Moving Your People from Passive Listeners to Protagonists Part 2: Creating Partners

moving 2So, we’ve created participation by connecting with our listeners.  That’s a great first step, and you are probably seeing a shift already.  Now, how do you create partnership?  How can you get them to invest in your presentation so that your vision becomes a shared goal?

 Stand for something!

Never give a talk, lead a meeting, or take part in a presentation without first clarifying for yourself what it is you want to cause in your audience.  What are you asking your listeners to do?  What should be different once you’re done speaking?  If you can answer those questions and let the answers inform your content, you begin to create partnership with your listeners.  If you don’t do that advance work, you leave your listeners confused and disenfranchised.

The main reason to be leading a discussion or presenting an idea is to make something happen.  Even when you are there simply to present information, ask yourself why.  Why does this group need this information?  What should the information cause? Allow? Create?  Whether it’s continuing to fund your initiative, to follow new guidelines or to make a change reporting lines – there is always a more compelling goal than simply sharing information.

When you are searching for that “cause” in your presentation, the greatest tool is to ask yourself why.  When you are planning the meeting, ask yourself, “Why meet?”  Keep asking until you get to a simple active verb or phrase, one that affects you.  Once you have that phrase, let your listeners know it in some form.

Think about a meeting you have coming up.  What is the purpose of that meeting?  What do you want to cause?  If your answer is that you are just updating them, think again.  You could do that in an email.  So, dive a bit deeper.  What, in your best imagining, would an update cause?  Maybe you want to confirm that the team is aligned on the goals you set out.  Good first step, now keep going.  How will you know that there is alignment?  What signs are you looking for?  Nods?  Conversation between people about the goal? Progress reports? New ideas for next steps?  Whatever they are, when you are clear about them, you have your personal metric – if they occur, you have succeeded.

And you don’t have to be overly subtle.  It’s fine to tell them the purpose for the meeting.  You can ask them questions overtly related to that.  Keep looking.  Watch to see if it is happening.  As you do that, you will begin to truly enact partnership with your listeners.

Until they know what you want from them, your audiences cannot be in partnership with you.  How can you invest in an unclear, fuzzy or non-existent cause?  Once the invitation is clear, the audience knows how to participate with you.  The communication becomes mutual and everyone has a stake in the interaction.

When you begin to ask something of your listeners, you reinforce the relationship.  They shift evaluating your skills as a presenter to deciding whether or not they want to join with you in your cause.  You are inviting partnership and your listeners will respond. 

This is the second part in a three blog series on the importance of your audience.

Twila-ThompsonAbout the Author: Twila Thompson is a founding partner and Director of European Development The TAI Group. Visit The TAI Group, like us onFacebook, and follow along on Twitter (@TheTAIGroup and @helloitstwila).