Last week I had the opportunity to hear David Rosenblatt speak about his time as CEO of DoubleClick (he came to talk to us as an AppNexus guest speaker).  I loved the talk.  It was a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the early 2000’s ad tech scene.  Among all of the interesting things he talked about, the one I liked the most was the importance of listening.

Rosenblatt spoke about listening in several contexts – which apply across several organizational disciplines.  He provided anecdotes related to people managing, product managing and – most interestingly – mergers and acquisitions.

To Rosenblatt, one of the things that made the Google/DoubleClick acquisition a success was the willingness of Google to listen to DoubleClick when planning the post-acquisition integration.  Rather than steam-roll DoubleClick and demoralize their employees, Google listened and came up with an integration plan that worked for both sides.

My feeling is that most of the time when we enter a work related presentation or a business conversation we already know where we want to go.  Like a freight train barreling down the tracks, we cover our topics in neat succession on the way to our main point/conclusion/closing statement.  When we’re done talking, if all goes well, we expect our audience to understand our points and agree (or disagree) with our logic.

However, there is a trick here.  The best presentations are not given by those who only talk – but rather by those who talk and listen.  Listeners aren’t trains speeding down the track; they’re more like hovercrafts.  On the path to their conclusion they can listen, digest and incorporate new information into the presentation.  They are not tied to one set of tracks, but rather are capable of going any direction or across any surface.

Over the next few days I’m going to focus on my listening.  My end goal: be a hovercraft – not a train.

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  • I’d agree with that. Active listening is a useful skill, and can help you to be significantly more persuasive.