How to Improve Your Speech & Diction
If you want to be taken seriously in the business world, you must be able to speak with clarity and confidence. Many people get through school without putting enough time in improving their public speaking skills. As a result, when they have to speak to coworkers, pitch products or make presentations, they lack the skills that make truly effective business people stand out. Fortunately, becoming a better public speaker is not hard; it just requires regular practice of a few key techniques.
Slow down when speaking and practicing your diction exercises. Go too fast and you risk mumbling and muddling the parts of the words that need to be clearly defined. Take your time and concentrate on clarity, and eventually you will be able to speak clearly and quickly.
Work on pronouncing the hard consonants in words with clarity. You don't need to punch them; just make sure they are precise and that they don't blend into other words. Practice saying the following lines from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" to work on consonants: "To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock, in a pestilential prison with a lifelong lock, awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock, from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big, black block."
Practice the following exercise to help get your mouth mobile. Exaggerate the movements to try and get your mouth working extra hard in order to build the muscles. Say, "The tip of the tongue, the teeth, the teeth, the lip, the lips" and repeat the phrase over and over. Try to build up speed, but never at the expense of clarity.
Practice repetitive diction exercises. Take a short phrase and repeat it over and over without letting the clarity waver through each repetition. Try the classic example of "red leather, yellow leather." Other good ones include "unique New York" and "lemon liniment."
Only build up speed very gradually when practicing diction. To get a good idea of your own clarity, try recording yourself, both while practicing a speech and the exercises. If you notice particular sounds where your diction is poor, find more exercises to work on those particular sounds.
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