[Itech] Fwd: TP Msg. #918 The Listening Mind

Teresa Franklin franklit at ohio.edu
Tue Feb 3 17:16:30 EST 2009

Hello All,

Since we all have to make presentations, I thought you might enjoy this

Dr. Franklin

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rick Reis <reis at stanford.edu>
Date: Tue, Feb 3, 2009 at 1:16 PM
Subject: TP Msg. #918 The Listening Mind
To: tomorrows-professor at lists.stanford.edu

"To be sure, effective speaking and writing share many attributes; however,
while readers can set their own pace, reread a complicated paragraph, or
leaf back over several pages to refresh their understanding of the central
argument, listeners cannot."


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The posting below looks at the importance of understanding the listening
role of your audience when making oral presentations.  It is from the
Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning newsletter, Speaking of Teaching,
Fall, 2008, Vol. 18, No. 1. It was written by Doree Allen, Ph.D., director
of the oral communication program; email: [doree.allen at stanford.edu] Note:
 Several other articles, many with very specific speaking suggestions,
appear in this issues of the newsletter which can be found at: [


Rick Reis
reis at stanford.edu
UP NEXT: How Many Pages?

                                                   Tomorrow's Teaching and

                     --------------------------------- 823 words

Listening Mind

Central to an effective oral presentation is a design that takes into
account the needs of your listening audience. Obvious? It should be, but our
focus as scholars, researchers, and writers often distracts us from our
otherwise intuitive understanding of this basic tenet of successful oral
communication. And although speakers in a variety of contexts frequently
rely on an idiom more suited to writing than to speech, this tendency seems
especially tempting for those who are presenting scholarly and scientific
research that has appeared previously as a journal article or book chapter.
However, a speech is not "an essay on hind legs," as James A. Winans, a
noted scholar of rhetoric, famously observed. As efficient as it may seem to
borrow language and structure from a text you've already completed, there is
also a lost opportunity to engage with your audience when you neglect to
reappraise your material in light of this new rhetorical situation in which
your audience is listeni
 ng to your ideas rather than reading them.

Because the spoken word is evanescent, listening poses distinct challenges,
especially when it comes to abstract subject matter. Studies reveal that
listeners cannot process as much information as readers, they have
difficulty staying oriented and, unless they hear something more than once,
it is difficult for them to retain it. Given these constraints, here are
some strategies to bear in mind when "translating" a text into an oral
presentation, which should enable you to better know your audience so that
you reach your listeners as well.

In the opening 60 to 90 seconds of a presentation you are not only
introducing your topic but also yourself. So it is important to take
advantage of this time, both to connect with the members of your audience
personally as well as to orient them intellectually by placing your work in
a larger context and providing a preview of what is to follow. More often
than not, speakers will sacrifice this valuable time to turn away from the
audience to read their titles (and sometimes even their names) from the
slide projected behind them. How can you make your introduction more
memorable? Some possibilities include opening with a startling statement or
statistic, a rhetorical question, a vivid anecdote, a challenge or a
provocative quotation. But if these options feel contrived, you might simply
consider how to link your subject to the experiences and interests of your
audience so that you motivate their "need to know" and establish the common
ground that is elemental to effective com
 munication. Since listeners tend to remember what they hear first and last,
it is similarly important to think carefully about your concluding remarks,
which should not only summarize your main points, but emphasize their
significance and suggest the implications of your analysis or research.

A strong introduction and conclusion are part of a clear organizational
structure that should also include explicit transitions, internal summaries,
and the repetition of key words and phrases. Because the listening audience
is at a speaker's mercy for organizing content, "signpost" language such as
"first," "next," or "finally" reinforces transitions and marks your progress
through your presentation, linking the details to your overarching thesis
and acknowledging where you are in relation to where you are going.
Introducing your main points with a rhetorical question can also help to
keep your audience on track. And, because questions invite subliminal
answers, they serve to sustain audience engagement.

To be sure, effective speaking and writing share many attributes; however,
while readers can set their own pace, reread a complicated paragraph, or
leaf back over several pages to refresh their understanding of the central
argument, listeners cannot. Therefore, a speaker must think beyond content
and be constantly aware of speech pace, attending to listeners' need to keep
up with what they are saying. Additionally,  because it is difficult to
listen to abstract discourse for very long, concrete language and examples -
metaphors and analogies that make unfamiliar things familiar or vivid images
that paint mental pictures - enable listeners to retain information and
grasp abstractions or highly conceptual material. Simpler syntax and
vocabulary rather than long, subordinated sentences and technical jargon
also appeal more to listeners' aural perception.

Rhetoricians often say that public speaking is enlarged conversation, and as
sensible as this may seem, it is often a challenge to keep the relational
nature of speech in mind when the weight of our research or data crowds the
audience out of our mental picture. We must remember that although our
content is essential, there are - or should be - reasons why we are
presenting our work orally rather than distributing it as a document. Of
course, there are many motivations leading to each speaking opportunity, but
one is simply the power of the spoken word and the ancient potential
inherent in the communion of speaker and audience - especially when what the
speaker says is meant to be heard and not read.

*       *       *       *       *       *       *
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Dr. Teresa Franklin
Associate Professor
Instructional Technology
Educational Studies Dept.
313D McCracken Hall
College of Education
Ohio University
PH: 740-593-4561
Fax: 740-593-0477
franklit at ohio.edu
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