A rich imagination is a speaker’s secret weapon.
We have this extraordinary human power, the power of imagination. Every idea and all innovative solutions first originated in someone’s mind as a question or as part of their imagination.
Do you use your imagination often enough?
Many of us have grown up with conditioning that to be a "dreamer" is impractical, lazy, or a silly waste of time. We've learned to quiet our imaginations, in favor of facts and data.
Facts and data are critical, but they don't tell the whole story.
Use Your Imagination to Increase Your Influence
To influence an audience, you have to get to know them below the surface. Your audience will begin to trust you when you get what it's like to walk in their shoes.
To bring this to life for you, let me tell you about Jane's dilemma.
"I've got to convince my college interns to work an extra week, even though their Internship Program officially ends tomorrow. Our client changed everything two days ago and now we are scrambling.”
At this point Jane let out a sigh and took a hefty sip from her glass of Merlot. “If no one stays, I’ll be working 24/7 next week.”
I decided to give her imagination a little nudge.
“Okay, let's think about what it’s like to be twenty”, I said. “It’s the end of the summer, and you are looking forward to getting back to school. You have about a week to pack up and see your friends.”
Jane looked defeated. “You're not helping."
I laughed. "It's easy to come up with reasons why the Interns won't want to stay...."
“Instead, let’s IMAGINE what's in it for them if they stay."
I took note to capture Jane's ideas:
WHY THE INTERNS MIGHT STAY
They want to feel valued. If they can stay, they will have a significant impact on the outcome. This will feel good.
They want the project to suceed. They've already invested a lot of time and energy into the project, and I know they care.
They want to support the team. The more people who stay, the more who will want to stay. This is a competitive group.
They want more interaction with upper management. Those who stick around can be part of the final review with the Divisional Vice President.
They want more money. They'll be paid for the extra week. Most college students can use more money.
They want a stellar reference. They will stand out and make a positive impression if they stay.
I asked Jane if she could use any of this information to influence the interns to stay. She said, "Yes, I really do."
Here is what she Jane decided to say:
First, she reminded them of their significance:
“We are very selective about who we ask to part of our summer internship program, and I couldn't be more proud of the work you've done this summer. This team tackled a complicated project for an important client, and I can't thank you enough for doing really good work.”
Next, she updated them on the situation:
"We've come so far, thanks to all of you. However, two days ago, the client went through some significant changes that no one saw coming. We now have to adjust our findings and recommendations...
There is less than one week to respond, or the project is at risk."
Then she made a direct request:
"So I’m inviting you to extend your internship through the end of next week. I understand that some of you may not be able to stick around...."
Finally, she concluded with WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM, if they stay:
"But if you can stay, and we really hope you can, your skills and experience will get us to the finish line. Of course we'll pay you for your time.
Those who can stick around next week can take part in the final presentation to our VP, where we will discuss strategy and next steps. That should be a very interesting session."
How do you think she did?
Right then and there, half the group said they’d be happy to stay! Later, two more interns made arrangements to stay, as well.
Jane used her imagination to increase her influence, and you can too.