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7 Habits To Stop If You Want To Improve Your Speaking Skills

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When it comes to communication habits, we all have our own unique style. However, certain habits can hinder our ability to effectively convey our thoughts and ideas. If you’ve ever looked back on past presentations or meetings and felt uneasy about your performance, or wondered if your speaking skills measure up to others, it might be time to evaluate your communication habits. In this article, we’ll explore seven habits that could be sabotaging your speaking prowess.

1. Over-reliance on Filler Words

Filler words like “um,” “like,” “so,” or “you know” can significantly dilute the impact of your message. While these words may seem harmless, they can make you appear less confident and distract your audience from your core message. Overuse of filler words typically occurs when we’re nervous or unsure about what we’re saying. To overcome this habit, work on structuring your thoughts more clearly before speaking. Practice speaking on a topic and record yourself to become aware of the filler words you use. With time and practice, you can train yourself to communicate more fluently without relying on verbal crutches.

2. Ignoring Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication, including body language, facial expressions, and gestures, plays a significant role in conveying messages. Neglecting this aspect of communication can result in unintended messages being sent to your audience. For example, crossed arms may convey defensiveness, lack of eye contact can suggest disinterest, and slouched posture might indicate a lack of confidence. To enhance your speaking skills, focus on your body language. Maintain an open posture, make regular eye contact with your audience, and use gestures that reinforce your message. Practice speaking in front of a mirror to become more aware of your non-verbal cues and make necessary adjustments.

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3. Speaking Too Fast

When we’re anxious or excited, speaking too fast is a common habit. However, rapid-fire delivery can make it difficult for your audience to keep up with your pace and understand your key points. It can also be interpreted as nervousness or lack of preparation. Slow down when speaking to give your audience time to absorb your message and emphasize important points. Use a metronome or pacing app to practice speaking at a controlled pace. Consciously insert short pauses after every few sentences to allow both you and your audience a moment to process the information.

4. Neglecting the Power of Pauses

Strategic use of pauses in speech can help emphasize points, give listeners time to process information, and build suspense. Some speakers fear silence, viewing it as a sign of forgetfulness or lack of preparation. However, pauses can enhance your communication by giving your words more weight and impact. Mark places in your notes or script where a pause would be impactful and practice taking a moment during those sections when presenting.

5. Failing to Connect with the Audience

Tailoring your speech to resonate with your audience is crucial for impactful communication. Failing to connect with your audience can result in disinterested listeners, no matter how well-researched or articulate your speech is. Research your audience before any presentation to understand their background, interests, and challenges. Start your speech with a relatable story or anecdote to establish an immediate connection. Regularly engage with your audience by asking questions or seeking feedback during your talk.

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6. Using Complex Language Unnecessarily

Using big words and complex sentences may seem like it makes you sound intelligent and credible, but it can create a barrier between you and your audience. Communication is about clarity, not complexity. Jargon or excessively complicated language can confuse listeners and make your message harder to understand. Aim to convey your message in a way that is easily understood by using simple and clear language. After drafting your speech, review it and replace any jargon or complex terms with simpler alternatives. If a complex term is necessary, provide a brief explanation or analogy to make it understandable.

7. Neglecting to Practice

No matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, practicing your speech is essential for success in public speaking. Neglecting to practice can result in an unfocused presentation that lacks cohesion and impact. Practice helps fine-tune your message, improve your delivery, and anticipate potential questions from the audience. It also builds confidence and reduces anxiety. Break your speech into sections and practice each part individually. Once you’re comfortable with each section, practice the entire speech. Consider practicing in front of a small audience, like family members or friends, to further enhance your skills.