Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – but for who they were as humans. The top 3 leaders of all time – Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK – wrote & gave great speeches, but we remember them for WHO they were and HOW they lived, not just for what they said. Each of them had courageously humble confidence in their ability to change the world. We believed in them because of their belief in themselves.
On Saturday morning, I had the honor of kicking off the #ESPAconference with my opening keynote, LEAD With Confidence. It was my first speaking gig in 2 months and as I got started, I was feeling the energy of the room and flowing with it. Until I realized the clicker for my slides wasn’t working. At all.
I started bantering with the audience, saying NEXT! to the tech team, and watched my sweet husband run to the back of the room to help advance my slides. It was an audience full of meeting planners – a PERFECT audience to understand that this wasn’t a little thing. I mentioned that I teach speakers how to handle situations like this – and that this must be happening so I could prove to them that it really does happen. I worked the mishap into my talk and had the audience cracking up every time I said “NEXT!” I had to keep going with or without my slides because I was the show, so – on with the show!
By the time it got fixed, I was already halfway through my talk, making the audience do awkward (such fun) things like stare at each other in order to see how their energy connected them to each other, and telling lots of stories. I was also noticing parts of the talk I had planned and missed – nuggets I wanted to share that were important. I was frustrated with myself for forgetting them – it was my JOB to remember them. I even forgot to wrap it up the way I planned – bookending it as I train my speakers to.
Except, guess what?! NO ONE KNEW. No one walked up to me at the end and said “you missed a few things.” No one knew I had missed anything. I was the only person who knew I didn’t say what I planned. And that takes courageously humble confidence to keep going despite my inner gremlins yelling at me – telling me what a loser I was for forgetting things. “Great speakers wouldn’t forget that stuff – obviously you’re not that great.” HA! No way… I’m AMAZING! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! AMAZING! Forget you, gremlins!
Am I going to tighten up my talk? You bet. Did everyone in the audience walk away with tons of takeaways? Heck yeah! ESPA even got photos of lots of people with TONS of notes from my talk. Am I proud of myself for kicking off the year with a kickass talk? I sure am. Will I let this little incident deter me from sharing my message with the world? From teaching leaders how to be great? HELL no.
Raise your hand if you’ve had a mishap in front of a group of people.(You just raised your hand, didn’t you?) We’ve ALL had the shit hit the fan in front of others. We’ve all fallen flat on our face, tripped over the imaginary bump in the floor, or stuck our foot in our mouth. If you’ve ever spoken on a stage, you KNOW that it comes with the territory.
Great leaders aren’t remembered for being great because of what they said – it’s for WHO they were as humans and HOW they lead. I’m a human. Everyone in my audience was a human. Humans fail. It comes with the territory. It was HOW I handled the situation that mattered – NOT what I said.
When the shit hits the fan, how will you react? Sometimes you won’t even know until you’re in that situation. When you’re a true leader, you’ll know exactly what to do – even if you are watching yourself failing miserably. It comes from the courageously humble confidence you’ve been cultivating inside yourself – because you’re always learning, always growing.
Big stages can be one of the scariest places to have tough things happen – unless you’re trained to make the best of it. Then you can make bad things into memorable things. Everything I have learned from 10+ years of rocking stages (good and bad) is in SPEAK With Confidence – so you can learn from my failures AND successes along with other Rockstars just like you.
I even created a FREE training:How To Write A Stage-Worthy Talk In Under 45 Minutes for ANYONE to learn how to say what they need to say in front of an audience of one or many. I don’t think it’s fair to keep everything for just the keynote speakers or people who have the time and resources to come to Denver to rock a real stage with me. It’s all yours – free.
When it’s time to stand up and say what you need to say EVEN if you know you’ll fail, you’ll know what to do. You are a courageously humble and confident human. I can see that you are. It’s time you see it, too.
I want you to show up & show off in your next talk.
The SPEAK With Confidence Retreat began because I wanted a safe space to grow as a keynote speaker. Now, we are the ONLY public speaking retreat where you can write your next talk, practice on a real stage with lights & sound, AND go live in front of an audience to show off your newly honed skills.
