697: How to Make Your Point and Communicate Like a Leader with Joel Schwartzberg

By August 26, 2021Podcasts

 

 

Joel Schwartzberg walks through how to sharpen your communication to maximize your impact.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to know if you even have a point 
  2. The simple phrases that make you more memorable
  3. Word substitutions that increase presence 

About Joel

Currently the Senior Director of Strategic and Executive Communications for a major U.S. nonprofit, Joel Schwartzberg teaches communication and presentation skills to clients including American Express, State Farm Insurance, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comedy Central, and the Brennan Center for Justice. Joel’s books include The Language of Leadership and Get to the Point! and his articles appear in Harvard Business ReviewFast Company, and Toastmaster Magazine. A frequent conference presenter and workshop leader, Joel is also a former national champion public speaker. He can be reached at www.joelschwartzberg.net. 

Resources Mentioned

Joel Schwartzberg Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Joel, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Joel Schwartzberg
Thank you, Pete. It’s my pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to hear what you have to say, as well as to hear the tale about your Wheel of Fortune appearance. How did this come about?

Joel Schwartzberg
Well, when you live in Los Angeles and you don’t have a job, you don’t go to unemployment, as most people do, more often you go on to a game show. Why not? This was back in the day, we’re talking about the ‘90s. So, I was out of work at the time, living in Los Angeles, and I just took a chance. Even though I was local, I auditioned, they picked me. And a year and a half later, I was on the show. And, Pete, it was one of the most doomed experiences of my life.

Pete Mockaitis
Doomed?

Joel Schwartzberg
Doomed.

Pete Mockaitis
How so?

Joel Schwartzberg
I did not fare well. I think they do a week’s worth of shows in one day, at least they did, and I was clearly the big loser of the day so much so that they gave me some extra consolation prizes. So, all I took from it was not the $20,000 annuity. I didn’t even know what an annuity was at the time. I just took my memories from it, really. And those served me well, but it was not my finest hour in terms of being a successful contestant.

Pete Mockaitis
So, there is an episode of you but you didn’t do well on it, is that what I’m hearing?

Joel Schwartzberg
That’s basically the bottom line. Right, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. But I want to know then, so we’re talking about The Language of Leadership: How to Engage and Inspire, I’m curious if some of your skills, you think that won you the spot on the audition. What do you think sold them on you?

Joel Schwartzberg
One of the things I have to say, I’m not often asked that question, but one of the things that helped me is, I think, was eye contact. I maintained eye contact with the other competitors as we did sort of rehearsal rounds, I definitely gave eye contact to the people who were in the decision-making role, and I just sort of flooded them with my engagement through my eyes. Now, as we went through, these are things they’re looking for, “Am I going to be mousy or am I going to be confident and assertive? Am I going to ask for vowels in a strong voice or in sort of a small voice?” These are things they’re looking for.

So, as you ask that question, it’s interesting, a lot of the things I talk to my clients and students about are things I employed there that I think, yes, I think they did make a difference in them, ultimately, picking me.

Pete Mockaitis
Decisively buy those vowels, that’s a good takeaway right there. So, let’s sort of zoom out. In your years of working and research looking into how leaders communicate well, what would you say is one of your most surprising or counterintuitive discoveries?

Joel Schwartzberg
My biggest discovery, and this is sort of the bread and butter of what I train, is the concept of making a point. Now, obviously, leaders need to make points but, really, everybody needs to make points not only in our professional life but also in your personal life. We make points to our mother’s-in-law and our children, and to our neighbors.

And what I discovered, after a few years of training public speakers, was that, while they were doing everything right in terms of their gestures, they’re planting their feet, their volume, their articulation, when I asked them, “What point are you trying to make?” they would reply with something that wasn’t a point, which forced me to build a definition of what a point is, as well as a simple test that people can use to find out if they’re making a point or not.

And to be very clear about this, what they thought was their point was actually a theme, or a topic, a notion, a category, a catchphrase. For example, podcasting is not a point. If you asked me what my point is, and I said podcasting, I’m not telling you the value of podcasting, who I’m trying to reach through podcasting, the future of podcasting, how podcasting impacts culture. None of that. So, I’m giving you a theme but I’m not really making my point.

