How to Be More Articulate: 8 Must-Follow Secrets to Improve Your Speech
Reciting a speech allows for preparation. But what about those people who sound rehearsed in everyday exchanges?
1. Listen to Yourself Speak
We know it’s terrifying, but nothing will squash those verbal ticks quite like listening to yourself speak. Record yourself in a natural conversation; for example, replay a conference call or have a friend interview you on tape. Listen for technical issues, such as filler words, up talk, monotone, and run-on sentences, as well as any habits that sound awkward or uncomfortable. Identifying the problem is the first step toward tackling it.
2. Monitor Your Speed
Not sure if you’re speaking too fast or too slow? Try this: Copy and paste a 160-word passage into Microsoft Word. Read the passage aloud (at your standard conversational speed) while recording yourself on a tape recorder. How long did it take you? It should be near the minute mark, says Carol A. Fleming, author of It’s the Way You Say It. “Aim for about 155 to 175 words per minute for normal conversation,” she writes. If you’re reciting background information or summarizing something, pick up the pace. If you’re explaining something more technical, slow it down.
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3. Eliminate Filler Words
If you’re wondering how to be more articulate, it’s probably because you’ve caught yourself over-utilizing words such as “um,” “like,” and “ahh,” which can make you sound unsure and inarticulate. Replace these fillers with more eloquent transitions, suggests Forbes contributor Selena Rezvani. “One of the functions of “Um” is to tell your audience that you’re not done talking yet and need to gather your thoughts,” she writes. ‘Let’s move on to…’, ‘Another important consideration is…’, and ‘Let’s transition to talking about…’ are great replacements.
4. Focus on the Final Sound
Avoid trailing off or mumbling by making a conscious effort to fully pronounce each syllable. Pay special attention to the Ts in contractions and the final words of sentences.
5. Study Other Speakers
Articulate speakers learn from other articulate speakers. Need inspiration? Find a radio show or podcast you enjoy, and analyze the host’s speech. He or she has likely squashed any verbal ticks, and can help you identify effective patterns of speech.
6. Speak with Confidence
How to be more articulate? Speak with confidence. Even if you’re talking on the phone, the way you hold yourself impacts the way people perceive your ideas. Extend your vocal cords by keeping your chin parallel to the floor and sitting up straight, and avoid moving your hands too much (studies show keeping them folded on the table projects trustworthiness).
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7. Think Before You Speak
Perhaps the most important trick for more articulate speech? Know what you’re talking about. Having a clear idea of what you want to say will allow you to organize your thoughts into a coherent structure. It’s that simple.
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8. Address Your Weaknesses
Once you’ve identified your weaknesses, create a plan for addressing them. One strategy is to tackle a specific issue each day. For example, focus on eliminating filler words on Monday, and on completing your sentences on Tuesday. Repeat the process each week until speaking clearly becomes second nature.
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Originally published as How to Be More Articulate: 8 Must-Follow Secrets to Improve Your Speech on ReadersDigest.com.