Friday, February 09, 2007

Toastmasters Listen

Many people know that Toastmasters teaches speaking. But it also teaches listening. For every speech that we give, we probably hear ten. At Toastmasters, we teach each other by listening to each other. More accurately, Toastmasters teaches communication. And communication takes a lot of listening.

It seems likely that most people join to learn how to speak, so the listening part sneaks up on us. But it turns out to be one of the most valuable things that we learn. We listen with a purpose, so we listen well. We pay attention to what speakers are saying, how they organize their thoughts, if there is a good opening, substantial content, and a good close, the words they choose, how they move, use their hands, their facial expressions, and their voice, and whether they have appropriate props and handouts. We give feedback on all those things, especially what the speaker does well, and suggestions for how they can do even better.

We expect speakers, from wherever they start, to improve as they learn by doing and getting feedback, and they do. Each individual speech is not always better than the last one, but mostly they are, and over time everyone does get better. Sometimes, they even make a quantum leap. That usually happens when they get out of their own way, stop worrying about themselves, and start understanding that it is about delivering a message to the audience, for the audience.

The listener is more important than the speaker.

Doing the Right Thing
and Achieving All Your Goals at the Same Time


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