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Get to the Point Already

by on November 12, 2015

This third post in the mini-series will focus on selling yourself and the library. These techniques are good for interviews, presentations, and even simple conversations with employees. I will focus on the book Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want. [1] At first glance, the book was a bit dated and not super relevant to me (I love giving presentations), but as I read more, I found value throughout the work.

“Almost one thousand people in this country die each day from smoking-related illnesses. Imagine it. That’s as if two fully loaded jumbo jets collided over your hometown every day and everyone aboard was killed. . . ” Authors Karen Berg and Andrew Gilman write about “selling points” in the book Get to the Point. This selling point (in italics) was created to paint a picture of how many people die from smoking every day. The selling point is striking and I can’t imagine you could forget the image. The library has plenty of great stories, touchy-feely and full of “awww.” I have to tell you, those stories don’t always resonate with me or politicians. They want results. They want to know the return on investment.

What is a selling point?
Selling points, as defined by the authors:  “Strong messages use vivid, unambiguous language. They rest on a foundation of information presented in a package that we call a selling point, which makes a positive statement and then gives an illustration.” When I make a presentation to stakeholders, I focus on selling. The goal is to leave an impression and a call to action. I challenged myself and my team to come up with some similar (though not as morbid) selling points, and this is what we created:

  • Picture 200 people playing five-card stud. Now, turn all of those playing cards into library cards. That’s how many library cards we issue in a month.
  • Imagine the traffic jam! Seventy-two school buses full of children. That’s how many people attend our library events in a single month! Seventy-two school buses would stretch from the library to the Mission on Main St. . . and they visit the library voluntarily!
  • If you laid out every book that was checked out of a County Library last year, you would have enough books to stretch from Ventura to Disneyland.
  • Every month, residents request about 8,000 titles. That’s over 1 million dollars of savings in a year. They aren’t just picking up a handful of titles while browsing, they are seeking out our titles specifically.

Depending on the crowd, I will add a call to action at the end of the statement. “Imagine what we could do with more!” I will also add a specific request, leaving the audience with the impression that they too can be a supporter of the community’s success. I pose the same challenge to you. Get to know your stats and talk to your coworkers. Create unique, brief selling points and start sharing them. The next time someone says “You’re a librarian! I didn’t know we still had librarians!,” respond with a smile and a selling point.


Berg, K. & Gilman, A. (1989). Get To the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want. Bantam.

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