It doesn’t matter how talented and clever you are, you still need to be able to express yourself in a way that people will understand and actively listen to. No matter the brilliance of their thoughts, people who can’t string a sentence together will be perceived as less intelligent.
Although these perceptions aren’t necessarily correct (People who say “like” a lot are actually more thoughtful and deliberate, for example), they are still vital – especially when it comes to getting a job. With many hiring managers making a decision within five minutes, it’s essential to do all you can to make a good impression right out of the gate, and your speech will be a big part of that.
Some people are born with the gift of the gab; some aren’t. Thankfully, for those that aren’t, you can train yourself to become a better speaker, sound smarter and nab the job of your dreams.
Learn a little-known fact
Dropping an interesting but not widely-known piece of information into a conversation is an easy way to improve someone’s perception of your intelligence. For example, did you know that so-called mosquito “repellent” doesn’t repel them at all? Rather, it blocks the mosquito’s senses, effectively hiding you from the thirsty bug.
To make things easy for yourself, you can even get a new piece of trivia emailed to you daily.
In a job interview or office setting, you are probably better off with a factoid that relates to your job.
Ask the right questions
Asking questions instantly makes you seem smarter by showing that you are thoughtful and engaged. Of course, “Where is the toilet?” doesn’t count. Check out this list for some great questions to ask in a job interview.
Be aware of your gestures
Hand gestures are an integral part of the way we communicate, and getting them right will go a long way to improving the way you “sound”, i.e. people’s perceptions of the way you talk. Watch popular TED talks and focus on how the speakers use their hands to support and emphasise their words.
When you’re not making a gesture that supports what you’re saying, though, keep your hands still. Avoid fiddling, scratching, tapping, etc., which will have a negative effect on your audience.
Stick to plain talking
While you may think that using fancy words will make you seem smart, all it will do is alienate whoever you’re talking to. Research has shown that using shorter words makes you appear more capable and confident. Those findings are also supported by a 2012 Princeton study, which found that an author using simpler language was perceived as more intelligent.
Sit up straight but not too straight
Your posture will affect how you are perceived when speaking. If you slouch, you will seem either bored or unconfident, neither of which is desirable. On the other hand, you shouldn’t hold yourself like a soldier on parade, which will make you seem stiff and uncomfortable.
Instead, you should aim to hit a middle point where your back is straight but you are also relaxed. It’s important that you feel comfortable so that your words can flow properly.
Keep your chin up when speaking. Aside from the way it looks, hanging your head also has a physical effect on your speech which can make your words come out less clearly.
Use your body positioning
When you change topics, reposition yourself to emphasise the change. You can also lean forward slightly when raising an important point. Doing so is a way to signal the point’s importance.
Dressing casually can be taken to imply that you are taking the situation less seriously, but it also affects your perceived intelligence. A Texas Tech study found that smartly dressed individuals were seen as smarter than those who dressed casually.
Vary your speed
If you speak at the same speed all the time, it soon becomes boring for the listener and their attention will stray. Avoid this by speaking at different speeds. Less important information or a summary of previous information can be spoken more quickly. Slow down for new or important information, giving it emphasis.
Pause before or after an important point
If you pause slightly before saying something, you will create a sense of anticipation and emphasise the point that follows. You can also pause after an important point, which has the effect of giving the hearer time to take the point on board. A famous example of the power of pauses is Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
Cite authoritative sources
Drop the names of thought leaders in your specialism or industry to lend extra weight points that you are making.
Getting down into the details will also make you sound more intelligent by showing that you have put some thought into the topic. For example, rather than simply saying that you have used a certain tool or program, mention specific features and how they are helpful.
Knowing a whole bunch of facts is, of course, impressive, but you will come across as smarter if you go further, giving your opinion of those facts. Explain their importance and implications, too.
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