Miss Universe BlunderThe entire world now knows about (and has seen with their own eyes) the verbal gaffe made by Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe pageant when he announced the wrong winner.  While very few of us will ever make a mistake on such a big stage, we can all make changes now that will help us avoid blunders on the small stage in 2016. Whether it’s the Board room, the speaker phone, a concurrent session, or job interview, here are six common speaking blunders that are likely undermining our reputation – and each one is very fixable.

1.  Do you start sentences with the word “um?”  Or any other word filler such as ah, so, or ya know?  As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg once told a direct report, “When you say um so much you sound stupid.” Nothing more I can add to that advice, so I’ll move on.

2.  Do people have to lean in and cup their ear in order to hear what you’re Low Talkersaying?  Seinfeld did a whole episode on this one: “She’s one of those low talkers. You can’t hear a word she’s saying!.” Result?  Puffy shirt. Repeat yourself because you want to; not because you have to.

3.  Do people flinch the second you start to speak? If item #2 is known as the church mouse, #3 is the carnival barker – just as damaging to your brand, and possibly more off-putting.  We’re all shooting for a 7 out of 10 volume level, unless we have a microphone.

4.  Does it take you a long time to get your point across?  Some communicators use ten words when three will do. People get bored easily these days, so it makes good sense to speak in a more concise manner. If you also want to be more persuasive, and get that plum assignment this year, then why not spend these few, rare days of down time developing mad skills in brevity?

5.  Do you speak like an auctioneer?  There is an ideal pace at which the human ear can keep track with a speaker so that the words land, and we can make meaning of what’s being said.  It’s somewhere around 145 words per minute.  So, if you are looking for a fun party game for New Year’s Eve, find some text on your computer with no more than 150 words, have your party pal start the timer, and read the text.  If you are finished before the timer goes off, you know you need to slow down.

6.  Do you have enough gas in the tank?  Energy is a funny thing.  You need lots of it to be persuasive, and yet if there’s too much, you’re better off auditioning for a heavy metal band. Speaking with energy helps you convey how much you care.  You can do this in three ways: through your volume, your tone of voice, and your gestures.  People will listen more attentively, I guarantee it.

Now for the “.5” tip: My favorite Christmas gift this year is a zippered pouch that says:  Be Bold, or italic, never regular.

Here’s to a year of bold, dynamic communication.

If you like these tips and want more of them, check out the Dynamic Speaker System and get 80 minutes of coaching!

– Barbara