The five key factors in communications:
1. Presenting – When we make a presentation we employ words, ideas, and inner thoughts. In choosing the words we use it is important to know the composition of the audience. We need to use words and express ideas in a way that will be comprehensible to that particular individual or group. A presentation to a bank manager or sophisticated client will demand different words and phrasing then if you are speaking to a worker in the production department. You do not make yourself important by speaking over the level of comprehensibility of the audience. It will not lead to the objective of creating understanding.
When expressing ideas and inner thoughts it is essential to make them open-ended, leaving room for questioning or imposition of other ideas. It makes the audience feel that they are included in the communication process. This invites feedback from the listener and offers a smoother path to agreement. Expressing your inner thoughts on the subject matter acts to personalize the presentation more and link the listener closer to you. They will feel that you are letting them in on something that is really important to you. In general, by staying away from a strictly factual presentation and taking it to a more subjective level will significantly raise the impact of the presentation.
2. Listening – As a presenter, you must pay attention to the signs that indicate whether your listener(s) are engaged, and placing themselves in the right frame of mind to comprehend the message. A key gauge of this link with the listener is steady eye-contact. This tell-tale, outward sign is a ready indicator of attention. If you are not getting this, then you must find a way to prod the listener. You can simply ask,” Please look at me when I speak”. You can also encourage the expression of the two other key factors in effective communications: questioning and paraphrasing.
3. Questioning – Promoting questioning by the listener at an appropriate (none disruptive) time is a great way of winning over your listener. There are four types of questions and it is important to recognize the differences in each. Questions may be seeking further clarity, probing, expansionary or challenging.
In the first case the listener has not understood the message and is simply asking for more clarification; the probing question prompts a deeper explanation of the facts or ideas; in the expansionary question the listener logically stretches a specific part of the presentation to include items that the presenter may have omitted; challenging questions may force the speaker to evaluate the facts and correct some statements after listening to a different viewpoint from the listener.
It is not important what type of questioning is used. All are indicative of attention and linkage. By recognizing the different possibilities, the presenter is placed in a better position to provide answers and not be caught up in some kind of ego enhancing game. The presenter should be well prepared to answer any type of question and welcome this as a sign of effective communication.
4. Paraphrasing – Another effective way to determine that the message is getting through is to ask the listener to paraphrase the ideas, thoughts, and concepts of the presenter.
Paraphrasing is a process of rewording and giving meaning to what was stated in another form. The listener is essentially asked to repeat in his/her own words what was heard.
This is a good way to check in on the listener to make sure that he is following the conversation properly, and has grasped its meaning. It is a particularly useful technique when the presentation is long or complex
5. Reaching Agreement – The purpose of most communications in a company setting is to improve behavior that leads to better productivity on a personal, technical, or organizational level.
Even if it a simple pat on the back for a job well done, we are reinforcing good behavior and promoting its recurrence. All communications have to lead to an agreement that a thorough understanding of the message has been reached, and that there is a commitment for improvement.
The presenter has to directly ask for this agreement and get a positive response. Checking in through questioning and paraphrasing should facilitate this last step.
It is worthwhile to have a checklist that serves as a guide for effective communications. Going through the items and carefully thinking about the items on the list provides an excellent reference for all future communications and helps the management team to make constant improvements in their attitude and techniques.
Please refer to the sample checklist below.
Subject matter of communication:______________________________________________________
Presenter: ______________________ Verifier:___________________
1. Was the purpose clarified and agreed upon? Yes ( ) No ( )
2. Was the proper climate set? Yes ( ) No ( )
3. Was the presentation well organized? Yes ( ) No ( )
4. Did the presentation get past the surface and include some expansionary thoughts and feelings? Yes ( ) No ( )
1. Did questions secure helpful answers? Yes ( ) No ( )
2. Were there creative responses to the questions? Yes ( ) No ( )
3. Were there expansionary or challenging questions? Yes ( ) No ( )
Give some examples of:
Logical Thinking: ____________________________________________
Creative Thinking: ___________________________________________
Visionary Thinking: ___________________________________________
Positive Thinking: ____________________________________________
IV. Paraphrasing (Listener Repeats what was said in own words):
1. Was paraphrasing used effectively? Yes ( ) No ( )
2. Explain some of the ways paraphrasing was used.
This checklist can also be used as a self check without third party verification. Used is this way, it serves as a self improvement vehicle. Avoid all personal bias, prejudice or discrimination to obtain an objective feedback.
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