Series on Persuasive Speakers: Choice of words

Many entrepreneurs are so passionate about their new startup idea that they can’t believe any intelligent being, investor or customer wouldn’t react just as excitedly after a quick introduction. They don’t realize that they can often kill their credibility — and future opportunities — by communicating only with passion, responding with a cynical comment or giving up too soon.

The art of getting others to see things as you see them — usually called persuasion — is a key one for entrepreneurs, and it needs to be honed from the first day that you formulate your new idea. You have to persuade the right partners to join and build the solution, the right investors to fund it and the right customers to buy it. Good marketing is just a subset of these efforts and skills.

Take the story of the blind beggar and the advertising writer as an example. This story shows the difference that persuasion and effective communication can make to an idea.

An old blind man was sitting on a busy street corner in the rush-hour begging for money. On a cardboard sign, next to an empty tin cup, he had written: ‘Blind – Please help’. No-one was giving him any money. A young advertising writer walked past and saw the blind man with his sign and empty cup, and also saw the many people passing by completely unmoved, let alone stopping to give money.

The advertising writer took a thick marker-pen from her pocket, turned the cardboard sheet back-to-front, and re-wrote the sign, then went on her way. Immediately, people began putting money into the tin cup. After a while, when the cup was overflowing, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign now said. “It says,” said the stranger, “‘It’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.’ “

Much later it was interpreted into a popular video on the web. This story illustrates in a timeless way how important choice of words and language is when we want to truly connect with and move other people.

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