Talking. We do it all the time (some of us never stop), and yet, it’s a skill undeveloped among most students, even COMM majors. Muddling through does not equal the ability to do something well. Speaking clearly and professionally is crucial in any field, but especially in public relations. Here are a few tips on how to spruce up your speaking:
Stop verbal tics: Get rid of “um” and “like.” Pre-professionals have no excuse to talk like high schoolers. Using such phrases is a bad verbal habit, easy to do and surprisingly hard to control. Make a conscious effort to not use these phrases. Think about what you say while you say it. When you hesitate, pause in your speech. Sometimes, speaking too quickly spirals into a nervous over-usage of verbal fillers. To overcome this, get comfortable with a little bit of silence. It sounds better to take a breath rather than fill the air with more “likes” in an effort to keep a speech or conversation going.
Know your audience: Assume your audience has no idea what you’re talking about, and you’ll usually be right. Just because you understand the details and know what to leave out, doesn’t mean your audience will. Spell out details, including the obvious ones. Even if your audience is familiar with the basics, including these points helps you paint a more comprehensive verbal picture and provide context for the “important” part of your speech.
Be professional: Adopt a professional tone with all audiences. Speaking to a group of students is not the same as speaking to your friends. Use a clear, even tone and act like you’re presenting a business plan to a group of executives. Your casual audiences deserve an understandable presentation just as much as your professional audiences.
Be prepared: Mentally gather a few words for situations where you may be called on to present or provide opinion. If you already have the key ideas in your head, you have the hard part of public speaking mastered. This is the way to learn how to speak on your feet – and those occasions come more often than we expect.
The art of speaking is worth brushing up on. It’s our first impression in an interview, the key factor in client presentations, and a necessary part of teleconferences. It may be tough to improve, but at least there is no shortage of chances to practice.
By: Maddie Brooks
Maddie is a junior mass communication major with a minor in public health. She is a UD Social Media Ambassador and a member of PRSSA-UD, Lori’s Hands, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Follow her on Twitter, @BlueHenMaddie and @Mbrooksinde.