When your audience says: “No time. No money. No thanks.”

Almost as soon as I began, I knew I was losing them. I was in a retail banking branch, trying to explain the benefits of our new collaboration platform to the staff. And they were skeptical.

“We’re very busy with clients. We don’t have time for other things.” “How much does it cost? We’re very focused on profitability.”

Words like “Jive” or “social intranet” or “micro-blogging” didn’t mean much to them. I quickly needed to change my approach.

“What’s the point?”

The problem was that I was talking about what I had instead of talking about what they needed. They didn’t want yet another tool or thing to do. They wanted help.

So I started over.

“Our goal is to make things easier for you. Easier to find answers and experts. Easier to share better ways of working with people who do what you do. Easier to coordinate work in your group and across groups.

If we make all of that easier, we’ll make your jobs better while we unlock tremendous value for our company.”

Making work easier in 3 ways

They weren’t convinced, but focusing on making their lives easier bought me some time. Now I could describe how our collaboration platform could make their jobs easier.

Sometimes, you need to go to a place - a destination - to get things done. It could be the latest information on a project or about a client or a product. It’s just a website, but a website with some modern advantages. You can see feedback from other people - comments, ratings, or “likes” - that let you know what’s helpful or not. And searching is simple and fast.

These are all things you’re used to at home but not in the office. Now we can fix that.

The second way we make things easier is with a Facebook-like stream. It lets you follow things you care about - people, groups, documents, websites - and get notified in real-time. The things that matter to you are delivered in a way that’s easy to skim quickly but that also allows for comments and other feedback.

And the tools themselves are convenient and engaging. That means iPad and iPhone access, for example. It means consolidating several of the tools we have into one place. And it means integration with our email system, Outlook. That lets you see all collaboration activity right from your inbox. And lets you turn email threads into online discussions that can now be searchable and more inclusive.

Business examples in their language

You can describe the platform and the 3 ways it makes work easier in a long elevator ride. After that, the key is relating it to what people do every day.

In the retail branch, I asked how they get answers to questions about products or processes.

“There’s a number to call,” they said. “Sometimes we have to wait on the phone for 10 minutes.”

So I talked about ways we can use the new platform to increase self-service at work. About what other companies like Apple and T-Mobile have done using the same collaboration platform.

I asked how they learn the best ways to do certain things, like selling particular products.

“There’s a website for the basics. But usually I ask other people in the branch, and they're often too busy.”

So I talked about richer websites maintained by trained curators. And communities of practice where people in similar jobs across the firm can share best practices and help each other.

Getting answers. Finding experts. Sharing best practices. Coordinating work. Across divisions and across firms, you tend to find the same collaboration needs and patterns. The jargon will differ, but the underlying concepts and issues will be the same.

Depending on how much time you have, you can keep going through your common use cases and relating them to your audience.

Making it personal

Towards the end, I made it personal.

I asked people in the branch how they would know about great jobs in other branches. And how would anyone besides their manager know about them and their skills?

There was a pause. A young woman answered, somewhat wistfully, “Some people work in the same branch for 30 years.”

So I talked about how collaborating online makes their work visible. How it gives them control over their reputation - who they are, what they do, and how well they do it - and unlocks access to good jobs.

Speaking multiple languages, for example, was in high demand. Would a Frankfurt-based bank employee who spoke Italian be interested in a job on the Amalfi coast? Would they contribute on-line if it meant they could be more visible?

“Yes, of course!" she said, smiling. "That would be great."

Always. Be. Closing.

Social business platforms are good for the individual. They make their job easier while giving them a way to shape their reputation and access opportunities.

And they're good for the firm. Good for finding waste and eliminating it. Good for finding commercial opportunities and exploiting them. Good for finding great people and giving them the best jobs.

The audience had warmed up. Heads were nodding. Eyes were shining.

“Now, let’s set up our next meeting. Let’s start changing the way you work.”