153: ‘Emotional Archaeology’, with Susan Young

A conversation with Susan Young.

153: ‘Emotional Archaeology’, with Susan Young

Susan Young joins the podcast to talk about the art of persuasive communication and storytelling, particularly in leadership roles within the AEC industry. We discuss the importance of not only building but reading the room, asking quality questions, and practicing deep listening. The conversation also explores how being fully present and curious can lead to more effective interactions and projects.

Susan underscores the two key traits of superior leaders: confidence and excellent communication skills, emphasizing that these are skills that can be learned and honed. The conversation highlights the role of soft skills in conveying knowledge effectively, stating that it doesn't matter what you know if you can't communicate and articulate it to others.

We further discuss the crucial role of making a strong first impression, owning the fact that you're a media production company via social media and the internet, and understanding the art of the headline to hook your audience. The episode wraps up with a discussion on a people-centric approach to talking about tech and tools in firms, highlighting that we relate most to the human to human (H2H) stories.

About Susan Young:

Susan Young is an award-winning communicator and AEC keynote speaker. She has worked with architecture, engineering, and construction firms for 23 years.

Susan teaches clear, confident communication that wins trust, respect, and clients. Her experience as a radio news reporter and anchor brings a unique skill set to AEC. She has interviewed everyone from homeless people to presidents.

In addition, Susan was Deputy Director of the Governor's Office of Radio & TV for New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. With live and virtual programs, Susan teaches deep listening, curiosity, storytelling, and concise communication. Her strategies include brain science that empowers business development teams to close more bids.

Susan has been honored as “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Her favorite achievement is being one of the ‘Top 75 Badass Women on Twitter.’

Susan and her husband have two grown children. They live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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153: ‘Emotional Archaeology’, with Susan Young
Susan Young joins the podcast to talk about the art of persuasive communication and storytelling, particularly in leadership roles within the AEC industry. W…

Episode Transcript:

153: ‘Emotional Archaeology’, with Susan Young

Evan Troxel: Joining me today is Susan Young. Susan, welcome to the podcast.
Susan Young: Thank you, Evan.
Evan Troxel: I am very happy to have you on the show because this is a little bit different of a topic, but it's something that's very near and dear to me as a self proclaimed, I guess, communicator. this is just one thing that I've noticed throughout the years of my job is to communicate.
And I found that when I was working in a firm as a designer, when I was working with stakeholders and clients on projects, it was like finding the best way to communicate with them, finding the best way to tell a story, finding the best way to connect with them. And I know that this is really what You're all about as well.
So, uh, I think this is a valuable [00:01:00] topic for this audience. A lot of times Architects people in technology are more I'll say I'm just guessing here fact check me on the introverted side of the scale and we tend to go into our Tunnel and, and do our things. We're serious doers. Right? And oftentimes there's a disconnection from the other side of that, which is connecting with people, getting the right information, landing in a positive way so that you get the most out of those interactions.
Anyway, I've said way too much already. Maybe you can, you can, uh, tell us a story about how you've gotten to where you are and, and what your backstory actually
Susan Young: Sure. No, I appreciate that. And, uh, love being here today with you. Uh, everyone's got a story. So here's my story. Um. I didn't talk till I was four years old, uh, was born in Brooklyn and my parents thought I was deaf. They took me to the doctor and the doctor said, no, she's absolutely fine. She just doesn't [00:02:00] need to talk. They were like, well, what does that mean? You know? And then, and uh, they said, well, what does she do when she's hungry? And they said, well, she goes over to the refrigerator and bangs on the door. I didn't need any words. So eventually, of
course, I started to talk
Evan Troxel: You were efficient.
You were just efficient. This is, this is the
Susan Young: pretty direct. Yeah.
Yeah. And, um, so. I, what is, you know, what does a child like this do when you don't talk to your four years old? I go off to college and major in mass communication and, uh,
Evan Troxel: course.
Susan Young: first, first week on campus in Connecticut. I found the campus radio station and I was hooked. I was always a strong writer. And, uh, enjoyed writing, but, uh, you know, I was also very into music, so I DJ'd, and then started doing news, and, uh, just fell in love with that, and so it was always interesting, and curious, and changing, it wasn't, though, same day, That's the Rolling Stones singing
Satisfaction, you know, so
everything was, TROXL is
different, which was exciting to me. I was always curious. My sisters, [00:03:00] both my sisters got on their report cards, Talks Too Much in class. I got Roams Around the Hallways. I always thought that there was something better than that third grade class. You know, that I
was curious. I wanted
to find out what
was going on,
That insatiable curiosity really helped me to build my career and so I graduated from college and I went back to New Jersey and worked in uh, radio news as an on air news reporter and news director and anchor for 10 years, interviewing everyone from homeless people to presidents, asking questions, deep listening, interviewing everyone from, like I say, homeless
people to presidents, and
awards along the
Uh, and what I discovered was that, um, all I had to do was ask good questions and be curious. And so that really helped fuel my career and, uh, ran Governor Christy Whitman's Office of Radio and Television at the State Capitol, worked for a non profit for a year, and then I realized, this is now 2000, [00:04:00] that I've sat through hundreds and hundreds of presentations at town hall meetings, at protests and, you know, government meetings, hearings, that engineers, architects that were, most were, um, painful, a few were persuasive and I thought they really need some communication help those PAP slides and all that information and looking at the shoes and the no, you know, gestures and inflection and all that. So I opened up my business in 2000. It's called Get In Front Communications and been working with architects, engineers and construction pros on how to be more effective at communication. How to become more curious and use those deep listening skills, not to be self serving, but to be able to be an emotional archaeologist. And go in there with an invisible shovel and ask good questions. And so that you're able to notice things that other [00:05:00] people don't notice. And pay attention in a very different way. And have a very subtle level of self confidence without being arrogant or pushy or anything like that, obnoxious. And in the end It's about being a confident communicator and being proficient in not only being able to build a room, but knowing
how to read the room.
Evan Troxel: I want to go back to, you just said, like, some very simple words, but I think they have, uh, there's more here, which is asking good questions. Can you define what that means? Because I think that, it's like, yeah, no, we hear that all the time, right? For good communicators, ask good questions.
