Speaking Clearly - Why So Important?
Whether you are presenting information one-on-one to a superior or coworker, or speaking in front of a large audience, you want to communicate effectively. And to do that, you must speak clearly. Regardless of the significance of presentation or how interesting it may be to your audience, it will be lost on them if your ideas are not clearly understood, leaving them confused, unmotivated, and misinformed. Not good!
If you know you are reaching your audience effectively, and conveying a sure and confident demeanor, this will go far in improving your confidence and poise. As you continue to improve your speaking skills, your level of nervousness will diminish substantially. So let's get to it!
What Seems to Be the Problem?
Sometimes any issues with indistinct speak are simply mechanical or functional. When you are practicing speaking aloud (yes, you must practice!) ask yourself these questions:
- Is my mouth fully open as I speak?
- Does my jaw feel tight or rigid?
- Am I enunciating?
- Am I speaking too fast to fully articulate sounds?
When I was a teenager, my mother was after me continually to stop slurring my words! Now that I have experienced the same trait in others, I know how frustrating it can be to (try to) listen to! Don't do that to your audience! When words indiscriminately run together, or are spoken to quickly, meaning is lost and your audience will not follow you, much less be motivated to action.
How to Improve
Enunciation: To improve your speech clarity, slow down and try to express each syllable, without sounding overly precise. Fill your lungs with each breath.
Posture: If your speech still sounds somewhat slurred or muffled, hold your head up straight, with your chin away from your chest. If you are reading from written materials, hold the documents high enough so looking from the page to your audience will only require a slight movement.
Tension: Releasing tension can also improve your speech. Tension in the facial muscles or in those controlling your breathing can have an detrimental effect on the mechanics of speech and impede smoothness and naturalness. Practicing aloud can help significantly. Open your mouth sufficiently. Take note of your facial movement as you speak. Are you using facial expressions? If not, your face may be holding tension. Take note also of any tension in your neck, lower jaw, lips, and throat.
Self-evaluation: Consider recording your own voice. I know, most of us find the sound of our own recorded voice fairly disconcerting, but listening to it can help you pinpoint any trouble you may have. Listen for any issues as noted above, and address them.
Even those with speech impediments can improve their speech with these methods. If you have a lisp, pull your tongue away from your front teeth when pronouncing the "s" and "z" sounds in words.
I hope these tips assist you in your efforts! This is the first in an extensive series of articles that will be published regarding public speaking.
In Lesson 2, we will address delivering your presentation with fluency. Please let me know if there is if there is anything specific I can help you with!