Speaking One-to-One

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Speaking to an individual is different from the group experience. Whether you are training someone, selling, coaching, or asking for a raise, here are some tips for speaking one-to-one.

o Eliminate distractions. Choose a comfortable setting–perhaps your office or a conference room with good lighting. Block off distracting window views and minimize interruptions. Clear the table of clutter.

o Sit next to the person at eye level. Sit side by side rather than across a desk form each other. This has psychological and physical effects. It creates a feeling of being on the same side and allows both people to look at materials from the same perspective.

o Maintain good eye contact but don’t stare. In a group you make eye contact with everyone. With individuals, you don’t want to lock eyes. Break eye contact from time to time. A good guide is to look at the person 70% of the time.

o Use visual aids. Props, pictures, and objects can serve as effective visual aids. Visuals are important learning tools, and you shouldn’t overlook them in a one-to-one situation. Be sure your visuals are appropriate to the situation. A few carefully placed props and occasional use of a table easel can enhance your presentation.

o Clarify but don’t repeat questions. In a large group, you repeat the question so that everyone can hear it. But in one-to-one settings, the same technique would be silly. You may ask for clarification: “Are you saying that you need more practice?” Or you may restate the question in your answer. “The procedure for this project is…”

o Maintain a comfortable physical distance. Don’t invade the other person’s space. When sitting side by side, don’t lean in or take over the person’s materials. Ask permission to demonstrate with their materials.

o Pause. The brain needs a few seconds to process information. Don’t overload the learner with too much data. Pause between thoughts to let the information sink in.

o Use smaller gestures. Show enthusiasm and get involved with the learner. Allow yourself to be natural and expressive. But contain your gestures, because the physical space is smaller in one-to-one situations. Wide, sweeping movements will seem out of place.

o Prepare and organize. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working with only one person. Whether you train one person or a hundred, the preparation is the same. Without adequate preparation, you’ll seem disorganized and unprofessional. Prepare an outline and establish time frames.

Watch for nonverbal cues. In a group, different personalities react in diverse ways. Someone in the group will often say what others are thinking. In a one-to-one situation, however, the person may feel reluctant to tell you that he or she needs a break or doesn’t understand. Watch body language and continually check back: “You look like you disagree.” “Are you ready for a break?” “Is this something you can use on the job?”

Copyright Diane DiResta 2005. All rights reserved.

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