Having ‘Influence:’ Top 10 Takeaways From the National Speakers Assn. Conference

The 2015 annual conference of the 42-year-old National Speakers Association focused on “influence,” made me reflect on the fact that we are “influencing” people in every conversation no matter how small, and how important influence is to achieving our goals. We influence our teams, our bosses, our friends, our family members, our neighbors — even our pets. It’s easy to forget that we have control over how we influence them.

Geeta Nadkarni addressing National Speakers Assn. conference, photo credit: NSA
Geeta Nadkarni addressing National Speakers Assn. conference, photo credit: NSA

Here are my top ten takeaways from the NSA conference on improving our influence:

1. Befriend your competitors. The pie is big enough for all of us. One might argue that the ~1700 attendees of the NSA 2015 conference were all vying for the same gigs. Yet, in the zillion conferences I’ve been to over the years, I’ve never experienced the level of warmth, camaraderie and generous sharing of tips and support that I saw there. Today, it’s also called “co-opetition”;
2. Stretch yourself. You must keep growing and improving. Keep yourself interested and engaged, stay competitive, and keep adding value by expanding beyond your comfort zone. At NSA, Carole Copeland Thomas said to continually “reinvent yourself,” for example, and Mark Scharenbroich said to “dig deeper”;
3. Identify and nurture your support system. Support each other, hold each other accountable, and complement each other’s skills, talents and perspectives, so you all learn new things;
4. Let the support in — and be grateful: We each falter and thrive at different times, especially as we try new things. In the opening General Session — in addition to a rock band of bonafide rockers (from Pink, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, and other famous bands) — there was a series of five-minute speeches. When one fellow faltered, the audience stood up applauding and cheered him on, yelling: “Keep going,” “pick up where you left off” and “you can do it.” When he finally finished, the audience gave him a roaring standing ovation. Yet, he pushed away the applause with his hands, dismissing it. He should have let it in to buoy him, with gratitude;
5. Connect using stories, images and humor. Laurie Guest, a speaker and consultant I interviewed for my podcast series, Green Connections™, talked about using attention-grabbing images and humor to pull you in, such as describing an eyeball by relating it to a grape. Really, listen here;
6. Create group confidence. Everyone talks about self-confidence, but David Dye, a speaker and consultant I interviewed for Green Connections reminds us to rally the troops, especially when the task is a stretch. “We can do this!” and “How can we address the obstacles?” will raise your team’s performance;
7. Identify and clear roadblocks to success. See obstacles as rocks to be moved, not deal-breakers. Liz Weber, a leadership consultant and trainer I interviewed for Green Connections, reminded us that “How can I help?” lets your team know they have your support and your attention;
8. Assign tasks with vision and purpose: When people know “why” their work matters, they are more productive, happier, more engaged and do higher quality work. WeSpire came out with an interesting infographic on this recently showing that 97 percent of employees perform better when they feel their work has a purpose. David Dye emphasized this in our interview too;
9. Know how your work affects other people; Listen and watch for the small things to sense how you’re your actions and words are being received, the impact — or influence — you’re having. Then you can adapt your tone of voice, words or even where you meet, to improve your results; and
10. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up: The world works on relationships – influence indeed. So, send a quick note after you meet someone you want to stay in touch with (especially if you said you’d be in touch), and make sure your note is relevant to that person and conversation. How can you help them? It sounds basic perhaps, but do what you say you will. I’m amazed how many people don’t! Send it in a timely fashion, too, even it’s not right away. Better late than never. Follow-up or stop complaining about your results.

The National Speakers Association “Influence” 2015 attendees remind us that every conversation is a mini-speech, a potential pitch, and/or a potential business opportunity.

Treat it that way and you just might get a standing ovation.
This article first appeared in the Huffington Post.  What takeaways did you hear in my interviews with the NSA folks? Check them out HERE, including with Geeta Nadkarni pictured above. Tell us at info@greenconnectionsradio.com or @joanmichelson or @greenconnectsdc, or on our Facebook page