how to speak well

How to Speak Better: 3 Critical Steps

They are the number 1 requirement on nearly every job description. They become more & more critical as we climb the ladder within our firms.

How are your communication skills? Be honest with yourself.

Are you concise & convincing or do you ramble on? Do people love your ideas & act on them immediately or are you misunderstood or (God-forbid!) interrupted?

3 Critical Steps to Speaking Better

  1. Articulation is not the answer. Use linking by gluing your words together.

  2. Speak with pauses. Our brains process chunks of information.

  3. Be Relaxed. Humans perform better at everything they do when they’re relaxed.

We’ll describe these in more detail throughout the article.

You’ll find that there are some speaking situations where you don’t feel you need to speak better.

The stakes of your speaking situations can be high-stakes or low stakes. Or in between. Everyone’s different but a lot of folks feel that ordering food and beverages is a low-stakes situation. You’re going to get your tea and scone no matter what. 

Most people feel that job interviews, giving presentations, meeting with the venture capitalist, or making small talk on a first date are the places they need to speak better. These are the high-stakes situations.

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High-stakes situations are times when you don’t know the outcome + you have a huge desire for a particular outcome.

The picture below demonstrates what happens when you really want something to happen but the outcome is completely unknown to you.

Let’s say you really want a bagel and cream cheese with lox, plus a cup of coffee. Here you are outside of Essa Bagels in NYC. What are the chances you’re not going to get that bagel? Even though you really want that bagel, the stakes are low.

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how to speak well

What are high-stakes speaking situations?

Now here you are outside the Oprah Winfrey studio in Chicago. Your list of desires is long and your knowledge of the outcome is nil. She’s interviewing you and the least thing you can ask for is not to look like a fool.

Second up you want people to like you and to find you to be credible. You want to exude executive presence.

Then if all goes well everyone will buy your book and you’ll be famous.

But you have no idea what’s going to happen. You know you may draw a blank, you may stutter, you may talk too fast, you may not be persuasive at all! The list of possibilities is endless. The ways that you can look like a fool and not be believable is huge. 

So here’s how it goes:

If you want something from the situation + you don’t know the outcome = high stakes situation.

In high-stakes situations is where your body goes into fight or flight. Take a look at the picture below. You can see the situations in the red area are ones where you want a lot from. And you don’t know what’s going to happen.

how to speak well

Then if you look at the green dot, you’ve got low-stakes situations. You don’t desire a particular outcome and you pretty much know how it’s going to go. The orange is in the middle. Of course, everyone is different so you have to plug in your own chart.

The irony is: the situations you want to speak your best are the ones where you’re at your worst.

The more you know the outcome and have a high desire for that result, your anxiety level is low. If you don’t care about the result and the outcome will be unknown, your anxiety remains low.

But if you really care about the outcome and you have no idea what it’s going to be, then the anxiety is high.

For example. You don’t know if Mark Cuban is going to give you half a million dollars for the new cool gadget you just invented. But you are desperate for it because your life depends upon it, then there’s a high-stakes situation right there.

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How to Speak Better

First step:  I can’t emphasize enough just how relaxed you need to be before & during every communicative situation.

Not just giving presentations but communicating with colleagues & clients, when dating, making small talk, etc.

What’s the last thing you feel when you’re at a job interview? Relaxed, right? But that’s the one thing you need to perform well at your job interview!

Imagine if Michael Jordan was tense before his athletic endeavors?!

How to relax 

Feel all of your muscles from the inside & make sure they’re just hanging down.  No joke, kids. You’ll find that the more relaxed you are the better your communication skills.  

It comes as no surprise that when you’re sitting with friends you can describe your project so beautifully your friends think you’re the smartest person they know.

Then your boss pokes his/her head in and asks how the project’s going & you might just be described as a stutterer.  Who’s nervous. Not confident. When you come across that way your chances of getting ahead slow down a bit.

Articulation is Not the Answer.

My clients are mostly C-level folks who put themselves into more & more challenging speaking situations as they continue to succeed in their lives.

I’m fortunate enough to have the pleasure of working with really smart people who know that self-improvement is necessary to achieve great success.

I hear many people say, “I’d like to improve my articulation.” Being articulate means speaking fluently & coherently. It doesn’t mean that you pop each letter very distinctly.

In other words, articulating each letter doesn’t make you articulate.

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How to speak better using linking.

Here’s one of the reasons why articulation & diction don’t work:  Because in Standard American English 1 letter does not represent only 1 sound (among other reasons). We have 5 vowel letters but those 5 letters represent 16 sounds.

Instead of over-articulating your sounds, link them together. Don’t work on popping the final sound of each word. Allow the sound to blend in with the first sound of the next word. It’s called co-articulation.  That’s what makes your speech fluent & fluid. Resulting in credible, authoritative & persuasive speech.

Record your side of a conversation and listen for over-articulation. (I challenge you!) Then work to make sure you’re not stopping between words & that you’re linking the words together within phrases & clauses. Let me know how you do!

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Don’t Slow Down–Speak with Pauses.

There’s a lot of advice out there that in order to speak better you need to slow down. This is not complete advice. Don’t speak in slow motion. Instead, use pauses.

Practice using pauses by making them uncomfortably long. You may think that people are impatiently waiting for what’s next but in reality, they’re merely processing the information that came prior.

You’re in the future thinking about what you’re going to say next, your listeners are in the past processing what you’ve already put out there. With pauses, you’re all in the present! That’s how to speak better!

How many times have you been intently attempting to listen to someone & your mind wanders? Like, a lot, right? It’s the speaker’s fault! They are probably over-articulating–making them sound staccato; they’re not using pauses–It’s all bad. Processing speech is a very big part of communicating. It’s our responsibility to make it easier for our listeners to process our message. That is if we want them to follow our important call-to-action.

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How to Speak Better tips 4 & 5

4. You’ll want to smooth out your speech by leaving no space between consonants and using a gliding sound between vowels. When we talk about pauses make sure that the words you use between your pauses are glued together by linking your consonants and vowels.

5. Use lots of air for speech. Speech (all sound) is air molecules vibrating. The more air you use the better you’ll sound.
The less air you use the harder it is for people to process the information you’re putting out there. Also, you greatly reduce your ability to project your voice. !No bueno!

More to come!

How to Speak Better

In summary, in order to speak better you’ll need to be relaxed, add pauses to your speech and stop over-articulating. 🙂

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6 thoughts on “How to Speak Better: 3 Critical Steps”

  1. Meanwhile, everywhere I go people are saying articulation is the answer. But you’re right, I just recorded myself smoothing the words together and I sounded so much better!
    Why didn’t everybody know about this?

    1. You’ll want to make it a habit in your life so you can speak like that naturally. You don’t want to think about everything you’re ever going to say!

      practice + self assessment = perfect

  2. As far as I am concern, the best way to speak better is that you try to listen to something you like to listen in English then try to copy the style of speaking. Repetition will help much.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lawand! Just make sure you’re repeating it correctly. You have to train your ear to hear the difference between the way you’re saying it and the way you want to say it. The more you repeat it the wrong way the harder it is to undo that.

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