- What really is “speaking eloquently”?
- 9 Tips to Speak More Eloquently
- There is no easy way for “how to become more eloquent”
Eloquence might sometimes seem like one of those things that you’re actually born with it or you just aren’t. In truth, learning how to speak more eloquently demands time and effort. And most important, anyone can learn it and improve it. Here are 9 easy tips to become more eloquent, and to convey a message that people actually want to listen to.
What really is “speaking eloquently”?
It’s more than just being coherent, or speaking well. The Cambridge Dictionary describes it as “the quality of delivering a clear, strong message”. It’s conveying not only the message but the importance of that message.
The best thing is, anyone can learn to speak more eloquently. While it’s true that some people just got it a little easier and are naturally good public speakers, anyone can improve this skill. It’s all about the time and effort you invest in it.
Why you should try to improve your eloquence
Whether it is in your personal or your professional life, being able to convey a message in a way that people will actually listen to it can make all the difference. Eloquence is not only being able to give a message but actually making people take it into consideration.
In the workplace, eloquence can become a priceless skill. It can be that thing standing between you and a raise. Or the thing that will get your ideas heard in your team. It will help you to get your opinions be taken into account, and to seem more confident overall, and a better public speaker.
9 Tips to Speak More Eloquently
So, now that you know why you should strive to improve yourself and learn to speak eloquently, comes the real question. How can you become more eloquent? Sadly, it seems like it’s one of those things that you’re either born with, or not. But, as it has been said before, this is not necessarily true. If you struggle with public speaking, it will probably won’t come to you as easily. But like most things in life, it’s a matter of practice.
It will require perseverance, and speaking in public. Even if you won’t see much improvement the first time, you need to keep going. Forcing you to face the challenge constantly is what will lead you eventually to really develop the skill.
These 9 quick tips will help you learn how to become more eloquently. There is no easy road, but these are punctual things you can try to implement one by one. Just remember, the more you practice, the easier it’ll be the next time!
1- Less is more
The “less is more” philosophy applies very clearly in this case. It’s easy to give in to temptation and use really flowery and grandiloquent vocabulary in hopes this will make us look smarter. Chances are, this is not even a conscious thing. It’s just the need of trying to prove that we do know what we’re talking about. Very often, it’s a sign of self-doubt or nervousness.
Think about it this way: those who really understand a complicated topic are not those who can repeat word by word the textbook, but those who can turn a complex subject into their own words. Being able to process the information and handle it down to your audience in a clear, easy to digest way is what will really make the difference. The more your audience is able to understand you, the more eloquent you’ll seem, and the stronger your arguments will look.
Using clear and succinct vocabulary is also vital when learning how to speak more eloquently because of one very simple reason. It lowers the chances you getting entangled in yourself. The more complicated the language, and the larger the sentences, the higher it’s the chance that you’ll eventually lose your train of thought. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean informal, either. Just keep it easy and clean, and you’ll see that you not only sound more confident but also your speeches sound better and more dynamic, instead of stumbling through some unusual words.
Also, make sure that you use words you really know. I’m sure it has happened to all of us that we learned a new word that we’re not 100% sure of what it means, but it just sounds as if it applies to what you’re trying to say. Even if the word in itself sounds good, nothing will look more unprofessional than using it in the wrong way. If you are using a new word, make sure you also know how to pronounce it! Sometimes you can learn a word and its meaning just from reading it, but if you have never heard it, it can become a complication when using it in public.
2- Enunciate clearly
The whole point to any act of communication is that the other person (or persons) understands you and can answer accordingly. And part of being understood is not only making sure that the other person does know the words you’re using, as said in the previous point. It’s also about being able to physically understand the sounds that you’re making and being able to give them meaning. If you mumble, speak too quietly, or stutter, it’ll probably affect how much your audience can actually understand you.
Not only that, you’ll probably don’t look very confident in doing so, and your arguments might lose strength. When people are nervous, or in a rush, it’s pretty common to get a little lazy with the pronunciation. Make sure you’re enunciating all of the syllables in a word. Just by doing this, you’ll seem more professional and focused.
It might seem difficult and you might have to make a conscious effort at first. But being forced to think about enunciating every single syllable will eventually turn into a good habit that can even help you concentrate on what you’re saying. And, eventually, it’ll come to you pretty naturally. You can improve this by practicing with tongue twisters, for example. The harder they are when you practice, the easier it will eventually become when you are up in front of an audience.
3- Make your words come to life
Part of being eloquent is being able to connect with your public and convey strong emotions. And the easiest, most direct way to do this, is to give them something they can relate to. Using metaphors, similes, and making references can go a long way to making your speech feel alive. They don’t have to be very complex metaphors or references. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is to illustrate a point you’re trying to make by comparing it to another.
This can be pretty difficult because it means knowing your audience. The people listening should be able to get your references immediately, without it demanding a really intense examination that would distract them from your actual speech. You can get your references from absolutely everywhere. Popular culture, classical literature and art, historical events… They can even give your presentation a bit of humor, or make it more enjoyable. The only thing you should really consider is to make sure your audience is on the same page and that they’ll be able to understand them.
4- Drop the filler words!
Filler words are one of the worst mistakes a public speaker can commit. Filler words are things that don’t really add any meaning to what you’re trying to say. For example “like”, “you know”, or “I mean”. Saying these kinds of phrases are more a knee-jerk reaction to avoid an uncomfortable silence when you’re not really sure about how to continue. Filler words can also be only empty sounds. When in doubt, it’s pretty common to add things like “umm” when trying to remember what comes next.