All I’m seeing right now are decade reviews and humans saying “resolutions are dumb.” It’s a LOT of judgment on others, without even realizing it. It’s also a lot of highlight reels or “this was the worst year.” It’s just a lot.
Do you really remember where you were 10 years ago today without looking at your Facebook memories? Do you remember how you were feeling? What you were addicted to? WHO you were addicted to? The shit you said to yourself when you looked in the mirror? The belief system that drove you? The loneliness you felt, even in your relationship? The guilt you felt for that thing you hate about yourself? The friends you had? The friends you left?
Most of us have a hard time remembering how we felt 6 months ago. We look at our 2019 in review and think about only the darkest and brightest moments. It’s a survival mechanism that allows us to keep moving – or that holds us back. We forget about the stuff that doesn’t matter. Except that the stuff we forget is a lot of the stuff that matters. The FEELINGS are what we forget.
10 years ago today, I was only 8 months into my business after losing my job. I had just paid off my student loans and my car, had just opened my first office in Bethesda, Maryland and felt lonely, isolated, unfocused, and unhealthy. My best friend was about to die unexpectedly and my other two best friends would walk away from my life two weeks later. I wouldn’t go deep with anyone for a very long time. I would be an emotional wreck without a support system while looking like I had TONS of friends.
10 years ago today, I had just started running races and realized how much they were a respite for me in entrepreneurship. I was only at the beginning of feeling healthy in my body, except I was a mess emotionally. I was still going back and forth in a relationship that was emotionally abusive and taxing on my system. I ended up hiring my pastor’s wife as my first employee (who thought I was a nut-job for staying with him until she found out years later why I felt I had to). I was even told by my then boyfriend that I only went to networking events to meet men (when in reality, I was going because they served free food & I was broke.) I hated him, yet was addicted to how I felt when I was with him. Ashamed, yet wanted. Mostly.
photo by Mary Gardella
5 years later, the picture above was taken on my first real photoshoot with Mary Gardella. She took me to a warehouse freight elevator near her studio in Baltimore and made me feel like a model. I had just finished the Live Your Brand Tour, still wasn’t talking to my mom, and was doing everything I could to keep my business and team intact. We were making over half a million in revenue and my inbox was a daily dumpster fire. I wanted out, yet had NO idea what that would look like.
Until this photo was taken, I’d had people I didn’t even know tell me that my chin was too big for profile shots, my body was shaped weirdly, my height was a distraction, my crooked nose didn’t fit my face, and my tattoos would make me look manly. Except they were all wrong – and I had to realize that their comments had NOTHING to do with me.
This photo captures me feeling damn sexy. Simple, yet damn sexy. White t-shirt, jeans, and chucks – standing in a dirty elevator being ONLY my badass self. I felt like an effing model. Mary Gardella is one of the few humans who has ONE incredible purpose and she’s MASTERED it. She makes you feel like yourself – amplified.
It wouldn’t be until 5 years later – right about now – that I would realize my sole purpose – to amplify humans. To make sure humans become their full selves in whatever way that means for them – without judgment. Even my Crew of badass ladies boldly told me that it was my gift to put incredible humans into the same room and allow them the safe space to be who they were meant to be. I accept this fully.
I turn 40 in 2020. 9 months from now, I’ll officially be in my 40’s. I think that’s about the time everyone stops telling me “you’re still a kid” and I realize that I’ve finally become old enough to know better. (Is there a point that people tell you you’re old enough!? I digress.) Now, as I’m about to hit the end of another decade of my own life, I’ve decided that I’m not getting older, I’m getting COOLER.
If I could go back to tell my 29-year-old Melanie anything, I’d let her know that everything will be WAY better than she ever imagined. She’d have her dream husband, dream apartment, her dog wouldn’t be a dick (thanks to Prozac), her business would be helping humans become Rockstars, and she’d get to go on her dream vacations.
I’d also let her know that she would still be stressed out about money, would still wish her body was more fit, would still want to get rid of her forehead wrinkles, would still have a hard time sleeping, and would still wish she had a few friends to go see girly movies with. And yet, everyone else has similar wishes, stressors, and issues. Because while Facebook and Instagram are filtered and highlight reels, EVERYONE – and I repeat, EVERYONE – has issues.
