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Speak Clearly - The Top 7 Tricks to Instantly Improve the Clarity of Your Speech

Aug 18, 2007
"I'm sorry, what? I can't understand you." Have you ever heard this line? Then you probably know how embarrassing it can be to repeat something over and over again. Miscommunication can and will hold you back in today's fast-paced, international business environment. Too many people are hiding their gifts, talents and knowledge from the world due to a fear of speaking up and being misunderstood. Are you one of them?

Follow these simple tricks to instantly improve the clarity of your speech.

1) Slow Down

It is common sense, really; the faster you speak, the harder it is for your listener to understand. The easiest way to instantly increase the clarity of your speech is to simply slow down.

2) Pause

Pauses are effective little tools that can be employed in a number of situations. Use them to clearly separate sentences and when changing topics.

3) Speak Up

If you want to say something, really say it! Stand up straight, take a deep breath and speak on the exhale. Don't cover your mouth with your hands, a book or your notes. Make eye contact with your listeners and speak directly to them, not down to the floor or to your slides.

4) Articulate Word Endings

In our haste to get our messages out, we often times fail to enunciate word endings - the grammatical markers at the ends of words, such as the plural 's' or past tense 'ed.' If you don't articulate these sounds, it sounds like you're making very basic grammatical errors.

5) Use Clear Consonants

Here are a few examples of commonly confused consonant sounds: /b/ & /p/, /d/ & /t/, /g/ & /k/, /v/ & /f/. The first sound in each pair is voiced, whereas the second sound is voiceless.

Place your hand in front of your mouth while you say these pairs out loud: gate/Kate, girl/curl, game/came.

If you are articulating the /g/ and /k/ sounds correctly, you should feel an explosion of air when you make the /k/ sound.

6) Use Consistent Word Stress

To a native English speaker, a certain word stress is considered appropriate or inappropriate depending on where the person is from.

"Inappropriate" word stress can really rub listeners the wrong way because it deviates from their norm and indicates that the speaker is an "other" - an outsider. This can be quite FRUStrating (US)/frusTRATing (UK) for the non-native speaker who is just trying to get his point across.

"So which variety is correct?" I always recommend sticking to the form you are most comfortable with. Try to be consistent with whichever variety suits you best.

7. Speak Simply

Never use a long word where a short one will do. This is a common rule most people have heard, but unfortunately very few put it into practice. Your main goal in every spoken interaction should be to have your message understood. Do this by simplifying your vocabulary and using common English words.
About the Author
Heather Hansen, founder of Singapore-based Hansen Speech & Language Training, is an executive speech and language coach, writer and trainer. Become a star speaker! Visit her website www.hansenslt.com now for free information on how to speak clearly, correctly and confidently! Join her mailing list to receive your free special report, and as a special bonus you'll also receive her monthly newsletter, Speak like a Star!
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