In today’s world, where English is becoming increasingly popular as a language for business, sounding knowledgeable and professional is more important than ever. The way you speak influences how clients and supervisors see you and can even shape your own worldview. This is why it might be a good idea to take a moment and really think about how your everyday use of business English makes you look and learn a bit about how to start sounding more professional.
Know the Industry Jargon
One of the best ways to start sounding more professional quickly is to improve your knowledge of the language used in your field. The “in-crowd” in any specific area of expertise will use a special shorthand usually known only to them. This is why marketing people will throw around acronyms like “CTA” or “AIDA”, web developers will talk about “DNS” and not being in a bad neighbourhood, and lawyers have different meanings for words like “bench” and “motion”. You might be the best in the business in your native language but if you don’t know the international jargon for your field, you might come across as a beginner.
While official industry literature might be prone to use official English terms, you can learn new jargon reading affluent blogs and forums in your field. These sources tend to have a more casual approach to English, helping your learn how the language is actually used in your field.
This advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt, however. People not in your field will not appreciate you lecturing them with words they don’t understand. Keep it simple and clear when talking to someone not as familiar with your area of expertise.
Be Clear and Concise
Contrary to spicing your speech with some chosen jargon every now and again with your peers, you should always try to remain clear and concise when speaking with people outside of your sector. This also goes for conversations with clients and supervisors.
Not getting lost in your communications and being able to express yourself in the most precise way to avoid misunderstanding is an important skill. So much so that lawyers and politicians spend years mastering the craft. Luckily, in everyday business communications, a good start would simply be to think before speak. Try to formulate your ideas using short, understandable sentences and make sure whomever you’re talking to seems to be following.
Writing That Works
Lose the Fillers
This tip is rather closely related to the previous point of trying to speak as clearly as possible. The foundation of starting to sound professional is that you (at least appear to) know what you’re talking about. Using a lot of “conversational fillers” can severely undermine your point.
By fillers,we mean the short words you use to tie your speech together – think “like”, “so”, “well” and “umm”. They are mostly used to create a short pause in the conversation that gives the speaker the chance to organise their thoughts, or come up with an answer to a question. Although these might be very common in casual conversation (researchers estimate up to a fifth of “words” spoken might be in this category), they make you seem less competent and lacking in confidence.
While even masterful speakers sometimes struggle with using fillers, there are some steps you can take to lessen their impact on your speech. Firstly, you need to find out how much and which fillers you use in your speech. You can find that out by either asking a friend to point out your “parasite words”, or simply recording yourself freely talking on a chosen topic. Next, you should focus on becoming more aware of your natural speech – try to listen to the way you speak in everyday conversation and note all the fillers you use.
The hardest part will then be to stop yourself from using your chosen fillers. Try to stop before uttering “like”, “umm”, or “well” – at first it might feel foreign to simply stop in the middle of a sentence, but as your speech pattern changes, the disruptions will become less frequent and your speech more fluent.
Forbes has compiled more tips to help you become more eloquent.
Conclusion – Sounding Professional Means Being Well Informed, Clear, and Fluent
The best way to sound professional is to simply know what you’re talking about. That means keeping yourself updated on the developments in your field, conveying your thoughts in a simple and clear manner that helps people understand you better, and avoiding unnecessary disruptions in your speech.
Listen to yourself speak and try to mindfully improve the way you convey your message to start sounding more confident and professional.