So, let’s all work together on being less frustrated with ourselves, more hopeful about the human race, and more focused on how we can better ourselves so we can better the world. Because we’re not getting older, we’re getting cooler. Together.
To being grown-ass humans who love and accept ourselves in 2020.
Yep, that’s how it’s supposed to work. People should be talking about you. And yet Nike, Apple, and Google still do marketing.
When I was in college, I accidentally got a job as the webmaster of my school. Someone in the IT department found out I had been building HTML websites – and back then, I was rare. As a full-time college kid, I wasn’t looking for a job but they hired me anyway. The Communications Department paid me $8.50 an hour as a part-time staff member to build their website in Fireworks and Dreamweaver 4 (yes, you read that correctly – I still have the CD with my access code in case you want to use it.) It was a 2,000 page website built one page of code at a time.
2002 Keuka College website thanks to waybackmachine.com
This private liberal arts college I attended needed more students – and in 2000, the World Wide Web was becoming a place for potential students to find out more about where they wanted to go to school. This was before everyone had phones. I had a Palm Pilot and a desktop computer with dial-up. I would print pages of the website for them to review because it was quicker. Laptops were only a dream. Few even had computers at home. (I got a briefcase, not a laptop bag, from my sister for college graduation.That’s how old I am.) It was the land of chatrooms & “You’ve got mail.” We were on the cusp of a new age with the generation of humans who wanted to get more connected.
When we were putting together the website plan, we were also putting together the marketing plan. The Communications department would meet to discuss our differentiators and why students would even care to look into getting their education with us. We weren’t going to compete with the bigger schools, we didn’t have a brand big enough to talk about, and our sports claim-to-fame was our ranking in synchronized swimming because we had been an all-girls school until the early 80’s. Although we had a beautiful campus located on a lake, we had a lot going against us – except the one reason I decided to originally attend. Experiential education.
Most students graduate from college never getting to “try before they buy.” Experiential education is a fancy way of saying that all of the students got January and the summer to go do the actual work of their degree. It was required to get your degree – and it was better than an internship. It made you stand out from other students applying for jobs after college. The Education majors could go work in a real school. The Occupational Therapy majors could work in a real doctor’s office. The Nursing majors could work at a real hospital. Plenty of students would do their term and realize the work they thought they wanted to do wasn’t really as sexy as they expected. THIS was why I wanted to attend. I wanted real world experience before getting out into the real world.
When we put together the website, we made Experiential Education front and center to everything else. We had great copy, photos, and testimonials. But putting it on the website was only one step.
Before we could be successful, we knew we had to pitch the rest of the departments on why this would work to get our numbers up. We put together all the Data behind why our students were more successful at their post-college jobs. We knew the Impact Experiential Education had on their careers after college. We found the Stories of the students who found success AND why they changed majors thanks to this program. We also knew the Humans we were targeting would want more out of school than just classes and campus life.
Armed with all of this helpful information, we had to make sure the marketing team was focused on sharing it with the outside world. We made sure the recruiters were talking it up. Then we had to be sure the tour guides for the campus were telling stories about students who had been a part. The admissions team had to make sure it was part of the excitement of the onboarding process. Finally, we had to make sure our students AND alumni knew the focus. Everyone had to know that this was what we were pitching in order for it to be successful.
The word-of-mouth didn’t come from people just talking about us – we TOLD them what to say and how to say it. I see now – years later – that the experiential education of working with the Keuka College Communications department was worth every penny I spent on tuition (and the pennies I made working there.) It gave me a foundation for everything I know about branding and marketing. (Shout-out to my professor, Amanda Harris & the Communications Director, Doug Lippincott.)
“Your brand is what everyone else is saying about you. Not what you’re saying about yourself.” – Melanie Spring
Word-of-mouth is a crap marketing strategy because it’s not a marketing strategy. Word-of-mouth is the result of having a worthwhile marketing pitch. In order to put together a worthwhile pitch, you have to be clear on your DISH – your Data, your Impact, your Stories and your Humans.
