One of the abilities that people seek to improve nowadays (and they are right in doing so) is public speaking. In the age of communication, it is essential to express your ideas in a clear, structured, and elegant manner. Whether you talk at a TED event, or you give a simple presentation for clients or colleagues, you may think that it is enough to speak well. If you are concise, clear, and empathetic, people will listen. Is that so?
Studies actually show that our listening skills are in dire need of a rapid brushing up. Research shows that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency, which translates into an astonishing figure: 75% of listening is ineffective! 75% of information seems to be lost somewhere on the communication channel established between speakers and listeners. So why is it that we don’t focus more on cultivating our listening skills, as they don’t seem to be very strong?
4 Tips for effective listening during online professional events
With the current rise of online events and meetings, listening has become even more important in every aspect of our lives, professional ones included. Think about all the Zoom meetings we participated in during these months of on and off confinement! If we don’t listen carefully, we might miss important information about what’s going on with a project, an organizational department, or even the entire company.
It’s not only about listening to words and sentences; we should pay attention to the tone of voice and understand various nuances of communication.
So how can we improve our listening skills in the Golden Age of online professional events? Here are four ideas:
Focus – one thing at a time
That is easier said than done in the era of pervasive distractions and notifications of all sorts! But keep in mind that multitasking works wonderfully with operating systems and devices, but it is not necessarily a quality of the average human.
We need to focus on one task if we want to be more productive and more insightful. So we agree with Harvard Business Review saying that we need to stop checking our inbox in Zoom conferences and focus on what the speakers are saying. In other words, just listen and avoid distractions!
Visual contact is essential
Human communication relies a lot on non-verbal elements. In online events, this is the aspect that we tend to ignore, but it is far from being beneficial for communication. First of all, when you attend a small online event (a training session, a small conference, a company meeting), keep your camera on and look at the speaker. There is nothing more frustrating than speaking at a screen full of black squares with a name on them.
On the other hand, if you don’t look at the speaker, you will most likely find yourself checking your phone or your email. So acts as if you were in an offline event, and you’ll be a better listener.
Get back on track
It happens even to the best and the brightest. Even if we try to focus on the speech, we find ourselves thinking about grocery shopping and the to-do list with daily chores. Get back on track and start listening again!
Active listening requires constant effort, so don’t be discouraged if you cannot always control your wandering mind. The essential thing is to stay calm and in control. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Engage in the conversation
Ask questions if you miss something important and avoid being a passive attendee. See if there are any rules for asking questions to prevent endless interruptions (by the way: they are a distractor for both speakers and attendees) and focus on the meeting.
When you ask questions, you become an active participant and don’t feel the urge to do something else. In a nutshell, you are present. So try to stay present and engaged throughout the event.
Some say that the pandemic will make us more productive as we don’t waste so much time commuting, we don’t have to be in a certain place to work or to attend certain events. But… there is a huge but in this equation. It’s easier to get distracted when we work from home, and perhaps we don’t listen as carefully as would have in a face-to-face meeting.
Keep in mind that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency in offline events. The efficiency drops a lot when we attend online conferences, training sessions, and business meetings.
So, before attending an online event, remember the wise words of Brené Brown: “Be as passionate about listening as you are about being heard”.
Veronica is a multilingual trainer of trainers. She has years of experience working with adult learners, both in Higher Education and in the business sector.