And once I sort of came to that realization, I turned around my training and I wrote this book called Get to the Point! which really helps people understand, A, what a point is and what it is not; B, how to sharpen that point; and, finally, how to champion that point. And that is an imperative for leaders, but it is certainly a benefit for anybody who needs to make a point, which is all of us.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that’s just a huge learning right there. Let’s dig into it. So, some things that are not a point would be a theme, a category. So, then what is the definition and the test for whether a point is a point or not a point?

Joel Schwartzberg
A strong point is a proposition. I’m sort of putting myself on the line to put something out there and suggest or recommend something to you. And within that, I’m also explicitly conveying the value of it. Now, this gives us sort of an ambiguous idea of what a point is, so let’s take the podcasting example. A topic is podcasting, a theme is communication, a catchphrase is “the power of podcasting,” but a point is, “I believe that podcasting is the most effective way to reach our millennial audience.”

Now, how do we get from one of those to the others? That’s a test that I have in my book that’s very simple. It’s called the “I believe that” test. And I know it’s simple because my daughters, when they were in middle school, they used it. And it goes like this. You take what you believe is your point, and you put the words “I believe that” in front of it. Now, it’s a mild tweaking, if any. What you want to have is a complete sentence, not a fragment, not a run-on, something that will impress your fourth-grade language arts teacher – a complete sentence.

So, if we put that podcasting example into play, “I believe that podcasting…” not a sentence, even “I believe the importance of podcasting…” not a complete sentence. It forces you to say, “I believe that podcasting will enable us to X,” “I believe that podcasting will change the world in these ways.” And that’s where we talk about having a point and sharpening it.

So, I’ve ran this test many, many times for people in nonprofits, for people selling a product, for people in PR, for people running for office, for people interviewing for jobs, and it works the same for each person. You want to make the point so you basically want to make a belief statement that says, “If this happens, then this other thing will result,” “If you hire me, then your environment and your work product will be improved in this way.”

And then, when you use that test, when you have that complete sentence, you’re on your way to making a point. But if you fail that test, you need to go back and reimagine your point so that it can pass that test.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, can you give us some more examples of things that are not a point? I guess what I’m thinking here is I’m thinking about a lot of slide decks. So, back in consulting, we had our headlines at the top of the slide and that was kind of the idea, it’s like, “That headline, it’s about two lines maybe, up to a dozen-ish words, and it should say sort of the point of the slide.” And that was really instilled into us.

And so, it shouldn’t just say, “Revenue over time,” or, “Customer breakdown,” because that is a label of what is on the slide. And so, fair enough, that is what that is but it doesn’t sort of tell you, “What are you trying to tell me about the revenue over time or the customer breakdown?” So, what are some other ways that you see this not working so well in business and professional contexts, like common non-points that come up again and again that need to be improved?

Joel Schwartzberg
There are a lot of settings for it. One of the ones where you’ll see it most obviously is in conferences, “Hey, Pete, what are you talking about today? I’d like to come to your session.” “Oh, I’m talking about podcasting,” or, “I’m talking about income inequality,” or, “I’m talking about Coca-Cola.” Well, you’re not telling me what point you’re going to make. And if you do tell it to me in a form of a point, “I’m going to talk about the ways we can tackle income inequality so that everybody has the same opportunity in America.” You see how that’s more compelling and resonant?

You mentioned another place, and I’m glad you mentioned because even just PowerPoint, and you can get a million recommendations, but the one I never see, which is key to me, is what you said. In the title of a PowerPoint slide, what we’re often seeing is categories: what’s next, background, history, statistics. And then in the example you said, “Yeah, PowerPoint slides can say ‘Our feedback survey’ or it can say, ‘Results of our feedback survey,’ or it can say, ‘Feedback: Our community prefers Coca-Cola.’” Why not put the exact point into the topic or the title page of that PowerPoint?

Another place is in email. People are using subject lines that often read “Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tuesday” when they’re actually trying to convey a very important point or a very important recommendation for a tactic that the team should take, but it’s submerged under a subject line that is not expressing that point.

