Lesson 10- Why Talk?

Oral presentations are generally more persuasive than written ones, so don’t e-mail someone when you can pick up the phone and call them.

Researchers who have tested the way the brain responds to such stimuli as language, visual images, and music have found that the spoken word engages both the right (creative, intuitive) and left (analytical, logical) sides of the brain.

Written material appeals more specifically to the left side. Since most managers seem to make decisions based on both rational and intuitive criteria, you are more likely to gain acceptance for your proposal through an oral presentation. This method appeals to both sides of the brain, as opposed to a report, which appeals to only one side.

In addition, an oral presentation gives you more possibilities for building a relationship with your audience (your boss, your department, or your friends) than an e-mail, memo, or report.

Spoken language has an immediate, magical quality that written language usually lacks. Rarely can the enthusiasm communicated in a phone call or a meeting be duplicated in a letter or memo. Although writers can reflect on their choice of words and use a far larger vocabulary than speakers, speakers can use tone of voice and gestures to give their ideas emphasis. High technology always brings with it a counter-balance of low human response.

When your communication is intended to stimulate direct action, you must be able to evaluate the depth of the audience’s understanding and degree of acceptance as you go along. While this checking is relatively easy when you are speaking with someone in person, it is not possible in written communication where the response is delayed and perhaps edited before it gets back to you. You have a better chance of knowing whether you are getting close to your ultimate goal when you see your audience’s reactions than when you have to wait for written response.

It is also obvious that, as a speaker, you can get valuable feedback during the presentation itself. As a writer, you are far more limited. If a statement in a report or memo raises a question in the reader’s mind that is not answered immediately, the reader may never understand the main point. If a member of the audience seems confused, however, a speaker can clarify a point either in the course of the presentation or during the question and answer period.

If a writer misjudges the reader’s need for information and produces a long-winded report, the writer has no control over the reader, who can simply ignore the report or throw it away. In contrast, a speaker can adjust to the audience. If listeners are restless, for example, you can adjust the timing; if they are bored, you can eliminate material; and if they do not understand, you can give them more information.

When dealing with a controversial subject, it is usually better to bring participants together in one room to discuss the matter rather than to circulate a written report or memo. When there is serious disagreement, penciled-in comments that tend to fuel conflict may accumulate as the memo ricochets from one desk to another.

Confronting issues directly, and in person, is generally preferable to circulating paper, even though your writing skills may be better developed than your ability to deal with opposition in person.