Enoch Sears: Can you give me an example, Hilari, of a time that you were working with a client when they were able to do, either through finding out the client's true needs, but they were able to have some big win and reverse the situation, or something really cool and dramatic happened?

Hilari : Let's see. Which one do I pick? I was working with a client. This was for actually, he was a constructor for a big data center. Going in to this, they had already done some work with the client. The competition was very, very fierce.

We knew, from intelligence, that the client was like … Even though we had that positive experience with you, there's a part of us that feels like maybe we need to share the work. We were aware of this going in. We really had to be very strategic about what could we do, what could we say that would ensure that they go, “You know what? Now's really not a good time for us to make a change. If we've already got a proven team, we really need to do that.”

Our team was going to be going very last. There were two teams that presented in the morning. The selection panel was going to lunch and then our team was coming in. One of the things that we determined was that we really needed to strike an emotional chord with the panel and remind them of the success that we already had with them.

We began the presentation by stating the date that the data center opened last time, because everybody in that room was there. “Do you remember when” de de de de da da da? It forced them to remember the feeling that they felt that day. That could be very powerful. People make decisions more often on feeling than they do reason. Most major decisions in our life weren't done from the intellect. There was a feeling there first, then we justified it based on our mind.

“I bought that car.” Yeah, was it the most economical? Did it have the best gas mileage? No, I just like it. There was something about it that I felt a kinship with and I justified my decision based on some other things. The same is true with any decision that human beings make.

Knowing your client, knowing what's going to hit them, not just intellectually, but emotionally. That's essential. We did win the job. Afterwards, in talking with the client, we discovered they went to lunch and at that lunch they said, “That first team that we saw today, unbelievable. We're definitely going with them.” They felt like their decision was made before even listening to my client.

Afterwards, they said, “You know what? We honestly didn't think that it was possible for another team to blow us out of the water after what we saw.” That's very powerful. Again, it's a lot about knowing the client, knowing what matters to them and also trying to figure out, “What can we bring that nobody else can bring?”

Enoch Sears: Fantastic. Hilari, I put you on the spot. You gave the example of you need to tell stories, then I asked you for a story. You delivered, so good job.

Hilari : Thank you.

Enoch Sears: Well done.

Hilari : I have to practice what I preach.

Enoch Sears: That's right. Just a little … We'll finish up with some tactical here. First, second, last. What do you recommend? What's the best? Is there a best way to go when you're going into a presentation, is it better to go first, or is it better to go last? What's your feeling on that?

Hilari : There is research out there that suggests that there's a law of primacy and recency, where we tend to remember what was first, or last better. At the same time, I tend to diminish that when it comes to my clients, because if they think, “Ugh, we're going third, we might as well not show up.” No, if you allow your position to in any way either make you feel better, or worse about your presentation, you're already at a disadvantage.

My thing is just be the best. When you're the best, it won't matter. Just be the best. If you're last, and if you are horrific, they will really, really remember that. They will probably remember that the next time they go in to read your proposal and potentially invite you back. Just put everything in there. Do your best and be memorable. That's it. Don't let anything psych you out about … Yeah. Yeah. No, don't worry about it.

Enoch Sears: Hilari, where should people go to connect with you and your work further?

Hilari : They can give me a call at 602-795-5400. They can also email me, Hilari, spelled, H-I-L-A-R-I @high, H-I-G-H impact, I-M-P-A-C-T, communication.com. They can also visit my web site. They can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Enoch Sears: Hilari Weinstein, thank you for being on The Business of Architecture.

Hilari : It was a pleasure. Any time. Love to visit with you.

Enoch Sears: Right. Bye-bye.

Hilari : Bye.

Enoch Sears: That is a wrap. Thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time freedom impact and income as an architect, get instant access to my free four part architect profit map by visiting freearchitectgift.com. The sponsor for today's show is ArchReach, the client relationship management tool built specifically for architects.

If you want to systematize your marketing and business development, ArchReach will help you do it. Visit archreach.com to learn more.

The views expressed on this show by my guests do not represent those of the host. I make no representation, promise, guarantee, pledge, warranty, contract, bond, or commitment except to help you conquer the world.


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Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.


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