Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Art of Articulation

Lets discuss articulation: - n   the act or process of speaking or expressing in words.
Whether you are interviewing via the phone, video or in person.... or presenting information to a group of people in the workplace, being able to articulate yourself in a clear and sensible manner is extremely important.  This post is in no way aimed at persons with speech impediments or heavy accents, the focus of this post is to bring attention to the way we communicate with others and how our communication tendencies can hinder us while seeking employment or in our current jobs.

How many times have you been involved in a discussion with another person or listening to a presentation and been annoyed by the "fillers" the person is using; "and", "um", "ah", "understand" etc?  Sometimes it isn't just single words or sounds, but full phrases that are repeated over and over again such as; "You know", "Like I said", "get my drift".  We aren't going to delve into the hidden psychological meaning behind the reason this happens, but put an effort into making sure we eliminate it from our own speech patterns along with a few other tweaks to assist in gaining the listeners attention.

Years ago when I was a member of a weekly business networking group, part of the process was to stand up and give a 60 second "commercial" about the company you were representing.  During the time that I was a member we were fortunate to have a Toastmaster as part of the group.  This woman was relentless!  Each time someone stood up to give their schpeel she would make a loud buzzer noise if they used a filler.  Needless to say it didn't take long to eliminate the fillers from our speech patterns, but sadly... we don't all have a Toastmaster following us around to yell "UUUNNNNNNTTTTTT!" each time we get hung up on what we're saying.

Many people become uncomfortable with the quiet moments in between points or topics.  They have a need to fill every silent space with a sound... my lovely Mom has a habit of saying "and that" when there is a lull in the conversation.  She's done it forever.  I'm not even sure she notices she's doing it, and while it drives me nuts, I've never had the heart to bring it to her attention.  But, having a conversation with a family member is much different than trying to make a positive impression on a potential future employer or a room full of colleagues. 

To help eliminate this bad habit from your conversations, the next time you interview or do a presentation record it.  Then listen back and pay attention to whether or not you are using fillers.  As soon as you become aware of it, you'll begin to notice when you're doing it and eventually you'll stop.

Here are a few other things that you should be conscious of when you are carrying on a dialog or conducting a presentation:
> Misusing words.  I'm a firm believer in increasing one's vocabulary, but make sure you have a firm understanding of a new word before you go throwing it around in public!
>Going on and on and on and on and on (you get my drift).  It's great to listen to someone that has real passion for their topic of discussion, but keep in mind that not everyone may share your passion, so find a balance between getting your point across and talking too much.
>Tone of voice and inflection. Have you ever found yourself drifting off into a day dream when listening to someone else?  Their tone is flat or they are completely monotone, or they speak so quietly its almost like a lullaby instead of a dialog?  To learn more about your tone of voice, record yourself in a normal conversation and listen to it... then make any necessary adjustments. Inflection is  the modification of a word to express different emotion.  Remind yourself to be upbeat, you don't have to be Tony Robbins but work at showing some enthusiasm when you speak.

Public speaking and professional speaking is a learned skill, not many people come by it naturally.  With a bit of effort and training you can learn to captivate.... instead of annoy.... any audience.

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