A few years ago, an old boss of mine and myself went to pitch at a conference. We purchased in advance a 25 minutes pitch time in front of 8 executives from some very distinguished brands such as Target, Starbucks, CVS, HEB and others. “You will have access to the room 15 minutes before your pitch” the organizers told us. “So you can set everything up”.
We spent the days prior, studying the executives we were pitching to. Their age, career achievements, hobbies, family status, their sports, their team, professional challenges, everything we could find online. I do this before almost every meeting. Besides the fact that it gives me some extra confidence, as if we know each other already, it gives me insight to the type of person they are and which is the relevant Emotional Anchor I can plant for each of them.
Emotional Relevance is practiced and utilized to achieve two main things:
1. Being remembered
2. Establish and maintain trust
If you plant the relevant Emotional Anchor with your audience, by definition, you are being remembered as our brain is programmed to remember emotional experiences. you will have an emotional experience to refer to in the following interactions with your clients which WILL establish some needed trust.
But how do you plant an emotional anchor that applies to 8 different people, in 25 minutes while getting your message across properly?
We met at the lobby of the hotel 30 minutes before go time. It’s about 6 minutes’ walk across the lawn to the building where our upcoming interaction is about to take place. Following the dress code of the event and the general expected code of conduct we were both wearing our starched dark suits which caused just a bit of involuntary precipitation while the Arizona sun was screaming at around 92 degrees. As we climb up the set of stairs leading to the door where the conference rooms are, I glanced to the right and noticed this cool setup of tables underneath a large oak tree with fans blowing cool mist and was thinking to myself how nice it must be sitting there now enjoying the breeze.
We got to the room 20 minutes earlier. Laptops charged just in case, business cards in hand and pitch memorized. As we walk in, we both felt the chilled wave of the cold temperature in the room. It was so cold I could have sworn I saw a penguin running out when we opened the door. The lights were somewhat dimmed, dark wallpaper, black c-shaped board room table and dark chairs that seemed as uncomfortable as the tie around my neck. A typical board room atmosphere in a hotel conference setting. Can you feel the vibe of it as you’re reading it?
We hook up the HDMI, test the sound, the slides….everything seems to be working fine. We look at each other worrisome knowing we still haven’t figured out the big question of how do we setup an Emotional Anchor that will be relevant and impact 8 different people. As we look around making sure the room is ready for the guests who are about to show up at any moment, my boss says “hey, did you see how nice they setup that area by the lawn right outside here with the shade and the fans blowing? Looks like great vibe”.
And then it hit me!
Each room has its own vibe. And everyone stepping into a room is impacted by that vibe. The overall ambience collection of lighting, temperature, the furniture, the smell…the vibe. What if you could control that vibe?
So I started thinking – if I can control the vibe, what is the type of vibe I want to have my meeting in? What type of vibe I want my audience to be in?
Do I want them to be impatient? Then probably keep the room temperature at 60. DO I want them to feel it’s all business? Then the dark leather furniture is fitting all right.
But what if I want them a bit looser and in a more of a conversational mode? Do I conduct my meeting in a conference room or perhaps at a lounge setting by the fireplace kind of a vibe?
You don’t need to be super creative about making it happen just be aware of the fact that you CAN control the vibe and find ways to set it up. Find the right vibe and get a room.
First think about your goals of this meeting, then connect the type of people you are meeting with and that will help you figure out the vibe you want this meeting to have. And then, but only then, think of the room that will fit best.
For example, if my goal is to go through a technical platform, detailed and sophisticated with some high technically savvy folks I would want a no distraction, mostly business kind of a vibe. Classroom type, board room style room will be good here.
If my goal is to establish trust, increase the level of openness with my audience through a conversationally driven meeting I would want a living room vibe in the room. No desks, no presentation, and some sweet finger food on a coffee table in the room to create that. Oh and some bright (preferably yellow) lights.
Once I had a meeting with a potential partner whom I was very near to close a deal with. Wanted them to drop all of their guards down and just have a look them in the eye kind of a vibe and hug it out. Wanted to tap into their human aspect as we already covered everything we had to cover on the product side. The meeting was in their offices, so I had to be creative as I could not control the room. But I still could control the vibe.
The meeting was scheduled to 1:30pm which I figured was right after lunch. Showed up to the meetings with 5 pints of different flavors of ice cream (including one sorbet in case someone there is lactose intolerance), whipped cream container, sprinkles (rainbow AND chocolate), chocolate syrup, waffle cones and a pile of napkins….the works. Again, just think of the vibe it created. From there it was up to me to deliver but at least the background, the atmosphere, the vibe was set appropriately.
In the online world it’s the same thing. Before your next Zoom call think about it. What kind of “Room” you want your meeting to be in? What are your goals? The people you meet with. Then use an appropriate virtual background, dress accordingly. Create the vibe.
For a more of an all business kind of a call, after everyone shows up, tell them out loud: “OK, everyone is here, let me lock the room so we do not get any accidental interruptions”. Yes, Zoom allows you to do it. After you say it go ahead and “lock the room”, make sure you tell them the room is now locked and feel how the vibe changes in the room. The virtual room. Or if you want a more interactive session, DO NOT have any slides prepared but bring up a word doc or the built in whiteboard and write the discussion notes as the conversation progresses. Even give control for others to write on that virtual board.
More of a bright light, classroom environment vibe right??
“ My heart went boom when I crossed that room"
The executives started coming in one by one into the cold dark room and got settled. I look at my boss, he gives me the nod I check the time, 2 minutes to show time and I go: “do you guys think there is a reason we couldn’t take this meeting outside?”
The rest is history. No PowerPoint was used, we had a great discussion, some good laughs and a memorable, Emotional Anchor. Within the following three months we got 4 of the eight executives visiting our office in Atlanta. And each one of them, when we met in Atlanta, came in with a smile, as if seeing us reminded them of that “meeting outside, and how great it was to finally get some air…and so good to see you. So, Alon, where are we sitting this time?”
Oh, no worries, I replied. I set it up for some great vibes. Follow me.
I got us a room…