No matter what industry we work in, we can all benefit from being more eloquent public speakers. It’s important to always look to improve our communication and interpersonal skills. Whether it’s giving a speech to an auditorium of thousands or simply addressing a few dozen co-workers, the basic principle is the same: when addressing multiple people at once, getting our message across accurately and memorably is vital to success.
There’s a word that does a great job of summing up public speaking: eloquence. Merriam-Webster defines eloquence as: “the ability to speak or write well and in an effective way.” It goes on to say: “[eloquence is] discourse marked by force and persuasiveness; also: the art or power of using such discourse.”
How can you improve your public speaking skills and become an eloquent speaker? Thankfully, there are plenty of brain hacks to help you master the art. Let’s look at five of these:
1. Learn (And Use) A New Word Each Day
Our first brain hack is deceptively simple: learn, and then use, a new word each day. Though it’s easy to imagine yourself succeeding at this seemingly simple task, it does take a bit of effort.
For one, you may rarely be in a social situation that facilitates the use of the word esurient. Also, it’s often a struggle to remember what you had for breakfast in the morning, so remembering to use a word you just learned can be tricky.
Stick with it and keep making the effort, however, and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying the daily challenge. It will pay off in dividends when you find yourself in a public speaking situation and must find the right words to use on the fly.
2. Train Yourself To Speak Without Preparation
Public speaking doesn’t have to involve writing a speech. In many instances, there’s no time to prepare. Even when you have plenty of time beforehand, it’s important not to over-plan your speech. Audiences don’t want to be read to — they want to be engaged with. It’s important to view public speaking more as a conversation and less as a poetry reading.
Martha Ebeling, a debate expert, wrote up a list of Ten Commandments for extemporaneous speaking. The most pertinent of the ten are the first two: exude confidence and relax. It’s good advice.
Getting nervous is the biggest hurdle in becoming a truly eloquent speaker. To get there, you must have confidence in yourself, confidence in your knowledge, and most importantly you must learn to relax and be comfortable with your situation. A great brain hack for doing this is to use positive self-talk.
3. Keep It Simple, Stupid
This principle, known affectionately as KISS, is commonly taught to anyone working in a communication-heavy field. Writers, salespeople, and public speakers swear by it, and for good reason.
Simple speech makes a bigger impression in the listener’s mind. While it’s tempting to assume flowery language is the key to eloquent speaking, all too often it is the opposite case: superfluous adjectives amidst prose only serve to distract from your point, and the only impression you’ll leave with your audience is that you’re a bit of a windbag.
That’s not to say flowery language can’t enhance your speech — it absolutely can. This is the difference between effective public speaking and truly eloquent public speaking. It exists to add an enchanting sophistication to your speech, and should be surprising, memorable, and most of all infrequent.
So, what’s the brain hack here? It’s the simple knowledge that you don’t have to overdo it. Worrying about every word in every sentence adds an unnecessary layer of stress to your thought process, and your ability as a speaker will suffer for it. Therefore, be free of this burden. Speak simply, and let your flourishes come naturally.
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