Good interviewers, ask good questions. But what's it, what, just if you could put some words to what that actually means to you.
Susan Young: Yeah, I think it's really about when we listen deeply, we ask quality questions to get quality information. If you're not getting the information that you [00:06:00] want from whoever, a vendor, from a client, from a prospect, from your child or a partner, then the onus is on you, not them, so that you ask better questions.
So, it depends on the flow and the It's a natural evolution of a conversation, and so it really is about paying sharp attention to what people are saying and not planning ahead and being distracted in your mind because we're all bombarded with so much, you know, messaging and I have to go here, I have to go there.
We're not fully present. When you notice that somebody said something and you're paying attention and you're sharp and you're on the ball, you're able to follow up with a question that's not scripted, that's not in a cookie cutter template, that's not sounding robotic. And so you ask a question, say, hmm, that's interesting, because you're curious. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? [00:07:00] So, one of the questions that I've taught people to, you know, when I do coaching and everything with, with AEC folks, is you ask the question, what else What else? What else? What else is going on here? What else is this story about? What else is happening behind the scenes
that I don't know about?
What else can I do to help solve this problem? And so you ask yourself, what else? What else? What else? There's gold here. And I, as an emotional archaeologist with that invisible shovel, come in and, no pain, we pull the questions and the information out of people by asking quality questions. And it's easy and it's magical.
Evan Troxel: I'm sitting here with the pregnant pause because I feel like that's one of those fears that people have in these situations is to not allow space. And that is one [00:08:00] of the reasons why people are always thinking ahead of what's next. Where are we going? What's the next thing that I need to check off my list of?
Things that I prepared for with this meeting with this presentation, whatever it is, and have to keep it going because we don't want to lose their attention, right? The fear is losing their attention or going down a rabbit hole or getting caught off guard or any of those things. when what you're, you're proposing basically the opposite, which is we're going to go explore together and we don't know where that's going.
We have not prepared for that. Right? And, and, and relying on our expertise to guide what we actually need to get out of this presentation or conversation or whatever it may be. There, there are some innate fears in these, uh, instances that happen, right? So I would love to hear from you. Like what, uh, What kinds of things have you seen come out of that?
Because there's that real fear, but [00:09:00] at the same time, you said, there's gold there, right? And so, how do we overcome those fears to allow those explorations to actually happen?
Susan Young: It's really about trusting yourself and being fully present and in the moment. And one of my first coaches from Philadelphia told me years ago. Be fully present. And remember, this is, you know, before social media and all of the
bombardment of
messages and
distractions that we have, the noise in the world.
She said to me, wherever your feet are, So right now, I'm with you, Evan, in this conversation on this podcast, and I'm not worried or thinking about, Oh, I gotta mail that, you know, FedEx has to be returned, or, you know, I have to get gas in the car, or there's some noise down the, down the, you know, in the other room. I'm here with you right now. That's it. Everything is perfect. And so once we [00:10:00] start to drift, and it's really about self awareness, you catch yourself mentally drifting. And you know when people aren't really paying attention. You can tell. So, you notice these things. And you start to trust yourself and you tell yourself a different story.
Now, I'm a storyteller by trade for 40 years, working in radio, interviewing, you know, thousands of people. And what I realized is that our communication is an inside job. So whatever story you're telling yourself in here, I'm not a good communicator. I'm an empath. I'm an introvert. I'm not a good driver. I don't look good in red.
Whatever, you know, whatever that story is, that narrative, that self doubt, first, we have to address that story. you can go into the marketplace and feel much more confident and comfortable. Because you trust yourself. You can't go into a meeting, or a presentation, or a BD networking event, what have you, [00:11:00] if you don't believe you. Because there are, there's two basic laws of marketing, Evan. One, people have to know you exist, and two, is they have to believe you. But the third one is where I focus, it's on the believability factor. Do you believe you? Because if you don't believe you, nobody
else will.
Evan Troxel: like a lot of times that's talking points, right? We're regurgitating the thing that we've been preparing to talk about, and it comes across exactly as you just said, which is it comes across with some amount of disbelief. And it's just because, like, I'm saying this because I'm supposed to say this.
It's not that I have truly embodied it, that I've really thought through the future implications of what I'm telling you right now. And. We're going up in AEC, we're going into a scenario or a relationship that is going to take years, right? It's going to take years. And if, if I can't connect with [00:12:00] you now, and I can't have that connection of belief that you're talking about now, what makes me think that this relationship is going to last years?
Because it actually is, right? It needs to, it needs to be something that we can do together for multiple years. And I find that that is. I absolutely believe what you're saying because there have been so many times when your team doesn't get chosen because you don't connect with them because they're not picking the firm, they're picking the people who are right there in the room because those are the people they're going to have to work with for the next number of years.
Susan Young: Exactly. Yeah. And when, you know, you, you can, it's all in the preparation and when you trust yourself and you're able to have that deeper connection and that rapport, like you say, you know, that you're going to have to work together. How do you click with people? How do you read people? How do you know you listen? You have those deep listening skills. You ask good questions. [00:13:00] You're fully present. You have, You need to have that trust in your head so that you
know you belong there, you
that what differentiates your firm from another. And people pick up on this and, uh, you know, I'm trained in NLP and Neuro Linguistic Programming.
So it's brain science and how we bridge communication gaps and how we have different communication modalities. And how do we, you know, cut down on the miscommunication and really connect on a deeper level because you are like the people that you're talking with. So it's, you know, a combination of psychology and brain science and communication and confidence and all of that bundled into
Evan Troxel: Yeah,
Susan Young: what, that's what I teach. I mean, it's, that's my jam and it's
all about storytelling.
Evan Troxel: I'm really curious to get your Take on this because I've seen it work both ways. Um, I've been on the receiving side of coaching when it comes to, uh, [00:14:00] going after a project where it was a really important project and so it was deemed very important to have the team firing on all cylinders. Very prepared ahead of time, who's going to say what, when they're going to say it, how they're going to say it, what are they doing with their hands when they say it, how much is memorized, how much is just off the cuff, and it's pretty overwhelming, I think, for most of the people on the team to go through a process like that, and at the same time, it's, it's really useful, um, but it's not necessarily natural for those people, and so then, then the other side of that is, I don't want to prepare, and I think we're talking more about the confident people who have done this a lot, who have the experience, who just say, like, do not force me to prepare.
