Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

4.12. Use strategies that capture and retain the interest of an audience

ryanrori January 23, 2021

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“Since organisations consist of people, the information- processing problems of individuals are transported to the larger unit or organisation through its employees.  Communication is, therefore, a social process of the broadest relevance in the functioning of any group, organisation or society…”

(Katz and Kahn, 1966.)

Effective communication happens when speaking, listening and understanding all come together. Speaking and listening both involve verbal and non-verbal communication, that is, your words, your tone of voice and your body language. 

When speaking, constantly check for understanding. Ideally, the listener will provide the speaker with feedback to indicate their understanding, but if it is not volunteered, you must seek it out. Proper understanding comes through listening, questioning, thinking and remembering.

It is very difficult to manage effectively when communication between workers is poor. You cannot be sure that a task has been delegated effectively or properly explained to a team without checking for understanding. 

Techniques to reinforce the message

There are various techniques that you could use to reinforce the message you are sending.

Key Words

Speeches must have an organisational structure. Without such a structure it will be difficult to make the speech, and it will be difficult for the audience to understand. So, an organisational structure or pattern makes the speech easier to understand. Speeches can be organised in many ways. The type of pattern you choose will depend upon the topic and purpose of your speech.  

Voice projection

  • Size of room/ loudness- speak louder than usual; practise in a room of comparable size beforehand and ask someone to listen from the back
  • Posture- chin up, so that you can “throw” your voice to the back of the room
  • Confidence – believe that what you are saying is important and that your audience needs to hear it
  • Breathing- control your breathing, so that you don’t run out of breath before the end of the sentence
  • The pregnant pause- silence at the right moment reinforces and intrigues your audience. Even those who were not listening, look up and wonder what’s going on!

Articulation

  • Be careful not to swallow your words or let your words trail away at the end of a sentence
  • Be aware of fillers that some of us use when we don’t know what to say, e.g. “OK”, or “”um”.
  • There is nothing wrong with a strong accent (most South Africans are not mother-tongue speakers of English), but ensure that you can be understood.

Modulation

  • Pitch: Women, in particular, must beware of too high a pitch. Practise lowering your pitch. It also helps to speak slowly.
  • Tone: Vary tone and speed. Fast delivery excites and stimulates; slow delivery to emphasise and control.

Your tone and pace of speech affect how your audience responds to you. You want to match your tone to that of your audience. You do not want to come off as arrogant or ignorant.  Rather, you need to sound confident at a basic level so that you do not lose credibility with your audience. The pace of your speech is also important. You can speak faster than you can write and understand. You need to give your audience time to take in what you have just said, or you risk losing your audience.

All successful speakers know the importance of varying the speed of their voice, or in other words, how quickly they talk.  Generally, a good speaker tends to talk fast to excite and energise the listener, and slow when they want to create suspense and anticipation.

Talking at the same pace all the time can cause the listener to “shut off” and ignore what you are saying. This is because it all sounds the same, like a continuous drone of noise.  Continuous speaking can also tire the listener, because they will not have time to absorb and process what you are saying.

One common mistake people make is talking too slowly, or too quickly.  Slow speakers are generally perceived as being less intelligent, boring, tired or incompetent. Slow speakers also tend to waffle, going on forever about something, when a few words would have been sufficient.  Fast talkers are better than slow talkers, but only if they learn to pause, listen and have a 2 way conversation.

In general, just remember that you can create interest in your message by varying the speed of your voice. Use a speed that is slightly faster than average, yet slow enough to follow easily.  You can then slow down occasionally to create suspense or anticipation of key points. The words we choose and the way we choose to say them are not only interpreted literally by our hearers, but our underlying values, attitudes and bias are also revealed during the communication process.

When we pause, are we revealing uncertainty, or are we pausing for effect, to make the audience sit up and take notice?

When we ask a rhetorical question, we don’t expect an answer, we expect agreement and buy-in to what we are trying to convey.

Our stress, intonation and volume can carry the audience along with us on a wave of excitement, or lull them to sleep.

We can even reveal whether we really believe in what we saying, or where our sympathies lie by the words we use; a simple example being the use of either inclusive or exclusive pronouns

Notice when employees talk about their company- do they refer to “they” or “we”? This is usually a good indication of buy-in to the objectives.

Tip: Taking the pressure offThrow the spotlight on your audience within the first 30 seconds of your presentation by asking a question, asking for a show of hands, doing a quick icebreaker (such as getting members of a smaller audience to introduce themselves, or say what they know about your topic, or answer a quick quiz, etc.)
This gives you time to relax, smile and establish rapport with your audience