The Speaker as Learner

I really enjoy speaking in public. You probably know that already.

Despite delivering many a presentation over the years, I am constantly struck by how many people come up to chat afterward and tell me, in so many words, how smart I am. No braggadocio intended. It’s a function of viewing the person in the front of the room as the font of all wisdom.

How to deal with such flattery? Of course, thank you is always a good start. Another idea: I mention that I often learn as much as teach. It’s important to keep in mind that communications is a two-way street, even when speaking before a large group there to gain your expertise.

NAIOP screenTo cite one example, one audience I addressed eagerly participated in an exercise designed to arrive at solutions that can help persuade a reluctant boss to sharpen his or her communications edge (the talk was titled “What To
Do When the Boss Says No,” a popular topic when I appear before groups of executive communicators, public affairs experts, and marketing mavens).

I always learn as well as teach during these workshops and thanks to this talented group of professionals, I gained some new ideas to incorporate into future training and teaching opportunities. Some of the accumulated gems:

  • Gain reinforcement from the boss’ peers, both internal and external
  • Encourage them to engage in self-assessment, and offer tools to do so
  • Seek access through their administrative assistants when you find the door shut (literally or figuratively)
  • Insist on an ongoing program that improves their communications skills

The larger lesson for all speakers: Attune yourself to the moments during your presentations that can enhance your lifelong learning, then use them to build upon the knowledge you can deliver to others.

What’s the most useful piece of feedback you’ve received from your audiences?

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