How do some people sound so conversational when they’re presenting while the rest of look and sound like we’re hating every second of it? They appear genuine, approachable, and persuasive; and we appear tense, dull, and rehearsed—it doesn’t seem fair!


Should the rest of us just give up and leave the presenting to the naturals? No, please don’t! You too have ideas to convey and people to lead, and you should allow your presentation skills to help you with that mission.


What can you do to sound more conversational?


I teach a class in business communication for the University of North Carolina where I talk to students about how to sound more conversational. In that class, I remind them of certain tricks of the trade:


  • project your voice naturally
  • vary your pace and inflection
  • use pauses to create interest
  • make solid eye contact
  • use expressive gestures and facial expressions

All these are good tips, but there’s something more basic that you should keep in mind to sound conversational.


Sound like yourself


Telling someone who wants to sound more conversational to “sound like yourself” may sound like like telling someone who’s stressing out to “just relax.” But I don’t mean to be glib with this advice. Let me break it down.


What does it mean to sound conversational? To me, it means sounding like you sound when you’re talking to a friend over lunch, making a point eloquently about something you care about.


Notice I said eloquently! You can do some things that sound conversational in a non-business setting that won’t work in business like, for example, using too much verbal clutter (e.g., ah, um, like, you know) or rambling without a point.


But assuming you can get a handle on your verbal clutter and you have an actual point to make, do you know how to sound conversational? I’d argue that we all do because we’ve all done it at some point.


The Key: Remember a great conversation you had


Think about a time when you’ve had a great two-sided conversation. Can you picture it? You’re with a friend maybe, feeling relaxed, and you’re talking about something that you know something about and/or about which you feel passionately. You’re in command of the subject matter and nerves are not an issue.


Now, consider the following questions: What do you sound like? What’s your voice doing? What are your face and body doing? How much are you using pauses in your speech? Which of the tips from the list above are you naturally and effectively applying in that conversation you’re recalling? What else are you doing that’s not on the list?


You already know how to sound conversational


Here’s my point: You already know how to sound conversational—you just have to bring your awareness about sounding that way to your presentations.


So, if it helps you, definitely keep handy a list of tips for sounding conversational (like the short list above) as you practice your next presentation.


More importantly, though, don’t forget what you already know works well for you in situations where you’re feeling knowledgeable and relaxed. When you connect with that personal knowledge as you present, you can’t help but sound naturally conversational, and you’ll be the confident, effective presenter you want to be.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with Purpose to get the business results they want.