Six things to get right when you say hello

18 Aug


In 1959, a meeting took place between Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe.

Monroe opened with a line in Russian that she had learned from a colleague, “We the workers of 20th Century Fox rejoice that you have come to visit our studio and our country.” Khrushchev was not to be left behind and said, “You’re a very lovely young lady.”

This anecdote gives a clue to the first of today’s six pointers on what to get right when you say hello. This meeting is an example of how each celebrity went out of their way to focus on the other person.

  1. Use the word YOU.

Ask yourself, “Why would this person be interested in what I have to say?” Bring the listener into the scope of the introduction. Do this by using the word YOU. The word “you” is the equivalent of nudging the listener on the shoulder and making him take notice.

This can be done quite simply.

“Did you know that every second child in India drops out of school before reaching middle school?” (Shares information.)

“You know that every second child in India drops out of school before reaching middle school.” (Looks at the problem together with the listener.)

It could even be something as simple as, “I’m so glad we met. This is a story that will interest you.”

  1. Focus on a benefit that your organisation provides.

When telling people what I do, I don’t tell them what I do. I tell them why I do it. I tell them how it benefits the people with whom I work.

See the difference between the following two statements:

“We help young people step out of poverty by training them in skills for better jobs.” Answers the question, “Why do you exist?”

“We provide vocational skills training and job placements.” Just gives a list of stuff you do.

By drawing their attention to the benefit, you create an opening for a conversation like, “Oh, that’s interesting. Let’s talk about this.”

  1. Tell a story.

By this I don’t mean a long story that you’d normally stick in an appeal, but a Cliff Notes version of it. A story can be told in just a sentence. “Some of the girls who did a course in computers with us earn in a month what their family used to make in a year.”

Telling a story or giving an example brings your work alive. It helps the listener draw a picture of your work in their heads.

  1. Make an ask.

A conversation is not closed till you make an ask. The ask need not always be for money. “Can I meet you sometime next week to tell you more about this?” A good ask has a specific request with a timeline.

  1. Infect them with your passion.

Heads of great fundraising organisations always talk with passion about their work. Some of them are soft-spoken; some others are not great speakers – but there’s no mistaking the passion on their faces or in their body language.

When we speak with passion, it communicates itself to the other person.

  1. What’s in a name?

The same rules apply, whether it’s your own name or your organisation’s name.

Enunciate it – syllable by syllable, especially if talking to people for whom it might be an unfamiliar name. Sometimes, I hold my visiting card out and point when introducing myself face to face. That way, they can read the name, and I’m just reinforcing that visual with phonetic backup.

Speak the name at the same tone, pitch and pace from start to finish. JAY-MZ BO-ND. Not Jemsbnd.

A last tip before we go – take the trouble to write out a great intro and practise saying it out loud, over and over again. As you practise it, first in front of the bathroom mirror and then in public, it gets better and better.

Read Part I of this two-part series, Five Things We Get Wrong When We Say Hello.


One Response to “Six things to get right when you say hello”


  1. Are you thinking about bringing out a generic brochure? A word of advice: Don’t! | No Small Change - August 21, 2014

    […] have pioneered an innovative way of engaging local religious leaders in family planning. I plan to talk to each of them face to face for five minutes, and leave this brochure behind as a reminder of the key points of our […]

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