An inexpensive version of this is the marketing strategy of TED. Their focus is Ideas Worth Sharing. It’s their tagline AND their mantra. TED doesn’t spend thousands of dollars on marketing. They show you clearly that they want you share their talks. They choose talks with share-worthy content. They are consistent with their branding. They don’t have to tell you to watch, you know it’ll be worth your time.
TED knows that their Data is in their views. The more views they get on their talks, the more Impact they can make. They also know that if the Stories aren’t worth sharing, the Data won’t show up. And at the end of the day, the Humans are the ones who will drive the traffic to their videos. They don’t put their money into their marketing – but they spend ALL of their time finding ideas worth sharing.
An expensive version of this is the marketing strategy of Nike. Everyone knows who Nike is and yet they still spend millions on making sure they’re in front of you. When they launched their 30th anniversary campaign featured Colin Kaepernick, they were VERY clear on their Humans. They knew they had to differentiate themselves from their competitors by honing in on getting EVERYONE talking about them – for better or worse. They set themselves apart by doing this because you were talking about them – even if you didn’t like it.
Their Data showed them where to focus their energies and helped them target their Humans – the lovers AND the haters. Their Stories captivated you and made you want to buy more of their products – or they repelled you so much that you burned their sneakers while making shareable videos about it. Their Impact was clear – they were aligned with those who aligned with their core values and they were interested in working with anyone who didn’t. Their pitch was sensational – and got everyone talking about them.
Your target customers (your Humans) want to talk about you. It’s up to you to give them what they need to say about you.
You don’t have to be a huge company with lots of money to put together a great marketing strategy. You DO have to have a great pitch. You have to pitch them on why you’re worth talking about. Why YOUR ideas are worth spreading. Why YOU are their favorite brand OR their greatest enemy. One way or another, they need to be talking about you.
Look at your next pitch. Does it have data, impact, and stories – and does it target the humans who need to be sharing it? That’s how word-of-mouth really works. Create your next marketing pitch and get them talking.
“Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
When I got out of college, my first job was selling billboards. In Buffalo. In the coldest winter they’ve had since the 1850’s. Brr.
Needless to say, it was the world’s worst first “real adult” job. A girl had to cut her teeth somewhere, right?
My boss was an entrepreneur trying to be innovative in an old school business. He gave me billboard stats about impressions. He told me how to mine the phone book for potential clients. Google was still relatively new – AOL & Yahoo were the best places to find information. I had a Blackberry – just recently graduating from a Palm Pilot.
I pounded the pavement. I knocked on doors. I asked for the business. The crappy CRM installed on my computer was my coworker.
I was cold. I was hungry. But not hungry enough to “sell.”
Six months later, I quit and moved to Santa Cruz, California. The opposite weather as Buffalo.
I got a job selling real estate ads for the local rag. (That’s what we called the non-mainstream newspaper back then.) It was (and still is today) called The Good Times. A throw-back political paper on all things Santa Cruz. It hit every aspect of the hippy AND multi-millionaire lifestyle.
Nine months in, my little classified ads outsold the retail ad reps. I was really good. I knew my market and taught my clients how to sell themselves to this very wealthy, tight-knit community. 1-800 numbers worked everywhere but Santa Cruz. If you didn’t have a 916 number, no one wanted anything to do with you. I got my stats together and went to my boss for a raise & a promotion. Much to my chagrin, he said I was too valuable to the classifieds for a promotion – and I quit. All my relationship-building and audience-knowledge walked right out the door with me.
My next job brought with it sales tapes by Zig Ziglar. And yes, I really mean tapes.
I was selling the Wedding Yellow Pages (yep, that’s a thing) in Sacramento, California. I networked, made friends, sold ads like crazy – and promptly quit. When I found out my boss would rather me use the Ziglar method of getting clients to nod and say yes – or to get as many business cards as I could proffer, I knew it was wrong for me. She wanted me to be a machine. I wanted to be a human.
That’s when I met Talis. My sales background, albeit just 3 years long, gave her a fresh perspective on an old industry – recruiting. She believed in relationship building first. The twinkle in her eye showed me she trusted me. That trust allowed me to take my $36k base salary and make 6-figures my first year.
I met & developed the most intimate business relationships with my clients – they trusted me implicitly. They knew I had their best interests at heart. They knew it wasn’t about the money for me – it was about being human.
