Are You Fascinating?

Nine seconds. That’s all the time you have to gain someone’s attention. It’s your “door opener” timeframe, and it’s short.  What will you say?

I came across a TedTalk video recently which fascinated me (pun intended!) because it dove-tailed nicely with the work I do in personal branding and raising my client’s visibility. It had to do with how to fascinate, or captivate, someone and avoid being boring.

The speaker (Sally Hogshead) contends that in our current culture, our attention spans have been reduced to about 9 seconds, and in order to enter into a larger conversation, we must capture someone’s attention in that brief period.  While I had not thought about this urgency of interest-grabbing in terms of most interactions, I’ve always advised my clients in career transition that their resume must hook the reader’s attention within about 10 seconds, so the concept resonated with me.

Are you great at your work?  Or great at something else?  As Sally said in the video, “it doesn’t matter how great you are if no one knows.”  In this world of competition and distraction, to gain visibility, notice, interest or attention, being boring is not an option.  We can always say something safe, comfortable, or neutral, but when we do, how do we stand out?

When I work with someone on their personal brand, we dive deep into who they really are, their inherent strengths and talents, their experiences, their values, their passions and motivators. We then tease out the essence of their brand, and finally distill it into a compelling brand message.  I may now start calling this a “fascinating brand message,” because I think it describes what we do, but in a new, more sparkly way.  (Words are powerful and wonderful, aren’t they?)

The brand message should intrigue someone into wanting to know more.  In that sense, I like the concept of fascinating someone, captivating them.  A successful brand draws someone in and harnesses their inherent desire to be interested.  Isn’t that fun?  By doing a good job with your personal branding message, you’re giving the audience what they want — something interesting!

But Sally’s video made me consider how this 9-second rule might be expanded past the LinkedIn profile, past the first few lines of the resume, past the elevator speech.  If you understand how you are fascinating, interesting, and captivating to others, wouldn’t the skill to grab attention also be useful in other areas of work?

I mean, think about it, if someone comes into your office to talk to you and takes 45 seconds to even start to get to the point, haven’t you already lost interest in what they have to say, even if it were the best idea since sliced bread?  You might get on board eventually when you finally came out of your stupor and thought “Wow! Sliced bread!,” but wouldn’t you be more likely to listen attentively if they captured your attention (fascinated you) within 10 seconds of walking in your door?

So here is my challenge to you today:

  • Identify a natural ability or talent you have to fascinate/captivate others. (Hint: think about power, prestige, trust, passion, mystique, rebellion, etc.)
  • Commit to using that talent the next time you communicate to someone (in a meeting, a conversation, a message…) and don’t just communicate, but fascinate.
  • Observe what happens, and share your experience in the comments below.

I’ll be fascinated to hear what you experience!

And if you want to discuss your personal brand and how to make it fascinating, I’d love to connect

P.S. In case you want to view the TedTalk referenced above, here it is.  Be forewarned, the first part of it sounds like Sally is coaching people on how to use online dating sites, but if you stick with it, you’ll see she does have a broader message.