According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Eloquence is “discourse marked by force and persuasiveness; also: the art or power of using such discourse.” We see by this definition that the purpose of being eloquent, or to develop eloquence, is to persuade an audience or another individual by simply using words. But is that all? Of course not.
Is eloquence innate or learnt? How can it be developed? How can you use it to your advantage? Is eloquence limited to words?
In a time where more social interactions are happening in the virtual world, learning the art of eloquence is losing its appeal. Indeed, eloquence is not innate. For the most part, it is the result of lifelong learning. It is a blend of having good literary knowledge, and knowing how to transmit that knowledge into words, and physical cues that will resonate with your audience.
It is not enough to be a human dictionary to be considered eloquent, you need to understand the psychology of who you are interacting with.
If you’re reading this, you are most likely part of Luxembourg’s greater business community. Thankfully, as this is a small country with a diversity of people, face-to-face interactions are still very important. In one way or another, you are brought to interact with employees, employers, clients, or candidates. Therefore, eloquence is a skill that can (and could) be learnt by everyone.
As eloquence is used to persuade, it is especially in the job-seeking individual’s interest to master it. Here are a few tips on how to start your journey to mastering Eloquence.
First and foremost, try and prepare yourself psychologically. There is no need to stress for a presentation or for an interview. In life, you cannot control what happens, you only control how you decide to react to certain situations once they happen. With proactive preparation, you can be the one in charge of the situation, even in the face of impromptu questions from the CEO or Hiring Manager. And remember, the person in front of you is just that, another person, with his own strengths and weaknesses.
Second, whether you are doing a presentation, going for a client meeting, or doing an interview, prepare what you will say. This does not mean to learn everything by heart, it simply means that you should understand what you are going to say, as to be able to say it in different ways. Once upon a time, a candidate came in for a job interview, laid out sheets of paper across the table, and started reading them. The interviewer then took the papers and said: “Now tell me about yourself.”
Become an expert on the subject you are going to discuss, if you are going to present your company’s financials to the board of directors, know all of the numbers, what they mean, and how they compare to years past.
If you are interviewing for a job, you become the subject. Make sure to review your CV prior to the interview, to talk about your job responsibilities and challenges you’ve had to face in past experiences. It is also to your advantage if you can learn about the company you are interviewing for, and ask thoughtful questions to the hiring manager.
By preparing your presentation or interview, you will be more confident and ready to respond to questions with the appropriate answer, even if they are unexpected.
You might think that this sounds obvious, and it is, but sadly, there are still a lot of people who don’t value practice and repetition. Another argument could be that even if we prepare, there is no way to get feedback before the presentation or interview. To this question I answer: film yourself.
This is the most effective way to get instant feedback on your communication skills, as we are always our toughest critic. For example, you will hear all the filler words that you “unconsciously” use and will be better able to replace them with short pauses or to continue your train of thought in a fluent manner. It will even give you hints on your body language. If you have a tendency to look at your notes, you will see it right away. Plus, looking at anything else than our audience is usually a sign of doubt, fear, and unpreparedness.
Third, to master eloquence, it is imperative to understand body language. Whether standing for a presentation, or sitting for an interview, one should demonstrate confidence in their discourse through their gestures. In some interviews, candidates are asked to sit in the middle of a room, 5 metres away from the interviewers as to have a full view of their body language. To achieve this, use your hands as tools to guide your audience through what you are saying.
These tips will not make you a Master of Eloquence tomorrow. Increasing the time you spend reading novels, articles, or literature will equip you with the literary arsenal to become eloquent. Mixed with preparation and practice, you will start to notice that your speech flows more naturally and that your thoughts are more organised. Finally, once a change is noticed, you will feel a boost of confidence.