Oral communication is a means of conveying information through language. Verbal communication is not just the ability to talk; it is the skill of delivering and receiving both oral and written messages.
Here, the emphasis is not on the meaning of your message, but on its form and ingenuity.
Despite the fact that Professor Mehrabian set the misused statement, according to which communication consists of only 7% verbal and 93% of nonverbal concepts, a successful and self-respecting person can’t do without oral communication.
Correct speech is extremely important for building a career in the modern world.
In this post, I want to share some simple but efficient life hacks on how to improve oral communication skills. They will help make speech more literate, meaningful, expressive, as well as correct in terms of stylistics and grammar.
- Take Some Mental Notes
- Use the mirror to practice speech
- Read fiction literature
- Listen to audiobooks
- Get rid of filler words
- Work on turning passive vocabulary into active
- Take notice of your body language
- Watch public speaking
- Use varied dictionaries
- Speak confidently
- Become an active listener
- Play word table-top games
1. Take some mental notes
Preparing and thinking over your speech in advance is always a good idea. Try to write down the thesis of your speech to structure it and highlight the main issues.
If you are planning to speak in front of an audience, make a plan for your speech on paper. For each item, I recommend writing down the main theses.
To make it easy, you can use note taking apps with stylus to record important information when preparing or just to memorize words.
2. Use the mirror to practice speech
One of the best ways to boost oral communication is just to spend several minutes a day standing in front of a mirror and talking. Pick a topic, set a timer for 2-3 minutes, and just talk.
The essence of this exercise is to watch how your mouth, face, and body move when you speak. You may feel as if you are talking to someone, so imagine that you are having a conversation with your workmate.
Talk for 2-3 minutes. Do not stop! If you stutter, try to rephrase the thought. You can always look up the word you forgot. Therefore, you will understand exactly what words or sentences you have difficulty with.
3. Read fiction literature
Do this not only to enjoy the plot and emotions but also to improve your speaking skills. It is important to read books written in ornate literary language, paying attention to grammatical constructions, new words, epithets, and metaphors used for description.
Careful text analysis and its further retelling will help better understand and remember literary techniques, use them more naturally in spontaneous speech, develop your speaking skills, and expand your vocabulary.
Considering the number of metaphors, epithets, and outstanding grammatical structures, I would advise reading books such as ‘The Blind Assassin’ by Margaret Atwood, ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell, and ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Note: In accordance with Statista research, almost 90% of graduates in Mexico stated that verbal communication played a big role in their careers. This further emphasizes that your oral communication skills can boost morale and productivity, and promote teamwork.
4. Listen to audiobooks
In my opinion, this point could be combined with the previous one, but reading printed and listening to audiobooks is significantly different. While listening to books, you can not only learn to speak more competently and replenish vocabulary but also pay attention to intonation, pauses, logical stress, timbre, and tempo.
Professionally recorded audiobooks can be a real treasure trove of useful information for those who want to stop talking monotonously and inexpressive. After all, the effect produced depends not only on WHAT is said but also on HOW it is pronounced.
Intonation can convey mood, feelings, and thoughts. Don’t believe it? Try to pronounce one word with different intonation and feel the difference.
5. Get rid of filler words
Filler words are very common and difficult to eradicate. They spoil oral speech and sometimes, instead of delving into the essence, you focus on “like”, “well”, “so”, and “believe me”.
Finally, you even begin to perceive them as literary words that are inherent in the speech of an educated person. Actually, it’s a pity that an interlocutor will associate you with remembering these extra words.
Filler words live in spontaneous speech not as separate units, but as “substitutes”. People use them when it is hard to choose the right expression and they need to immediately fill a pause.
They cover the “gaps” in the story, but they really interfere with listeners. To find and eradicate filler words in your speech, you can record your voice and listen to it.
However, thinking about how to improve verbal communication skills in practice, you should start with thinking over a system of penalties, when for each uttered “like”, “well”, “so”, “believe me”, etc. you will need to do something useful (learn a new word or do 5 squats).
Pro tip: After getting rid of the filler words, you need to train constantly, coming up with a variety of tasks. Choose an object and try to give it the most informative and coherent description within 5 minutes. Come up with a topic and express your thoughts using properly built grammatical constructions, metaphors, and epithets.
6. Work on transitioning passive vocabulary to active
Try to replenish your spontaneous speech with not only common words/phrases but also rarely used ones. Search in memory for terms, synonyms, and epithets.
However, make sure you are not misleading an interlocutor or bragging about your education. It lies in learning to speak clearly and coherently, using a rich vocabulary to clarify the wording, more capacious conveying of meaning, and avoiding misunderstandings.
