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  • Writer's pictureLiza Engel

Speak Wisely - Transformative Lessons from Listening and Observing

You might say, I can never do you what you do on stage. My response is, yes, you can. But I don't even have the opportunities you do, you reply. Oh yes, you do.

If you haven't already set your ambitious speaking goals for 2024, then it is time you do. The ability to articulate ideas clearly and compellingly can open doors to countless opportunities.

While practice is undeniably the key to success, what happens when your opportunities to stand in front of an audience are few and far between? I have good news for you! Learning opportunities are everywhere!



Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash


Learning from the Stage of Others

Imagine yourself sitting in the audience not simply as a spectator but as a curious detective, gathering insights from every nuance of the speaker's performance. This is where our adventure in learning truly begins. With a unique style and approach, each speaker becomes a live case study in the art of public speaking, from the strategic silence that lets a powerful idea sink into the vibrant stories that whisk us away to a vivid place we can experience with all our senses. Experiencing others speak is like mystery shopping, and it allows you to be privy to the audience's experience, which is what it is ultimately all about.


But the journey doesn't end as the speaker exits the stage. If the idea of mingling afterwards fills you with dread, switch on your inner journalist. Engage with fellow attendees and inquire what struck a chord with them or what they'll carry forward. This not only extends your learning but may ease the networking nerves. And if you want to take it to the next level, I dare you to go up to the speaker and ask them how they prepared for such a compelling talk. I am confident that they will give you some good content that you can work with, and they will also appreciate your thoughtful attention.


Reflecting to Discover Your Voice

As we observe and absorb, we also reflect. Watching others mirror our endeavours, reveals the peaks we aspire to reach and the valleys we try to avoid.


Here are a few reflective questions to guide your introspection:

  1. How does the speaker's presentation amplify or muddle their message?

  2. What strategies do they use to keep the audience engaged?


These moments of reflection are stepping stones to crafting an impactful speaking style that's authentically yours, enriched by the diverse approaches you've experienced.


The Art of Connection

What are the secret keys of world-class speakers? Relevance and Engagement. Relevance is part of your prework and engagement is all about the delivery. The first few minutes of any talk are critical; a question posed to the audience can awaken curiosity, create a connection, and set the tone for a shared experience that resonates well beyond the final applause. This dynamic interaction enables us to speak with an audience and create a dialogue with them, as we strive to create an impactful and shared narrative.


Adapting with Grace

In my last post, I spoke about the importance of adaptability in speaking. Observing others offers an opportunity to observe this skill in action.


Last year, I listened to a renowned speaker who suddenly asked the technicians to turn off her slides. I was curious for a few seconds about why, but then she engaged the audience, barely missing a beat. Only at the end did she mention that they had used the wrong slides; they were the slides for her break-out session the next day. Instead of getting upset or irritated, she presented like a rockstar. In the end, she asked everyone to give the technicians and organizing team a round of applause for their tremendous work in taking care of everyone on and off stage. Graciousness is highly attractive. No one needs to see another bully screaming in the face of an enabler or coach on the sidelines because they are not present with themselves.


Moving Forward with Intention

Each speaker you encounter is an opportunity for you to learn. If you haven't already, mark your calendar for an upcoming event featuring speakers that interest you. Next time you find yourself in the audience, big or small, frame it as a mission. Equip yourself with a notebook and a keen sense of observation. Watch with intent, reflect purposefully, and be ready to uncover insights that propel you from an aspiring speaker to a master of the craft. The secret to becoming an exceptional speaker lies in active listening and observing. Yes, you can!


Bonus: The Audience Observer's Checklist

For those who love a good checklist, here's a list to carry along in your audience adventures:


1. Engagement:

- Engagement strategies used by the speaker

- Techniques for maintaining audience interest


2. Content Delivery:

- Structure and organization of the presentation

- Elements that make the content memorable


3. Body Language and Vocal Dynamics:

- Impact of the speaker's body language

- Use of voice to enhance the message


4. Visuals and Aids:

- Effectiveness of visual aids

- Enhancement or distraction by aids


5. Audience Reaction:

- The audience's response to the speaker

- Speaker's adaptation to audience feedback


6. Authenticity and Passion:

- Genuine enthusiasm for the topic

- Impact of authenticity on audience engagement


7. Personal Reflection:

   - Insights to apply to your speaking

   - Observations to avoid in your practice


8. Celebrate Your Growth Journey:

   - My current speaking strength    - In my next opportunity, I will test a new insight




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