Jane Felsen Gertler brings more than 30 years of experience as a Marketing and Business Development professional to professional service firms. Jane is a published writer and frequent speaker on marketing and business development strategies. She has been published in design industry publications and is the author of the monograph Architecture as a Design Partnership.

In both my business world and personal life, I find it’s easy to spend time behind my computer, on my iphone apps, scanning social media or shopping online. Technology beckons with open arms and, yes, it can make for a productive day.

But are you as productive in person as you are online? When you’re having a conversation and you want to convey an idea, persuade someone to change their point of view, even sell your professional services or a product, are you Presenting the Best You? When you have the opportunity to speak in front of a group do you embrace the invitation or ‘head for the hills’? Fear of public speaking has the well- earned reputation of being terrifying to approximately 75% of the population, most of them women.

Presenting ourselves and our varied points of view on what we believe in, is a lifelong skillset. Not only do we do it for ourselves, we advocate for others, our partners, our children, our friends. Many of us represent causes, associations, coalitions we are passionate about and we speak to draw others in to better understand our points of view.

Being a Good Listener

Being a good speaker, starts with being a good listener. As a marketing consultant who specializes in working with professional service rms, I tell my clients it’s important to be good listeners to learn what’s on the minds of those you’re trying to connect with. All too often, I’ll work with a rm Principal who will enter a new client meeting and

immediately start ‘pitching’, that is, verbalizing all the assets of his portfolio of services, without even learning what’s on the mind of the person across the table. If you haven’t done it ahead of time, start your encounter by exchanging pleasantries and ask a few questions to gain an understanding of the challenges facing the other person; did they have a particularly harrowing day? Are there hurdles you’ll need to overcome? What’s ‘keeping them up at night’, figuratively and literally! I remember attending a conference in Upstate New York and couldn’t understand why everyone appeared to be falling asleep as I met with them. It was halfway through the day when I finally inquired why everyone was yawning and I learned there was an NCAA basketball playoff game the night before which went into triple overtime keeping the loyal local fans up to 1AM – they were exhausted!

Be Attentive

Look into the eyes of the person you’re speaking with. Do not look over someone’s shoulder to see who may be entering behind them. Nod your head to signal you’re not only listening, you also get what they’re saying. When seated for a panel discussion, always be attentive to the speaker.

Know Your Content

When you speak, make sure you’re prepared. Know your content backwards and forwards. If there’s an obvious ‘negative’ in your content (for example, you have to switch a team member) don’t skip over
it, address it and find a way to turn it into a positive. (Barbara will not be able to be present, but she has shared her information with Sharon, and she will be there, fully informed.)

Share Your Personal Brand

How you dress, your body language, introducing your topic in a compelling way, how you speak and how well you listen, as well as your speed and tone of voice, are vital to making sure your warmth comes through. If you’re passionate about your topic, that will be evident, whether it’s a conversation or a planned talk. People can tell if your heart is sincere.

Find Ways to Be of Value

Keep an ear out for how you can be of value to the person you’re speaking with. Look to create an introduction to someone who may be helpful to them personally or professionally, offer to make an email introduction. If that person is in the room, use the opportunity to make it happen then.

Have you landed on a subject of mutual interest? Great! Send them a copy of the recipe you were talking about, email that list of well-hidden New York City restaurants, forward the list of Best Birthday Gifts for Adult Children Who Have Everything. Areas of mutual interest abound and if you can establish that connection, and share welcome information, their world becomes that much brighter because of you.

Being a good listener and increasing the quality of your conversations is a lifelong skillset that gets better and better as we age. Most importantly, practicing is fun and can build lifelong connections.

We invite you to join the conversation by submitting a comment below.

Jane Felsen Gertler