How to sound more eloquent?

So, I’m from the south and there is already prejudice to the accent off the bat. Otherwise, I sometimes find it hard to think of the more sophisticated words to say when discussing/interviewing and may stumble trying to sound more eloquent. On the other hand, I know there are many people who are in their twenties as well spoken as diplomats. I know a lot of it stems from how you were raised, but would love to hear how some of you became more polished quickly.

 
Most Helpful
  1. Listen to eloquent people speak. There are tons of recordings of speeches on YouTube as well as Ted Talks. 
  2. Read more to expand your vocabulary.
  3. Practice - both while sitting on your couch talking to yourself and in person when talking to others. 
  4. Work on getting to the point clearly and directly when you say things in a professional setting. Trying to use "sophisticated words" when it doesn't come naturally often sounds far more ridiculous than using "unsophisticated words." 
  5. That said, don't be afraid to switch into storytelling mode when it's time to tell a good tale. 

Beyond that, I just finished up a 10 year stint in the South, living in 3 different states. People in Atlanta talk at a normal speed, but people in Tennessee, South Carolina, and rural Georgia talk SLOWLY. Listen to the cadence of speeches, podcasts, ted talks, etc. - not just the word choice. You'll be fine - a lot of accents are charming. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer
 

+1 to #4. I still make this mistake while networking with non-MBAs. Dropping buzzwords like strategy / synergies etc. Did this recently with a connection at an employer that I'm trying to get a job at and he took it the wrong way (didn't seem to understand the type of jobs I'm looking for and forwarded me to someone who probably couldn't help). 

 

My friend has a serious southern drawl that is slow and deliberate. Once you get to know him though, he is one of the smartest people you will meet. He is one of the top investment bankers in the world at GS/MS. If you're talented, the delivery of your speech will matter less. Results are king. But, would echo CRE's comment above that reading will greatly improve your vocabulary. Also, if you live in a place like NYC for years, your southern accent will fade a bit.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee
 

Honestly - record yourself. People not only typically hate the sound of their own recorded voice, but you will IMMEDIATELY pick out various verbal ticks you have because people are also hyper critical of their own speech. 

For instance, by recording myself, I found that I started like 75% of sentences with "So," 

Why the fuck I do that, I have no idea. I don't intentionally start sentences and responses like I'm at the halfway point in a sentence instead of at the beginning, but there is was in unedited audio. After annoying the shit out of myself by listening to myself start sentences with "So," over and over and over again, you can better believe I don't do it anymore. 

Commercial Real Estate Developer
 

One of the most eloquent and well spoken people I've come across has the southern drawl and man its like butter, should not hold you back. My advice:

- Vocabulary is secondary to tone and delivery. The best communicators I've seen are able to articulate complex concepts in simple terms. Big words or sophisticated vocabulary =/= eloquence

- Slow your roll. People who rip through what they're trying to say don't come across as confident as those who slow down. I find the pitch of my voice goes up the faster I speak and it gives off nervous energy, like you just want to get it over with and dip. Very cliche but think Daniel Craig in the Bond movies vs. someone like Chris Pratt in the Marvel flicks. 

- Be thoughtful and deliberate in your choice of words. I find this to be overkill sometimes but wording/phrasing are really good tools and clever use of both can convey messages without being direct. In a lot of complex M&A processes I've been a part of, when there are principal to principal conversations, the messaging is scripted and there is input from legal/financial advisors as to wording and such. There is a reason why.

- The most important one IMO, and feels counterintuitive when you're asking about how to speak, but a big part of being eloquent and engaging is being a good listener. No amount of practice, vocab, phrasing, tone can make up for being out of touch with your audience.

 

Also, studying for the GRE or GMAT verbal will make you more eloquent. Check out the free app Magoosh Vocabulary Builder.

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"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee
 

What's wrong with a good old-fashioned southern good ol boy accent?

A lot of the GOBs you'll run into in high finance or law have more money than God and very high intellectual horsepower. When one of them starts talking I shut the fuck up and listen. I'm not saying you should talk like a hick -- I understand that perception is reality -- but I think a lot of highly intelligent people will understand that the meaning of your words is much more important than the accent you speak in.   

 
Funniest

I'll take the opposite position. Don't hide your regional accent...listen to Sen. Kennedy from Louisiana for instance. Guy's a constitutional law expert who went to Oxford and he has a fantastic eloquence/diction with a thick, classic southern accent. Also if you ever touch the LMM or MM in the Southeast, you'll be talking to good ole boys who own HVAC distributors richer than God himself who sound like a Civil War General on the phone 

 
throwway593

I'll take the opposite position. Don't hide your regional accent...listen to Sen. Kennedy from Louisiana for instance. Guy's a constitutional law expert who went to Oxford and he has a fantastic eloquence/diction with a thick, classic southern accent. Also if you ever touch the LMM or MM in the Southeast, you'll be talking to good ole boys who own HVAC distributors richer than God himself who sound like a Civil War General on the phone 

Sen. Kennedy is a legend. I love that guy.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee
 

Many others have pointed out reading more and listening to well spoken individuals to better your own vocabulary and cadence. However, I didn’t really see anyone mention how it’s put in practice — having spoken to investors during fundraising or delivering results during an all hands or board meeting, I think people would be surprised to know that I actually write and prepare a script beforehand. It doesn’t need to be an exhaustive writing exercise, but it’s incredibly helpful to write out the main points and read them over / speak them out loud so that you know how you sound and are confident when delivering those points. Discussions are ever changing and you can’t script every Q&A so you need to be flexible, but being able to confidently and deliberately deliver your takeaways builds a lot of reputational trust. 

 

Grew up on the West Coast, but it's interesting the Southern accent gets hate when the Northeast Jewish/Italian cawfee accent sounds grating.

Regardless, both are preferrable to a FOB Indian accent

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn
 

Listen to intelligent and eloquent people speak.

Very few people ever listen.  For most people I encounter, "listening" means "waiting until it's my turn to talk again".  Listen to others, understand what they're saying, and ask relevant questions or make relevant comments.  Trust me you'll sound way more intelligent, even eloquent, than anything else you can do

 
Ozymandia

Listen to intelligent and eloquent people speak.

Very few people ever listen.  For most people I encounter, "listening" means "waiting until it's my turn to talk again".  Listen to others, understand what they're saying, and ask relevant questions or make relevant comments.  Trust me you'll sound way more intelligent, even eloquent, than anything else you can do

Sadly, most people I've encountered would rather cut me halfway to make their point across instead of waiting.  

 

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