Exit stage right, fade to black

To get people to follow, buy into your goals and objectives, and then execute the plan, leaders must connect with those who will make it happen.

The first step is getting people to listen, not just hear, your words, lest your big message fall on deaf ears. This requires a presenter who’s part-orator and part- evangelist. The first reveal of any unique, new concept must stop an audience in its tracks. The more out of character or unexpected the better. A provocative statement or challenge can be an effective launch to something that deviates from the norm.

The next hurdle is convincing those assembled that what is being proposed not only makes sense but is achievable. Don’t confuse achievable with easy. Introducing a stretch and near-audacious goal can engage, excite and motivate an audience and keep them on the edge of their seat. It can also start them wondering and wanting to know more.

Good examples are the techniques used by Tesla’s over-the-top leader, Elon Musk, who frequently makes seemingly absurd comments about the future of the electric car — like something out of science fiction — and then translates his ideas into a more-likely-than-not scenario. Sir Richard Branson, the off-the-wall entrepreneur of Virgin Galactic and rocket ship mogul, initially had naysayers scoffing at taking tourists on adventures to Mars. That reaction was soon followed by tens of thousands of wannabe adventurists inquiring about and signing up for this fantasy-inspired 67.8-million-mile round trip to the fourth planet from the sun.

After getting people to listen tothe unlikely, the critical next step is getting them to buy into the idea. This necessitates unwrapping pieces to the puzzle with an initial road map to the master plan, which is likely to be a bit sketchy on details at this early stage.

The other ingredients in the secret sauce of motivating listeners and getting them to embrace a goal is to break down the journey into recognizable waypoints and how the score will be kept — explaining the big picture of what might be in it for converted believers. The prize does not necessarily have to be monetary. It can be as simple as bragging rights, with badges of glory for being among those going where others have never dared to go before.

Many a good idea has likely never made it off the launch pad when the initial introduction bored the listeners. The magic of selling something new takes creativity and generous doses of energy. It also takes preparation, as well as a bit of theatrics, so that the words get attention, invoke interest, stir desire and then reach crescendo with a call to action. These are the cornerstones, be it for selling trips to Mars or convincing others to join a winning team.

And, to cap off a bombshell presentation, employ an equally dramatic ending by silently exiting stage right, as the presentation fades to black much like a great TV show or movie that abruptly ends. This really starts people thinking and ensures that they remember the message.

Even if you’re not planning an earthshaking announcement, just think how effectively any of these techniques can enhance and sell your next major undertaking.


Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax and in 16-years, as CEO, grew the retailer to sales of
$5 billion in 1,000 stores worldwide. Today, as founder/CEO of Max- Ventures, his firm invests in and consults for retail businesses. Serving on a number of boards, Michael is a frequent national speaker, and author of the business books “The Benevolent Dictator” and his newest book ”Tips from the Top.” His long running nationally syndicated Smart Business magazine column has received more than 10 awards for excellence.