Book review: Convince them in 90 seconds

Convince Them in 90 Seconds: Make Instant Connections That Pay Off in Business and in Life

By Nicholas Boothman

Workman Publishing


It doesn’t happen often but it happened a few weeks ago.

I sat in on a really good presentation. A mercifully brief and tightly focused talk that got straight to the point.

The senior management team was on the receiving end of pitch from a business executive who’s winding down his career and ramping up his volunteer work here at home. 

He got 10 minutes on the agenda to talk with us about a local non-profit that could use a helping hand. 

In making his pitch, he told us some great stories about the organization. Talked about the past, the present and highlighted what we could accomplish together in the future.  He also shared his personal story.

He walked us through a few stripped down PowerPoint slides. Pointed out that we’re both in the business of building leaders. And then he  asked for the order. We were willing and able to get involved and help out?

All in all, he delivered a great presentation and made a strong first impression with the folks around the table.

What’s more, he would of made author Nicholas Boothman proud. Boothman is a licensed master practicioner of neuro-lingusitic programming. To put it another way, Boothman is really good at making instant connections and he knows how to harness the power of persuasion.

Having spent a quarter century as a photographer in high-end fashion and advertising, Boothman became very good at spotting who had the innate ability to connect with anyone in a warm and spontaneous way. Those connections were usually made within the first minute and a half of people getting together for a photo shoot.

“The first 90 seconds of any encounter isn’t just a time for making a good first impression,” says Boothman. “In the first few moments of any meeting, you connect with a person’s instincts and their human nature – their hardwired responses.”

Boothman says in those opening seconds, our subconscious survival instincts kick in and our mind and body make some snap judgements and lightning quick decisions. Do we run, fight or interact? Break out or put away the Crackberry and give you our undivided attention and an open mind? Is the person in front of us an opportunity or a threat? Friend or foe?

In those first 90 seconds, we’re sizing you up and deciding whether you’re okay or if you should go away. Do we trust and feel safe with you? Are we going to play ball together?

To improve the odds of making an immediate connection, Boothman encourages us to adopt the KFC formula for success communications. Know what you want. Find out what you’re getting. And change what you do until you get what you want.

Define what you want in positive terms and in the present tense.  If you don’t know what you want, chances are we’re not going to give it to you. So always remember the golden rule. If you don’t have a point, don’t make a presentation.

Pay attention to the feedback you’re getting and learn from it. What messages are hitting and missing the mark? Figure out what’s moving you to your goal and what’s distracting you. And if you don’t get what you want, try different approaches.

Keep close tabs on your attitude. It’s a mash-up of your body language, your tone of voice and your choice of words. Attitude is the first thing people pick up in face-to-face communication, says Boothman. Do you come across as warm or cold? Happy or miserable? The good thing about your attitude is that you can control it and adjust it.

 Successful leaders share three really useful attitudes. They’re enthusiastic. They’re curious. And they embrace humility, with a public persona rooted in modesty and service to others. “When a large ego is generously wrapped in humility, it is a handsome package,” says Boothman.

There’s a lot more practical advice from Bootham. It’s advice that can help you do a better job of connecting with other people and pitching your next big idea, project or partnership.

“No matter your line of work, you are first and foremost in the business of connecting with other people – and those people are deciding whether that’s going to happen or not, in about the same time it takes to glance at a photograph.” And, like posing for a photo, always remember to smile when making a connection.

Jay Robb lives and works in Hamilton and blogs at

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Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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