3 Simple Communication Tips That Turned This Producer Into a Hollywood Icon

The communication tips I learned in a recent interview from iconic Hollywood producer Brian Grazer are so insightful, I almost kept them to myself! But that wouldn’t be fair to the readers of Talking Leadership, would it? You’re here to get fresh insights from billionaires, CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders.  So here goes.

Brian Grazer and director Ron Howard teamed up forty years ago to form Imagine Entertainment. They’ve made some of the highest-grossing and iconic movies and television shows of our time: A Beautiful Mind, Splash, Apollo 13, American Gangster, 8 Mile, The Da Vinci Code, Arrested Development, and 100 others.

BrianGrazerCover

I caught up with Grazer to talk about his new book. It’s titled, Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection. Here are 3 tips that Grazer credits for propelling his career from an entry-level clerk to the top of Hollywood’s A-list.

 

1). Seek out curiosity conversations

When Grazer first started in the business, he set a goal to meet one new person a day in the movie business—and to learn one nugget of wisdom from that person. He then expanded the goal to meet to one person a week from outside the industry. Forty years later, he still sets up “curiosity conversations.” Grazer reaches out to people he’s curious about to talk to them for one hour. He has other motive than to learn something from them that will broaden his mind and leave him inspired, uplifted, and curious to know even more. As Grazer’s influence grew, so did the caliber of curiosity conversations. Grazer has had conversations with a who’s who of leadership over the years: Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, Sara Blakely, Isaac Asimov and countless others.

Be curious and keep an open mind and open heart.

2). Establish trust with eye contact

Grazer gave me the simplest and most profound advice he’s ever received—and he’s used the tip for decades to convince studio heads, actors, directors and funders to back his ideas. Strong relationships are based on trust, Grazer says. And trust starts with eye contact. According to Grazer, “Eye contact is the first, simplest and most important step to get on that bridge to human connection. Nobody is going to make any major decision in your favor unless they feel a human connection. It all begins with eye contact.”

eye contact matters.

3). Pitch ideas with a universal theme

Grazer told me that early in his career, he wrote a story about a mermaid who falls in love with a regular guy. Nobody wanted to take a chance on it. A mermaid movie was a hard sell. Grazer made one switch to his pitch and landed Disney as the studio that made Splash, one of the highest-grossing films of 1984 and the movie that made Tom Hanks a star. Instead of pitching a ‘mermaid movie,’ Grazer reframed the pitch. Instead of a mermaid movie, Grazerexplained how  it was inspired by his personal search for true love in Los Angeles, “a place where everything—including relationships—seemed superficial.” Finding a deep connection seemed unattainable to Grazer at the time, almost like falling in love with a mermaid. From that day on, Grazer pitched ideas with universal themes that everyone could relate: love, family, unity, self-respect, or survival against the odds.

Find a theme that relates to everyone and you’re more likely win people over.

Brian GrazerFull disclosure—The personal interviews I have with leaders like Brian Grazer (see photo on left) are my version of curiosity conversations. I’m glad I can share them with you in this blog. Please tell your friends about it!

Find your passion, tell your story.

Carmine

Public Speaking is No Longer a ‘Soft Skill.’ It’s Your Key to Success in Any Field

Carmine Gallo speaks to banking executives about the role of persuasion in leadership.

After interviewing billionaires and CEOs, entrepreneurs and scientists for my new book, Five Stars, I’ve concluded that it’s time to stop referring to public speaking as a ‘soft skill.’ A wealthy investor at Y-Combinator, the iconic investment firm behind startups such as Reddit and Airbnb, convinced me to stop using the term. During our conversation, he called out my mistake.

“Let’s talk about a soft skill like storytelling,” I said.

“Soft?” he shot back. “If an entrepreneur can’t tell a convincing story, I’m not investing. You call it soft. I call it fundamental.”

Warren Buffett would agree. He says investing in yourself is the best investment a person can make—and public speaking is the best investment of all. Buffett has put precise cash value on communication. “The one easy way to become worth 50 percent more than you are now — at least — is to hone your communication skills,” Buffet says.

The Growing Value of Changing Minds

In a world built on ideas, the persuaders— the ones who can win hearts and change minds—have a competitive edge. While researching my book, I spoke to economists and historians like Deirdre McCloskey at the University of Illinois. She conducted an impressive research project to prove that old-fashioned rhetoric—persuasion—is responsible for a growing share of America’s national income.

McCloskey analyzed 250 occupations covering 140 million people in the U.S. In some cases, persuasion played a more limited role than others (think firefighters versus public relations specialists). McCloskey reached the following conclusion: Persuasion is responsible for generating one­ quarter of America’s total national income. She expects it to rise to 40% over the next twenty years. McCloskey’s research was taken up by another economist in Australia who reached a similar conclusion.

To understand why persuasion is no longer a soft skill, we need a short history lesson. In 1840, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. labor force worked on farms; today less than 2 percent of Americans work in agriculture. Manufacturing’s share of the labor force has dropped from 40 percent in 1950 to under 20 percent today. Income from manufacturing continues to fall as robots replace workers and artificial intelligence takes over repetitive tasks once handled by humans. The main task of the jobs that are left—and the new ones created—is to change minds. As McCloskey explains, “Nothing happens voluntarily in an economy, or a society, unless someone changes her mind. Behavior can be changed by compulsion, but minds cannot.”

By calling public speaking a ‘soft skill,’ it diminishes the skill’s value in a world that cherishes the ‘hard sciences.’ Public-speaking isn’t soft. It’s the equivalent of cold, hard cash.