Why We Listen During Presentations

Christine Johnson on

I am a continuous learning aficionado. I have sat through many conference sessions, workshops, presentations, and webinars.  Even presented a numerous times myself.  Through all of these experiences, I see three main reasons why we listen during presentations as opposed to tuning the speaker out.

You are like me

The speaker is genuinely relatable to the audience.  Putting subject matter expertise aside, a speaker that is similar to us, connects with us, or has moments before or after the presentation that align with our values is someone who will get our attention.

At a recent conference I attended, I conducted an unscientific study. I noticed how engaged some audiences were prior to a speaker starting.  The speakers that had music on before the start of the presentation or had informal dialogue with the audience beforehand had an audience that engaged from the beginning.  These engaged audience asked more questions.  And honestly, the audience was in a better mood.

Seeing it through a new lens

It is exciting when you hear something at a learning event that you have never heard before, isn’t it?  It’s fun to relish in the thought that you may be sharing this with someone else after the event that had never heard it either.  We like to be “the first.”

There are many untapped topics out there.  Speakers who cover new information, such as the results of a highly anticipated survey, almost have our ear from word one.

Speakers who take a fresh new look at a topic give the audience a feeling of excitement and anticipation, similar to a brand new topic.  I listened to a speaker on negotiation who linked it to creativity and self-awareness.  For me, this brought negotiation out from behind a place of dread.  After listening, I can’t wait to put my new negotiation skills to work.

Reaches an untapped place in you

Many of us know our passions.  We also know when things move us.  Combine these two in a presentation and for many audience members, they are moved to new heights where they are not only engaged, but want to learn more and feel a deep rooted connection to the subject.  These presenters tell a good story.

“Next, they (story-telling speakers) climb to the crescendo, treading ever so carefully between details and too much information.”

You know these speakers.  They give you an introduction to a story.  Then they pause.  Next, they climb to the crescendo, treading ever so carefully between details and too much information.  Finally, you know the outcome and lessons learned.  You easily see how the story related to the speaker’s topic goals.  You walk away feeling as if you were on an exhilarating, but totally enjoyable carnival ride.

Take a look for yourself in this short clip by Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Ideal Team Player to see what I mean.  His story in this video illustrates how trust is a key component in a team.

I challenge each of you to share, share, share when you hear a speaker that hits home on these three reasons why we listen during presentations.  The rest of us want to listen to programs that are worth our time investment, are a learning experience, and reach an emotional spot that motivates us to take what we learned and apply it immediately.

Call to action

Attend a great presentation, seminar, or workshop recently? Share the best speakers you have listened to with us here.  Tell us why they were awesome and your actionable takeaways.  We will share these “best of the best” in a future posting.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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