So, really, in all settings, whether you’re writing, you’re speaking, you’re creating a video, you’re texting, you’re posting, these all benefit from points. And what I often say in my training is, “Tomorrow morning, when your manager says, ‘All right, let’s go around the room and if you have recommendations or if you have feedback, what happened over the weekend, please share it,’ and people will hem and haw, ‘Well, I think this happened and I don’t know if that should’ve happened,’ why not set yourself up for success by saying, you can say, ‘I believe that if we had done this, we would’ve had more impact on our customers,’ or, ‘I believe that what happened over the weekend was a great example of what happens when we take this approach to our audience.’”

Now, I want to make something clear, Pete. I’m not saying you always need to use the words “I believe that.” It’s merely a test to make sure you’re making a point. However, if you do say “I believe that” you’re putting your reputation behind it so there is value to saying those three words.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so that’s a big idea right there in the book Get to the Point! Let’s talk about your latest, The Language of Leadership. What’s the big idea here?

Joel Schwartzberg
So, the big idea behind The Language of Leadership, it’s really taking the ideas of Get to the Point! and it’s asking, “How can leaders use points to do the two most important things they need to do with their teams? Engage their teams and inspire their teams.” Now, that may seem obvious. Obviously, leaders want to engage and inspire, but those are the only two words I picked. I would’ve preferred one word, but for the purposes of broadness, I wanted those two words.

So, what words didn’t I pick? I didn’t say that leaders want to inform, entertain, impress, graduate. There are a lot of words that some leaders may think they want to do for their audience. But, to me, the two most important are engaging and inspiring, especially inspiring. And one of the biggest places where they don’t do that, because we want to talk about examples where people are just missing the mark, is leaders who think that information on its own inspires.

And we often see this in presentations or in PowerPoints, if I tell you the history, “All right, this is what we did in the past, this is what we’re doing now, this is how many, this is how many people, this is how much we’re going to spend on it. Thank you very much.” There is no point there. They merely thought by merely sharing the information, it would sell itself. And what you’re really doing is putting the burden on the audience to receive a point that was not conveyed when, really, that burden is on you to inspire and make the point. I call these book reports. You’re sharing something but you’re not selling something.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, then merely information, like, “This is what happened before and what happens now and what happens in the future…”

Joel Schwartzberg
Right. Details. Data. Right.

Pete Mockaitis
So, a point would be like, “We have made tremendous strides and we’re so excited about what we’re going in the future.”

Joel Schwartzberg
Right. Or, let’s say data, we’re always sharing data and slides. I wrote an article about this for Harvard Business Review. The data, just like a story, storytelling is a big deal also, they share one attribute, and that is they don’t sell themselves. They only sell, and you’re only selling them when you say these words. And, in fact, these words are more important than the data and more important than the story. It’s the point at which you say, “This story demonstrates why we should,” “This story is an example of how we can,” “This data proves that we ought to take these steps.” And people leave that out.

And I have one really good example, if you don’t mind my sharing it. I had a client who created all sorts of collateral material. She created hats and calendars and brochures, and I said, “All right, give me your best pitch. Make your point to me.” And she said, “All right. You see these brochures? Well, they are a special material where they won’t crumple. And I’ll give you your logo in three colors all around it. And you see this hat? This hat, if an elephant stepped on this hat and it won’t crush. And this pen, this pen is made of a special nanotechnology. It’ll only pierce your shirt. It won’t pierce your skin. And I tell you what, I’ll give you three colors on the logo of your pen.”

And she went on and on describing her inventory, and she finished. And I said, “Do you think you made your point?” And she said, “I did. I described each and every piece of my inventory and why each of those pieces were great.” And I said, “That’s okay, but you know what I never heard from you? I never heard you say that if I buy your product, I will be more successful.” And that’s what she was selling, that was her big point but she never said it explicitly. What she was doing was sharing details, giving her inventory.

A good example of this is, also, imagine a book. In the book, there are two things, there’s a table of contents and there are blurbs. The blurbs sell the book. The table of contents just shares the inventory. So, what leaders want to do, what anyone giving a presentation or a speech wants to do, is they want to be the blurbist. They want to sell the idea, not just share it as like a table of contents.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s excellent. And it’s interesting, in the collateral materials example, like, “This pin is great because of that, and this hat is great for that,” I suppose if what the information you wanted was, “Why should I pick you instead of the other penmaker or hatmaker?” then that might be helpful. It’s like, “Oh, okay, the hat is more durable than others, or less likely to pierce flesh with a pen.” But if your question is more like, “Should I buy this at all?” then that doesn’t do the trick, versus if you could say, “We had a client who got these hats, and there are millions of impressions now on Instagram where people are being photographed in these hats which has driven their brand awareness a whole lot.” You’re like, “Oh, wow, that’s cool. I guess people are into hats and photographing themselves.”

