According to a recent study from the book Resonate, 86% of business executives agreed that improved presentation skills would directly impact their career and income level. The trouble is that only 25% of executives practice more than two hours for high-stakes presentations. The business world tends to downplay the importance of public speaking practice, and most think that natural talent is the only factor that separates the good presenters from the mediocre. Since you probably don’t have a willing public audience ready to watch you practice every day, here are some skills you can practice as you go about your day.
Unless you’re James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman, you can probably speak slower. Practice slowing down your words and over-pronouncing each syllable ever so slightly. You’ll be forced to emphasize each word at your own natural rhythm to avoid appearing mentally unstable. If you do it naturally, you’ll notice that every word you say will immediately seem more important and draw more attention. In a world where everyone is fighting to get their word in, those who take their time stand out.
Learn the story format
Everyone loves stories. It’s easy to tune someone out if they say “Here’s a list of things that happened to me yesterday.” But if instead they say, “So I was driving to the airport, and you’re not going to believe what happened to me,” then you can’t really space out on what they’re saying, and you want to hear more. As a human species, we’re hardwired for story-telling formats; it is how we’ve passed down knowledge for thousands of years.
Get familiar with the Hero’s Journey format. It’s used in many movies, novels and good stories of every kind. In a nutshell: You start with an ordinary world, then go on an adventure, then a climax when you overcome a challenge, then you return to the ordinary world changed in some way. Saying “I got a flat tire this morning” becomes much more interesting when you say “There I was, on my way to work as always, when I hear this loud POP! I stop and sure enough it was just what I feared: a flat tire. I managed to change it fast even though it was my second-time ever, and here I am safe and sound.” Stories are a great way to make your words memorable.
Watch your filler words
Filler words are sounds we make to bridge the silence between our thoughts. They are “um, and, so, but, you know, ah” and any other sound we make often when we don’t know what else to say. If we’re nervous we tend to say more of them. Count for one day how many filler word you find yourself using, and try to say less of them when you communicate. Silence is a better alternative to hearing you say “Um” every other sentence. Your speech will come across as clear and effective, and your ideas will have a better chance to stick.