Last week I had the task of presenting to a group of people who had previously been given incorrect information about my project. Setting the record straight is never easy and it was a daunting task that left me nervous and sweaty right up until show time. It took me a good month to create the 30 minute presentation, which luckily, went off without a hitch. Many of the guests thanked me afterward and their smiles and friendly conversation were a sign that the presentation had hit its mark.
When one of the guests asked for advice in her own similar campaign, I immediately recommended she read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. My entire presentation was guided loosely by the advice contained in this 80 year old book, starting with “Smile” and “Remember names”.
Knowing the topic was already heated and folks were bringing reactions to previously incorrect information with them, it was particularly important to follow “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it”, “let the other person save face”, and “show respect for other person’s opinions”. Starting an argument with these folks, tossing the previous informant under the bus, or belittling their concerns would win me no friends and would definitely not earn me their trust or respect. Instead, I used a few more of Carnegie’s timeless gems by “talking in terms of the other person’s interest” and “making the other person feel important” while also “appealing to the nobler motives”.
With the entire presentation designed to defuse the situation by avoiding being argumentative, respecting and understanding people’s current concerns and reactions, and letting them know they were important to me, I was able to get the result I wanted: an audience who had overridden incorrect information with correct information.
This book not only gave me the tools to run a smooth presentation, it changed my entire life. By nature, I am an observer and often waited for people and things to come to me. As you can imagine, there was a lot of disappointment in observing opportunities headed my direction only to lose them because I didn’t know how to meet those opportunities head on or blew the networking tied to those opportunities. After reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, I stopped waiting for things to happen and instead applied the skills from this book to go get them or at least meet them half way. More than any other book, I recommend everyone read this one, particularly high school students and college grads starting the interview circuit.
Until next time, happy reading!