Friday, May 15, 2015

ATD2015 TU400 preview. Why Listening is important.

I'm on my way to Orlando to attend the ATD International Conference & Expo.

This year as well as attending I'm going to be presenting.
My session on Tuesday at 4:30 will cover exercises that the corporate world has borrowed/stolen from the world of Improvisation.
If you have ever seen any improvised comedy shows you might marvel at how the performers are able to make up a scene or sometimes a whole show from a single idea thrown out by the audience.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.
We rehearse

NO, Not that doesn't mean we work it all out beforehand and plant our audience suggestion. That might be easier but it would be far less fun for players and audience alike.

What we rehearse is the skills that we are going to use on stage. We practice using the skills that will make our performance more likely to be engaging, entertaining and successful.

Top of the list of those skills is listening.

We have to listen to what the audience is shouting out so we can hear something to build our scene from.

Let's say that the word that is first clearly heard is the word 'Candy' The performer who asked for a suggestion will repeat it clearly to acknowledge it and make sue that all their fellow performers hear the same thing.

Then one person steps up and says or does something based on that suggestion. None of the rest of us know what that person is going to say or do. We have to pay close attention to it because whatever they say to start things going creates a reality that we all have to keep alive until the scene or the show is over.

Sticking with the 'Candy' idea there are lots of things that could be that first choice. (we call it an initiation) Let's imagine that a woman steps up and says "Billy, do you want another piece of candy?"
By listening then we know a few things.

  1. There needs to be someone else (Billy) on the stage to respond to that.
  2. That there is candy available for Billy.
  3. That Billy has already had (at least) one piece of candy.

And that is just from the words.

Add to those words the tone of voice that they are spoken in.
If the words were spoken in a light friendly way they mean one thing. but there are so many other possibilities
Imagine the emphasis on the word 'want'. Maybe she is no longer offering her child some candy but is helping their spouse resist taking an extra piece.
If the emphasis was on 'another' then we start to wonder how many pieces have already gone.

Even if the tone of voice is neutral then the body language can provide a bunch of clues.

As improvisers we learn to pay attention to all these things. That way we can get things moving and keep things going.

Now think about the last meeting you were in at your company or organization.

How good were your listening skills?

Did you pay complete attention to what everyone else was saying or were you maybe trying to think of what you were going to say when it was your turn? If you were 100% then that is fantastic and I applaud you. How about everyone else?

If you think that meetings at your organization might be a little more productive if people could get just a little bit better at this simple but complex skill, then I've got some great exercises that you can run to help people build that skill.

Come along on Tuesday at 4:30 in room W109AB and see what hey are, learn how to run them and how to get the most from the debriefs.

See you there.

Happy Learning

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