One Simple Tip to Improve Your Speaking Skills Immediately

Many of my executive clients confess to being anxious when having to speak in front of groups, especially extemporaneously.  Even some of the most eloquent, charismatic, and successful speakers admit to bouts of self-doubt and discomfort when speaking in public.

I am one of those strange people who actually likes public speaking, and who instead of excelling in sports in high school, looked forward to and thrived in oratory competitions.  Even with all that practice and honing over the years, I admit to those occasional bouts of self-doubt and discomfort too, especially when the stakes are high.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a one-day workshop on extemporaneous speaking skills to improve your executive presence offered by Illuninata Global, a presentation skills training company headquartered in New York City.  I have been to countless presentation skills courses over the years, as in my line of work, I have been in the position to recommend courses to leaders seeking to improve their speaking skills.  I believe being able to present your thoughts clearly and succinctly and persuade an audience are fundamental skills for anyone, but especially for those in leadership positions.

I don’t normally give endorsements in this blog, but the class was by far the best speaking course I have been to.  I am not big on “technique-y” tips and rules that make you seem like a robot when you are speaking.   I learned a lot and am sure I have improved as a speaker dramatically by applying just a few of the tips I picked up.

Here is one tip I learned that will improve your extemporaneous speaking and presence immediately:

Shorten your sentences when you speak

When we speak off the cuff, we tend to use run on sentences and not even realize it, as we are really just verbalizing our trains of thought.

Slow down.

Instead of using the words “and”, “but”, “so” as linking words, put a verbal period at the end of each thought.

For example, instead of saying:

“I was very pleased with the work the team did on the last project we worked on for the X client and already have indications from them that they were thrilled with the outcome…” delete the “and” and speak two separate sentences.

“I was very pleased with the work the team did on the last project we worked on for the X client.”

PAUSE.

Separate the thoughts into two sentences.

“We already have indications from them that they were thrilled with the outcome.”

It sounds pretty simple, but as we watched the participants change this one thing in their extemporaneous talks, the impact on the audience was notable.  The words were easier to follow and held your attention more.  The speakers seemed more poised, confident and in control of their thoughts.  It was a seemingly minor tweak with an amazing impact.

Start doing this each time you speak to a group, even if you are on a conference call.  It may seem weird at first, but I bet you’ll notice a difference in your own presence and impact.    I’d love to hear your experience intentionally trying this out.