Listen to yourself speak
We know it’s terrifying, but nothing will squash those verbal ticks quite like listening to yourself speak. Record yourself in a natural conversation; for example, replay a conference call or have a friend interview you on tape. Listen for technical issues, such as filler words, up talk, monotone, and run-on sentences, as well as any habits that sound awkward or uncomfortable. Identifying the problem is the first step toward tackling it. These conversation starters will make you instantly more interesting.
Monitor your speed
Not sure if you’re speaking too fast or too slow? Try this: Copy and paste a 160-word passage into a word processor. Read the passage aloud (at your standard conversational speed) while recording yourself on a tape recorder. How long did it take you? It should be near the minute mark, says Carol A. Fleming, author of It’s the Way You Say It. “Aim for about 155 to 175 words per minute for normal conversation,” she writes. If you’re reciting background information or summarizing something, pick up the pace. If you’re explaining something more technical, slow it down. These are the magic phrases that can save an awkward conversation.