4 Steps to Improve Your Speech | BridgeBetween.com

4 Steps to Improve Your Speech to Make an Impact Through Speaking

Do you need to improve your speech? As a thought leader, or a team leader, the technical aspects of your speech make a big difference in terms of the impact your speaking has on your team, the C-Suite or an auditorium full of people.

Even when you’re not giving a speech to hundreds of people, the way you speak every day thoroughly impacts how much people hear.

4 Steps to Improve Your Speech

Step 1 – Hear yourself

You will never know what you sound like to other people until you record yourself and listen. Record yourself speaking in different contexts. At a meeting, at a presentation, on a conference call, in chatting with others.

Then listen to the recordings carefully. You’ll hear all the things that make your speaking pattern less impactful.

Here are some issues that tend to crop up for many people:

  • The speed of your speech – too fast and no one follows; too slow and they’re asleep.
  • The enunciation of your words – do you tend to mumble or are you clear?
  • The tone of your speech – are you monotone or do you squeak like a mouse? Neither is desirable!
  • The verbal tics of filler words – using ‘um’ or ‘ah’ with astonishing regularity.
  • The tendency to avoid punctuation – when you’re speaking, it’s best to pause as you would if you were punctuating your speech. It makes it clearer and easier to hear.
  • The tendency to finish sentences in an upward tone, as if you are always asking a question – this tends to make it sound as if you aren’t confident in what you are saying, that you are seeking the approval of the listener.

Step 2 – Watch your speed

Speed of speech is one of the most difficult issues to get a handle on. We each tend to have a rhythm of speech that doesn’t necessarily change, depending on circumstances. But it should!

What’s an appropriate speed? For a conversational level of speech, it should take you about a minute to read 160 words. Write something out that is that long and then read it out loud, while you record and time yourself.

If you’re in the zone of about 150-170 words a minute, you’re okay for conversational speaking. If you’re speaking on a technical subject, however, you might want to slow it down a little.

Step 3 – Banish filler words

“Like”, “Um”, “Ahhh”… We all use them but they have the tendency, when you used a lot, to make the speaker sound unsure of themselves at best. When leaders pepper their speeches with these filler words, the reaction of listeners tends to be that they find that leader to be less effective, or are concerned about their level of knowledge and ability.

Of course, these words are no reflection on knowledge and ability but perception is reality, so if you know you tend towards a verbal filler like ‘Um’, you have to get out of the habit.

Listen to yourself speaking and figure out why it is you are using that filler word. Is it to give yourself time to pull together your thoughts or turn a page on your notes and refocus?

You can give yourself that pause without using a verbal filler but instead employing something more elegant like: “Another important point is…” or some other transition from one thought to the next.

Another reason for excessive fillers is if you haven’t prepared what you want to say. For general conversation, this is, of course, unnecessary! But when you’re speaking to an audience, even if it’s a team in a conference room, knowing what you want to say in roughly the order you want to say it will make your speech more effective and you will find less need for transitional fillers.

Step 4 – Enunciate

There is no less effective to communicate than mumbling. In fact, mumblers are not only impossible to hear and understand, but there is a tendency to view mumbling as laziness or lack of interest in the subject matter. Nothing will lose you an audience faster than your seeming to be totally uninterested in the topic at hand.

Practice enunciating all your syllables, even if it is exaggerated at first, to get to a point where you eliminate any mumbling. Even non-mumblers can get caught doing it at the end of a sentence, their voices trailing off. Instead, stay strong and enunciate right up to the end!

If you’re not sure of your speech patterns, watch and listen to others — TEDx speakers are usually great examples of people who speak well and captivate listeners. Your speaking must radiate confidence in order to be perceived as knowledgeable.

And smile when you speak. There is a lot of truth to the fact that you can hear a smile in someone’s speech. Try it. Say something with a smile and then say the same thing without a smile, and record both. You’ll hear the difference immediately!

It takes practice and a little perseverance but you can alter your speech patterns and, in so doing, improve the impact you make when you speak.

 

Public Speaking | BridgeBetween.com

Why Public Speaking Helps to Build Leadership Skills

Public speaking ability is among the most critical, yet also the most feared, skills. But the lack of it can really impact your ability to lead a group effectively.

Public speaking allows you, as a leader, to show your team what you are thinking and what direction you want to take: they will see you as not only an actual leader, but as a thought leader, helping to motivate them to the action that you are seeking from them.

A leader isn’t just someone who states what they want done and waits for people to do it. A leader is someone who motivates positive action, who inspires innovation and growth, who sets a set of goals for a group of people and helps them to find the path to their mutual success.

There’s no question that the only way that any of these ideals get accomplished is through clear communication—both as an active listener and speaker.

But as I said before, while it is critical, public speaking is often the most feared skill that a person acquires in their quest to lead. So what can you do to improve your public speaking skills, and by extension, your leadership skills?

Speak like a leader

A leader of a Fortune 500 company is probably not going to drop an F-bomb every few sentences and for good reason. A conversational tone is perfectly acceptable, particularly when you’re trying to reach a large group of people and still make them feel like you are talking directly to each and every one of them; but conversational doesn’t mean crude or inappropriate.

That can only cause discomfort for some or all of your audience; they will ignore the message and then you will have lost an opportunity.

You need to be focused on your message and on your audience and find ways to connect your message to them in a way that makes sense and is absorbed. Storytelling, anecdotes, examples are far more effective transmitters of the message than just the message by itself.

Focus on Your body language

Just as important as your actual voice is how you present yourself to your audience. Having an open, relaxed stance, and using eye contact where you can, has the same effect as the appropriate tone, mentioned in the previous point. Your body language will offer a lot in terms of engagement, for the audience.

Speak at a level that matches your audience

If you’re a scientist but you are speaking to a group of non-scientific laypersons, match your language to their knowledge and abilities. If they aren’t familiar with the vernacular of the area you are speaking about, including acronyms, you will lose them.

Similarly, if you’re a business leader and you’re talking to a group of CEOs, you don’t need to talk down to them and explain basic concepts of economics. Not matching your speaking level to the audience in question can result in you confusing them and losing the message.

Practice, practice, practice!

If you’re new to public speaking, the best thing you can do is practice.

It’s best if you can deliver your speech without detailed notes and leverage some points from reference cards instead. But this takes some preparation.

Why is it best?

Because you’ll engage more effectively with the audience if you’re not looking down at pages of notes the whole time you’re speaking. Your voice will project better and you’ll be able to read nonverbal cues as to whether or not your words are making a connecting (nodding of heads, open, relaxed faces, etc.)

If you can, record yourself on video. You’ll never hear or see the things you do that are distracting if you don’t literally hear and see yourself. The incessant ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that some people insert into their speaking are distracting for the audience and detract from the overall effect of the words. Similarly, nervous laughter or over excited arm movements and gestures can overwhelm the audience.

Final Thoughts

Speaking well gives a person authority, a quality that is not just handed over simply because you have a title. It’s this authority that is among the more difficult to pinpoint aspects of quality leadership.

That said, when a person has it, the audience knows it and responds accordingly, whether that set of people is a small team or an assembly of four hundred investors. Master public speaking and you’ve mastered a vital skill for leadership.