Is Your Business Mugging?
During my freshman year of college I was cast in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline as Lord #1. I was thrilled with the casting and the opportunity to be on the mainstage at my college for the first time. The rehearsal process flew by and before I knew it, I was on stage for opening night. During one of my scenes, I noticed that when I made certain facial expressions, the audience laughed. When I heard this I made the expressions even bigger and got even bigger laughs. I thought to myself that my director would be so proud and that my antics were making the show even better. In one scene I even added a little trip and fall moment. When the show was over I went to the cast party and saw my director. I was absolutely convinced that he would tell me how impressed he was with my improvisational technique and he would even suggest I keep in some of the bits I added. He walked up to me, beer in hand, and put one hand on my shoulder smiled and said:
“Michael, do me a favor and stop f%^king around ok? Do the show the way we rehearsed.”
I realized when he mentioned that to me that all of the things I had been doing were distracting people from the show he directed. The show was not about me and how funny I could be. The show was not titled “Lord #1 by William Shakespeare” and from that day on I never mugged for the audience while on stage again. I was reminded of this story while in a business meeting a few days ago when someone who was clearly very accomplished, spent most of the meeting talking about all of the things his business had achieved. There was a description of the awards he had won, the revenue he generated, and the other things people said about his business. Any question I had was met with another lengthy description of something he had done for a client and how it helped them. I eventually got to a point where I stopped listening and this started going through my head. After a few minutes he was finished explaining his business and I was ready to leave the meeting. He was mugging the same way I had so many years before. This made me aware of something really important:
If you spend all of your time in a meeting talking about how great your business is most people will tune out.
It’s great to be accomplished and win awards, but ultimately anyone you meet with is interested in how your business can help them or help someone they know. If you spend most of the time bragging about it, it makes it less authentic. Clients want you to show them you care, not tell them. You show them you care by listening to them and their concerns. You show them you care by letting them direct you rather than trying to take over the show yourself. Just as the show was not titled “Lord #1” the meeting you have shouldn’t be titled “My Great Business.”
So the next time you’re in a meeting and feel tempted to go into a big monologue about all of the things that you’ve accomplished, think of that mugging moment I described.
Take a breath and listen.
You’ll get much farther than if you mug.