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When was the last time you heard yourself speak?

What do you sound like?

Take a moment to replay a conference call, or ask a friend to record a short interview with you. Listen to the playback.  Without being overly self-critical, take note of how you sound.  Our voice and speech as well as the vocal mannerisms we habitually use, have a profound influence on our credibility and consequent ability to communicate and influence.

  • Listen to your accent. It is polished and professional? 
  • Are you speaking in a monotone, or is your speech varied and engaging?

As you listen to yourself take note of any vocal mannerisms you habitually use.

Listen to your accent.  Does it present you as professional or is it careless?

How fast do you speak?

The average person speaks at about 160 to 175 words per minute.  If we speak too rapidly the message becomes rushed, sounds merge and it’s difficult to decipher the message and take in the information. On the other hand, overly slow speech can bore your listeners and cause their mind to wander.

If you’re introducing technical information or communicating complex information for the first time, it’s best to take time – slow down so that your listeners have the opportunity to process what you’re telling them.  Pick up the pace if you’re going over old ground or if you’re wanting to communicate a sense of urgency or excitement.

Vary your pace to match your subject.

Articulate clearly

Avoid mumbling – Open your mouth when you speak, relax your jaw and use your lips.  Your speech will be more animated, interesting and engaging.

Avoid trailing off at the end of sentences.

Finish your words.  There’s no room for “comin” and “goin” or “see ya”.

Take special care to put the “t’s” and “d’s” on the ends of words.  “Don’t do that” – rather than “don do tha”.

Avoid distracting fillers

As you listen to your recording, pay special attention to how many filler words you use. These are communication habits which are hard to break. If you habitually use filler words, “um”, “uh”, and “ahh”, start by replacing filler words with a pause. Silence used well is very powerful.

Use positive body language

Whilst it’s not strictly “speech” your body language enhances, or distracts from, your message. Watch for distracting mannerisms such as finger tapping, habitually changing your weight from one foot to the other; nodding excessively or avoiding eye contact.  Use open gestures and look people in the eye.

Learn by observing speakers you admire

Watch and learn from speakers who you consider speak well.  Find a radio presenter or carefully analyse a person who you consider speaks well. Watch the mechanisms they use to communicate their message.

Know what you’re talking about

Nothing communicates confidence better than knowing your subject matter.  When you are preparing to speak to a group, be fully prepared.  Do the research, know your subject and rehearse what you’re going to say.

Think before you speak

When you’re engaged in a meeting, think before you speak. Having a clear idea of what you want to say will allow you to organise your thoughts into a coherent structure. It’s that simple.

Consult a qualified voice and speech coach

It’s not easy to change a speech style which has been developed over many years.  Most people achieve quick results when they invest in some speech lessons.  A qualified voice and speech coach can quickly introduce you to techniques to enhance your communication and delivery.   It’s well worth the investment.

Liz Paine
The Occasional Speaker
Phone: 0400778807