If you’ve spent any amount of time around top executives or business leaders, you’ve probably found that most of them don’t speak like your typical employee. There is a recognizable confidence, timbre and clarity to their vocal presence that can motivate and inspire the masses.
From Benjamin Franklin to Martin Luther King Jr. to Bill Clinton, great leaders are first and foremost great communicators all of whom are masters of the five following speaking tips.
1. Um, drop verbal crutches
These crutches are most pronounced during pauses that occur while delivering a speech or presentation. They can come in the form of unintelligible sub-vocalizations such as “um” and “er” which awkwardly fill the silence, or as a subconscious habitual cough, lip-licking or overused hand gesture. They can also manifest as any number of verbal ticks which can be distracting and ultimately undermine your credibility (think phrases such as “you know,” “like,” “frankly,” or “to be honest”). The problem is that few of us recognize our own dependence on these crutches.
The quickest cure for this is to record yourself using a smartphone app speaking extemporaneously for a minute or two on any topic. Then, listen back and count how many of these crutches you use. This simple exercise will help you be more conscious when you speak.
2. Keep going despite verbal miscues
If you slip up or stumble over words while delivering a presentation or speech, don’t stop and apologize. Keep going as if nothing happened. Most people don’t even notice those types of verbal flubs until the speaker draws unnecessary attention to it by stopping and apologizing for the misstep.
Not only is that disconcerting to the speaker, it’s disconcerting to the audience as well.
3. Avoid introductory qualifiers
These are those wishy-washy throwaway phrases that we work into our speech to be polite or build consensus – phrases such as "perhaps,” “kind of,” “hopefully” or any other mealy derivative of the same. Such limp words will only weaken you and your status as a leader.
4. End sentences cleanly
Too often, people make great points but they keep going to the point where they talk themselves into a corner and don’t know how to end the conversation.
So they tag on a throwaway phrase that adds nothing to the discussion. Examples of these types of sluggish nomenclature include "and what not,” “things like that,” and “you know what I’m saying.”
These lazy linguistic lapses should be avoided at all costs.
5. One thought per sentence
This last tip will help eliminate most of the aforementioned issues. When we isolate one concept per sentence, verbal pauses between sentences can become powerful attention grabbers with no room for crutches. There’s also less chance for a verbal mix-up if each sentence is a single, crisp idea. Plus, a punchy concept blasts through paltry qualifiers and sentence tagalongs.