Speech Skills Most People Seldom Think About
Most professionals and entrepreneurs have an idea of how effective speech can help them advance their careers. We all know about some of the world’s most influential public speakers, and perhaps we have a few great speakers in our own community.
However, there’s more to impactful speech techniques than being able to address a crowd for 30-plus minutes. Speaking comes into play in our daily work routines in the form of in-person and virtual meetings with team members and clients.
When armed with the right speech skills, you can effectively communicate your vision, engagement, and goals, ultimately helping you make meaningful connections and moving your career forward. Below, Poised will touch on the power of communication and explain some of the lesser-known speech skills worth developing.
Why Effective Communication Matters
If you hope to advance your career, it’s essential to consider how vital communication is to your pursuits.
Here are a few ways that effective communication can help you in your endeavors:
Telling an Impactful Story
Whether you are a business owner or professional, honing your ability to tell a good story will do wonders for your career. That’s because storytelling conveys purpose, and consumers and employers alike are looking for a compelling story.
If you can use a moving story or metaphor during a presentation, your chances of engaging your audience will be much higher than if you simply present a list of facts and show a few figures. A compelling story will evoke emotional reactions from your listeners, meaning they will be more likely to absorb the information you present and act on your call to action.
Also, stories make the information you put forward more memorable. You may have colleagues retelling your story for many years to come!
Connecting With Colleagues
Having practiced speech skills can open the door to improving those skills even more. Speaking authoritatively helps you broaden your social network — both at work and in your personal life.
As you interact more often with more people, you will get more practice and be able to sharpen your speaking abilities.
Being able to clearly and concisely present your ideas will naturally attract coworkers to listen more to what you have to say. This can minimize misunderstandings and maximize collaboration, in turn leading to healthy working relationships. We all know how much more enjoyable (and successful) our jobs are when we connect with team members and pursue a common goal.
Setting Clear Expectations
If you had ever taken part in a virtual meeting only to feel like you learned nothing new when it was over, you know that it feels like a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, those types of meetings are common among organizations. If managers and employees put in a bit of time and energy to improve communication, it would solve a lot of their problems.
Team dysfunction often occurs and persists because employees are uncertain of what their managers and leaders expect from them. By knowing how to communicate well, you can ensure that each team member leaves your meetings with an accurate picture of what they need to do to fulfill their role in the company.
And if you are a professional trying to work your way up the ladder, learning how to communicate with team members with various personalities can help you establish expectations. Whether or not you have someone working under you, setting expectations can go a long way in fostering teamwork and collaboration wherever you go.
Much of the conflict we experience at work can be boiled down to poor communication. When expectations or ideas are not adequately communicated, it eventually leads to misunderstandings and then potential conflicts. By practicing clear and concise communication, you can convey what you need to individuals while leaving no room for misconceptions.
Along with speaking your ideas clearly, it’s also important to be sensitive to the different opinions in the room. If someone does say something that offends your sensibilities or preconceptions, it’s essential not to overreact, especially if it is an insignificant issue in the grand scheme of things.
The truth is, there is not one other person on the planet that believes precisely what you do. We all must have grace for each other and try our best to clearly communicate our ideas with respect for others.
The Most Overlooked Speech Skills
So, you have an idea of why effective communication is vital to a team’s success.
Let’s touch on some overlooked speech skills worth mastering:
Even the most skilled communicators are guilty of rambling on occasion. But if you are prone to ramble often, it’s something you will want to try and improve. People ramble because they lack confidence or are generally nervous about speaking up in meetings or during hard conversations. It’s critical to back your opinions and ideas up with facts and stories, but talking too much can harm your communication credentials and leave your audience disinterested.
There are a few ways to actively reduce rambling when communicating. For example, if you feel like you are talking too much in your next meeting, take a deep breath and gather your thoughts for a few seconds. Even three to five seconds is enough time to bring your emotions down and refocus on your goals.
Another tactic is to intentionally slow your speech tempo and perhaps even lower your tone of voice. In context, doing so can signal to your listeners that the following information is critical and should be retained. Resolve that you will deliver your message slowly and clearly so that you can avoid the unleashing of a nervous stream of words.
Limiting Your Use of Filler Words
Another undesirable habit in speech is using meaningless words to fill the gaps between your thoughts.
Some of the most common filler words include:
- You know
Filler words are not always bad. When used sparingly, they likely will not take away from the power of your message. But when used too often, they can significantly confuse your message and leave listeners wondering precisely what you are talking about.
Filler words are essentially words we use as a verbal placeholder while communicating our thoughts. They communicate to listeners that we aren’t finished communicating; they indicate that our words are getting ahead of our thoughts. We’ll use these transitory words to buy time for formulating the correct word or phrase to say next.
Generally, we use more filler words the more nervous or anxious we are. Some speakers find that meditation, breathing exercises, and progressive relaxation before a meeting help them to center themselves and speak at a healthy, well-composed rate.
It can also help to record yourself making presentations. Record a few takes of a presentation so that you can listen back to it and note how many filler words you used. Then, try to relax and keep practicing until you significantly reduce the frequency of these words.
