Part of the art of being a professional speaker is engaging the audience with relevant content that matters to THEM (not you). Therefore, if you want to learn to be a better speaker, then learn to listen to your audience.
Of course you’ve heard the phrase, “You’re good at hearing things; you’re not good at listening.”
Let’s think about this for a moment.
Most of us agree that our hearing isn’t bad, right? But then why is it that we miss the point sometimes and don’t connect with our audience, meeting or team?
Well, it goes without saying that there’s a huge difference between listening and hearing. I love the new book by Neen James, “Attention Pays” that addresses this so brilliantly. I highly recommend the read.
Here were some of my thoughts on how to become a better listener . . . to become a better speaker.
Actively Listen to Learn
When you listen to someone just to be polite, you’re not listening. You’re hearing them. You’re not really interested in what they have to say. Engage them directly, looking at them. (No, in a weird staring way) but truly diligently working to try and understand their story, concern or challenge. Think of how this information can benefit the presentation, or how can you relate your content to this story as a specific example that will be highly relevant to them.
When you’re having that dialogue, or in a meeting or a presentation, make it a point to ask questions. Questions clarify. Questions reinforece your listening as well as your understanding. Questions may even share a different perspective or example from the initial thought that was just shared with you.
When you ask questions, you become engaged in what the other person has to say. This way, you’re listening to them but also learning.
Repeat What You Heard
If you’re unsure of what the other person has said, repeat what you’ve heard but in the form of a question. This works well because the person can instantly correct you if you’ve misheard them.
If the person agrees with what you’ve heard, you can move on. If not, they’ll let you know what they’ve said.
Don’t Interrupt Them or finish their sentence
Let the other person finish what they were saying. Don’t interrupt them or fill in the ending that you assume is coming to quickly finish their though.
If you have a question in the middle of their thought, don’t interrupt. Instead listen to see if that question might be answered, wait for an appropriate time to ask the clarifying question or if need be, make a mental note of the questions you want to ask.
Once they’re done, ask them questions to clear any doubts or confusion. If you interrupt them, they’ll lose their focus and you won’t remember what they were talking about in the first place!
Avoid this at all costs.
The better information you get ahead of time creates a better presentation.
Learn to listen intentionally. It’s a skill set that will greatly improve your ability to be a better speaker or presenter.
Jon Petz is an inspiring keynote speaker who works with the world-leading as well as local brands and associations that want to improve their performance.
He is widely regarded as one of the top positive thinking motivational speakers. Watch his videos to LISTEN and LEARN more.