How to Listen and Present Better at Work

By Mel Sim

Improve your communication skills with our tips.

Here’s an important fact you need to remember: Humans have an average eight-second attention span.

You got that? And even with that eight-second attention span, some might not be completely focused on what you’re saying because their mind is somewhere else which is why they space out when you are trying to get their attention. Hey, even you could be the one spacing out because we are all guilty of it.

With this in mind, there are two things you really need to master for the new year: How to listen and present better so one, you are more attentive as an audience and two, you are more interesting as a presenter!

The two are critical nowadays, especially when there are more online meetings to attend. Having been to both physical and virtual meetings, you know how hard it can be to stay focused in the latter as well as how challenging it can get to present when you’re not sure if all eyes are really on you or another part of the screen when on Zoom.

First things first – how do you become a better listener? You can start by changing the why you listen – to learn more. We often listen because we think it is what’s expected of us and that’s when our mind wanders because we may not see the value in it. But if you change the why you listen to because you are curious as to what the other person has to say, you’ll see that you are more focused and pay attention to what he or she is saying. It’s like watching a movie – you listen to every single word the bad guy is saying when he’s telling the good guy why he is the way he is because you too want to know the answer and the outcome! Same goes to listening at work!

Another tip is stay present. Ever been in the situation where you’re thinking of your reply instead of listening to what the speaker is saying? Many, many times. To be a good listener, you need to set aside the urge to think of other things, from what you’ll say next to what you’ll have for lunch. This is hard to do because our minds are often so quick to wander off course simply because we have too much on it! If you’re entering into a meeting, do this exercise – make a conscious effort to clear your thoughts of what’s next. If there is something bugging you at the moment, get that out of the way first so it’s not what you’re thinking the entire time when the other person is speaking. If you need an extra five minutes to take care of things, then by all means ask for the five minutes so you can then give your undivided attention.

Going into an online meeting? Do this: Eliminate all distractions. Shut the door, keep the phone away so you won’t be tempted to scroll through IG, turn off email notifications – anything that distracts you from being an active listener.

Now what if the tables are turned and you’re the one doing the talking? How do you get people to listen better? Hone those presentation skills! We know, it’s not easy to be a good presenter especially when nerves are involved. But even if you hate public speaking, you can be the master of ceremony like you’ve always wanted to be with some of our tips.

For starters, be a storyteller. Because who doesn’t love a good story, right? So whenever possible, try to start your presentation with a story, an experience if you have it. This way you pull your audience in right from the start, have them at the hook and it’s go time all the way for your presentation.

You know the person with that PowerPoint presentation and many many many words on them? Don’t be that person. Your audience wants to listen, not read. Use visual aids to make an impact and get your audience engaged. Not a fan of visual aids? Then keep your presentation slides simple so it doesn’t distract your audience. In fact, the simpler the better.

Speaking of visual aids, one of your most important one to master is eye contact. It’s not quite the visual aid you may have in mind but having visual over the people you’re presenting to will make a huge difference. It is engaging, it reels your audience in, and when you have eyes on them, it’s hard for your audience to do something else. Plus good eye contact also equates to confidence and when you have both going on for you in your presentation, you’ll all set.

Lastly, keep your presentation simple. The only thing you need to keep in mind: What is the key message? If you can communicate this briefly, even better so you can spend the rest of the floor time taking questions and getting suggestions. Before you prepare for your presentation, write what is known as an elevator summary – basically something you can summarise during the entire elevator ride. That is your core message and that is really the only thing you should focus on during your presentation.

Photo by Jason Goodman on Unsplash.

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