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June 2003 - Look at the Speaker

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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June 2003

Look at the Speaker

Last month I discussed the importance of speakers establishing eye contact with their audiences.  Effective eye contact is also important for listeners.

Of course, not all eye contact is of equal value. To achieve the kind of eye contact that helps you listen better, you must do more than simply look in the direction of the person speaking.  Simply staring at or "through" a speaker is not the kind of eye contact that will aid your listening or encourage the speaker.

Here are seven ways to improve your eye contact with a speaker.

  1. In one-on-one or small group settings, sit or stand where you can look directly at the person speaking.
  2. In large groups, sit in the front and center of the audience. You can more easily establish eye contact with the speaker from this vantage point.
  3. Don't get so involved in taking notes that you fail to look often at the speaker. The speaker's gestures, movements, and facial expression are often an important part of the message.
  4. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by the setting or other people.  Focus on the speaker and the message.
  5. Don't look at others who enter or leave while the speaker is talking.  This practice not only interrupts your train of thought--it adds to the distraction of the speaker.
  6. Speakers sometimes exhibit a visual aid too soon or neglect to remove it when they have finished using. It.  Focus on the visual aid only when it is relevant to the point being discussed.
  7. Never sleep when someone is talking to you!  This may seem self-evident, but let's face it--in the busyness of our lives, we tend to become passive whenever we listen.  Passivity encourages reduced attention, which leads to drowsiness. It is better to stand up, or even leave the room, rather than fall asleep.

(This information was extracted from my book, Listening Effectively.)

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

June 2003 - Look at the Speaker
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