It will only screw up who I actually am and how that interaction is going to go, because they are confident in being able to navigate the situation in real time, right? And, and we see people scoff at both of those. [00:15:00] We see people scoff at the people who say, There's no way I'm preparing and then you've brought up the word a couple times already today of Preparedness right and and knowing who you are and knowing the situation So I'm just curious what your take is on all that because there there's we've we've seen it all and I think it probably depends on personality type and the people involved but but if just kind of talking about those two different sides of Of this teeter-totter here.
The, the people who are saying, no way, don't, don't make me prepare. I'll, I'll, I'll actually do worse if you make me prepare. I'm better in the moment. Then there's the people who are saying, prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare until you, you just know this like the back of your hand, and, and we're gonna go in and hit all these talking points.
Susan Young: Yeah, I think it really comes down to bringing, you know, narrowing that gap because when people are prepared, they might be prepared, but they're not, they don't, really know the depth [00:16:00] of the people that they're interacting with. So I say that it's either a hot mess at, I say, you know, if your BD meeting is a hot mess or went off the rails and the car ride back to the office is, you know, hellish and Do you want a beautifully choreographed, graceful dance? Doesn't that feel so much better? Where it's not rehearsed to the point where it seems and feels rehearsed and stuffy and, you know, I can't
express myself, I can't.
You know, we have to
think on our feet. But we also have to know the other people, our colleagues and the people on the team, the sellers and the doers, of how are they going to interact, how, who's going to answer certain questions, not every question, because you
can't plan all that.
mean, that's a
natural flow of a conversation. So you want to be able to be, like I say, trained to. Think on your feet and to be sharp and to pick up on these [00:17:00] little nuances. I would say notice the nuances and then, you know, if you have the, the leader of your team, for instance, the, the, say that the head of the BD, you know, presentation
and the others on the
team are able to keep an eye on them and look for those verbal and nonverbal cues and clues, like something very subtle that nobody else would notice, but you know, don't, don't say anything, let it land. Or, I've got this, Kyle's going to jump in in a moment, but first I just want to mention that the survey shows that, bang, bang, bang.
So, we're feeding off one another instead of, you know, stepping on each other's words and interrupting and not knowing what to say and this person was supposed to say that and that was supposed to say It doesn't work that way.
Like I say, it can be a beautifully choreographed dance when You trust yourself and you trust the others as you prepare for the presentation. Not on the [00:18:00] way to the meeting, but, you know, a day or two before. That's what I coach on. There's, you know, there's so many things and little details that make such a huge difference and it's not overwhelming.
It just becomes, oh, this is the way we do it. It's, it's a checklist almost.
Evan Troxel: There's so many people on, so my experience, I guess I should back up a little bit before I get into this, is in a larger firm context, and there are a lot of people doing really specific roles, and it's pretty well delineated, and then there's smaller firms where you just, you do it all, right, and so these are very different things.
What you just said makes me think of is that there are people who do BD, like, that's what they do, and they are very good at it. They're the rainmakers, as they say, in the, in the office, right? And the, to your point, Like, they're good, they have skills in that, because they don't have to do everything. They don't have to do payroll, and they don't have to do design, and they don't have to do project [00:19:00] architecting, and they don't have to do detailing, and all those things.
And then there's, you know, the one to ten person firms where you do a lot more, you have to cover a lot more of the roles and responsibilities of an office. And I'm just wondering how you Cultivate those skills in those kinds of scenarios where it's not your full time role to do that exactly. What, what do you give people advice in doing to start to cultivate those kinds of
Susan Young: it's interesting because everybody today is in marketing and nobody signed up for it
in AEC, right?
Evan Troxel: What do you mean by that? I, I, I read, I read something about that with you and, and, and I think that I, I agree. Like I said, I'm a commu, my job is communications. I didn't sign up to be a communicator. I, I was a designer. Like that's what I did. And then I found out the psychology aspect of it, and I found out the selling aspect of it, and I found out the listening aspect of it.
So I'm really curious what you mean when you say [00:20:00] everybody's in marketing. What do you mean by that?
Susan Young: Yeah, it's, it's that the, you know, the, the doers, the sellers are the ones who are, you know, they go into the meetings and schmooze and they're friendly and they're, they're, you know, likable and they know how to close the deal. And of course, now we have the doers who have, who are being required, who didn't, Want to go to, you know, they're not marketers, they're not outgoing, probably, or friendly, or know the sales and all of that, and the soft skills. And so they're being forced into these conference rooms and these presentations, kicking and screaming, and it's like, well, wait a minute. If we don't train them and show them how to do it, to reinvent themselves. I mean, that's what I had to do. I worked in radio. Okay. I, if, if somebody would have told me 24 years ago that I'd be doing this, I would have laughed in their face. Okay. I'm like, I'd rather sit home in a
closet by myself.
Evan Troxel: Mm-Hmm.
Susan Young: You know, I don't know gestures. I don't know facial expression. Everything was the voice, the voice, the, the, the [00:21:00] words, let the words. And so I had, you know, now I, you know, speeches that, you know, it, it. You know, built conferences and for, for construction and at the steel conferences and it's, my sisters are like, what, you, can you
imagine I was a quiet one?
Evan Troxel: Is this the same Susan we grew up with? It's not the same Susan. Yeah.
