Listen to Learn

Listen UpMost meeting planners don't consider themselves salespeople. I suppose in the truest sense of the word, we are not. But as I recently learned, sale is not a four letter word and the act of active listening, a foundation for selling, can be used by just about anyone in just about any field. Smart planners will want to listen up.

Another way to look at selling it to think of it as helping. This is where meeting planners excel. Not only are we good at helping (helping get rooms, helping find speakers, helping create menus), but some of us even like helping. This is a good thing. To be a better helper, it, well, helps to be a better listener.

Sometimes it starts by asking the right questions. Instead of asking what kind of food to serve, perhaps it would make sense to ask who will be attending and what their expectations will be, which will ultimately lead to ask what they might enjoying eating and what they may really not enjoy eating.

Once you ask the question and know they are clear on what you need, let the answer come. Completely and fully. Don't interrupt and don't let silence pressure you into speaking too soon.

When the answer comes, repeat it back to make sure both parties have the same understanding. If you ask, "Who will be presenting first?" and the answer is "the council member," then repeat it back, "so council member Smith is up first, correct?"

Sometimes the person being questioned may not know the right answer. It's important that you listen for that indication and help accordingly. You may ask a question about audio-visual or something technical. Not wanting sound uninformed, the person might guess or wave it away. Offer options so that they have a choice in the answer, after which you can repeat it back and make sure you both are on the same page.

After all, being on the same page helps you plan a better meeting. Maybe afterward you can listen for the accolades.

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