The second you hand someone something to read, that person is going to read it and stop listening to what you're saying.
If there's one message from Jana Memel that every job hunter, every meeting attendee, every presenter who gives a speech needs to hear, it's this: Your ability to connect with your audience — whether a single job interviewer or 1,000 people in an auditorium — depends on engaging the listener.
Slide your resume across the table to an interviewer while you're talking and you've probably lost them to your written material.
Put up PowerPoint slides with words and numbers and most in the audience will read the slides, using the part of their brain that you want them to apply to listening.
Memel, president of The Hollywood Way, teaches communication skills that emphasize storytelling and other ways to connect with listeners on an emotional level.
"All decisions are made first on the emotional side of your brain," Memel says. "People make decisions on whether they like you, whether they feel a connection to you and whether you've answered their question of 'What's in it for me?'"
Memel would like to see smartphones, electronic tablets and other devices kept out of meetings. When they're in people's hands they draw attention, and it's simply a myth that people can multitask effectively. People can only bounce attention back and forth between reading their screens and actively listening, she says.
A speaker's best defense against diverted attention, she advises, is to do a lot of good homework about the audience ahead of time and be ready with appropriate, engaging stories that fit the audience's priorities and needs.
"Presentations are like first dates," Memel says. "It's your impression made in the first few minutes that decides if people connect with you."
Copyright 2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.); distributed by MCT Information Services AP-WF-04-17-12 1210GMT