Dos and Don’ts of Communication
Interviews by Katarzyna Ignatik
Public speaking comes up on top of “greatest fears” lists year after year. For many, it’s one of the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Most people, however, don’t realize that good public speaking skills are often derived from good daily communication, and vice versa.
We’ve tapped into the wisdom of a faculty member (Director of Individual Events in Theatre and Speech Matthew Warner), a student (junior Mary Blenderman), and a staff member (Executive Director of Career Services Ken Koopmans) for helpful tips about communication and public speaking.
Dr. Warner: “Do be mindful in everyday communication that a choice for a thing is a choice against another thing. If you are speaking of/for yourself, then you preclude speaking of/for others at that moment. In every communication situation we should be mindful of what is not being said—or what cannot be said—in relation to what is spoken.”
Mary: “Do actively engage with your topic and your audience. If you seem bored while you’re presenting, your audience will be bored too, but if you give your audience vitality and connection, they will give it back to you. Remind yourself why you are passionate about this topic, make eye contact with your audience members, and pour energy and confidence into every word.”
Mr. Koopmans: “Do understand the importance of non-verbal communication. Strategically timed nodding of the head conveys to the listener that you’re engaged and following along.”
Dr. Warner: “Don’t treat conversation as a debate. Defending a thesis or supporting an affirmation has its place, but most of the time, in most situations—particularly in interpersonal contexts—the value of viewing discourse through a true/false lens or from a competitive standpoint is inappropriate. In other words, focus more on understanding and being understood than on being correct or pointing out error.”
Mary: “Don’t express nervous energy with your body. Shuffling your feet around or gesturing excessively will distract your audience and detract from your message. Instead, stand up straight and channel all of your nervous energy into taking deep breaths between sentences, which will help keep your voice rich and resonant and will make you appear poised and confident.”
Mr. Koopmans: “Don’t have side conversations in a group setting. It may be perceived as rude as you’re excluding others. The side conversation may not involve anyone else in the group, but the group doesn’t know that. They only see that they’re being excluded and may sense that a potential clique is forming. That never evokes good feelings.”
Katarzyna Ignatik is an English major in the class of 2020. She spends her time doing homework (of course), binge-reading, binge-writing, singing, and laughing at everything and anything. Talk to her about Tolkien, the 50s, or abstract philosophical concepts, and she’ll be perfectly happy.