How to Speak More Professionally

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Your speaking style may be preventing you from being taken seriously, even to the point of preventing you from getting a job or advancing if you have one. If you wish to be accepted as a professional, you must possess professional speaking skills, whether you are talking to one person or a group. Fortunately, you can acquire those skills with practice.

More Than Words

In 1967, UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian hypothesized that interpersonal communications have have three components. Body language and non-verbal communication account for 55 percent, tone of voice and vocal quality contribute 38 percent, while the actual words amount to only 7 percent of how people communicate. To improve your speaking skills you must pay attention to the image you project. Good posture will help you project your voice while demonstrating more confidence in what you say. Making eye contact shows you are in touch with the people you are speaking to. Use open hand gestures and avoid rattling keys or the change in your pockets.

Banish Filler Words

If you are uncertain about your speaking delivery, you are likely to slow your speech while you work through your thoughts, filling in the gaps with filler words -- "um," "ah," "like" and "you know." People who use filler words are frequently not prepared and are mentally fumbling for the right words. You can solve this problem by preparation and practice if you are going to make a formal presentation. And whether you are delivering a speech or talking with others in your place of business, you can eliminate the filler words by pressing the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth when you pause. With practice, you will make your words flow without those distracting fillers.

Get Honest Feedback

As you practice your speaking skills, ask for feedback from people who will give you supportive criticism. Join Toastmasters International to get coaching and practice in polishing your speaking style. You'll get plenty of opportunities to get up in front of a group, who will provide encouragement while helping you improve your delivery. Study how other people speak. Listen to leaders of your company and watch their delivery style. There are plenty online examples of great speakers to emulate, such as on YouTube.

Develop Variety in Your Style

If you speak with a monotone delivery, you will bore those who listen to you. Instead, vary your speaking speed, deliberately pausing occasionally and raising your voice to make a point. Be careful not to raise your voice at the end of a sentence unless you are asking a question. Raising your voice in this manner turns a statement into a question and gives the appearance that you are uncertain about what you are saying. If you end a statement by lowering your voice, you will command more authority.


About the Author

Thomas Metcalf has worked as an economist, stockbroker and technology salesman. A writer since 1997, he has written a monthly column for "Life Association News," authored several books and contributed to national publications such as the History Channel's "HISTORY Magazine." Metcalf holds a master's degree in economics from Tufts University.

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