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Presentation Skills - Part 4 of 6

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Active listening is another skill that can have great benefits. It makes a person feel that you understand both the con­tent and the feeling behind the content. It reduces defensiveness and defuses emotional situations by helping a person devote his energy to the issue at hand. Active listen­ing requires you to lengthen your attention span and use your excess mental capacity to concentrate on what is being said This ability comes from the fact that our brains can process information at a rate of over 1,000 words per minute while most people speak at less than 150 words per minute.

In active listening, you listen to the details of what is said and then summarize the main points that you heard. You must consciously pay attention to what is being said. Do the following: catalog the information in your head, make brief notes, ask questions for clarifi­cation, watch the body language and facial expressions, listen for what is not said, and prepare to paraphrase back to the speaker what you heard in your own words. You restate your understanding of the content by be­ginning with something like, "You felt that...because..." This is a non-judgmental statement of what you heard.

Active listening is not hard to do but you must make an effort to try it since we do not practice it in our nor­mal interactions. As a presenter in an informal setting, you may want others to actively listen to what you have to say, but how do you get them to do it? The use of leading questions can force others to actively listen. Use questions such as, "What do you think I mean by that?" or "So I know we're going in the same direction, what do you understand my point to be?" or "Would you please summarize my perspective on this?" This approach helps others to pay attention and process the information, cre­ates an opportunity for two-way communication, and provides feedback to ensure that you were successful in conveying your message. After there is an understanding of your message, there can be discussion about it.



Almost everyone who presents feels nervous before start­ing. Most people report that their nervousness reaches a peak just before they start. The key to dealing with this is captured in the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." But how you prepare needs to be in ways that work for you. What is good for one person may not work for another.


Below are some tips that can help you feel more at ease. They include strategies you can employ well ahead of time as well as some that can help with your last minute anxieties.


Part 1  Part 2   Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6

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