How To Make Them Listen To You

Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

I have been to a business symposium at the Central Philippine University yesterday by chance and I got the opportunity to hear someone talk about entrepreneurship to a younger crowd. The place was not conducive for the talk since it was at an open space covered court with bazaars at the back where people can buy food and drinks. So just imagine students putting ice bags on their head because of the hot temperature in the place and the noise that the people at the back were making because they're buying this and that and the fact that the attention span of the crowd to whom this person was talking to were limited. If this was your crowd, how will you make them listen to you?    

Ever since I was a student, I was given opportunities to speak both in smaller groups or in bigger crowds. I am not the best in this field but here are some of the principles that I have learned from my own experiences, from my mentors and from observing others.

1. Connect with your audience. Learn to get their attention by sharing a personal story that is relevant to your message or crack a joke if you're good at it. Most of the time, I would opt for a personal story since I am not good with goofing around or I would share something that's a common ground for me and my audience. Connecting with your audience makes them feel that what you have to say is really important and that it is something that has the possibility to change their life. If you don't get to connect them, you lose them and when you lose them, you're message will never get through.

2. Share principles and life lessons. Don't just brag about your great experiences. Most of the time, we prepare our messages because we want to say something about ourselves but that's not the whole point of speaking to people. Not everyone has the same lifestyle as you do but they can learn from it. They can get ideas on how to make their life get better. I would still talk about that experience in the University where I started my own business at the age of 18, how I served the student body, helped out in the ministry, and excelled in my studies while living independently - but I don't stop there. I would talk about the value of perseverance and hard work and how I trusted God in the process. Don't just share specific steps of how-to-do's, share principles and lessons in life because the application is limitless.

3. Spark hope and inspire them to act. A good message results to action. However, you don't force people to move, you inspire them and it's a deeply internal thing. Tell them it is possible despite their age, their economic background and their ethnicity. Personally,  I want my audience to feel that the great things that happened to me can also happen to them - maybe in a different way but it can be possible. Our words and messages have power - whether it's to build up or to tear down.

4. Never stop learning. This is not for them but for you and me. Learn from every speaking engagement you have whether it's from good to better or to worse. Write your to do better's and your do not do this again observations or ask for a feedback. Mistakes and failures can be a stepping stone too. 

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