Joel Schwartzberg
Exactly. What did the hats enable you to do? What did the service or product, not just what it is, but what it enables you to do? And you talk about, “Sell me this pen,” that’s really the basis of that exercise. The value of the pen is not that it’s blue or has a great cap or has a good design, and we’re using it as an example, but it empowers you to express yourself in ways that have impact. And, at the end of the day, what you often want to ask is, “If my audience can only take away one thing, what would that be? What do I want them to leave with?” And if you can answer that question, then you know what you need to do as the speechmaker or as the conveyer or the communicator.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Okay. Well, so that’s a great perspective right there in terms of not falling for the trap that information alone inspires, really thinking what’s the one key point you want them to be left with and going for it. Can you share with us a couple other key communication best practices and worst practices that really make an impact when we’re trying to engage and inspire?

Joel Schwartzberg
Sure. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they think more is better. We know from writing, the writers amongst us, in your audience, we know less is more. But what we need to understand is that, also, more is less. When we add details or words or descriptions to our point or to even a sentence, we are doing a disservice to ourselves because here’s what happens. When you or I, he, she or someone, that has a lot of adjectives, a lot of points, all those points compete with each other for your attention. And then that competition, they’re diluting the impact of each other.

And we can just say an example. Let’s say I was the CEO of our company, and I said, “This new approach is going to make us more successful and experienced and powerful, effective, efficient, memorable, and brilliant.” Now, not many people are going to remember all of those words and, even if they could, they wouldn’t know which one was more important.

If an executive says, “This approach will make us more effective. Let me show you how,” because there’s only one idea, it really sinks into our brains. Now, I’m not saying that every presentation can only have one idea, although it’d be a beautiful thing, but if you have multiple ideas, you want to separate them and delineate them, “First thing, I’m going to talk about this idea. Then we’re going to move on and talk about this idea. And, finally, we’re going to look at how this affects the world around us.” So, I’ve delineated these instead of attaching them all together.

Remember, all we need to do, as speakers and communicators, is say the words that we’re familiar with. What does an audience need to do? A lot. They need to hear it. They need to process it. “Is this relevant? Should I write this down? Should I tweak this? Do I need to remember this? Should I share this with my direct reports?” So much needs to happen in their brains, as we say something, that by the time they processed it, we’re another six points down the road. So, we need to make it simple. We need to understand that more is less. We need to speak more slowly. We need to introduce pauses so that people have that critical digestion time.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, those are some things that are common mistakes. And what do you see as some of the best-in-class examples or things to do to really do a fine job of engaging and inspiring?

Joel Schwartzberg
Our job, the most important part of a communication is the point because that’s where you’re doing the hard sell for your product or your service that creates this solution that you’ve matched in advance to whoever you’re speaking to, whether it’s potential clients or partners or customers. So, there are ways to reinforce that point in the middle of your presentation. And this is what I counsel leaders to do, and these I call attention magnets.

So, attention magnets include, “I recommend,” “I propose,” “Here’s the thing,” “Look, if there’s one thing you need to know, it’s this,” or, “My point is this.” And one of my public speaking idols is Michelle Obama. Now, when she spoke at the Virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention, she said these three things, and they seemed repetitive if I just pull them out and say them to you now, but these are direct quotes.

One, she said, “And let me, once again, tell you this.” Later, she said, “Let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can.” And then before she finished, she said, “If you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this.” Now, these are attention magnets and anyone can do them, not just Michelle Obama, so I encourage people to use those.

What they are are shortcuts to your point. But in front of any audience, if I said, “Oh, we talked about a lot today, but here’s the thing,” you could tell by just that example that that sort of drills attention to the point, you’ve captured it for a moment, and you want to fill that spot with your point, not with some detritus, some detail, something irrelevant. And to do that, you need to know your point.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, as you say those words, I could just sort of imagine an audience of people looking at phones and then looking up, and sort of like, “Oh, I feel kind of guilty that I’ve been semi-ignoring you.”