But, as common as they are, they’re usually a pretty deadly sign of hesitation and unreadiness. And the worst thing is, once you’ve gotten used to them, they can be very hard to get rid of. Among all the things that can get in the way of learning how to speak more eloquently, filler words are one of the most common ones.
The worst thing is that, once you start, there is no going back. If you realize you’re using filler words while speaking in public, you’ll probably get more nervous or frustrated. And in turn, this will probably turn into even more hesitation and using even more filler words.
The best way to face filler words is the next item on this list: think before you speak.
5- Think before you speak
This may seem like an obvious thing, but you’ll be surprised at how few people actually take this advice. Planning ahead of time when you know you’ll be having to speak publicly is a must if you know it’s not your strong suit.
But it’s also worth taking into consideration that you might not have that much time in advance to really plan your whole presentation. Still, you should be able to at least think to yourself what are the main points you want to speak about. If you are able to organize your train of thoughts, it’s less likely that you’ll find yourself hesitating when in the middle of a speech. Thinking about what you’re going to say it’s really the easier way to drop the filler words once and for all.
Sometimes all you need is a few more seconds. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with an interruption or a question you’re not prepared for, and to try to get out of it as quickly as possible. But taking a moment to think before answering can actually work miracles for making you look more eloquent and articulate. You can, for example, answer a question with a question. This will not only allow the audience to reflect and come up with their own answers. But it’ll also give you some time to get your own thoughts in order so you can give a better response, without hesitating and adding unnecessary filler words.
6- Pace your speech
Pacing is another vital element to take into consideration when thinking about how to speak more eloquently. It’s completely normal to rush a little when we’re nervous about something. But fast pacing usually gives a speech a feeling of unreadiness and nervousness. It might seem difficult, but it’s all about self-control.
Pacing is also knowing how to use your voice. There’s nothing more boring than a monotone presentation. To be truly eloquent, you must be able to make good use of all the amazing resources voice offers. Intonation can be used to give emphasis. Voice volume, pauses, silences… There are dozens of things you can alter, and that can positively affect your presentations.
David Phillips conveys this really well in his TEDTalk on “The 110 techniques of communication and public speaking”. There’s no better example of how voice has so many nuances and tones that can influence radically the way a speech is given.
7- Feel confident and relaxed
As much as you want to feel prepared (see point #5), scripting your whole presentation might not be the smartest option. While you must definitely think beforehand what you’re trying to convey, having the whole thing scripted it’s not the answer in most cases. There is a high risk of it sounding fake or robotic. Eloquence is about conveying a strong message, and when it’s too scripted, you might feel tempted to say it just from memory, instead of actually pouring emotions into it.
Also, presentations and speeches are doomed to be unexpectedly interrupted. Whether it’s someone’s question, or just that the topic just went organically in another direction, it’s impossible to plan for absolutely every possible outcome. As much as you might like to, you cannot prepare for every single question. In these cases, depending too much on a script may become a hindrance rather than an aid. If you focus too much in a script and you suddenly find that you can’t follow it any longer, you’ll probably feel lost and hesitant pretty quickly.
You need to give yourself a little room for improvisation. This might be hard at first, but it’s all about confidence. If you don’t feel confident in your public speaking abilities, this might seem nearly impossible, but the confidence it’s a thing that builds itself over positive experiences. The more you try, the better you’ll do, and the more confident you’ll become. A good way to face this self-doubt is to focus on the content. Even if you don’t have everything scripted and you don’t feel confident in your presentation techniques, you should feel confident in your knowledge of the topic you’re talking about.
8- Consider Body Language
Talking about confidence, body language can play a huge role in this aspect. Even if you’re not feeling very confident, knowing and controlling your body language can make your audience feel like you’re in control. Posture, for example, can make an enormous difference in how a public speaker is perceived.
Body language can also be used to emphasize certain aspects of what you’re talking about. Hand gestures, for example, are a pretty straightforward way to add strength to an affirmation. Physical reinforcement of what you’re saying out loud plays a huge part in becoming more eloquent. When you’re in front of an audience, people are not just hearing you, they’re also seeing you. And your body language is a huge part of the message you’re sending towards them.
There are other body language gestures that might, on the contrary, make you look less eloquent. Fidgeting, or looking restless in front of the audience are some of the easiest ways to showcase that you’re not comfortable at all. The more you own the space and your body language, the more eloquent you’ll look.
9- The most important tip on how to become more eloquent
After everything is said and done, there is one thing that will really make a difference when improving your eloquence and overall public speaking. And this is practice, practice and more practice.
Confidence is such an important factor when speaking in public. And the only way to improve it is through positive experiences. Even if it feels like you’re not improving so much, or as fast as you might like, the more you practice, the more you’ll be building up confidence for future presentations. Even if it is just feeling it went “a little less bad” than last time, it can make a difference when trying to build up your skills.
If you have the chance, record yourself speaking, or even better, film yourself. While seeing yourself might feel awkward at first, it’s a great way to really see how you look from your audience’s viewpoint. It’s the easiest way to pinpoint your shortcomings and flaws. You can see things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise when looking at it through an outsider’s perspective.
There is no easy way for “how to become more eloquent”
As disappointing as it might be, there is no magic formula to become good at public speaking overnight. Even if it comes naturally to you, improving it must be a conscious effort to evaluate yourself and actively choose to work on what you can do better.
It’s all about baby steps and keeping consistency!
You can also check these famous public speakers from history and what made them so special. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you, and you might even learn a thing or two from them!