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How to Speak Better

Have you ever wondered why some people speak better? Their diction, voice quality, and intonation are always on point. They also have a way of articulating words with conviction, as if urging everyone to listen. What makes them even more impressive is that they don't stutter and buckle with their words.

Whether you're a student, employee, or freelance worker, speaking is essentially a part of your everyday life. There will always be a scenario or rare occasion wherein you need to speak up. Whether it's for a job interview, random conversation with an attractive stranger, or project presentation, you need to learn how to speak better to make a good impression.

The worse thing that could happen is that you'll get tongue-tied, make strange sounds with your voice, or end up saying things that don't make sense.

Studies prove that a lot of people are afraid to speak in public. There is evident data that proves that public speaking is one of the most common types of phobias alongside the fear of death, heights, and spiders.

The National Mental Health Institute claims that as much as 73% of the population get anxious over the idea of speaking in public. This condition is frequently associated with social anxiety.

Furthermore, according to statistics, fear of public speaking affects as many as 4 out of 10 Americans. For those individuals who find speaking with unfamiliar people nerve-wracking, the experience itself triggers feelings of extreme discomfort and apprehension.

Why is it that some people have that exceptional ability to speak in public and communicate with different individuals from all walks of life? Are there special tricks that can improve your ability to speak? What does it take to speak confidently and effortlessly, even in a stressful situation?

Apparently, some people are naturally-gifted with the ability to express themselves with confidence and speak in front of anyone. There are also some who develop the skill over time with proper training and education, and then there are others who exert hard work and perseverance to achieve great improvements.

If you want to learn how to speak better and overcome whatever communication anxieties you might have, you need to educate and train yourself. Take that first crucial step towards self-improvement, so you can look forward to better opportunities and a more fulfilling life.

Here are some tried-and-tested tips on how to speak better and communicate more effectively.

1. Educate Yourself

Be meaningful with what you say, educating yourself.
Be meaningful with what you say, educating yourself.

If you want to become a better speaker, fill your mind with useful information. It all starts with educating yourself with the most fundamental ideas and facts about public speaking. Don't allow yourself to become one of those people that talk too much without making any sense.

Empty speeches won't mean anything to your listeners, even if you'll deliver them with full confidence and conviction. To speak better, you have to be certain that you're communicating a sensible message and that you are worth listening to.

2. Practice Is Always the Key

Practice to become a better speaker.
Practice to become a better speaker.

Whatever skill you're trying to develop, practice is always a key aspect. To speak better in front of people, practice talking in front of the mirror. Pretend that you're talking to a person you like, or to a group of people at a party, or in front of an audience. By doing so, you'll be able to see yourself the way your listeners see you. You'll also be able to study your gestures, body language, and mannerisms.

Practicing in front of a mirror is useful if you're preparing for a presentation or a panel interview, as well as if you're planning to ask someone you like on a date. Seeing how you speak and how you carry yourself during the process can help you find room for improvement.

More importantly, regular practice can also boost your confidence and contributes to mental readiness.

3. Be Conscious About Your Pace

Don't talk too fast or too slow.
Don't talk too fast or too slow.

Whether you're delivering a speech, doing a presentation, or speaking to another person, your goal is to talk at a conversational pace. Do not speak steadily as if you measure every word because this will make you sound boring and monotonous. Find a pace that works for you, and try to use a combination of fast, medium, and slow speeds, depending on what you're trying to express.

To speak better, you must find a pace that is engaging enough for your listeners. Speaking too fast will make it hard for them to understand and absorb what you're saying, while speaking too slow will make it seem like you're dragging your words.

So you have to come up with a pace and speed combination that matches the situation. According to speech experts, a good speech rate is delivering 140 to 160 words per minute.

4. Work on Your Voice Modulation

Work on how you modulate your voice.
Work on how you modulate your voice.

Have you noticed that good speakers know how to fine-tune their voice while speaking? They know how to balance and play with their speaking voice to make their speech sound more engaging. This refers to voice modulation, which is one of the most crucial tools when speaking.

It is how you control your voice so that you can vary your tone, speed or tempo, and pitch. Working on your voice modulation will likewise allow you to stress some of the words, so you can persuade your listeners and deliver a more powerful message.

5. Organize Your Thoughts and Be Sensitive

Organize your ideas before talking.
Organize your ideas before talking.

Perhaps you have heard about the saying "think before you speak". This is an important aspect when having conversations. Many people talk with their thoughts all over the place while being unaware of the repercussions. This makes communication ineffective and somewhat useless. It is what causes misunderstanding and miscommunication.

To become a good speaker, don't just blurt out the words without organizing your thoughts. Think carefully about how you're going to construct and deliver your message in such a way that people can fully grasp the idea. By doing so, you can speak with purpose and create a better impact on your listeners.

6. Be Selective With Your Choice of Words

Choose carefully the words you say.
Choose carefully the words you say.

To become a better speaker, widen your vocabulary and be selective with your words. Using words that accurately describe your thoughts and ideas will enable you to express yourself better and more constructively.

It also helps in delivering the right message. Moreover, learning how to use words carefully and mindfully amplifies your communication skills as it adds quality to your speech and generates a good impression.

