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Student Question

Read the article "Communicate Like Your Life Depends on It." Pick four key areas you see as the most important. Provide personal examples for each.

Quick answer:

Because exercise involves a subjective and personal response to the article "Communicate Like Your Life Depends on It," students should decide which points are most important for them based on their primary role as listener or speaker and on their characteristics of distraction, eagerness, anxiety, or disorganization.

Expert Answers

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This is a highly subjective and personal question that each student must answer for himself or herself, but I can provide some guidance and a few examples from my own experience to help you get started.

You might decide to focus primarily on Cheek's first ten points, which talk about the role of the listener, or you might discover that the last nine points, which discuss the role of the speaker, are more helpful to you. Let's examine some of the points in each section.

If you tend to be distracted during presentations, you might select points 2, 3, 4, and 9, which encourage listeners to pay close attention to a speaker through focus, eye contact, mental pictures, open-mindedness, and empathy. As a teacher, I often encounter students who seem to drift off into their own little worlds during a lecture, and I wonder how much they are even hearing. I greatly prefer students who look at me, jot down notes, and make an effort to focus on and interact with what I'm saying.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy speaking and are eager to share your opinions and ideas, points 1, 5, 6, and 7 might apply to you and encourage you to build your listening skills, to wait with your questions, to check yourself if you want to interrupt, and to avoid changing the topic in a conversation to shift to focus onto you. We've all known that one person who just cannot keep his or her mouth shut and who constantly interrupts and tries to dominate the discussion. Don't let that be you!

If you are a nervous, shy speaker, you will probably learn several helpful tips from points 12, 13, 17, and 18. Cheek recommends sufficient rehearsal. Most of us have probably been unprepared for a presentation at some in our lives, and we've blundered through with red faces. He also reminds us that nervousness can provide energy for a presentation but suggests relaxation techniques to help calm excessive anxiety.

Further, Cheek stresses the importance of eye contact with the audience. This really does help curb shyness, especially if you can focus on a couple people who are clearly interested and engaged. Finally, Cheek tells us to speak with passion. Speaking about a topic we truly enjoy helps us overcome shyness through interest and excitement to share.

If you tend to be rather disorganized in your presentations, you would benefit from points 14, 15, 16, and 19. Cheek recommends extemporaneous speaking from an outline rather than reading directly from a script. Such an outline (provided in point 16) helps you stick to your main points and remember what you are going to say but also allows you to interact with the audience more than if you were reading word for word. Of course, rehearsal is also necessary to master speaking from an outline and staying organized while you speak.

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