Susan Young: It's not, it's not the, yeah, all of a sudden I found my words and a lot of them. Um, so it really is about that you can reinvent yourself. Um, but you have to know how, and you have to be willing, you have to want to say, you know what, I want to do better, I want to, and all the AUC folks I talk to, they want to have a bigger impact. They want to make a difference in their communities. They want to feel that trust and that sense of belonging, and this is the foundational part of it. This is the foundation is that I have discovered superior leaders have two qualities, two traits. [00:22:00] They are confident. And they're excellent communicators. And these are things that people can learn. You could be proficient in technology like you are with, you know, BIM and modeling and PIM and LEAD and everything like that and Revit. But the key here is that if you're not proficient and with people and how to interact and have those soft skills and those easy conversations, it doesn't matter what you know if you can't communicate and articulate
it to somebody else.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. Yeah. I really resonate with that. Even thinking about the purpose of the technology is to document communication and to communicate for a step that's coming. In the future, right? Whether it's building, occupying, like what, how do we synthesize ideas into a real physical building in the end? And it's through this kind of documentation and technical process, but it is still [00:23:00] about communication.
Like that's the real underlying purpose of it all. And I think that that's really interesting when you talk about leadership, because again, like going back in my own experience. And maybe this is a Gen X thing even, I don't know, like, I don't know, for some reason that just popped into my head right now is I've always seen myself as kind of the bridge, right, between the Millennials and the Boomers, right, and my job is to translate both directions because that's where I am and that's That's, that's my generation.
We are the, the, the bridge builders between these, these generations. And they also call us like the forgotten generation, right? Because it's like, we have the leaders who were in my, in my instance, it was always the, the boomers, right? Who were the leaders in firms because they were the seniority. They'd been there the longest and.
they don't speak the same language. And so my job very much became communicating and building consensus [00:24:00] in the office and outside of the office. And I found the inside the office part to be the most, I don't know, unexpected. I didn't think I was going to have to do that. Right. But the psychology, the politics, there's the timelines, the deadlines, all of these things that we have to navigate together and get people on the same page and build a consensus around our Uh, the communication that has to happen there and the nuance and the understanding of it all.
I think just being in that environment really does kind of, that is our boot camp for going outside of the office. It's, it's actually not that different outside of the office that it is inside the office, but I think people still see those two things very differently. Hmm.
Susan Young: I think that when we talk about, you know, the. The documentation and the, the, the, you know, information management, especially in AEC, is that what about the human factor? We have to communicate with human beings, [00:25:00] and what, no matter what generation you're in, I mean, the, the folks who are the, you know, the emerging leaders today, and because of, you know, COVID, and because of technology, for whatever reason, or whatever excuse, or whatever you want to say, or believe, doesn't matter. The fact of the matter is, is that you have to be able to pick up the phone. you you can't communicate with memes, and TikTok, and, and, you know, they, that's where they, And you know, it's, it's a good thing. It's a bad thing, but that's where they are. And so we, as the older generation, the boomers here, speaking for myself is that we have to work with them and train them and show them.
I mean, I just did a webinar recently. I'll give you this example of emerging leaders in, uh, construction and real estate. There were 25 people on this, on this program, and they all sent me the pre homework that said, I have no idea. where I'm supposed to network, who my ideal clients are, [00:26:00] what their concerns are, how am I supposed to follow up? They've been there for two years and they're asking me who their ideal client is? I'm like, shame on you, not shame on you, shame on your boss, shame on the leadership
for not providing the training and the information and the, I mean, studies show time and time again that this, these, you know, the Gen X, Gen Y, the millennial, they want to learn. Those are one of the things that, that attract them to, um, you know, companies and careers. They
want career growth.
And so when we look at it, you see at the turnover and the talent acquisition. You provide this for them and they'll stick around. They just don't know it. They didn't learn it in engineering school. And their leaders didn't learn it in engineering school, because it's not taught there. So it's, it's available, but you have to make time for it and make the commitment to it. Um, you know, saying, I don't know it [00:27:00] and I did a training back in 2015. Well, a lot's changed since 2015. You know, it's like the dinosaur age. So, are you keeping up with it? And are you setting the pace in the example for emerging leaders who are going to eventually step into the next level and become the management and move up the scale? How do they communicate? How do they get along with others? Are their noses buried in the phone? Can they pick up the the phone and actually, you know, use it to call somebody and, you know, untwist a miscommunication or a message that would take 17 threads on an email, but resolve it in 12 seconds on the phone
because you can ask a
question. You get to hear somebody's voice. You interact with them. That's the deep relationship and connection that we
talked about a few minutes ago.
Evan Troxel: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Can we go back a little bit and talk about a definition, and maybe you can lay this out in more [00:28:00] detail? You said seller doer, and I think that is very much a marketing term. We hear it inside of offices a lot as a model that is more appropriate potentially than other models. So maybe you can lay out kind of the landscape of, of what that means.
And then what are the alternatives and why seller doer is important.
Susan Young: Well, you know, in AEC, that's what it is. As I, as I mentioned earlier, that the, the, the, sellers are the marketing people, the schmoozers who are, you know, friendly, outgoing, uh, who know sales, how to close the deal, how to network effectively, um, how to ask the right questions. And this, you know, what I teach is about, you know, it's not about emotional intelligence.
It's not about Toastmasters. It's not about active listening. It's a higher level of communication. And so those are the, the sellers. And the doers are the people who are out on the construction site, you know, the superintendents, the PMs, the estimators, and so there's that [00:29:00] gap that they don't
Jive together.
You know, they don't
speak the same language. They don't, they just don't function. And a lot of it is the, you know, AEC is left brain. It's logical. It's scientific. It's, it's numbers. It's analytical. And, you know, it is creative, of course, as you come from architecture that, you know, there is, you know, the right side of the brain is the, Uh, you know, creative and, and all that, but we really look for the emotional part, and that's what sales is all about, and that's how we're able to connect emotionally with people when we have that human factor, H2H, human to human. You know, we talk a lot in business about storytelling. And people were like, well, how do you use a story in business? How do I introduce myself? How do I tell my story? Like
when we opened up
and talked
about, you
know, not speaking until I was four years old. Well, it's all about the story and how do you deliver it? But you have to [00:30:00] believe
that you have a story.
So what is the place for that? And how is it relevant to your client or prospect? In a meeting that's not self serving, that you feel comfortable sharing so you have the right words, in the right order, at the right time, for the right people. That's human to human communication.
Because storytelling is not going out of style anytime soon. It's been around for 2, 000 years. You know, hieroglyphics on the cave with the cavemen and the fireside chats with President Roosevelt in the, in the 40s, during World War II, people were sitting by the radio, that's all they had. And now, you know, with social.
