As a leader much of what you do is influence others, many times in a group setting as a presenter. A key component of influence is to listen to your constituents.
How do you do that when you’re so focused on your presentation – the slides, the room, the message, your voice, how you look, imagining them in their underwear (don’t do that), etc.
One audience member is smiling the whole time. One looks like he has gas. Another raises an eyebrow. What’s it all mean?
You can’t easily pay attention to all of these variables well.
The Designated Listener
Designated listeners are team members assigned to closely watch and listen to certain constituents in the meeting for their reactions to specific points. Depending on the size of the meeting audience you could have as many as 4-5 designated listeners. The use of designated listeners has a very practical benefit for any specific meeting but the process also contributes to some standard leadership goals as well.
In preparation of your presentation you know to think about each of the specific constituents that will be in the room. You should anticipate the perspectives, concerns, and questions from each important constituent. Your designated listeners can help you with that.
Your presentation should address these unique constituent needs in segments of your presentation. Designated listeners can then be assigned to observe these constituents during these segments.
The participation of your designated listeners in the development of the presentation does a few things:
- The opinions of the designated listener are valued.
- You receive a new perspective on the important constituents.
- Potential misunderstandings can be clarified ahead of time.
- The designated listener sees and learns from your thinking process first hand.
- Assignment of designated listeners to individual constituents helps organize the presentation and allow the designated listener to learn more about the organization and players.
During the presentation you can focus on the presentation itself, pivoting as needed and really connecting with your constituents knowing that you have team listening in place. The designated listener knows from preparation which areas of the presentation should impact their designated constituent. They look for any reactions during those important times in the presentation.
The participation of your designated listeners in the actual presentation does a few things:
- You have someone there to help with the odds and ends logistics and small emergencies as necessary.
- You can focus on the presentation.
- Your designated listeners learn about the constituents and how your area fits within the organization.
- Your team has a purpose in this critical component of influence and are better prepared for follow-up later.
- You catch important reactions you can address in future strategy.
Following the meeting is an opportunity to conduct a debrief of the designated listener team. In this discussion you can identify the action items necessary coming out of the constituent interaction.
The debrief of your designated listeners does a few things:
- You take the time to evaluate and analyze the impact of your communication.
- The designated listening team sees how the facts of your communication are interpreted by constituents.
- You can clarify any misunderstandings regarding the message ensuring that all members of your team are on the same page.
- As a team you can dig much deeper into the needs of your constituents.
- You can evaluate the engagement of your designated listeners.
Have you or will you use designated listeners in your important communications? Let us know in the comments below.