When I’m doing makeovers, I’m listening for three things: value, authenticity, and uniqueness. Everyone has something that’s unique about them—usually more than one thing.
So it makes me more than a little sad when people “bury the lede” when they’re talking about themselves.
If you don’t know what that means, ”bury the lede” is a journalism term used when the writer isn’t emphasizing the most important part of the story or account. This week doing makeovers, I had a veritable buffet of experiences with smart women doing just that.
The first volunteer at the Athena Alliance event started her introduction by telling the audience she was “a consultant specializing in social programs in and around the startup space.” She’d clearly done her homework about how to do a pitch. And yet she sounded, quite honestly, a bit dull.
Her message wasn’t sticking, and she didn’t know why.
I started my usual why/how/who questioning—and out of the blue she shared that she’d survived four coups. (Yes, that thing where there’s a revolution in a country, and they kick one group out of power and another one goes in.)
The room exploded with noise. We were all immediately intrigued and curious about this unique and slightly terrifying experience.
The second volunteer was this lovely bundle of kindness and curiosity. One of those people that the whole room instantly likes and wants to invite home for tea. We started by learning her what-I-do-for-a-living story (she’s the CMO for an energy company). Then we were also informed that she’d gotten arrested on the Senate floor during the Kavanaugh hearings.
Again, the room exploded with noise. This woman you just wanted to hug was also fierce and strong. “Call me Miss Demeanor,” she said grinning.
Later in the week, I did a quieter kind of makeover with a brilliant woman I met at a Wonder Women Luncheon in Los Angeles. She’d seen me perform at a TEDx HR Conference in LA late last year, and introduced herself by talking to me about her work. It took some curious probing before I learned that her dream was to become a novelist.
WELL IF YOU KNOW ME AT ALL, THEN YOU KNOW I LOVE IT WHEN SOMEONE SHARES A DREAM WITH ME.
My “Fairy Godmother” mode goes on high alert. How m’dear can I make YOUR dreams come true?
It soon became clear that while yes, her job paid the bills, her path is as a novelist. “Why then,” I asked her, “do you not introduce yourself as such?” So bippity-boppity-boo, I waved my magic wand and brought her one big step forward in fulfilling her dream—by giving her permission to stop answering the question, ‘What do you do?’ with what she does to pay the bills.
You can see how each of these lovely ladies had buried her lede, right? Behind that opening sentence or two was something much more intriguing, unique and compelling about her. Something that, if it hadn’t been for my nosy “no-I-will-not-let-you-be-boring-in-your-introduction” self, we’d have all been none the wiser.
I get that starting an introduction with, “I survived four coups” isn’t the way to go. But opening up with “What I do was influenced greatly by the fact that I survived four coups” not only leads me to be incredibly curious about what you DO do but also makes my interaction with you memorable.
SO MAYBE IT’S TIME YOU DIDN’T BURY YOUR LEDE. WE WANT TO REMEMBER YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE AWESOME.
PS. My favorite nugget of wisdom from the four-time coup survivor – Don’t play Monopoly when hunkering down during a coup. (No joke. Yes, it surprised me too.)