Speech Skills and Speech Terminology for Speech Lessons

The Speech Skills You Need to Know to Speak Well

Businesswoman giving a presentation in a meeting.
A presenter using her speech skills effectively. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

This list of speech skills and speech terminology is part of the Speak for Success Course, a series of five speech lessons designed to help you shape up your speech so you will sound more professional.

Many of us have mastered the business look. We know how to dress for success and pride ourselves on our professional manners. We know how important a smile is and all those little niceties of business exchanges such as how to present a business card properly. We're on top of our game - but we have sloppy speech habits that undermine our polished appearance and give potential clients and customers messages we didn't intend to send. How can you trust someone that looks like one thing but says another?

In this sense, the Speak for Success course is about completing the package, making sure that our speech matches our appearance and finishes off the job of impressing our customers with our professionalism.

Be aware that the Speak for Success course is not about learning English. It's about speaking English better so you can better communicate with others.

(Want to start the Speak for Success course right now? Go directly to Lesson 1, How to Enunciate.)

Below is a list of the various speech skills and problems covered in the course. For your convenience, this list of speech skills and terminology includes reference to the Speak for Success Speech Lesson each skill or term is a part of, as well as definitions of each term.

Speech Skills

Clarity – Speaking clearly so as to be understood by your audience. Clarity is composed of several different related speech skills including projection, enunciation and pace. (Clarity is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 1, Speech Lesson 2 and Speech Lesson 5.)

Projection – Speaking loudly enough so that every member of the audience can hear what is said. (Projection is part of every speech lesson.)

Enunciation – Fully pronouncing each syllable of each word with the proper emphasis. (Enunciation is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 1.)

Pronunciation – Correctly pronouncing each word. (Practicing pronunciation is part of every speech lesson in the course.)

ExpressionSpeaking with vocal variety and vitality so that the audience remains interested. The associated speech problem is speaking in a monotone - a real communication killer. (Expression is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 3.)

Pace – Speaking at a rate that is comfortable for the audience to hear and comprehend. (Pace is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 4.)

Fillers – Using meaningless words or sounds that distract the audience. "Um", "ah" and "you know" are especially common in North America. (Breaking the habit of using fillers when speaking is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 2.)

Slang – Informal language that is specific to a particular group. If you're not part of that particular group, though, you have no idea what the meaning is. (The problem of using slang is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 5.)

Buzzwords – Words or phrases that sound important but have become meaningless through repetition. For example, in business "game changer" and "think outside the box" have been used to death. (The problem of buzzwords is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 5.)

Acronyms – Sets of initials used as shorthand to refer to particular phrases (such as CEO for Chief Executive Officer). (The use of acronyms is covered in Speak for Success Speech Lesson 5.)

Active Listening – Participating in the act of communication by paying attention and letting the speaker know that you’re paying attention through activities such as mirroring and rephrasing.

Stance – Presenting and maintaining an appropriate posture to facilitate communication.

Eye-contact – Looking the person or people you're speaking to in the eye for an appropriate length of time. When speaking to an audience of more than one, it’s important to make eye contact with as many individual members of the audience as possible.

Click on the link for any Speech Lesson above to go to that Speech Lesson. Or use this handy index:

Lessons on Specific Speech Skills

Speech Lesson 1: How to Enunciate - Stop Dropping Those G's

Speech Lesson 2: How to Stop Saying "Um" and "You Know"

Speech Lesson 3: How to Pep Up Your Tired Voice

Speech Lesson 4: Speaking Slower Could Improve Your Sales

Speech Lesson 5: Buzzwords and Slang Bury Your Message