My first client as a direct-hire recruiter was with a German solar energy company. They needed a team to launch their offices in the US. Because of my talent for finding the right fit, I gave them great candidates to choose from. Because of how I interviewed these candidates as humans, they asked if they could pay me even when they brought me additional candidates so I could help them choose the best ones regardless of the money. They brought me into their own processes. Within my first three months, I hired over 10 people and made the company over 6-figures in fees.
Recruiting was not meant to be my life path. Building relationships, NOT selling, would become my lifeblood. From selling billboards to placing humans, relationships are at the center of it all.
Pitching is something we do on a daily basis in every aspect of our lives. And yet it only becomes authentic and human when we can make a deep human connection with those we are pitching. Because, here’s the thing – we all think “pitching” is about getting people to do what we want them to do. Yet, truly effective, world-building pitching, is about making connections and creating a path forward that works for all the humans involved. Pitching is so much more than nodding heads and mechanical “yesses.”
Much like I did, salespeople get trained on a step-by-step “how to get them to say yes” process. They teach us to get our “subjects” uncross their arms, to sit forward, to nod – to say yes. We learn to get them to show us buying signs. And yet, no matter what they show us – if they don’t trust us, we’ll never get them to yes. All the tactics in the world won’t get us what we want.
A few years ago, I created The DISH Method to give myself a handy way to share my knowledge. And then I used it to process the information I was teaching to create the methodology. It’s simple – and yet goes deeper into the relationship-building than we’re used to. It’s the basis for the Rock Your Pitch workshop and retreat.
I can show you how to use The DISH Method and how to Rock Your Pitch – yet even if you use it perfectly and don’t connect with the person you’re pitching, you won’t get them to buy from you. THEY HAVE TO TRUST YOU.
So, before you even get to the HOW in how The DISH Method works, let’s start with the WHY.(Hat tip to Simon Sinek over here.)
Why would someone buy from you?
Why are they going to trust you?
Why are you the human to ask them for whatever it is you’re pitching?
Why would they give you their hard-earned dollars before anyone else?
Why wouldn’t they use the same money for something else that isn’t competing with you?
Why does what you’re pitching really matter?
Why are you worth their time?
Relationship building isn’t jargon. It’s not a part of your marketing plan. It’s not a tactic. Relationships are built on real trust. On honest feedback. On response times. On human connection.
You can have the most practiced, most thought-out, most practical, most efficient whatever – but if you don’t have connections, you have nothing.
Go to your why. Every time.
What is your lifeblood? What makes you tick? What makes you smile? What makes you vibrate?
If it doesn’t feel good, quit.
If it doesn’t fit you, move on.
If it feels slimy, it is.
If it feels inauthentic, they’ll smell it.
If you’re desperate, they’ll know.
Stop and re-think what you would do if you had everything you ever wanted. Why are YOU the person who must do this?
I still think back to my Buffalo days – those 6 months in that cold apartment trying to hit my numbers. Sitting there wishing for ANYONE to say yes.
I still remember the look on my bosses face when I quit the Good Times. I remember how he begged me to stay and even figured out how to use House ads to pay me what I asked for after he knew I was really going to leave.
I pitched my heart out – and I am so grateful I knew my worth – my why – my lifeblood. No regrets. Only forward momentum. Pure gratitude for the learning along the way. Such rich lessons – such great historical data. (More on that later.)
Begin your next step with human connection. By building relationships. Go from your why to your how. But now before fully knowing you’re why. After all, until you know you’re worth, you’ll never be able to tell them why you’re worth buying from.
Are you ready to find your voice, get more buy-in, and be the expert? We’re ready for you!
The Rock Your Pitch Retreat is the only pitch raining that walks you through a proven 4-step presentation workshop to craft, deliver, and show up for your presentation – your way. As you. Completely, unfalteringly, YOU.
When you sign up, we’ll send you a printed workbook. Yes, real paper! Then we’ll get you set up on 4 group calls over 4 weeks to work through our methodology for perfecting the perfect pitch or presentation. You’ll have all the pieces in place before you show up IRL (in real life).
