There is always a most engaged person in the audience. Whether a professor in front of a classroom or a speaker addressing hundreds at a professional conference, one participant lifts the energy in the room by tuning in with all senses. Everybody else reaps the benefits. Consider these examples.
A guest lecturer in a small liberal arts college invites the class to challenge her assumptions and offer new perspectives. She removes herself from the role of expert and allows the students to take charge. Many students shy away from the risk of saying the wrong thing. One student deciphers the opportunity and trusts the unconditional challenge. His assertion is so unusual the rest of the class struggles to understand his frame of reference. He is bombarded by questions until, finally, the context of his unique history and circumstances gives clarity to his position. Everybody learns. That student would later be offered an internship at the guest lecturer’s business.
The participant entering the auditorium most eager to learn sat in the center aisle about three rows back from the podium. She positioned her laptop in front of her in case she wanted to take notes but her eyes never strayed from the speaker as he meandered about the room. She found her hand raising slightly ahead of the speaker’s questions to the audience. Deferring to her teammates, she allowed others to share feedback and adapted her contribution to the flow of conversation. The speaker noticed her generosity. When he received an invitation to connect on LinkedIn a few days later, he easily recognized his recent most-engaged colleague. In the ensuing months, sharing resources and project opportunities would become routine components of their professional connection.
Every day is a job interview. You never know when a stranger will become a friend.