Joel Schwartzberg
Right. That’s why I call them attention magnets, not even getters, but magnets.

Pete Mockaitis
Very nice. Okay. And I’m also curious if there are any particular words and phrases that you really love or really hate in terms of being extra effective. So, we’ve had some attention magnet phrases, which are great. Any other key bits that should be on the do’s or don’ts list for our own vocabularies?

Joel Schwartzberg
Right. Well, the first thing I would say is authenticity is critical. Even if you have speechwriters working for you, as many leaders do, you should never say anything, nothing should come out of your mouth that is something you wouldn’t ordinarily say because audiences can pick up on that. It’s artificial. So, always scrutinize whatever you’re saying or reading to make sure it matches who you are and how you normally talk.

In terms of specific words, and, Pete, I really like to give nuts and bolts sort of tactics, not just broad encouragements, so there are things where leaders know that people are saying one word and it actually falls just short of what they intend. I’m talking about when people say allow when they really mean enable. What does it mean when we say allow? Well, we sort of stood aside and we let something happen. We didn’t play a part in it, an active part in it, but maybe we did. Maybe we made it happen. Maybe through our lobbying, that law came about. So, then we enabled it, but we often say we allowed this to happen.

Another is avoid versus prevent. If you actively prevented something, don’t go smaller and say, “We just avoided it.” Another is when we address things, “We addressed this problem.” What does that mean? We looked at it, we read it, we talked about it. But did we act on it? So, if you did act on it, if you overcame a problem, that’s act versus address. And there are a few of these, I call them strategic word swaps. This is another article I wrote for Harvard Business Review, where you can scrutinize a speech, especially ahead of time, or as you’re practicing, to talk about things, like, “We want to overcome goals versus face them,” “We want to accomplish a goal versus meet it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, those are handy word swaps. And then that’s interesting in that those words are all okay, and you took them to great. I’m curious if there are any words that are just kind of terrible For example, one word I frequently coach people to not say in a presentation is “obviously” because it kind of suggests, like, “Hey, if you didn’t know this, you’re an idiot,” and it can sort of be off putting and feel maybe patronizing or arrogant to say obviously, even though sometimes people use it innocently as a vocal pause, or even if they’re a little bit bashful, like, “I’m about to say something that you probably already know, and I don’t want you to think that I think this is a super insightful thing so I’m going to soften it by saying obviously.” I recommend just not doing that.

So, I’m curious, are there any other words, like obviously, that you recommend kind of striking out?

Joel Schwartzberg
Yeah, one of the words I really don’t like is “additionally” or “clearly,” not even because of the impression that people make out of them, which may be haughty, but they’re generally unnecessary. Remember when I said that more is less, and less is more? We often don’t need words like “additionally” or “clearly,” or “it need not be said that.” Often, “that is” a two-word phrase that can be removed. Remember, people are listening to it for the first time so we want to make that language as simple as possible.

I find a lot of people using synonyms all the time, “We want to make this television advertisement more powerful and resonant,” or “reach more people and to be truly resonant.” Well, those are virtual synonyms, but your audience, they’re deciding between two things. So, really scrutinize, when you give multiple things, for those synonyms so you can get closer and closer to the one thing.

And you probably know, Pete, and many of your audience know, in advertising, they often try to take out as many adjectives as they can, and adverbs, because, let’s remember that, adjectives only give the briefest kind of description to something, and it’s always going to be a generic one. What does it mean that something is great, awesome, interesting? I call these badjectives because they’re easy enough, we love them, “This product is great,” but to an audience, what does it mean? Lots of things are great. “I had a great tuna fish this afternoon.”

