People make judgments about you based on how you speak. Your speech affects your credibility and even how intelligent you are seen as being.
I recently watched a presentation where the speaker used “uh,” “umm” and other verbal fillers more than 37 times in 10 minutes. I counted. He fidgeted, put his hands in his pockets and looked completely uncomfortable. He knows his subject, but his nervous mannerisms made him appear less than credible.
Fillers, tics and nervous mannerisms are most common when speaking in front of a group, but can creep in to your daily conversations, too. I overheard two women talking about business, and I was astounded at how often they used the word “like.”
If you catch yourself using “like,” “uh,” “you know,” etc., it usually means that you are stalling for time to think of your next word. Slow down. Take a breath. Think about what you’re saying. Ask a friend to signal you when you slip into one of your bad habits.
To make the best impression, also be sure to:
Use words correctly. It’s better to use a common word correctly than to try to impress by using a long, unusual word incorrectly.
Use proper pronunciation. If you’re not sure how to pronounce a word, look it up in the dictionary. Saying “liberry” instead of “library,” for example, will make a poor impression.
Learn correct grammar. While no one speaks absolutely perfectly 100% of the time, some errors are more egregious than others. Double negatives (“don’t have no”), “ain’t,” confusing “have” and “got,” mixing singular and plural forms, etc. will grate on the ears of listeners.
Remember that anyone listening to you speak, whether one-on-one or in a group, is usually hoping you will speak well and communicate effectively. They’re on your side. Don’t let nervousness affect your ability to communicate powerfully.