So, communication is not going out of
style anytime soon.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Susan Young: the key is, is, are you going to commit to learning it, or are you going to sit and complain and say, Wow, somebody else won the bid. Why? Because you copied and pasted your crap from last year.
Evan Troxel: There's the [00:31:00] title of the episode right there.
I I find it really interesting. Something I just heard, uh, and it resonated with me was that you have about six minutes when you're giving a presentation before you will start to just lose people. They'll start falling off. R rapidly at that point. Um, as far as, it's kind of related to attention span, although I think attention spans are potentially way, way, way shorter than that.
But in a, in a new scenario, right? I'm going to this presentation, I'm going to this meeting. Um, you definitely have somebody's attention for the first. Six minutes is the number that I was given, and I think that that's really important to put out there because you talked about copying and pasting the same crap as last year in your presentation, and you also mentioned earlier on slides with just loads of information, right?
When I think about it. an engineer, or I think about a building product manufacturer [00:32:00] coming into the office and giving a presentation on their process or their product or whatever it is, and it's just loaded with data, and I can do one of two things. I can listen to you, or I can read the slide, and I tend to look at a screen if it's on, right?
Like, that's just my I think that's a lot of people's. If there's a screen on in a bar that's playing a game, even if you don't like sports, you're kind of watching the game because you're just drawn to it. It's like you're drawn to watch the fire in the fireplace, right? It's like this flickering light is, it is, and it's in our DNA to look at that kind of a thing.
And, and if you don't engage with those people in the first six minutes, if you don't get an interaction to happen, like they're gone, they're checking their email. How many times have you checked your phone? During this meeting, right? It's like it happens all the time with people. I'm curious what you have seen in that regard, because we go into these scenarios where we have to present and we have to tick all these boxes off and we have to get from here to [00:33:00] there, and we have to keep it moving and we're trying to keep people's attention and at the same time, we're not engaging with them.
We're just. spewing rote communication. It's the same crap that we presented the last time, for example. Right? So what, what do you think about all that? And that number even, I mean, maybe it's even
I don't
Susan Young: yeah, the number is, is, uh, you know, six minutes would
be, is scary to me.
Um, we've got to get them, humans, according to research, have the attention span of a goldfish, which is
8. 5 seconds.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. Yeah.
Susan Young: Okay, so, there's that, and we also have to understand and learn, how do adults learn? So, when you have that You know, and this is what I coach.
I'm giving
away a lot of gems here.
Okay, this
is, this
is, you know, I hope people are, you know, taking notes or what have you, but it really comes down to the, you know, and we've done this in trainings where they, they'll show us a slide deck that they used, uh, the architecture firm, uh, specifically [00:34:00] what I'm thinking of, and it opens up with, you know, their team and their history.
Nobody cares. Nobody cares. And that's where my radio, people say, well, why would, why would we hire a radio, you know, a, a broadcaster and somebody who, you know, has this interesting background, but what do you know about our industry? I'll tell you what I know. Is that if you don't grab their attention, just like a news story, at the beginning, they're going to click somewhere else.
They're going to check out, like you said, they're going to check their phone, they're going to be distracted. How do you use your words to paint the picture and to keep them engaged, which means they're thinking, they're feeling, they're reacting. And they're involved so that you're mesmerizing that they are hanging on the edge of their seats.
Of course, they're going to pay attention. You've got, you've got them. Every word that's dripping off your tongue is magic. [00:35:00] Okay,
Evan Troxel: You got, you got me interested with all those words right there. I thought, I, I find this as even more difficult in this. We're doing this remotely right now, right? You're on the East coast. I'm on the West coast. I'm looking at you through a screen. We're not in the same room together. There is a body language barrier.
I'm only seeing a part of you, right? You're only seeing a part of me. And I'm curious how you coach people through that because we live in a hybrid world now also, right? And how do you engage with people through this method of communication when you can't be in the same room as them? We've seen firms borders expand.
Where are they competing for work, right? And a lot of times this digital communication comes in as well. So, I'm wondering Where you go with that.
Susan Young: yeah, you know, there's a whole different psychology and set for, you know, zoom overload. And that disconnection, you know, that, that disconnect that we've had because of COVID and because of the way [00:36:00] technology is now, um, that, you know, people do need to learn how to use their body language. And, um, you know, it's like doing a speech in public, you know, at a, at a conference or a meeting and people
hide behind the podium.
Evan Troxel: Mm
Susan Young: And so you're just a talking head,
but in the end, you are the message. So when you're able to, as I said, I worked in radio, I didn't need to use
gestures and all of this, and
then I had to learn,
okay, how do I use my body like, you know, improv, right? I'm sneaking around the corner, I jumped out from the tree, and all of a sudden, you know, all of that, so, it feels awkward or uncomfortable, but we want to be able to connect and understand how people communicate online when you only have, so, you know, when I'm speaking in, in live, you know, at an event, is that I never stand behind a podium.
I, I teach people because you're hiding because
you don't trust yourself.
Evan Troxel: Hmm.
Susan Young: are the message, everything. The way you look, the way you show up, the way you [00:37:00] move, the way you use your voice, the way you behave. So, even though it's here, you still have some personality back here, in the background, and it's looking at the camera and not worrying, Oh, is my hair okay over here?
Or did I, did something fall over there? Am I distracted? Um, it's about really being, like I say, centered, and wherever my feet are my head is and not being distracted, but it is a
whole different animal
Evan Troxel: The digital version of hiding behind the podium is hiding behind the slideshow, right? Sharing your screen is you, you are minimized. The content is the focus at that point and I find that to be the biggest crutch that people will also use, right? It's, I get to hide behind and read the slides and nobody wants to sit on the other end and receive that.
They want to be engaged with, they want it, they, they want it so [00:38:00] badly to be part of the conversation and interacting and engaging. And you have put up a barrier. You have put the podium between you and them when you do that. When you, when you click, I'm going to share my screen now. And then there's this awkward fumbling of actually sharing the screen.