Then, you’ll come to play in-person at a 2-day, 3-night interactive retreat to do the work to make your pitch or presentation yours. You’ll get the training to write it, practice it, and give it in front of other rockstars just like you. Grab your spot at letsrockthispitch.com
“Stand silently in front of your partner and just look them in the eyes.”
Everyone in the room starts fidgeting. Someone starts laughing. A tear rolls down the cheek of a woman trying to hold in her emotions. A few glance at me as if to say “are you sure?”
As they stare at each other getting more uncomfortable, the energy starts shifting. Someone reaches out and touches the arm of the person in front of them as they start crying silently. All of them strangers. Connecting in a way they’ve never connected before. Staring – without words.
I walk them through a series of thoughts and wishes – hard stuff, easy stuff. When they’re done, I ask them to thank the person in front of them for sharing in their experience. Everyone’s hugging and crying and laughing – with a human who was a stranger just two minutes before. It’s only been two minutes and it feels like it’s been an eternity. They didn’t touch or speak or share anything else – they gave each other space and just looked.
No matter where in the world I do this, everyone says how much they hated feeling uncomfortable, and yet were so glad they did it. Most want to take it back to the office and freak out their coworkers. The Norwegians were my favorite – all of them holding up their steely cultural boundaries as they began and breaking them down quickly over the course of two minutes. Two guys approached me afterward & said, “I really like this guy! We’re going to be friends now & grab beers after this.” Another woman said, “I realized I haven’t looked at my husband in a really long time. I’m going to go home and really look at him.”
Communication isn’t just about the words we say. Leadership is not just about how persuasive we are. The conversations we’re having on a daily basis aren’t just made up of sentences. Yes, it matters what we say, but it also matters who we are and how we approach others. Just standing in front of another human being staring at them reminds us that we’re all connected on a deeper level than we realize.
Some call it energy. Others call it aura. I like to call it human-to-human connection.
“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
We’re all connected to each other. We’re all the same and different at the same time. We get hurt and feel pain. We feel sadness and cry. We hid in our shame. We get scared by our fears. We fall in love and get butterflies. We laugh out loud and feel joy. We choose how we want to feel on a daily basis – and yet, most of us are so stuck in our own “stuff” that we forget to notice how others are feeling. We’re so entrenched in our own shit that we end up closing off the space for others to share.
When we really ask, “How are you?” and use “active listening” skills, we hear more than the typical “good.” When we ask why and then look the person in the eye, we may get deeper answers. When we just give space for the other person to share – even if they need a moment – we connect on a level that’s uncomfortable for most. We connect in a way that allows each of us not to feel so alone.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James
At your last networking event, if I asked you to tell me about the most interesting person in the room, you’d most likely choose someone who asked questions and listened – NOT the person who talked about themselves the most. That’s because we all want to be that person – the person who asks insightful questions and listens. Yet, how often do we practice this?
Giving another person the space to share – even if they can’t find the words – that’s powerful. Asking questions that go deeper than the surface – that’s potent. Truly listening to what’s going on – that’s alluring.
TRY THIS: In your next conversation with your spouse, kids, coworkers, friends, new acquaintance – notice where your eyes are focused. Are you looking at their eyes? Are you studying the lines in their face or their earrings or their hair? Are you looking off in the distance? Are you gathering your words by looking around? Are you uncomfortable staring at them? Or uncomfortable with them staring at you?
Why are you uncomfortable? Why are you disconnecting? Why aren’t you listening? What are you thinking about? Get to the bottom of it and then figure out what you need to do to connect deeper.
Want an exercise that will help before you try to really look at someone else? It’ll be uncomfortable. Brace yourself.
Let’s start with looking at you. And I mean REALLY looking at you. It all begins with you – and if you’re having a tough time with others, go deep into yourself and find out why this is.
LOOKING EXERCISE: Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. Stare into your own eyes & ask yourself these 3 questions.
1. What causes me stress?
2. When do I feel joy?
3. What needs to go?
Listen to yourself when you answer & then ask “why?”
See what comes up. When we’re being true to ourselves, we can be true with the world.
Take some time to journal the answers and then jump into the kickasshumansclub.com to share them. Open up a little, be vulnerable – let’s connect on a deeper level.