7. Perform Tongue and Breathing Exercises to Warm-Up

Warm-up before speaking.
Warm-up before speaking.

Good verbal communication doesn't only rely on your words but also on how you deliver them. Your message can become meaningless if you don't practice good articulation and breathing techniques. This makes tongue exercises beneficial if you want to improve your speaking ability.

Brief vocal warm-up exercises can improve the performance of your chest muscles, larynx, mouth, and tongue. These also contribute to better voice quality and in creating a tone that flows naturally.

Here are some of the most effective tongue exercises that can help you speak better;

  • Tongue Trill: Lightly position the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale as you vibrate your tongue tip in a trill. Maintain the sound as you breathe. Try different pitch levels while trilling.
  • Lip Trills: Position your lips loosely together. Gradually release the air steadily to create a raspberry sound (trill). Try to do an "H" sound followed by a "B" sound as you allow the air to move past your lips. Try different pitch levels, but only up to a comfortable level.
  • Slow Humming: Start with your lips loosely closed. Make sure to relax your jaw. Inhale gently then exhale as you hum (hmm...). Repeat and shift to "ahhh..." midway as you exhale. Don't change anything, but you may adjust the opening of your mouth.
  • Tongue Exercise: Relax your jaw and gently say "la-la-la-la" to exercise your tongue and warm up your larynx. Next, run your tongue in circles from your left cheek wall to the right going through the front of your top and bottom teeth. Finally, stick your tongue out as far as you can and move it from side to side before pulling it back in. Repeat three times.
  • Tongue Twisters: Repeatedly recite tongue twisters that you're familiar with. (Examples: She sells seashells on the seashore. / Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper. If Peter Piper picked a peck of picked pepper, where's the peck of picked pepper Peter Piper picked?).

8. Jaw Massage and Exercises

Do jaw exercises to reduce the tension in your mouth.
Do jaw exercises to reduce the tension in your mouth.

Jaw exercises help reduce the tension in your mouth and jaw area while speaking. It also enables you to open your mouth properly so that you can pronounce your words.

Here's how to perform jaw massage and exercises;

  • Place your palms on either side of your face. Gently massage your jaw and cheeks by moving your palms in circular motions. Gradually move your jaw up and down while doing this. Do the "mamama..." and "wawawa..." sounds alternately with very slight lip contact and movements. 
  • Open and close your mouth alternately. Then open your mouth and move your jaw slightly from side to side. Do not overexert the movement, and make sure not to open your mouth too wide.

9. Make Gestures Using Your Hands or Body

Be expressive with your hands.
Be expressive with your hands.

If you need to emphasize something, do not hesitate to use your hands and body for gestures. Having slight body movements contribute to better and more powerful communication. It enables you to express yourself better.

However, if you need to stay in one spot while speaking, you can still effectively deliver your message by making some hand movements.

Reinforcing your message with hand gestures can make you appear more confident and convincing.

It also helps capture your listeners' attention because you are actively encouraging them to look at you. Additionally, it's much easier to convey a message if you can freely perform hand movements while speaking.

10. Work on Your Facial Expressions

Work on your facial expressions.
Work on your facial expressions.

To speak better, you must be conscious of your facial expressions. This makes practicing in front of the mirror important, as well as learning how to relax your facial muscles.

Depending on what the situation calls for, a pleasant smile brightens up your face. Smiling contributes to a friendly aura, making the person you're talking to feel more at ease with you.

To relax your facial muscles, you can perform these exercises in front of the mirror;

  • Smile as widely as you can, hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Open and close your mouth repeatedly.
  • Relax your jaw to let your mouth hang open, hold for 5 seconds, then close it back again.
  • Wrinkle your forehead by raising your eyebrows as far up as you can before relaxing.
  • Squeeze your eyes shut tightly, hold for 5 seconds before opening them.

Lastly, wear a hint of a smile to acknowledge the people you're talking to. Frowning and wearing a stern expression create an unfriendly vibe. This makes communication more challenging since you're practically building a wall around you. Remember that there are 43 facial muscles. Only 17 of them work when you smile, while all 43 get to work each time you frown.

11. Maintain a Positive Attitude

While speaking maintain a positive attitude.
While speaking maintain a positive attitude.

Don't get intimidated by the people around you when you talk. Practice the habit of keeping a positive attitude regardless of the situation. No matter what their expressions are, don't allow yourself to get affected.

Just keep yourself together and believe that you can speak confidently, just like anyone else. Thinking positively and shutting down your insecurities will enable you to focus on what you're about to say, no matter how stressful the circumstances are.

12. Go Straight to the Point

Be direct with your speech.
Be direct with your speech.

To speak better, quit beating around the bush and just go straight to the point. Always say what you mean and mean what you say. Going in different directions as you speak creates waves of confusion, which cause people to lose their interest. So focus on your topic, make it substantial, and communicate it in the most direct manner.

In Conclusion

There are many different strategies and techniques on how to speak better – depending on your situation. You can start by finding the ones that work best for you and are most useful.

Whether you want to speak better to improve your chances of finding a good job, or you want to do well in your sales pitch, or perhaps you want to deliver a good marriage proposal to your girlfriend, making this decision can significantly draw improvements into your life.

After all, we can all benefit from working on a much better version of ourselves through constant learning.

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