Nothing is worse than listening to someone speak and hearing a string of ‘uhhhhh’s ‘ummmmm’s and ‘like’s thrown together. It’s distracting. It takes away from our message. It’s off-putting and can make us sound like we don’t know what we’re talking about.

An example: I was on a negotiation conference call recently, and there were two fellow participants with speaking styles that stood out. Boss Lady Executive #1 and Boss Lady Executive #2.

Boss Lady Executive #1 spoke with confidence. Clear, direct statements. Well-worded and open-ended questions. Language choice that made the most of her admittedly limited knowledge of the subject matter.

Boss Lady Executive #2 spoke with hesitation. Pauses were filled with uhhhhhhs as she gathered her thoughts. Statements became questions. And she struggled to establish herself as an expert – even though I know she was the person on the call with the most experience and hands-on knowledge of the topic at hand.

When you’re an entrepreneur, you need to be a Boss Lady Executive #1 (or Boss Fella).

Here’s how to do that:

1)   Speaker Notes

Don’t jump into a conversation (or webinar, or call, or negotiation) without some sort of speaker notes to guide you. The idea here is to have a few bullet points listed, along with some key info-bites to guide you. Don’t write out a giant script – trust me – when you break out the script, the energy changes. You might get all your points across, but people will have stopped listening. (And how are you going to be persuasive if they aren’t listening?)

Try this: List out your 3 main goals for this discussion (or webinar, or call…you get the idea). Then, give yourself 2 info-bites for each of those goals. For example:

  • Goal 1: Convince of the benefit of a design upgrade
  • Info-bite 1: Iterative period on the web now is X months
  • Info-bite 2: Conversion stats for current site = x%

2)   Communication Audit

As uncomfortable as it might be, one of the best ways to improve your spoken communication is to record yourself, and then listen to it, paying attention for any vocal ‘ticks’ you have. Remember how in school certain teachers would use the same word over and over again, and you would put little hashmarks at the top of your notebook each time they said it? Do the same thing for yourself. This way, you’ll know what specific speech patterns are breaking down your credibility and persuasiveness.

Try this: Here are some of the frequent vocal ticks I notice. Use this as your starting point for your Communication Audit.

Overused words/phrases:

  • Uhhhhhhhh
  • Ummmmm
  • Like
  • Kinda
  • Just
  • Basically
  • At the end of the day

Styles of speaking:

  • Mumbling
  • Speaking too quickly
  • Raising your tone at the end of statements (and turning them into questions)

3)   Take The Time


And we need to stop doing that.

Coming across as calm and poised in a conversation or when delivering a presentation is the surest way to bump up the impact.

Take a deep breath before starting to speak. Pause occasionally for another one.

If you’re asked a question, take the time you need to formulate your answer, rather than winging it and winding up with a garbled response. (Truth: It’s tempting to think that we need to come up with quick answers…when really, a thoughtful, accurate response shows far more expertise than being the first person to blurt something out)

Taking the time you need also means taking the time to practice. With every discussion you have, webinar you present, or training call you host – your voice will get stronger, and so will your message.

With these 3 tips – having speaker notes, auditing your communication, and taking your time – you’ll be able to become your business’ own Boss Lady Executive #1 in no time.