So, to solve that problem, ask yourself, “Well, why is it great?” “Well, this product is great because it allows us to make sure food doesn’t go bad in the refrigerator?” Aha, so now you have this product as great because it keeps things fresh in the refrigerator. Now, you don’t even need the great word, the badjective, why not just say that this product keeps your food fresh in the refrigerator. So, what we’ve done is we’ve spotted the badjective, we’ve asked why to get to the real outcome, and then we’ve removed the badjective. It’s almost mathematical in the approach.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I like that. That reminds me of resumes in terms of if you have a lot of adjectives about yourself, it’s sort of like, “Well, okay, says who? And I guess you think you’re great but that’s…” versus if you have actual sort of results, accomplishments, responsibilities, then they’re just facts, and facts don’t tend to need a lot of adjectives. And I guess if you do use an adjective, kind of like I’m thinking about sort of like movies that have…or blurbs, again like the books. When movies say, “Hey, we’re great,” they like to grab it from such and such reviewer from the New York Times that said, “A masterpiece!”

Joel Schwartzberg
“Go see it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Then that packs a little bit more weight, so maybe on the resume it might be like, “Received stellar remarks on reviews including…” whatever. That can make more sense

Joel Schwartzberg
And I’ll tell you something really interesting or sort of ironic that struck me when I was looking at a particular word. The word is hope, and leaders use the word hope a lot, and they should. It’s their job to have vision and point to a future. But here’s the funny thing. Hope works best in leadership as a noun and not as a verb. If we say, “I hope this will happen,” “I hope that this product will succeed,” you’re sort of taking yourself out of the role of making sure it succeeds. You’re sort of gambling on the future when you use hope as a verb.

But when you use it as a noun, you’re creating a vision and a future and a goal for your audience, “Our hope is that we will reach this level of success,” “We have hope that this product will sell,” or, “…that will reach this audience,” or that, “We have hope now that we’ll save the planet,” as opposed to, “I hope we can save the planet.” There’s a subtle difference even though it’s the same word. So, as we scrutinize these words, the language of leadership, as I like to say, there are often many ways to look at it but only one way to use it successfully to, like I say, engage and inspire.

Pete Mockaitis
And we’ve sort of been talking, and this is I’ve been visualizing or even talking about sort of like an in-person face-to-face context. Do you have any thoughts for when it comes to email, Slack, text messaging, how to think about communication that engages and inspires there?

Joel Schwartzberg
Absolutely, but each one of those is sort of different. I like to focus on email and I like to focus on Zoom or video meetings. In terms of email, a lot of it boils down to the subject line, “Am I making myself clear? And in making myself clear, am I engaging the people I’m trying to reach? In the body of an email, am I writing a novella or am I making it easier for my audience, my reader, to engage with me and understand the points I’m trying to make? Am I using bullets? Am I bolding things or using colors?”

One thing I say about email is it’s a hard and fast rule and it shocks people at first, and that is no No paragraph more than three sentences. I often use paragraphs of one sentence. What it does, it allows you to break up your ideas for your own conveyance but it also really helps the audience understand the breakdown of the points you’re trying to make, and that builds engagement.

There are also a lot of things we already discussed about hope and vision and authenticity that sort of create that inspiration. Now, on Zoom, there are a lot of other practices that really help what I like to say elevate your presence on Zoom, and much of it is visual. I see a lot of Zoom calls where leaders are way back, or their head is cut off, or they have a messy room behind them that distracts. So, when I train my clients and my leaders is to show your head and your shoulders, to understand that eye contact means looking into the camera not into the Brady Bunch grid as I like to call it, and to really check your environment, because anything in your environment that doesn’t support your point steals from your point.

And so, these are ways we can not only elevate our leadership but avoid some of the things that may hurt and injure and sabotage our leadership because they’re working against us.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Joel, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Joel Schwartzberg
Know that the one thing I’d like people to take away, and I’m going to use one of those attention magnets, is that it all boils down to having a point. If you don’t have a point, you are literally pointless and you should be nervous, and you should be expecting yourself to ramble because you need to know the one idea you need to get across to make that point, to champion it, so that you can really have an impact on your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Joel Schwartzberg
I’m not sure who said it. It could’ve been a high school chum, but something that I keep coming back to is “It’s not about you being best, it’s about being the best you.” And, to me, what it means is we are all super qualified, uniquely qualified, in each communication setting to make that point. Even Michelle Obama or a famous CEO cannot do the job we do if we’ve prepared and practiced and have experienced to make a point to an audience.

