A very long time ago a middle school teacher of mine introduced me to the cleverness of a teacher-turned-slam-poet named Taylor Mali. For a while, I was obsessed with his poems, especially his most famous called, “What Teachers Make.” The obsession eventually wore off, but even today, over 10 years later, I still find myself going on YouTube every couple months or so to re-watch some of his work.
The theme of one of his more popular poems has influenced me pretty significantly and even guides the way I speak daily in the University of Maryland Athletics offices in College Park, MD. The poem is called, “Totally, Like Whatever, You Know?” In it Mali urges the audience to “speak with conviction” and take ownership over their thoughts and ideas. It’s incredible how important it is to do so.
To give an example, I oversee our student intern(s) responsible for marketing our wrestling program. Each fall, we meet with the coaching staff to present the marketing plan for the upcoming season. Without fail, each time before going into that meeting, I’ve paraphrased version of Mali’s message to our interns: Speak Eloquently. Much like in everyday life, speaking eloquently has some powerful benefits:
· It exudes confidence. Have you ever had a crazy idea that you really couldn’t reasonably justify pursuing outside of a “gut feeling”? I’m sure you have. Speaking with eloquence when pitching the idea to your supervisor or colleague might just be the difference between them giving you the go ahead and telling you to go back to the drawing board.
· Graduating college doesn’t mean you’ve given your last Powerpoint presentation; sometimes you have to give them at work as well. What better time to speak eloquently than when standing up and giving a presentation to your colleagues?
· It suggests that you know what you’re talking about, even if you really don’t (raise your hand if you’ve been there before… *Insert Raised Hand Emoji*). Every day you’re asked questions by colleagues, by interns, by your boss, and sometimes you just need to buy yourself some time until you can find out the answer. Being well-spoken helps you do so.
But speaking eloquently is easier said than done, right? However, it’s possible. While I’m still learning, and certainly don’t have all of the answers, a few things that help me are:
· Preparation – whether it requires 5 minutes or days, spend time to understand your audience and how you can best get your point across with the time you have.
· Think before speaking, even if it means pausing in the middle of a sentence (Channel your inner President Obama and his soft spoken yet vivid speaking)
· Pay attention to your breathing
· If you ever come across a word you don’t know, Google it so that the next time you come across it you do know it (and eventually add it to your vocabulary)
Speaking eloquently is all well and great, but speaking casually at work may be an even tougher skill to master. That said, if you’re able to do it well, it has powerful consequences of its own:
· It seems more sincere and develops stronger relationships. In sports marketing as in any industry, you need allies both within and outside of your unit. More often than not, these allies will be your friends. And who wants a friend that’s going to talk about work 100% of the time?
· It helps you interact with clients outside the office. While your office-mate may know what your company jargon and current projects are, Randy Random that you interact with from time to time may not. Speaking to these people casually may be more appropriate.
· It makes you more approachable. Sometimes eloquent speech is intimidating. You want to be the guy or girl that others feel comfortable asking a favor of, picking up the phone and calling instead of emailing, or even just coming into to your office to ask about your weekend.
The ability to speak eloquently and the ability to speak casually at work are two very important skills. It’s hard enough to master one, let alone two. And, like, the ultimate skill is developing the awareness to know precisely when, where, how, and to whom to use each, you know?
Want to learn more about Jordan? Connect with her on Twitter