Intuitively, we all know that many speakers are nervous when presenting. Yet, when attending a meeting or conference, we rarely think about how we, as listeners, can help the speaker be more comfortable. Though most of my team’s time is spent focusing on coaching speakers to be more confident and effective, as a listener, you can help as well.
Here are five practical tips for being a great listener in a group setting:
- Provide non-verbal feedback. Speakers are sensitive to listeners’ facial expressions and posture. It helps to grin, show facial interest, smile if appropriate, and use a slight forward lean.
- Get cozier. Have you noticed that the front row at a meeting or conference is often empty or sparsely populated? Speakers benefit from feeling connected to their listeners, so, in a large group, be brave and sit as near to the speaker as possible.
- Ask questions. It is uncomfortable when the presenter asks if there are any questions and then…crickets! Yes, it can take courage on your part to speak up. But, knowing that you are helping the speaker feel better may get you going.
- Avoid distracting behaviors. Presenters notice everything because they can SEE everything from their vantage point. Know that you are not invisible and avoid talking to colleagues, fiddling with papers, or your handbag. If you need to cough more than several times, best to move into the hallway.
- Approach the speaker afterward. Whether it’s a small group meeting or a large conference, presenters feel uplifted when they know their information or style is appreciated. Offer a sincere compliment if you can. Conversation with the presenter is a boost to networking too!