People often feel as though they could never be inspiring speakers. They sometimes conclude that they are introverted; therefore, communications will be naturally challenging for them. Public speaking and communicating, however, are both skills that are learned.
Most of us have impressions of Winston Churchill as a powerful and gifted orator, however, it was not always so. Winston did poorly in school, was chubby and spoke with a lisp when he was young. He also stuttered. His own father, a brilliant scholar and political leader, considered Winston a disappointment. But when Winston was 12 years old, he attended a private boarding school, and there he became enamored with literature. The more he read, the more his world expanded, and he started to thrive. As he grew older, he began to develop his public speaking skills, and overcame his lisp and stuttering. The rest is history.
Some of the individuals we have coached to improve their communications have surpassed their own expectations, and, as Winston did with his father, exceeded our expectations as well. What is the secret to their success?
Many people are unaware of how they communicate. You may have friends who talk non-stop with run-on sentences, use filler words such as “like” or “you know,” or ask a question and then never wait to hear the answer. While Winston’s lisp or stuttering may have been more noticeable than these bad habits, all communication habits bear assessing. If you are uncertain as to how effectively you communicate, ask family members or your peers at work. Record yourself speaking, then listen for pace, modulation, verbal tics, filler words, and overly casual language.
Becoming aware of your strengths and of areas to improve is just the start. After you’ve become mindful, develop a plan for what and how to improve. You need to commit both thought and time. Few people are able to change their communication style overnight. We recommend establishing three priorities. By setting three priorities and working on each of them, you will focus on your biggest issues in a manageable way.
For example, if you speak with a lisp, mumble or have an accent, you can commit to enunciation exercises, a sample of which is below. Stand in front of a mirror, and exaggerate your words while you perform these exercises.
- Open and close your mouth easily as you repeat these sounds: Fah Fah Fah Fah Blah Blah
- To loosen your jaw, repeat these sounds: Sah Kah She Fah Rah, Pah Kah She Fah Rah, Wah Kah She Fah Rah, Baj Kah She Fah Rah, Dah Kah She Fah Rah
- To loosen your lips, repeat these letters: www www www bbb bbb bbb wbw wbw wbw
- For a combination of jaw and lip loosening, repeat these letters: lll ldl www ldl wlwd
- Phrases for precise articulation: “The tip of the tongue, the teeth and the lips”, “Lah lee loo lee. Zip e do da”, “Repetition, repetition, repetition”, “We’ll weather the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not”
Here’s a famous tongue twister from the opera, The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. (Imagine having to sing this on stage in front of an audience!)
To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block! To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock, Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block! A dull, dark dock, a life-long lock, A short, sharp shock, a big black block! To sit in solemn silence in a pestilential prison, And awaiting the sensation, From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!
(Source: Mount Holyoke College)
Regular practice or actual rehearsals – which encompass both content and delivery – enhance communication skills. Even naturally gifted speakers fall into some bad habits or become lazy. By practicing and rehearsing regularly, you will gain greater command of your content. You will articulate, modulate and pause using your voice, just as if you were singing or dancing. Your posture, eye contact, voice, and delivery will all be improved. With increased confidence, you will be able to engage more fully with your audience.
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” ~ Winston Churchill
Do you have an insight on enhancing your communication style to offer? Please comment below and share this article if you found it helpful. Stay engaged by following us!
Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.
Jackie Charnley, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Jackie serves on the ICMA-RC Board, a not-for-profit company serving the financial needs of over one million public employees. She was also a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources).