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When it comes to communications, what can we learn from 15 year olds?

A lot, as it turns out.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of judging regional finalists from the Speakers Trust “Speak Out” challenge. More than 20 courageous teenagers stepped out into the spotlight one by one and shared a story on any topic they chose for three minutes.

I was deeply impressed by all of them as they took a deep breath and launched into humorous, moving, passionate and engaging speeches. 

Nearly every student took me on a journey, their narrative twisted and turned as they pulled on various emotions. The best stories took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. The very best have stuck with me more than two weeks later.

How do we, as professionals, package up what we have to say? When we’re talking about our latest campaign or product do we take our listeners on an unexpected journey? Do we sound believable when we say it? Is our audience even interested in the first place?

With so many speeches to judge in quick succession there was no time for individual feedback in this round. In some respects, this felt very one-way. But it was a fantastic opportunity to hone in on the much over-looked skill of listening. Not the form of listening where you are simply waiting for your turn to chime in. To truly listen.

Speakers Trust had a their student workbook on the judges' table and it was full of great hints and tips for public speaking. Including listening. Refresh yourself we’ve these 6 tips: 

  1. Show that you are listening
  2. Be a good listener
  3. Be interested in others
  4. Tune in 100%
  5. Make the other person feel important
  6. Stay open
Now it’s my turn to do some homework.
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