And that quote about being the best you, connects a lot to a mistake people make when they give speeches, when I say, “What is your goal in this speech?” They’ll say, “My goal is not to screw up. My goal is not to embarrass myself.” Well, that really isn’t your goal. Your goal is really to move a point from A to B, not to be thought of as brilliant, or as the next Michelle Obama, or the next head of industry unless you want more public speaking gigs.

You’re more like a bicycle delivery person moving a package, which is your point from here to there. And guess what, you’re the one person in the world most qualified to do it. And that’s what it means to be the best you.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And could you share a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Joel Schwartzberg
My favorite research is probably the research that was done on mindsets, and the difference between having a closed mindset and an open mindset. And the closed mindset means you’re not open to learning, and an open mindset means that you’re open to experiencing new things and learn from them. And I forget the name of the study. I think it’s fixed mindset and I forget the name of the other.

Pete Mockaitis
Growth mindset.

Joel Schwartzberg
Growth mindset. You’re exactly right. That sort of blew my world because it goes back to your childhood, the way you were raised. Sometimes kids are very, very smart but what they learn is, “I’m going to stay in my lane because I’m good at this and I’ll never be good at that, so I’m never going to try something new.” And often, those kids, overall, will not do as well as the kids who were not told they were geniuses but told to learn as much as they can.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Joel Schwartzberg
My favorite book is Les Miserables probably because I read it in high school. I’m more of an article reader than I am a book reader because of my time. So, the places I like to go to get sort of my research is Harvard Business Review. It’s a place where I see a lot of data-driven stories, sometimes I go to Fast Company. But there’s a lot out there.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Joel Schwartzberg
Probably my to-do list. I can’t rely on my memory, and most people cannot either, so I’m constantly making to-do lists. And by that, I mean a physical to-do list, the yellow sticky notes, but every computer also has a digital to-do list. And the nice thing about that to-do list is it doesn’t go away until you close it. So, even if you put multiple screens, that to-do list, that digital sticky note will always be there. So, I rely on actual sticky notes as well as the digital sticky notes.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Joel Schwartzberg
I really like editing. I’m not sure if you can call that a habit. I’m really a grammarian at heart, and nothing sort of interest me more than using Grammarly, which is another tool I really enjoy, to look at a document and to discover the ways it can be improved by making it tighter, by making it more focused, and by making it more grammatically correct. I know that’s not a habit like cooking or fishing, but I live, eat, and drink, as my wife likes to say, the world of expression and the world of making points. So, everything I find myself doing and interesting are in that universe or in that sort of frequency of thinking.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Joel Schwartzberg
The idea of less is more, and simpler is better. One thing that CEOs I worked with go back to me is this idea of get in, get out. When you need to make a point, it’s easy for leaders to start to elaborate on it, talk about case studies, talk about things they’d read, talk about meetings they have had, because that’s where their mind goes. So, I often have to remind them, “Get in, get out. Make your point and get out so the audience has time to receive that and process it.”

Pete Mockaitis
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Joel Schwartzberg
I would point them to www.JoelSchwartzberg.net. A lot of what I talk about is I like to call it open code. I like to share it. I don’t like to keep it to myself. So, that’s one place where I put all the articles I’ve written, the books I’ve written. I share ideas there, podcasts I’ve been on. So, if you want to get a deeper dive into all of these ideas about how to engage and inspire, how to make and champion a point, there are a lot of resources there that I prove, because I wrote most of them, that people can utilize right away.

Pete Mockaitis
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Joel Schwartzberg
I would tell people to think about what they’re going to say before they say it. The worst thing, the biggest mistake you can make is to wing it because you think you know it backwards and forwards, because you’ve studied it, you researched it, it’s your job. A lot of lawyers, nothing against lawyers, but a lot of lawyers I worked with often think they’re so knowledgeable about these areas that they are automatically good communicators, and that is not the case.

Communication is using another part of your brain. So, my one takeaway is really, before your next meeting, or your next communication, take a moment to think, “What is my point? Did I make it clearly? Will it have impact? And if there’s one thing I want my recipient to do, to think, or to take action on as a result of what I say, what is it? And what can I do to make that possible?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you, Joel. This has been a pleasure and I wish you many fun encounters of engagement and inspiration.

Joel Schwartzberg
Thank you, Pete. This has been fun.

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