We all want to appear more articulate to our peers. Merriam-Webster defines articulate as, “able to express ideas clearly and effectively in speech or writing” or “clearly expressed and easily understood.” But many of us, myself included, tend to have a hard time organizing and expressing our thoughts fluently. That’s why language, including grammar and vocabulary, must be considered in anyone’s quest to become a stronger speaker.
My first clue to the importance of language in speech came from a previous speech teacher. He said that the best way to improve our vocabulary is to become well-read. Right then, it struck me as fundamental and true. It’s been some years since hearing this and after witnessing countless speeches I think it needs to be reemphasized.
The media that we surround ourselves with greatly affect our thoughts and speech. Our attention these days tends to be mostly fragmented, jumping around from website to website or TV channel to channel. I can hardly think clearly or speak straight after watching just a few commercials or even spending more than a few minutes mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed. Haven’t you noticed this too? I believe this really gets in the way of our ability to express ourselves clearly. I see it in myself, in students and in the people around me.
This is especially relevant to public speaking. Of course, delivery and nerves can help or hurt our speech. But I believe a big part of our speaking-related challenges involve our deficiencies in language skills. How can we speak effectively if we have a hard time finding the right words to express ourselves?
That’s why reading and surrounding ourselves with higher-level discourse is so important for speech (among many other reasons). We must read to lead! It’s certainly best to read from the most credible sources. And I’m sure novels, news articles and even audiobooks are just as useful. It’s important to take in language in a way that helps to make us more articulate rather than spending so much of our time surfing the web, playing on our phones or watching television.
So consider surrounding yourself with higher-level media in order to become more articulate. Conversely, pay attention to how you think and feel after using media unconsciously. I have a feeling you will notice the difference!