How to Improve Your Speaking Skills
Communication is fundamental to the human experience. Whether you are talking to your family, socializing with friends, or standing in front of a group at work, effective communication relies on a sophisticated and integrated set of skills that enables you to rapidly share and interpret information with ease.
Even though we all speak every day, the vast majority of us feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and anxious with certain public speaking tasks. What seems like a daunting task does not have to feel that way. Speech therapy, specifically for public speaking, professional voice therapy services, or accent reduction, can help enhance your delivery across all communication contexts. We spoke with Dr. Jessica Galgano, executive director and founder of Open Lines Speech and Communication, to learn more about how you can improve your speaking skills.
Becoming an Effective Speaker
If you find yourself interested in improving your speaking skills, you may be wondering what the differences are between a vocal coach and a speech-language pathologist (SLP). There are significant differences in their education and training.
Vocal coaches are sometimes singing music teachers who draw on their training in music and singing to exercise the singing voice.
Speech-language pathologists are masters- and PhD-level clinicians in communication sciences with an expert understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the speech motor mechanism and how it produces words and sounds for effective communication. This includes everything from the neural activities of the brain and the activation of your vocal folds to how your speech sounds and is perceived by others.
“A speech-language pathologist uses this knowledge to design an individualized treatment plan, grounded in evidence-based research, to improve your communication or enhance your delivery,” Dr. Galgano said. “Your clinician will take you through a series of tests designed to evaluate all aspects of your voice, speech, and communication, as well as the impact of anxiety and emotion on voice, and will determine if your speaking difficulties are due to overuse, misuse, or abuse of your voice or from lack of voice and speech training, both of which will benefit from education and training as well as a therapeutic intervention.”
Following the tests, your SLP will consider your medical history, strengths and weaknesses noted during the evaluation process, responsiveness to trialed therapy techniques, and personal goals to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Why Public Speaking Is a Critical Skill
Effective communication will enhance your leadership skills. Most importantly, becoming a more effective speaker helps you develop and increase confidence and a sense of ease and enjoyment related to speaking and engaging others, whether that be presenting to a group of thousands of people, chatting with close friends, or preparing for job interviews.
Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety
Good news! SLPs have many scientifically founded tools and techniques they draw on in therapy to ease tension related to speaking and support and enhance your delivery. SLPs use certain techniques to improve the efficiency of your message and teach you how to confidently engage an audience. These include the following techniques:
- Engaging proper breath support
- Vocal exercises designed to strengthen your voice and improve vocal quality
- Changing the rate of speech and pacing
- Improving intonation
- Stress reduction
“Breathing and vocal exercises improve the strength, coordination, efficiency, and endurance of your voice. Exercises will also decrease extraneous or unnecessary physical tension that may be experienced when speaking,” Dr. Galgano said. “With the right training and practice, you can also learn to change the way you present or deliver your message, so you have greater control when speaking. Learning to implement relaxation and other strategies to manage emotion or anxiety are also effective ways of improving overall delivery and are an integral part of an effective treatment program.”
A program’s focus should aim to help you enhance your delivery until you are able to speak confidently in all of the situations in which you need to speak. As a result, you will be able to speak in public with less anxiety or hesitation. This allows you to become a better communicator during meetings, when communicating with clients, and when leading presentations.
Professional Speaking Skills Training
People frequently want to improve their public speaking skills. Actors and actresses, as well as professionals, may seek to boost their vocal projection, reduce their accent, or improve their fluency and overall communicative effectiveness.
Improving Public Speaking Abilities
If your goal is speaking publicly with less anxiety or hesitation, trained and licensed professionals will give you the confidence and competence to speak in a variety of settings. Through focused instruction and practice, you will transform your own public speaking voice—one that gives you the confidence to address your colleagues and peers in any business or social setting.
Improving Vocal Function
Anyone who uses their voice in a professional setting can experience communication challenges. Expert clinicians provide an array of communication services for attorneys, executives, public speakers, voiceover artists, teachers, and actors, among other careers. The right team can help you determine if those difficulties are due to overuse, misuse, or abuse of your voice (requiring therapeutic program), or from lack of voice and speech training (requiring education and coaching).
Difficulty with the English language, especially in the workforce, may seem like it is too much of a hurdle to overcome because of your non-native English or regional accent, but help is available.
Your SLP, drawing on the principles of motor learning and neuroplasticity, will help you target your perception of speech, the accurate production of speech sounds that contribute to your accent, and improvement of intonation and the expected stress pattern of speaking. Sometimes this can be as simple as placing your tongue in a different position to create a sound or improving your rhythm.
“A uniquely trained specialist will identify exactly how you are currently producing the sounds of standard American English, as well as how your native language uses stress patterning, rate of speech, and intonation to influence how you speak English,” Dr. Galgano said. “These factors are assessed to determine the exercises and training needed to help you modify your pronunciation of standard American English and improve others’ ability to understand what you say without having to repeat yourself.
Improve Your Speaking Skills Today
Contact Open Lines today by phone at (212) 430-6800, by email at info@OpenLinesNY.com, or through our contact form. If you are ready to take the next steps with improving your professional or public speaking skills, you can request an appointment to discuss your goals and review our service options.