News Dec 30th 2016

How to master the art of articulate speaking


Good speaking doesn't always come easily, but is a valuable skill that you should - and can - acquire. Why is it so important? Because it will help you make the right impression on others. If you're unable to communicate effectively, you will not have the effect you hope for. Your message may be a good one, but will simply not come across properly. So communication really is an essential skill, and one that you can learn.

But surprisingly, it's not so much your words that matter, rather the way in which you say them. You must communicate your message by engaging your audience and using the right tone. That will capture their attention and help you speak in a more assured manner. An easy way to practice this skill is to record yourself speaking; try different ways of delivering the same words and you will notice how changing your tone can make a massive difference. Try slowing down or speeding up, and changing your tone to suit the story you're telling. Be slower for serious topics and faster for exciting ones. The emotional tone needs to fit your story.

If you're really struggling to refine your speaking skills, taking an acting or improv class can be invaluable. You don't have to be a would-be actor to do this; many people find such classes make a huge difference to their communication skills. But there are lots of other ways to practice by yourself:

Speak more slowly

We all tend to gabble when we're nervous, so make an effort to slow down your speech. It's ok to take a moment to collect your thoughts while you think of what you want to say, but don't worry so much about the words as the delivery. Remember it's how you speak that matters. Pause for a moment if you start to falter, and take a deep breath.

Speak clearly

You'll never be able to communicate properly if you speak too quietly, so make an effort to pronounce your words clearly and audibly. Make sure that everything you say can be heard, and don't go quiet as your sentences finish (this is a common problem).

Avoid fillers

Too many speakers use 'um' and 'er' to fill in moments when they are unsure what to say, and that risks sounding vague and incoherent. Such filler words are inappropriate for serious speaking, so if you are uncertain what to say next, just take a moment to consider.

Body language

Part of being an effective speaker is using confident body language. It needs to correspond with your speech and message. Check that your posture is straight; avoid slouching or touching your face or hair, which conveys insecurity. Keep your movements deliberate and controlled. Use careful hand gestures to reinforce your main points. Try videoing yourself speaking, standing in front of a mirror as you talk, or watching effective speakers and imitating their body language.

Have some prepared stories

Good storytellers aren't necessarily born with the talent to engage their audience. More often it comes with practice. So have a number of stories prepared that you can tell again and again (though do try not to repeat the same stories to the same people). Then you'll know that your speeches or stories will interest your audience - though do tailor your stories to the right audience. Start with some good ideas, then work on polishing these stories over time, until you've refined them sufficiently. Storytelling is a skill that needs to be worked on, so practice as much as you can.

Remember: it's the way in which you speak that is more important than the actual words.

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