Right. And I've done a ton of work doesn't get exposed on this podcast because this is a mostly audio podcast and we're mostly just talking, but I, I can, I can draw on my screen, I can communicate with you as, as an architect, let me turn that off so that. My face isn't covered up, but I can communicate as an architect with something that a skill that I have that you probably don't have, right, is just live sketching as an example to engage with people, to communicate ideas that is.
It's fun. It's, um, people love to watch other people sketch. They just do because they probably can't sketch, right? I mean, it's just one of those things that is interesting because it's something that I don't know how to [00:39:00] do and they do. But there's ways to control the communication digitally where I can pop up another computer over me, but then I can bring it right back so that we're talking and we're not looking at that thing while I hide in the corner.
Right? And so I think there's a lot of aspects when it comes to digital communication that we need to be thinking more like broadcasters. We need to be thinking more like newscasters. Like you said earlier, everybody's in marketing. I think everybody's in communications as well, right? Everybody's a media business as well as a marketing business.
I'm curious what, what your thoughts are
on that.
Susan Young: Yeah, that's the thing is that we all have the platform and that's where you know when we when social really took off with Facebook and
you know at the beginning
was that All of a sudden, everyone had an opinion. You know, I remember my dad, like, you know, growing up in the, you know, in the 70s, and my dad's so mild mannered and easygoing, but he would, you know, watch the, again, we were really into the news, so we would watch the TV news, and every once in a while, he'd yell back [00:40:00] at Peter Jennings, or,
You know, Dan Rather,
and he was, but it was a one way conversation.
It was very stilted.
if you don't like that Hertz kept
you waiting for your rental car
in Florida,
Evan Troxel: going
Susan Young: you can just go on your phone and say Hertz sucks
or whoever, you know, or Hertz was great, you know, they got me
my car fixed right away.
So you have an opinion. And so now everyone's saying what they think. So everyone is in media. Everyone's got the same platform. You can go online and Reach 9 million people with something goes viral and I'll share this quick story with you This is this is just came to my mind. And again, this is the nuance of how a conversation flows Why we don't have talking points today. Is that You remember this story the miracle on the Hudson
where the American Airlines
captain Sully the
plane crashed on the Hudson,
155 people in New York in the harbor on the wing of the plane in January. Well, I interviewed [00:41:00] the gentleman who took the picture that went viral. So this was about 15 years ago, I believe that happened. And so the person who took the picture, I interviewed him for my blog. His name is Yanis Kroons. And what happened was he was on a ferry between New York and New Jersey going to a business meeting. And Twitter had, News always breaks first on Twitter
because it's the fastest,
and that's where a lot of
reporters and journalists hang out. So, there's people on the boat, and they're watching this, you know, plane land on the Hudson River, and people are, so they're, you know, now the ferry that Giannis is on is going to help people, and so people are starting to take pictures. But, remember, phones were very different back then. So, he says, well, if they're taking pictures, I guess I should take some pictures too.
So, he goes over to the railing and take some pictures. The only difference between him and the other passengers on the ferry with him was that [00:42:00] he tweeted to his
because he knew how to use the technology. Wow, look at this I'm on a ferry in the Hudson River and this just happened reporters couldn't get there They're in the middle of the water. All of a sudden, citizen journalism is born. Because people depended, because he had the platform, and he knew how to use it.
The others didn't know how to use it. So the 200 followers he had on Twitter said, Holy crap, look at this! And they tweeted it, and it went viral, and of course, you know, that's, that's the story.
So, how do you use technology? How do you know what to do, when to do it? and how it's going to affect other people. We all have the platform. We can all learn. We can all learn this communication. We can learn how to use Zoom. We can learn how to sketch. We can learn how to do podcast interviews. We can learn how to do, you know, better jobs at being more effective communicators in BD meetings.
You can [00:43:00] learn how to change your oil on a YouTube video, or install a dishwasher, or tie a
Evan Troxel: Absolutely everything. Yeah.
Susan Young: it. Yep.
Evan Troxel: Right. I, I think it's also important to say that you need to learn how to use it before you actually need to use it. Right. Because if he didn't have 200 followers, zero people would've seen that image and it would not have gone viral. And so a lot of times we see a EC late to adopt things because there are a lot of people who are saying, maybe not in this audience.
Who would say, I guess, uh, to what you just said. Well, of course I could just throw that picture on Twitter myself. Two, not if you don't have any follow. It doesn't matter if you don't have any followers. Right? And so you actually have to be doing the thing. before you need to be doing the thing, right?
Because if you don't, no one will see it. No one will get it. Like, like for me to interview you today, I had to do 150 episodes of a podcast, right? That's just the number that it happened to be for this to work, right? [00:44:00] It can't be like, this is my first podcast. I can't just sit down with you and record my Zoom meeting.
It could have been, but it wouldn't be what it is if I hadn't been practicing this for the last 12 years in my case, right? I've been podcasting for that long. This podcast hasn't been going for that long. Like I haven't only done 120 episodes of Troxel in 12 years, but my other podcast, ArcaSpeak, I did another one called PeopleVerse.
I have another one called Confluence, and I have Troxel. And all of that cumulative effort and commitment to show up and to publish and to do all the things that go along with that, make this a thing that People pay attention to, and you can't just show up one day and expect people to pay attention to it.
And something that you said earlier, I think, really rings true with me. I also saw, I think it was a YouTube short, in this instance, of Casey Neistat saying, Nobody cares about [00:45:00] you. Nobody. And this is Casey Neistat. I mean, how many, 12 million followers, maybe, on YouTube? Something like that. Nobody cares about you.
And I think that that is something that you have to continue to bring to everything that you do and say, like, how do I get it so that people do care about it when I publish an episode? How do I get to the point? Because it's not, this is the, the overnight success that took 10 years in the making, right?
That's how it, That's how these things often go. And so, when you're talking about journalism, when you're talking about broadcasting, and interviewing, and asking good questions, that only happens by doing it, and doing it, and doing it, and refining it, and getting better at it. And, and, having that control over your brain to say, Oh, I'm starting to get distracted.
How do I pull myself back into this conversation? Right? So because you're the one maybe leading it. And, and so, I don't know, I I'm kind of rambling at this point because I, but I do feel [00:46:00] like all of this stuff is part of the soup that makes a successful communications platform. Like I was saying earlier, we're all a media platform.
