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ORAL COMMUNICATIONS We decided to address active listening before oral communication because we wanted you to be aware of just what you’re up against when you consciously attempt to communicate successfully by phone, at meetings and interviews, or during formal presentations. (Remember, communication is only successful if you're audience “gets the message.”) With all of the internal and external distractions getting in the way of the stages of listening—perceiving, focusing, evaluating, and responding—it’s a wonder that we can get through to anyone with our oral messages. While we’ve included detailed information on sales presentations on page 113, on telephone and voice mail strategies on page 198, and on giving presentations and lectures on page 246, here are some all-purpose guidelines for getting your oral messages across to your audience, no matter what the venue. 1. Be prepared. Whether you are calling a gatekeeper, participating in a meeting, going on an interview, or presenting your designs, you’ll be better received if you prepare your remarks. Choose your words carefully according to your audience analysis. Keep in mind your purpose—usually to persuade or inform in business communications. Then organize your remarks for greatest impact. 2. Speak up. Before your audience can perceive, focus on, and evaluate your message, they have to be able to hear you. From the very beginning of your conversation or presentation, make sure that you are speaking loudly and slowly enough to get through to the listener. But strive to sound natural by varying the pitch of your voice and speed of your delivery. You don’t want to mumble or speak in a monotone. 3. Respond to the feedback. If the person you are calling says he’s busy, ask when you can call back. If people in your audience at a sales presentation are checking their watches or cell phones, make your presentation more interactive to draw them back to you. 4. Close by letting your listener(s) know what you want. Do you want to set up an appointment, get a job offer, or make a sale? Ask overtly and offer the information necessary for your listener to follow through.