Have you ever listened to a brilliant speaker and felt captivated by the music of their speech, the poetry of their words and the resonance of their voice? Then they probably have that magical combination that we call eloquence.
Whether faced with giving a speech to an auditorium of thousands or simply addressing a group of co-workers, we all want to be able to express ourselves articulately, because it’s in that special zone of eloquence, that communication magic can happen.
What does it mean to speak eloquently?
An eloquent speaker is someone who has mastery over how they use language. They understand its subtleties and nuances and can use it to communicate their message effectively and persuasively.
Listening to an eloquent speaker is similar to hearing a piece of great music. It can fill us with joy and we remember the message they delivered and how they made us feel.
How do I become more eloquent?
The good news is that it’s a skill that can be learned. If we keep to the music analogy, learning to become an eloquent speaker is similar to mastering an instrument. You don’t simply pick up the instrument and start playing. Instead, you start by learning notes and scales, understanding the basic principles and techniques.
Create a vibrant vocal landscape
We use the metaphor of a vocal landscape all the time at London Speech Workshop. When someone is speaking, you’re building a landscape in your mind, based on:
- their tone of voice
- the way they handle their words
- the colour they inject into their sentences
- their pauses, pace and word emphasis
We have all heard speeches that make our pulses race and imagination flow. A great communicator has the confidence to tell a story or share a message that sparks a reaction with the audience. They will create a vocal landscape that is filled with colour, dimension and texture. Then they will direct their listeners’ attention to the big ideas using their intonation and emphasis and, in doing so, engage and interest them.
The power of words
Words are packed with meaning. They have the potential to be incredibly powerful tools if used correctly. As with most things, they can also be pretty redundant if used incorrectly.
The more sophisticated your vocabulary, the more options you will have to communicate your desired message. Take the word ‘eloquent’ itself. In that word, we hear a mixture of short vowel sounds and delicate consonants, which together make the word sound light and poetic. The word eloquent, sounds eloquent! An articulate speaker will choose their words with care, understanding the power of words not just in what they mean, but also in their intrinsic musicality.
So when you are writing your speech, or speaking in an impromptu setting, tune into the artistry of words. Pick your words as if you were an artist trying to find the perfect shade to highlight a feature in his painting, or as a musician would hunt the right combination of notes to create a perfect harmony. Giving yourself time when writing and speaking to find that perfect word to articulate your idea will lift your communication to the next level.
This is not to say that overloading your speech with flowery language is the way forward. It is important, as with everything in life, to have quality not quantity, so take care not to over do it. A few carefully chosen words go a long way. You also need to make sure you are being authentic.
Vowels - expressing emotion
Vowels are a conduit for one’s emotion. Using the vowels to share your feelings allows you to transmit emotion into your speech. You can think of it as putting colour and melody into your speech. Using your vowels in this way gives your listeners a chance to connect with you, and to come with you on the journey you are sharing.
That’s generally how we relate to one another, through emotion. It’s what makes great speakers and orators so convincing and powerful when they speak. Their words have emotion, intention and impact. Using your vowels is a first great step to bringing more feeling into you speech.
Consonants - finishing off your thoughts
Consonants are a way of containing emotion and finishing off your thoughts. They are the firm edges within our vocal landscape. They provide definition to our ideas; they stop the objects in the environment from merging into each other. While you can drop some consonants, it is really important to pronounce ones in between two vowels and at the end of an important word or sentence.
How you say what you say
- Emphasis. We use emphasis to draw attention to the important words. This isn’t necessarily just saying it louder. We can emphasise a word by lingering a little longer on it, or raising our pitch a bit higher.
- Pauses. Adding pauses to a sentence is one of the most effective ways to share your ideas. By dividing up your thoughts into mini-beats, you sound steady and in control. This, in turn, helps the listener to process what you are saying. Pauses should usually fall between every two to seven words.
- Pacing. When we get nervous, we automatically speed up. This can cause us to lose connection with our listeners, so it’s vital to speak at the right pace.
Speaking with heart and mind
An eloquent speaker raises the level of communication to one that is persuasive, musical and sometimes magical. They have found a way to make their words and voice reflect their feelings and thoughts on multiple levels. From using their vowels and consonants, through to picking words that perfectly articulate their feelings and ideas, they have mastery over communication which gives them true power and influence as a communicator.