Some of us are choosing to. Be that, right? Some of us, even, even though we may not feel like it, we, we are, or we could be,
Susan Young: Yeah, I think people are hiding, some people are hiding behind it, and other people are, you know, all over it to
the, you know, ad nauseum
where it's like, I can't
follow this person anymore, but I really love, you know, I wanted to go back to what you mentioned, Evan, about, um, you know, how are people, uh, You know, really communicating with one another so that when you have, you know, when you're talking about yourself and it's self serving, it's like, no, I, you know, I always say I'm from Brooklyn.
I know a lot of four letter words and one of them is flip, flip your communication. It's not about you. Nobody cares about you. It's [00:47:00] always about them. So it's about BS. Be the solution. Be relevant.
Be the
Evan Troxel: getting some new, some new vocabulary
Susan Young: I'm telling you, it's speaking in soundbites. Punchy, short, easy to understand, memorable. But talk about them. And again, it comes back to being in a busy newsroom, chaotic, during morning drive in the most competitive media market in the country. Like you said, you don't get this way overnight. I didn't cut my teeth at some you know, Iowa, you know, Farm Station.
I was in New York, New Jersey, and Philly, the
most competitive market.
And so, when people would call and pitch us stories, you know, I'd answer the phone, you know, you'd bark, news, you know, East Coast thing, and they'd start telling me about a story, and I'm thinking, who cares? Who cares? Why should I cover your story?
Why should
I pay attention to this?
And that's exactly what happens in
those BD meetings.
Who cares? Why are [00:48:00] you
telling me about the 50 year old history of your company with the person who works in, in the accounting office? I don't care.
Fix my problem.
Now I'll pay attention. That's the difference. That's the clincher. When you are relevant and you have higher level conversations, you'll get return calls and emails from the decision makers. People say, I didn't know what to do. They didn't answer me. They didn't tell me why we didn't get the bid.
That's your job,
why you didn't
get the bid. Don't ask them for three months that they're scratching your head saying, I wonder why we didn't get the bid and keep emailing people. It's like, no, it doesn't work that way. You have to be the solution. You have to be relevant. You have to step up and refine your skills so that people will notice you and pay attention. It's not the other
way around.
Evan Troxel: It's kind of the art of the headline, right? The art of the clickbait headline. Some of my favorite people are copywriters, because they have it, they just come at it differently. And I think [00:49:00] oftentimes, I appreciate a copywriter, and I'm kind of using that title generically, I guess, right now, because I'm actually thinking of specific individuals who call themselves that.
And I think it's important that they come at what If, if they're, if they're helping me come up with a title for something, or an outline for something, or maybe even just a communication about something that I've already done, they're coming at it from a very different angle than I would have, because I'm very in the weeds, and I'm very much like, well, it's this and this and this, and they're like, no, it's It's this and they flip it like you just said they flip it right and and and they come up with something catchy and interesting that I could never have come up with and I'm wondering from a collaborative standpoint right when we're when we're talking about these people who are going out and doing BD and the teams that they have behind them and marketing and So How important is that?
I mean, or how do you get to be [00:50:00] like that yourself? I think like, like for me, it would be, I would watch a lot of comedy potentially, right? To get ideas. I would watch a lot of news. I would pay attention to the way people write headlines. I would look on YouTube. How do people design thumbnails? What do they title their videos, right?
There's, there's all, what kinds of images do they put in there? Because those are the kinds of things that are, I mean, obviously like the feedback. is, is right there. How many likes, how many shares do these things have? And a lot of times it has to do with what is in that first six seconds or what is the thumbnail look like, or what is the title of the video or whatever.
I'm, I'm interesting from your, your standpoint. If I don't have those skills myself, who do I look at for inspiration? How important is
Susan Young: Yeah, I mean, and that's exactly, that's exactly what I coach and teach on because the only piece of content that's guaranteed to be read. is the headline or the subject line of an email. So if you see, you know, a magazine cover in the supermarket [00:51:00] checkout lane, and it says, Seven Ways, you know, to Healthy Cooking, and you're really into that, you're going to
keep reading the article.
You want to
open it up, or, you know, you're sitting in the chair, clicking away, and you see somebody, Oh, wow, they have a healthy cooking show. I want to see that. Or you're going to click. That's
So how are you
going to get people to pay attention? You're going to be relevant to them in those first magical few words. So that's where the editing and the writing comes in, where people say to me, How do you know what to include and what to leave out? And I say, cut the crap. Get rid of the irrelevant words, the empty words. Longer
doesn't mean better,
it just means
it's longer.
And, you know, TLDR, too long, didn't read.
Nobody's got the attention span. Nobody's got the interest to try to figure out what you're trying to say. So it goes back to what you mentioned, to what I said at the beginning. What else, what else, what else? What else is this story about? What else is
this firm
[00:52:00] about? Are you paying attention to the Twists, turns, and trends in the industry from the morning that you went into the meeting so that you know exactly what's happening.
Not that you went on their website or their blog or checked their LinkedIn three days ago or a week ago and you didn't know that X happened.
Well then shame on you.
He had time to watch The Bachelor. He had time to check your email 40 times or go on Facebook or whatever you're going to do,
right? The
goal here,
I mean, no nonsense stuff here. To be a person of excellence. People
will notice that. Those
decision makers are
going to be impressed. They're going to stop and say, wow, this person's sharp. This is who I want to work with. These are the people that are. You've got it going on here. Otherwise, you blend into the crowd. How are you going to differentiate yourself and stand out? You be a person of excellence, and you're relevant. You're the solution. B. S. Be the solution. Help them solve their problems. [00:53:00] and they will come to you time and time again.
Evan Troxel: have two stories from one client that I would share to kind of confirm what you just said, which was number one was it was a very small interview. It was me, a project manager from our side. I was a designer. He was a project manager. We would be the ones delivering the project and two people on the client side.
And I think I'm just guessing here. I guess I would have to ask, but what clinched it in the meeting for us to get the project was when I asked them, what else? It was that it was, I've looked at your website. I see what you're about, but I know this isn't the whole story. Tell me what's not on the website.