AI like Poised can keep track of your filler word use and alert you to help minimize this habit. With Poised, you never need to worry about coworkers or others on the video call seeing your secret helping hand. Poised is helpful, immediate, and discreet.
Talking at the Right Pace
The average person speaks at a rate of up to 170 words per minute in casual conversation. This is much due to operating from a stream of consciousness, which is appropriate in casual settings with friends, relatives, and coworkers. However, keep in mind that you can see all of an individual's expressions and body language when talking with them.
It’s not always like that with video calls and meetings. Delays, glitches, freezes, and other technical difficulties eliminate the possibility of experiencing the full range of expressions with our team members.
With this in mind, slowing the pace at which you deliver your message can help keep listeners engaged. Even a gradual reduction of to 140 words per minute can help you get your point across effectively. Of course, your communication style and abilities will ultimately determine the ideal pace, but it typically helps to speak more slowly than you would in casual conversation.
Another advantage of speaking at a slower pace is that it allows you to enunciate each word more clearly. When our words get ahead of our thoughts, we tend to clip the end of our words. In casual conversation, this is common and usually will not have a negative impact.
In virtual meetings, it can make it difficult for listeners to understand and absorb your message. To practice enunciation, regularly speak tongue-twisters to yourself to get into the habit of pronouncing each word as clearly as possible.
Making Eye Contact With Listeners
Maintaining eye contact with your listeners will do wonders for establishing a connection with your audience. It essentially tells each listener that you care about their thoughts and opinions.
Looking into another person’s eyes can calm your nerves and clear your mind. Looking someone in the eye for a few seconds will naturally cause you to slow the pace at which you are speaking, in turn helping you sound more confident and authoritative. Additionally, making eye contact with your audience for 20 seconds out of every minute makes your audience remember more of what you said.
The only problem is that keeping consistent eye contact with your listeners is easier said than done. One thing that can help is to imagine your audience as a group of individual listeners.
Before you begin your presentation or speak up in a meeting, take a moment to scan the environment for people you know or who seem eager to engage. Try to involve everyone in your message. In large crowds, you may mentally divide the audience into separate groups and make eye contact with one individual in each section.
During your team meetings, you will likely be communicating with a group of diverse individuals, meaning that some might grow uncomfortable with too much eye contact (or any eye contact). Be sensitive and avoid making eye contact with those individuals.
Finally, consider that it’s natural to stare at the floor or ceiling when you are looking for the right words to explain your thoughts. This will eventually lead to a disconnect with your audience. Prepare all your main points beforehand to focus more on speaking and interacting with your audience and less time on coming up with the right words.
Speech Skills for Virtual Meetings
Virtual meetings require specific skills that you don’t have to worry about in traditional settings.
Here are a few skills to work on for your next virtual engagement:
Positioning Your Camera Correctly
One thing that many professionals fail to master is positioning their cameras so that they come across as competent communicators. How you look during video calls can significantly influence others’ perception of you; it can make the difference between appearing professional and appealing like it’s your first ever video meeting.
Make sure you are not too close to your camera during meetings. The video feed should show a bit of space above your head and shoulders, though you do not want to back up too far and blend in with your background. Using the wide-screen setting on your webcam can help your video come across as more professional. But using it when you are sitting too close to the camera can make your face appear stretched out and highlight the details of your pores!
Another technique is to set your camera at eye level. If you are looking down at your camera, it will add a couple of extra chins and make you appear unprofessional. With that said, you don’t want your camera looking down on your face either.
This can bring your hairline back and elongate your nose, not to mention it can imply to your audience that you are doing other things on your screen instead of engaging in the meeting.
Knowing When To Mute Your Microphone
It’s critical to know when to mute your microphone during virtual meetings. If everyone on your team keeps their microphones on at all times, it can be challenging to hold a successful meeting.
Generally, you should mute yourself anytime you are not speaking when more than five people are present. Also, if someone else is giving a presentation or an extended answer to a question, it’s a good time to mute your mic.
Also, if there are interruptions or distractions occurring where you are, or if you expect them to, you will want to mute your microphone. Examples of this situation include if you are expecting a delivery soon or if you need to leave your desk for a moment. We all know the unfortunate stories of people going to the restroom with their mic still on and everyone hearing their business!
Having a poor internet connection is another reason to mute your mic because it probably makes your audio crackle. Generally, if you are not going to be an active participant in a particular meeting, such as a large corporate meeting or webinar, plan on leaving your mic disabled for the meeting’s duration.
Clarity and Conciseness When Speaking
Clarity is one of the most critical components of effective communication. After all, you can have the best idea ever, but if you cannot clearly present it to your audience, it will do no good.
Remember to enunciate each syllable carefully and avoid clipping the ends of your words. Speaking at a slower pace will go a long way, but you also must thoroughly understand the content you are presenting so you can present with confidence.
Another way to ensure that others understand your message clearly is to keep your presentations and responses concise. The more on-point you stay with your message, the easier it will be for listeners to receive it.
Clear Communication Is Critical
A large portion of human interaction relies on speech, and that extends to the workplace. In virtual environments, being able to speak effectively is critical.
Keep learning about the overlooked speech skills mentioned above and find ways that you can improve your communication style and skills going forward. In no time, you’ll be ready to deliver your message confidently and engage every member of your audience.