The Unasked Question: My Advice on Listening

We have all had to present to our peers, customers and management.  Stand up straight, talk clearly, don’t pace, don’t say ‘um’ and for darn sure, make eye contact.  Then if slides are involved; move this over there, you have to use a different color and the holy grail of failures, there is a misspelling on slide 4 out of your 200.  Let’s change your builds to slow from very slow.  ARGH.  We have written several scripts and digested them in the minutest of details to make sure we don’t say something out of text.  Of course, 90 percent of the script is skipped ‘in the live event’.  This chorus of training never ends and as the audiences increase in size, so do the critiques, reviews and the ‘whatever you do, don’t say this list’.  The risk and fear of the slip of the lip sinking the ship becomes very real.

7 14 14 Chris Image 1But what about the questions from the audience? We prepare for the questions that are asked but not the ones that are not asked.  We have all asked questions of a speaker, and the first thing they say is ‘that’s a very good question’.  They begin to answer what they wished you asked.  However, the greatest question is the one that might not have been asked or was inadvertently answered.

In fact I have found the best question is the one that doesn’t get asked.  If you are in a presentation setting, listen to the questions, but more importantly listen for what was not asked but may have been answered by the presenter.   You can essentially double the amount of answers and conclusions with only half of the questions being asked!  It could even be a differentiator if you are in a competitive situation.  Be a better listener to one up your competition.

Some examples may be:

What is included in the software package bundle? This also answers what is not.
How many customers have this solution deployed? This also answers how many do not.
Who do you see as your main competition? This also answers who they don’t have their eye on YET or publicly.
When is a ‘feature ‘going to be released? This could be a competitor seeing this as shortfall or a competitive advantage requirement.

I could go on and on.  The fact is, be the best presenter you can be.  However, be the most attentive listener.  Listening for the unspoken words and questions may surprise you and provide you with the most complete answers of all.  And to my knowledge, listening has never sunk even one ship, not yet at least.

About the Author: Chris Gaudlip

As chief technology officer (CTO) for Dell Technologies Managed Services, Chris Gaudlip provides visionary leadership for Dell Technologies Managed Services customers. Chris brings 25 years of experience at Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Perot Systems to his role at Dell Technologies. His accomplishments include pioneering Dell EMC Proven Certifications, filing multiple pending and approved patents for his innovations, and designing solutions for Fortune 500 customers. He was recognized for his achievements by being selected as an Dell EMC Distinguished Engineer – Lead Technologist in 2011. In his current role, Chris is actively involved in Dell Technologies sales efforts, technical validations, and directing the future endeavors of Managed Services. He is the customer liaison and advisory consultant for the Managed Services offerings. Dell Technologies' customers look to him as a trusted advisor. When not traveling or reading up on the latest technologies, he can be found at his favorite hunting and fishing spots.