Tell me about you, all the things that are not on the website. And they went into this whole story about sustainability, their transportation company, how they're transforming their bus line into electric [00:54:00] vehicles, they have a local, like the first in the region, in the LA area, of this outdoor bus recharging station.
None of that was on their website probably just yet. It just wasn't there yet, right? But it was one of those things where I showed an interest in who they were. I asked about them, and it wasn't even them personally, it was them, the organization, and it was the things that, you know, nobody can make their website update fast enough, right, for all the cool stories that are out there, and I, therefore, how would I know, right, so all I had to do was say, what's not, what is not represented on your website that I should know about you.
So anyway, we got the project, that was story number one. The second part was I was at a board meeting where we had, um, supplied several design options, which is what architects do, right? We have to give at least three options. That's the magic number for some reason. And we had these different options that, that [00:55:00] built on those stories that he told me during the initial interview.
And it was like, we're going And it was a very simple project. It was a facade replacement where a certain piece of the building was aged out and the structure behind it was rusting and whatever. And these pieces were going to fall off and hurt somebody. And so they thought, well we're just going to put something back up there that looks just like what we're taking off.
And based on what they had told me, I went in with design ideas that were like about what they were about. And these things showed sustainability and transportation, and it really brought kind of the fundamentals of their organization to the facade of the building. And it was a thing they could point at and tell people a story about, right?
And one of the board members said, I appreciate the architects so much in this that we chose them because they said what if. They were the ones brave enough to come to us and say, What if it was something more? What if [00:56:00] it could be something else? And they said, We would have never done that ourselves. And so they hired us because we were the ones saying, What if?
And architects are amazing at that, right? Like that, The true architecture is really about finding solutions that Mere mortals cannot think of themselves. Right. and, and, to me, I think those are two kind of, they, they confirm what you're talking about. Where it was that feedback that I got in the moment that, that now makes that such a memorable project.
Otherwise, it could have just been a very like rudimentary. Yep. We could have put the same thing up that they took down and Yep, it paid the bills and we did the thing and moved on to the next one. Or it can be a story that I'm telling today that happened 15 years ago because it was so impactful because I asked the open ended questions.
What else is not a yes or no answer?
Susan Young: It's, it's not how or why, you know, or what those are dead
ended questions. You
know, [00:57:00] we want
we want to get information like we talked about earlier, quality questions. And so having that, you know, attention to detail and knowing that you want to stand out and saying, you know, what else, what else, what else, and then going in there confident and strong and believing. that this is the right story for them, and knowing how to craft it and
structure it, beautiful.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, yeah. Well, I feel like we're wrapping up here, and I want to make sure that everybody can find you online. I will put links to what you're about to say in the show notes, so people don't have to remember them. They can just go to the show notes and click those links, but Susan, I mean And, and also, if I'm missing anything here, if there's anything else that you wanted to put out there, I, I'm not trying to cut us off, but I feel like we're, we're kind of, we've brought it back to the beginning, right, when going back to, you, you did it, you, you, you tied the bow around the what else, and, and, and tied the end to the beginning, so, what are we missing?
If we're not missing anything, I would love to hear, uh, just where people can contact you, [00:58:00] connect with you, find you online.
Susan Young: Yeah, I think that the, the, the key here is, is that when AEC tech is talking about technology and all the file documentation and
the file management
Evan Troxel: the
how, yeah.
Susan Young: and all that, it's not the process. It's, we need to focus on the people. Because the process, who's behind the process? It's a human being. And so, that's
the missing link
from all the dashboards and everything else is the soft skills. And that's where people are saying, we don't know what to do. But for 10 years we've been saying that. It's like the illusion of confusion. And I've been called out on that too by
one of my coaches.
Um, you know, it's
like you do know where to start. But you have to start. And so, yeah, you have projects that need to get out the door. And you also need to train people, [00:59:00] these emerging leaders, to be able to step up to the next level. So, that's the, the coaching and the, the programs, the online and the keynotes and the speeches and trainings that I do.
It's all at aecamplify. com. And. I'm on LinkedIn, bopping around the air, we do a newsletter three days a week,
Monday, Wednesday, Friday,
and, uh, would welcome, you know, conversations, just love talking to people and
I'm curious, so,
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Susan Young: that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Evan Troxel: Well, I'll, I'll go back to where we began as well. And I, this is a very important subject to me at least. I mean, people can decide for themselves whether they think it's important or not. Um, but I do believe that the data is there , if you wanna look at the data. Um, and just to reinforce your point, I think a lot of times clients don't care how you do the thing.
They just want the thing. Right? They don't care about the tools, is what I mean by that. They do want a good relationship. They do want to care about something. And that care happens through this emotional connection and [01:00:00] relationship with the actual people who do the job. Who are actually listening to them and turning that thing that was just an idea And that is the magic of what we can do in architecture, right?
And to take them through that process and include them in it so that it's participatory and they're contributing and they really feel ownership over it. Because when the project is delivered, and I think this even goes back to the stories I just told about the facade replacement project, is the stories live on.
People who come to visit that place tell the stories that we went through to get there. And that to me is extremely satisfying because I know that those ideas are in good hands, right? They want to tell people about those stories because it builds a connection between them as well. Like now they know some insider information that nobody else knows because it's not on a plaque, it's not on a billboard, it's not in a video, it's not on a podcast, right?
[01:01:00] It's, it's impossible to find. You actually have to talk to somebody to get that information. And I think that, that is also what kind of adds to how important it is to, to figure out the ways to build the skills, to become the communicators, to land the ideas so that you can tell these kinds of stories about your work, which then people will say, I want a story like that.
I want to be part of a story like that. So I'm going to choose them to help me make that happen, right? Because are you going to get a building or are you going to get architecture? Are you going to get an experience, right? They're not the same things. They're not the same things, right? So thank you so much for taking the time to do this today.
And again, cover this very important topic, at least to me and to you, I think. So, um, this, this has been a fun conversation. Thank you.
Susan Young: I so enjoyed our time together. Thank you,
Evan. ​[01:02:00]