If someone asks a difficult question, think before answering. If you don’t know the answer, commit to finding out, and replying after the meeting.
Professional speaking is different from social conversation. Everyone works at it. Record yourself preparing for a presentation, or record your side of a telephone call with a colleague. You might be amazed; many of us no longer hear our verbal ‘tics.’ Listen for what you do well, and for how you can improve. Enlist a friend to help. Then work on reducing that by 10% each month. With time, you will eliminate it.
Eloquence is a craft that can be learned and practised. See these techniques:
Straight and relaxed spine
Eloquence uses body language, not just verbal language. The best back posture is the root of eloquence, and slumping shows a lack of self-confidence. The other extreme, an athlete’s straight back, says “I am no one to mess around with”. A straight but relaxed spine sets a mental and physical state from which words come smoothly and efficiently.
Keep the chin up.
Holding one’s head high is as important as the posture of the spine and shows pride and determination. To be “downcast” means to be already defeated. A tense neck tends to smother the words and prevents clear speaking.
Focus on the audience.
Eloquence is significant only if people are listening. They will not listen if the speaker is thinking about something else or if the speaker’s eyes are roaming all over the room.
Two special cases that the speaker should take note: avoid glancing sideways; as it gives an impression of dishonesty. The speaker should use the eyes to look down without moving the head to check his notes.
Speak loudly to be heard.
For maximum eloquence, speak loudly enough so the furthest people can hear but not so loudly that it is uncomfortable for those in front.
However, never raise the voice to a yell. Yelling sounds insane rather than eloquent, in which case ask for a mic or tell everyone to move nearer in front.
Buttress words with appropriate gestures.
Use the hands to underscore key points. The simple way to acquire this skill is to watch how celebrities and famous public speakers use signs as they speak. See how their hand movements seem to “emerge” from their words.
Keep the hands still, if not using any gestures. Fiddling with glasses, rattling papers, scratching, and so forth will divert the audience from the message and extinguish the eloquence.
Strategically position the body.
Add power to the words by moving the body appropriately. For example, if speaking to a group from a stage, move between spots signal the introduction of a new idea.
Similarly, when sitting at the table, incline forward slightly to emphasize a point. Reorient the sitting position when moving from one subject or concept to another.
Use vivid words that everyone understands.
Cliches are the opposite of eloquence. Use unexpected but simple words or phrases that memorably illustrate points. Example: “common as houseflies” rather than “a dime a dozen.”
Also, avoid words that the audience might not understand. Using fancy words sounds snobby, not smart. If a must, introduce a term unfamiliar to the audience, define it in plain language.