“Be interested, not interesting.”
~ Blair Singer
Not too long ago, I was one of several speakers at an event. Before the event, I got to meet and speak with my fellow presenters. I could see that some of them were pre-occupied with their upcoming presentations. How could I tell? Let me put it to you this way: Have you ever been talking to someone, where they are physically in front of you, maybe even looking at you, but you can tell they are somewhere else in their own thoughts?
In fact, most of the presenters that day were somewhat distracted, except one, Martin. Martin was very relaxed, at ease, and was having fun with the conversations. When I chatted with him one-on-one, he was completely present and in the moment. Even though the room was buzzing with voices in the background, his soft gaze stayed solidly fixed on me, as though I was the only person in the room. Even though I don’t remember what I said during that conversation, I do remember feeling as though I was heard. In those few moments, what I said mattered.
I was not at all surprised that during the actual presentations, Martin connected best with the audience.
What is the lesson here?
To connect well with an audience of many people, you must first be able to connect with them one-on-one. If you would indulge me to be direct as I reiterate this point: As a speaker, if we cannot connect well with someone one-on-one, what hope do we have of connecting with a group of people consisting of many individuals? The answer is ‘next to zero’.
As you gather with family and friends during this holiday season, take some time to practice connecting with them on an individual basis. As one of my mentors taught me: Be interested, not interesting. That means, resist any initial temptation to talk about yourself and ask them about themselves. The key is: Listen to what they have to say. Be present to them. Being interested is the doorway to connection.
So the next time you speak with someone, whether it’s one-on-one or a group, how well will you connect with them? Will you be interesting? Or interested?
Mary Cheyne, MBA
2009 World Champion of Public Speaking 1st Runner-Up
Keynote Speaker / Trainer / Coach
Magnetic Podium, LLC
PS: I recently gave a public speaking workshop to a group of 300+ people in Hong Kong. Click to play a short video from the event where I talk about connecting with an audience.