Connect Better by Fast-Focusing on Listening

Many, if not most, leaders consider themselves good speakers. The basics are simple: leaders speak, their audience listens, and then they act on what was said.

Leaders also know that rarely happens, and that there’s really much more to it than that. While it may be easy to speak to groups of all sizes and on many diverse topics, one critical question remains: “Are we connecting with our audience?”

To fully connect with an audience, leaders need to understand “empathy.” While you may not equate the word empathy with excellent communication skills, it actually is the secret to connecting with your audience. 

When you are able to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and try to see things from their point of view, their world, and their perspective, you will have a greater chance at both reaching and connecting with them.


You made a great point — but did anybody hear it?

Probably not, warns high-stakes communication expert Paul Hellman. The average attention span has dropped to 8 seconds.

So whether you’re presenting to a large audience, meeting one-on-one, talking on the phone, or even sending an email, you’ve got to engage others fast, before they tune you out, maybe forever.

Your challenge: to get heard, get remembered and get results.

Through fast, fun, actionable tips, You’ve Got 8 Seconds explains what works and what doesn’t, what’s forgettable and what sticks. With stories, scripts, and examples of good and bad messages, the book reveals three main strategies to get heard in a noisy world:

  • FOCUS: Design a strong message–then say it in seconds.
  • VARIETY: Make routine information come alive. 
  • PRESENCE: Convey confidence and command attention.


People discover unseen opportunities when they have a personal and empathic connection with the world around them.

Dev Patnaik

How easy is it for you as a leader to imagine yourself in the place of those you lead? Do you intuitively understand the lives and stories of your audience? That may be made easier by the fact that your audience most likely “looks” like you in many areas – socially, economically, and spiritually to name a few. But what if your audience is different than you?

How can you connect with people who aren’t like you?

Yes, it is easier to connect with other people who are like us, but that doesn’t mean leaders can’t understand – and communicate – with people who are different from us.

Most messages, spoken or written, are designed from the speaker’s point of view. That’s upside down. Imagine you’re the audience. What would capture your attention?

The point is, your audience is probably not thinking about you. But to capture attention, you need to think about them. Be the audience.

Your audience, whether you are talking to 100 people at work or one person at home, has three questions, always the same.

Why should I listen (or read this)?

What exactly are you saying?

What should I do with this information?

To fast-focus your message, answer these three questions.

First Audience Question: Why Should I Listen

Fast-focus with a purpose statement.

A purpose statement is like a present. You immediately hook people with something they value. It’s a great way to state what you’re going to talk about and, more importantly, why. Why answers the audience’s question: “Why should we listen?”

Second Audience Question: What Exactly Are You Saying?

Fast-focus with your main message.

Third Audience Question: What Should I Do with This Information?

Fast-focus with a call to action.

A call to action spells out the next step. It’s usually about doing something. But if that doesn’t fit, the next stop could be to think something or feel something.

Paul Hellman, You’ve Got :08 Seconds


Draw the following chart on a chart tablet.

With the chart and the following suggestions from author Paul Hellman, prepare your next presentation/message/communication with the Fast-Focus concepts.

  1. The Opening – The purpose statement is the hook that entices the audience to pay attention. The agenda statement that follows says how you’ll accomplish the purpose.
  2. The Body – If your audience could only remember one thing, what’s the one thing? Use a limited number of key points to develop the message.
  3. The Close – Close your presentation on a powerful note. What’s the next step? What should the audience do? If there’s nothing to do, then the call to action can also be what to think or what to feel.

Following the delivery of this presentation, pull together two-three associates and ask them to critique this presentation in terms of previous presentations on a similar topic. Listen with an open mind for possible areas of improvement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 129-3, released October 2019

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<


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