How your audience is listening "always"
In May 2005 I was asked to conduct a motivational program with 120 salespeople from Merck Frosst, the giant pharmaceutical company. The program as delivered at a resort about hour's drive north of Montreal, in the French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. About two-thirds of the audience were fully bilingual, about a quarter understood English, and a few didn't understand at all. My program was three hours long. They were a great group and I delivered my message with my customary zest and vigor.
At the close of the program I ended the way I usually do-with request for the delegates to share their takeaway from the program. I went around the room asking people to verbalize their learning from the day. Finally I focused on a young man who had been sitting directly in front of me. I had left him for last because he has listened to me with uncommon concentration the whole time. He had appeared to absorb every word I uttered. In fact, his unwavering attention was one of the reasons I felt so connected to the audience as a whole. He radiated style, success and charisma. The way in which his colleagues engaged him clearly branded him as a leader. A sixth sense told me that he would provide the most meaningful comment of the day to help me send everyone away on a high.
"Pierre| I said, reading his name tag, " what is your key takeaway from the day?" Pierre just stared at me, not responding. Thinking that he hadn't heard me, I repeated the question a little louder and little more slowly, Still no response. Then one of his colleagues said to me, " Mike, Pierre doesn't speak English."
"You must be joking," I thought to myself. "How could he have appeared to be so riveted for three hours without comprehending a world I'd said?" So I asked his colleague to ask Pierre why he had listened to me with such intensity when he didn't understand anything I'd said. A short dialogue ensued. The his colleague told me, "Pierre says it didn't matter what you said. What mattered is how you said it. He says he loves your passion and joie de vivre. he says he learned a lot from just watching you." I gave Pierre a big "Merci beaucoup" He gave me a dazzling grin; then rose and embraced me. And the audience sprang into a spontaneous stand ovation"
Your audience is listening "always"
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