How to sound smart, have engaging conversations, and give inspiring presentations

Jan 25, 2021

Want to make a killer first impression? Outward appearances, body language, and overall confidence definitely play a role, but sometimes we underestimate just how important what we say and how we say it can be when it comes to creating a lasting impression.

Giving an articulate and well-informed presentation can raise you up in the ranks at work.  Similarly, an engaging conversation with an important client can reassure them of your competence and create a stable on-going relationship.

So, what can you do to make yourself not just sound smarter, but also create better relationships? Keep reading to find out more.

Think Before You Speak

It might not seem like much but stopping to pause and reflect, instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, goes a long way in terms of projecting intelligence and expertise. Choose your words with care, and avoid meaningless fillers like “umm”, “ahh”, “you know”, “I guess” and “like” which dumb down conversation and make you sound less confident. Obviously, you don’t want to keep your conversation partner waiting all day while you formulate a lengthy response to their question, but take your time to consider things and give them a well-thought-out and genuine answer.

Know Your Stuff

One easy way to give a persuasive presentation or sell a product is to know what you’re talking about. When we talk about subjects we are well-informed on, we naturally sound more intelligent as we have a better scope of the subject and can more easily analyze and answer questions on the topic. On the other hand, trying to sound like an authority on topics we know very little about is a recipe for disaster. In that event, you’ll actually look better if you take a back seat in the conversation and ask questions or simply admit that you don’t know a lot about the topic and give an opinion or observation based on your limited knowledge.

Expand Your Vocabulary

As with work or relationships, we can become comfortable with language and get stuck in our ways. We tend to use the same words and expressions over and over again and they lose their potency or they may just be non-descriptive to start with. To sound smarter, try opting for more specific and more descriptive vocabulary. Pay attention to the details and try to give more insightful comments or responses. Also, make sure to learn and use industry-specific language at work. Mate has a built-in phrasebook for studying vocab on the fly.

“A great conversation is like a game of catch.”

Celeste Hadlee, Writer and Radio Host

Listen and Ask Questions

Like playing a game of catch, it takes 2 people to have a conversation. And, a great conversation, like catch, requires that both parties participate equally. If you like the catch analogy, check out Celeste Hadlee’s TED talk, “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” or read the summary here.  In short, to sound smart, you not only need to explain your ideas eloquently but also ask thoughtful questions, make observations and show that you are genuinely interested in the topic of conversation. Asking open-ended questions (questions that start with who/what/when/where/why/how and require more than a yes/no answer) can be a good way to get your conversation partner to open up and get things going.

Asking questions can make you seem smarter and more engaged.

Use Real Words and Correct Grammar

This is a bit of a no-brainer, really. Obviously, there are slightly different standards at play whether we’re talking or presenting in our first or second language but the premise is the same. Making up words, and using questionable grammar detracts from what you’re saying. Generally speaking, we’re willing to let more slide if you’re speaking in a foreign language but if you’re giving a presentation, make you’ve rehearsed what you’re going to say beforehand and feel comfortable.

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