5 Ways to Improve Your Speaking Skills
Communication is one of the most valuable skills you can obtain. This soft skill is highly transferable. That means that no matter what job you do, you will use communication skills every day.
Many of us recognize that our speaking skills in our primary language could use improvement. Some are also striving to master a second language. Either way, the following tips will help you to improve your speaking skills today.
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We live in a world where much of our communication is in the form of electronic data. We send emails and text messages on a regular basis. Instead of sharing our lives with our friends in person, we post updates on social media.
Perhaps this shift in communication style is one reason why speaking skills are so hard to come by. According to a survey by Payscale, 39 percent of managers feel that new graduates lack adequate public speaking skills. Forty-six percent cite a deficit of communication skills in general.
But in most workplaces, speaking skills are at least as important – if not more important than – written communication. If you are in a position of oversight, you need to be able to communicate goals, duties, and tasks to your team. You may need to train them, by verbally communicating instructions.
Team members, too, should be able to clearly and concisely communicate meaning among themselves and with their managers. Finally, your position may require you to present reports before a group or speak directly to customers, via phone or in person.
If you feel that you are lacking in the public speaking department, how can you improve this skill?
The following five steps can help you improve your speaking skills. Why not get started today?
Reading may be the single most important step to speaking and writing well. As mentioned above, many people have come to rely on electronic communications. As a result, we’ve become accustomed to messaging shorthand that doesn’t always adhere to the rules of grammar.
When you read well-written books, articles, or magazines, you are exposing your mind to the patterns of the language. You will pick up on the grammar and sentence structure without really trying.
You should also look up the definition of any unfamiliar words. This will expand the vocabulary you use when you speak.
The next step is listening. Just as reading helps you absorb grammar and sentence structure, listening to spoken words helps you master correct pronunciation and sense stress.
Try listening to recordings of skilled speakers. Watch a TED Talk, stream a podcast, or download an audiobook.
Especially if you are learning a second language, it may be good to read along with a recording or watch a movie with the subtitles on. In this way, you can match proper pronunciations to the written words. It can also help you figure out exactly what a fast speaker is saying!
Don’t hesitate to ask skilled speakers to assist you. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, ask. If you have an upcoming presentation, ask a trusted associate to listen to you give it and then offer constructive criticism.
As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” In order to develop your public speaking skills fully, you have to put them to use.
At work, volunteer to present a report. If you are highly skilled in your field, make yourself available to speak at conferences or other events. Join an organization such as Toastmasters International that offers public speaking training and opportunities.
If you are still a student, consider taking a public speaking course or joining an extracurricular organization such as the 4-H Club, where you can give speeches and other presentations before a group.
Finally, if you are learning a second language, seek out others who are fluent in that language. Ask them to speak to you only in the target language. Request that they correct your mistakes.
My university public speaking professor taught her students a remarkably useful technique for reducing stress before speaking publicly. She pointed out that such stress often manifests itself as muscle tension. You can regain control by applying more tension to those tight muscles.
Tense up the muscles of your feet, legs, or hands for about 20 seconds, then release. After a few repetitions, the muscles begin to feel looser. My instructor explained, “You’re telling your body, ‘Oh, so you want to be tense? I’ll show you what tense is!’”
Breathing exercises can also help. Try box breathing – inhale deeply for four seconds, and then hold for four seconds. Then, exhale slowly for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. Repeat until you feel calm and in control.
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