August 3

Hey Presenters! Hand Over the Microphone! Test your Listening Skills


Warning:  If you can hear a pin drop during your presentation, your audience may be asleep.  

Which one of the following is an example of a good listening skill?

(A) Address your customer’s objection’s first.
(B) Use animated listening.
(C) Finish your customer’s question as proof you’re in sync.
(D) Exaggerate your posture to show you are hanging on their every word.


If you’ve ever played pool you know the white cue ball is in charge.  When you’re presenting your product or service to a business audience, you’re in charge.  You know the result you want, you aim, then celebrate the perfect shot as your audience rolls right into your pocket!  Until, of course, the black 8 ball banks right instead of left. You’ve missed the mark, your opportunity has passed, and you’re left wondering what happened.

A cue in acting is about knowing when to enter into a scene, when to leave, and when to listen. Missing your cue can scatter your whole presentation into areas (pockets) you were hoping to avoid. It’s easy to get lured into a sense of safety if your audience is smiling back at you or even staring in your general direction,  but don’t be fooled – you need to be actively listening all the time.

Usually there’s drama going on behind the scenes and you might miss it if you’re doing all the talking. Having a strategy is critical, but if you’re too busy lining up your next shot, or rehearsing your upcoming line in your head, you’re missing the action.

Motion Sickness. Sometimes watching your client’s body language is hard. You’ve put untold hours into your presentation and have a lot riding on it when wham: you see someone yawn, arms cross, or nails tap. Don’t freeze, this is not the time to speak louder, faster, or throw in a better price.

Take an intermission. Let your associates talk, be specific, ask where you have lost them. Don’t assume, let them tell you what they need. Seeing your prospect check their watch can be cringe worthy, but re-framed, the signal is a fabulous cue. You still have time to adjust, re-align and change the momentum of the scene.

Unless you’re James Earl Jones …Monologues are a team sport

Observing is the silent sister of presenting. If you’re doing all the talking, or talking too long, your audience has nothing to do, but daydream. Unless you have the voice, and presence of James Earl Jones, you need to share the stage. Billiards isn’t a solo game and neither is sales. Presentations have curves: know your opening scene, your closing objective, and listen to uncover the plot.

So what’s the answer to the quiz? (B) Animated listening is an active state. You’re in the moment, curious, and connected to the scene.

What’s wrong with answers A, C and D? 

(A) Anticipating isn’t listening, with the added problem, you could be wrong. (C) Hey, who doesn’t want to be interrupted?! (D) Exaggerating can make you appear phony and insincere, which can lead to distrust of you and your company.

Performance Exercise:  Practice animated listening. Remember the car game “I see”? I see a mailbox, I see a purple alien… In your next conversation, what do you see?  What do you hear?  What was unexpected?  How many verbal and nonverbal cues can you identify?

photo credit: demandaj via photopin cc


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