Conversational Confidence

The Art and Science of Having an Effective Conversation

The Blarney Stone is a historical stone, or actually part of the Blarney Castle in Ireland where it was believed that kissing the stone can grant you the gift of gab. Right now, everyone who knows me is suddenly thinking this all makes perfect sense.

There is so much more involved in conversation that anyone, even I, could ever condense into one little blog post. I’ll give you my top 10 here, but if you want to truly master the art of conversation, start watching talk shows; radio programs; clubs dedicated to public speaking; ordinary conversations; you’ll see certain rules still apply when it comes to interaction through words. It may sound tedious, I know, but even though it’s your mouth that’s doing the work, your brain works twice as hard to churn out a lot of things you know. So to start learning to be an effective communicator you need to get to know the very person closest to you: yourself.

1. What you know
Education is all about learning the basics, but to be an effective speaker is to practice what you’ve learned and deliver that learning in an entertaining and memorable way. My stint as an international speaker at global conferences taught me that we all have our limitations, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share what we know.

2. Listening
Listening to the sound of our own voice can teach us to be more confident with ourselves and to say the things we believe in with conviction and passion, rather than a whisper. Hear how you end a sentence. Do you believe what you’re saying?

3. Humility
We all make mistakes, and sometimes we slur our words, stutter, or mispronounce certain words even though we know what it means. I’ve been teaching my now 13 year old 4 syllable words since he could talk (his teachers continuously gave me the hairy eyeball over his Harvard vocabulary). So in a group, don’t be afraid to ask if you’re saying the right word properly and if they’re unsure about it then make a joke out of it. I promise you it’ll make everyone laugh and you can get away with it as well.

4. Eye Contact
There’s a lot to say when it comes to directing your attention to one particular audience member with an eye-catching gaze. It’s important that you keep your focus when talking to a large group in a meeting or a gathering, even though he or she may be gorgeous.

5. Kidding around
A little bit of humor can do wonders to lift the tension, or worse boredom when making your speech. That way, you’ll get the attention of the majority of the crowd and they’ll feel that you’re just as approachable, and as human to those who listen. Approachability directly translates into sales, so no matter how bad you think you tell a joke, work on making others comfortable.

6. Standing out from the crowd
Interaction is all about mingling with other people. But you need to be memorable. I find the easiest way for me to be memorable is to give them something, a compliment, an idea, a genuine conversation. When I make them feel good, they remember me.

7. Me, Myself, and I
Admit it, there are times you sing to yourself in the shower, under the best shower head. I know I do! Listening to the sound of your own voice while you practice your speech in front of a mirror can help correct the stress areas of your pitch. And you can improve the timing of any untidy sentences that tend to trip up your tongue. Thankfully rubber ducky won’t hold it against you.

8. With a smile
 A smile says it all much like eye contact. There’s no point in grimacing or frowning in a meeting or a gathering, unless it’s a wake. You can better express what you’re saying when you smile. Think of it as an open invitation to talk to you.

9. A Role Model
Think of a speaker that you admire. How do they deliver their lines? What kinds of stories to they tell? How do they move across the stage or work the room? Making a mental note of how they emphasize what they say can help you once you take center stage.

10. Preparation
Make the best out of preparation rather than just scribbling notes in a hurried panic. Some people like to write things down on index cards, while other resort to being a little more silly as they look at their notes written on the palm of their hand (not for clammy hands, please). I prefer to use a visual stack, a slide deck of images, each that triggers a story. This technique does double duty, it’s visually appealing but doesn’t draw the eyes away from you for long, and it keeps you on track.

These are a few simple tips. For more powerful speaker training, I highly recommend the ABC’s of Speaking.

Originally published at on October 15, 2017.