My handwriting isn’t always easy to decipher. When I write my own notes, I (mostly) manage to read them. If I write a thank-you note or a grocery shopping list for someone else, I know I need to make an effort to ensure they understand it.
The same principle applies for speaking: If we mumble, ramble or rush it through, people won’t get it. If we want to influence others, we need to make that extra effort. We need to make it easy and enjoyable to listen us.
So why is it easy to admit that our handwriting is messy and a lot harder to accept that our speaking style is ineffective?
If you have realized – by yourself or through the feedback from others – that you are sometimes hard to follow, here are some ways of making it easier and more enjoyable to listen to you:
Speaking so people want to listen
Power to the pause
Pausing is a vital skill for audience management. In fact, pausing is to listeners what punctuation is to readers. It helps them absorb your message and make sense of what you are saying.
Imagine your message in writing. When there should be a comma, pause for one second. When you see a period, pause for two seconds. When you see a new paragraph, pause for three seconds. And while you’re pausing, take the opportunity to breathe!
Help your audience pick up what is important by emphasizing the keywords in each sentence – as if they were written in bold.
You can emphasize key words by saying them louder, slower, or by enunciating them more clearly than the other words.
Think of your presentation as a piece of music. How can you make it more interesting through variations in rhythm, volume, and melody?
– Speak loudly to gain attention or create an impact. Then say some things softly to draw people in and make them listen carefully.
– Speak fast, then slow down to mark importance and create suspense.
– Vary the highs and the lows of your voice. Allow your voice to go up and down naturally, as in a face-to face conversation.
Next time you hear a good speaker, observe what they are doing to add spice to their speech – then try it yourself!