At a recent meeting of National Speaker Association members, professional speakers and wannabes we had a brainstorming session with the aim of coming up with a list of qualities that are desirable for the cruise ship speaker and others who find themselves up on the stage.
High on the list was – improve listening skills.
This puzzled me a bit because we are not professional listeners. If I were, I’d have become something that starts with psych — Or a preacher maybe.
But … the professional cruise ship speaker does need to be a good listener. But maybe not in the way that might be first thought.
I am a fiddler. I tweak my presentation almost up to the last minute. I also pace, that is walk back and forth, not pace myself and think and rehearse my opening lines right up to the last minute, too.
There is one other thing I do … I go to the sessions that are leading up to mine. I stand around in the hall and I eavesdrop on conversations. I try to get a feel for what people are talking about, looking for, hoping to gain from my or any other session. I want to know what they have been hearing up to the point where I go on stage.
In this sense, I want to be a good listener. I want to be sensitive. Not a few times have I made reference to a talk earlier in the day and even right before my own.
I think this practice brings immediate relevance and context to my presentation.
The more the professional speaker hears what his audience has been hearing right up to the moment s/he goes on stage, the better the presentation.
Try it and let me know how it works for you.