Dr. Kittie Watson: Listening - The Forgotten Skill

Strategic listening is a crucial business skill for corporate executives and WBE leaders who will attend the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Orlando next week.  

Did you know that up to 50% of what attendees will hear and say after a 10-minute conversation will be forgotten immediately—and as much as 80% will be lost the next day? However, with a clear listening strategy, attendees can listen better, use tools to retain more information, and have more effective conference follow-up. In fact, listening can be a secret weapon for success and standing out from the crowd.  

Consider the sheer number of people with whom you will interact during #WBENCconf. While most attendees come prepared to TALK with elevator pitches, key messages, value propositions, and their own success stores, few come prepared to listen. Especially during the Business Fair and networking events, it is easy to get overwhelmed and experience listener fatigue and burnout.

Think about it. Most attendees schedule meetings with key individuals from early morning to late in the evening. With back-to-back interactions during breakfasts, keynotes, breakout sessions, breaks, lunches, matchmaker sessions, and receptions, there is little or no time to reflect and/or synthesize what has been heard.  

Attending #WBENCConf? Learn more about strategic listening with Dr. Kittie Watson on Tuesday, June 21 from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. 

And then, after getting back to their rooms, there are spouses to call, children to update and/or others to debrief. Add these interactions with Business Fair meet and greets, and three days of spontaneous introductions and dozens of “important” conversations, most attendees are physically and mentally exhausted! Who has energy left to listen?

You might be asking, “Is there something that I can do to listen more effectively and strategically to avoid listener burnout and help others listen to me?” The answer is, YES! You can learn to listen in ways to make the most of the WBENC National Conference!

While there are many listening strategies to consider, we’ll focus on listening during the Business Fair. Use these five simple tips to get the most from listening:


  1. Plan Your Listening Strategy. Rather than listening by accident or trying to talk to everyone, plan ahead. Review the exhibitor map carefully to identify both the booths and the people most important for you to see. Reach out in advance and schedule as many meetings as you can. Rather than trying to talk to everyone, prioritize and pace yourself to think about who is essential rather than trying to talk to everyone. Conserve your own listening energy and remember that most people can listen better earlier in the day. You might target your top priority booths for your first few stops.
  2. Help Listeners Listen to You. Do your homework. Know what issues are most important to these individuals and companies. Rather than focusing on what is most important to you, consider what is most pressing for your listener. Think of the questions to ask and how you will listen/attend to the other person. Rather than just focusing on what you want to say, be interested in the other person. Above all, avoid asking questions that you should know or could have found out ahead of time.
  3. Use a Buddy System. Four ears are better than two. When possible, visit booths in pairs. It is amazing what one person will “hear” or “see” that the other does not. Tune in to both the verbal and nonverbal messages. Include a process for accurate recall. Take time immediately after each conversation to take notes on the back of business cards or in a notepad that includes action steps. Show you value the person’s comments by clarifying what you hear or expressing, “I am taking a few notes on our conversation…”
  4. Confirm that You Listened Accurately. Good listeners DO talk. After listening, offer feedback about one or two high-level points and confirm the action steps you plan to take. Summarize what you heard and don’t be afraid to ask probing questions to gain deeper insights or learn how best to leverage the connection. For example, “I know lots of people will be following up; how and when would you like me to reach out again?”
  5. Make Follow-up Memorable. Use a distinctive prompt to bring the person back to the connection you had during the Business Fair. You can refer to a specific comment they made, a contact you have in common or a visual reference to the place where you spoke. Remember, they will have met dozens of people, similar to you. Help them remember something distinctive and memorable.

Listening is the communication skill that we use most often and are least trained in. By using the tips above, you can make a more powerful impression and demonstrate your listening effectiveness. 


Kittie Watson, Ph.D.


Innolect, a leadership and organization development firm, prepares Fortune 500 executives and teams to succeed in high-performance, high-integrity workplaces. An internationally recognized communication expert, with 15 books including Listen Up!, her Listener Preference Profile was featured on ABC’s 20/20. Learn more here. For more information, contact: Kittiew@Innolectinc.com


Posted on June 16, 2016 .