Show…Don’t Tell.

Not long ago I was in a meeting with some business colleagues. As we were wrapping up our discussion, one member of the group, an established graphic designer, shared a portfolio of previous work she had done over the years. It was actually a simple, yet elegant photo album of business logos and corporate identities she had compiled.

Another member of the group was flipping through it, wishing that he had something tangible to share with prospects of his own. However, his profession wasn’t graphic communication! It was tax, accounting and payroll services! “How do I demonstrate my work in a portfolio?” he asked. Indeed, how do you “show” rather than just tell?

It’s a question we all face one way or another. In fact, the idea I had for this message came not from this meeting, but from when a friend of mine last week shared her frustration with her son in following through on what he “said” he would do. “Don’t tell me,” she indicated was her common answer to his endless delays. “Show me,” she commanded.

This begs the question: Why is showing better than telling?

To tell is to talk. To show is to engage. Perhaps the most significant visual contrast that comes to mind when illustrating the difference between “show and tell” is that of pictures versus words (although this is not always the literal case). Why is it said that a picture is worth a thousand words? It conveys so much more to the brain, and is more likely to trigger an emotional response—hopefully positive. When you have tapped another person’s emotions, you have tapped their interest, and thus you have engaged. You have them involved.

Telling often gets lost in process. Showing keeps you focused on results. I often share a story of when a job seeker approached me and began to describe his experience and service history. His focus was completely on tasks and job descriptions. Rather than talking about what he did, he should focus on the results he created for previous employers. You can easily do that through stories. Often, you can show the results you created (time and/or money saved; revenue and/or profits increased) though colorful charts and graphs.

Telling often assumes blind trust. Showing often builds relationships through value. Does your prospect have the opportunity to sample what you can do? Can they try out your software, or can you share some of your insight or expertise in such a way that empowers them to benefit themselves at little or no cost to you? Do you have an information product or white paper that illustrates the results you have created for other clients similar to that of your prospect?

Are you pondering this question for your own business: “How do I SHOW?” This is where not just visuals, but video can come in to play. If a picture is worth a thousand words, think about what video might be able to do. And as for the tax professional mentioned above–he has a portfolio to show off as well…but it’s not going to be made up of completed spreadsheets and tax forms. His portfolio is made up of happy, trusting clients. Give that some thought.

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