1. Write a List or Outline of Topics to Discuss
Before an interview, meeting, chat with mentor or mentee, HR talks, or any type of business-related conversation it’s helpful to list or outline key topics to be discussed. This helps build time management skills and keeps tangential ideas in your head. For interviews this is an excellent means for both parties to make sure all topics are addressed. Lists and outlines are great positive reminders of skills, stories, or practiced responses--like a response to important questions like: “What is your biggest weakness”. I always make a positive note about applicants who bring prepared notes and questions to an interview. It shows that they’re serious about the position, organized, and have thought about the role and company beforehand.
2. Cut Out the First Person Pronouns
In professional writing, cutting out first person pronouns can be difficult. When writing application materials, such as cover letters, removing the majority of I’s and me’s helps sharpen sentences and diminish superfluous thoughts. A story, accomplishment, or a topic with personal examples written with minimal first person language can still be discussed; generally first person pronouns aren’t needed to communicate thoughts.
“While you want to sell your qualifications, don't forget to explain how you would add value to the company. If your cover letter is dominated with “I,” chances are you need to focus more of your content on the prospective employer.”
- Career Builder
3. Deep Breaths
A weakness of mine is the speed of my speech, which leads even the closest of peers to say, “Slow down!” Take the period at the end of a sentence more seriously, try to punctuate every sentence with a breath. This is an excellent technique (even if you don’t speak at the speed of light) to help de-stress, maintain composure, and allows thoughts to catch up with what you are saying. Before anything nerve-wracking take a couple deep breaths to increase a sense of calm. When you’re steady and poised, it allows for personality, connection, and humor to come through. Having your brain and speech on the same page is vital to keep from rambling or saying too much.
4. Practice Beforehand
Practice key talking points in the mirror, to a friend, to your pet goldfish. Rehearsing is reassuring. Having a checklist of topics, key words, and personal stories written out ahead of time will better embed them in your brain. This doesn’t mean memorize; memorizing will hinder rather than help. When strictly trying to repeat answers word for word you’ll block any personality and sense of self that should come through.
5. Record Yourself
With smartphones it’s easy to record video or audio; use this technology to your advantage and listen to how you speak. Do you know how often you use “umm,” “like,” “well” or long pauses? Are you guilty of saying “literally” or “essentially” without realizing it? Once errors in speech patterns are recognized, you’ll begin to notice and be more cognizant of them. As awareness of these oral slip-ups increases you’ll be able to better change speech patterns to remove them from your vocabulary. Another great self-evaluation technique is to take a video recording of yourself while speaking or presenting. It also helps to analyze personal body language an important topic that is not often discussed.