Here is such a paradox – to expand the vocabulary and introduce new expressions into your speech, trying to simplify it.
7. Take notice of your body language
Although body language is a nonverbal communication method, it has a huge impact on how you convey information. Getting your audience interested in listening to you is not difficult – relax, keep your arms uncrossed, and your body at ease.
Other best ways to boost oral communication through body language involve making eye contact and maintaining good posture. To draw the audience’s attention to the necessary points, try to use gestures and facial expressions.
However, don’t go overboard, as excessive gestures can look comical and feigned, which means they will distract listeners from your message.
Communication issues at work?
"50 Surefire Ways to Improve Your
8. Watch public speaking
On the way to improve your oral communication skills, it’s also useful to refer to other people’s lectures, as well as films and performances, and observe the use of nonverbal ways of communication.
It’s a good exercise to watch movies with the sound off when you need to understand without words the story presented and the character’s feelings.
I used to watch TED Talks, created by pro-level speakers. These videos are a great way to hone your skills, and with subtitles in over 100 languages, they are available to everyone. Thus, you can not only learn new words but also see how to hold your audience and be confident during the speech.
Pro Tip: To practice facial expressions and gestures, I recommend training in front of a mirror. It’s even better to record your speech on video and then analyze it. Typically we can’t see how others perceive us, so it will be useful to look at ourselves through their eyes.
9. Use varied dictionaries
Don’t forget about explanatory and spelling dictionaries. There is no shame in referring to them to find a good word or making sure that it is pronounced correctly. Nowadays all of them are mobile-friendly allowing you to find a word in just a couple of taps.
How to improve verbal communication skills using different dictionaries? Make learning one catchphrase your morning routine, and try to use it properly throughout the day. This greatly contributes to the development of spontaneous speech.
Calendars with new words, dictionaries of epithets and metaphors, synonyms, and antonyms are no less useful. Try not just to learn new words but also to use them as often as possible.
Regular training will make you a confident and interesting speaker and your speech more competent and exciting. You will notice how easy it will become for you to speak in front of an audience, and controlling your speech will turn into a habit.
10. Speak confidently
None of the methods will work without your self-confidence. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, listeners feel it and don’t believe it either. Your listeners should trust you and be interested in what you dwell on.
To demonstrate your confidence, there are plenty of tricks. They relate to your perception of yourself, intonation, etc.
The most universal is to prepare the outline of your future speech. It can be both written and mental, as you prefer. It is not necessary to compose a whole scenario of a speech – just define the main theses.
With the help of such notes, you will define the direction of your interaction with the audience and the key aspects of a conversation.
11. Become an active listener
Being a good listener is just as valuable as being a good speaker. Listening is an integral part of verbal communication. To get started, remember the five steps of active listening:
By following these simple rules, you will show your interlocutor that you are sincere and interested in what he is saying. By summarizing everything that has been said and asking clarifying questions, you will endear the interlocutor and achieve common ground faster.
12. Play word table-top games
I advise you to pay attention to those games that develop memory and replenish vocabulary. There are “Hangman”, “Scrabble”, “Chalkboard Acronym”, etc. allowing you to get wants and needs met.
During the game, each participant can learn many new words and their meaning, remember something from passive vocabulary, and show quick wit and ingenuity.
By downloading the game to your smartphone, you can have a great time while waiting or on the road. If a game is made for a team, involve your friends or even strangers to meet new people and practice communication.
Bonus: handy tips and exercises for improving articulation/dictation
To improve verbal communication and spontaneous speech particularly, you can try various life hacks:
- Read aloud and with expression to train a good rate of speech, correct intonation, and rehearse facial expressions and gestures.
- Don’t be afraid to involve experienced teachers and attend public speaking training – a specialist can give good advice and correct mistakes.
- Practice spontaneous speech more often – even if it is difficult and scary, nothing will work without practice. At first, not everything may be very rosy, but the voice, speech apparatus, and diction will develop gradually.
- Sing frequently to improve your voice and develop intonation flexibility.
- Get acquainted with interesting people with a well-defined speech, discuss new performances and books, listen to them, and communicate with them.
The ability to speak vividly and competently is what distinguishes good from the best. By learning how to improve your oral communication skills and making strides in this, you will see how your personal and professional life will change.
By constantly honing your speaking and listening skills, you will open new doors. Good conversational skills will positively affect your relationships with your team, superiors, and clients. I think this article will come in handy for speakers, bloggers, actors, and just people striving to present themselves in all their glory.