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Speaking Tips: A Word on Words

Updated on August 4, 2017

The writer in his early seventies

Tusitala Tom in action.   He's been into speaking for forty years and storytelling for at least thirty.
Tusitala Tom in action. He's been into speaking for forty years and storytelling for at least thirty.

What differentiates the average speaker from the outstanding?

Welcome to another Speaking Tips Hub.

What is it that differentiates the average speaker from the great? This is not an easy question to answer. Yet it is something sensed, indeed known, from what that speaker arouses in us – our response to his or her words; what feelings, what resolutions they bring to our hearts. It is a matter of the speaker’s sincerity, passion, that indefinable animal magnetism that adds to their charisma. Therein lies much of it. But I shall deal with only one aspect, the use of words, for I wish to keep this article short,

A typical audience. Tom has spoken to nearly 800 such audiences over the years

Here Tom is addressing an audience of just over sixty retirees; members of Ryde Probus Club in January 2012
Here Tom is addressing an audience of just over sixty retirees; members of Ryde Probus Club in January 2012

Words are tools of thought - so add to your vocabulary

Words - words are the tools of thought, and those tools are put to use when they are spoken to us in a particular way. The accuracy of the thought depends upon the precision of the words, and the precision of the words depends upon the learnedness of the speaker. Wooly words: woolly thought. A fine, spoken vocabulary does not need to be particularly extensive. It does, however, need to be a cut above the average man or woman’s. By that I mean it needs to contain more than that held in the minds’ the majority of people. Secondly those words need to be colorful and able to portray subtle degrees of meaning.

Another view of the same audience

Quite a good venue, audience seated theatre style and reasonably compact.
Quite a good venue, audience seated theatre style and reasonably compact.

Building our tools of expression should be a lifelong project.

This is where the tyro speaker needs to place his or her emphasis. It should be a lifelong project, this continuing building of one’s tools of expression.

As a writer and speaker I had the good fortune of leaving school at fourteen and thereby gaining the freedom to educate myself in accordance with my own desires: what to read; what to take an interest in. I also had an advantage of living a quarter of my life before the common addiction of television viewing came into vogue. Television may reveal a great deal about the world. It does little to sharpen one’s wit or ability to communicate well. It’s passive. Reading, writing and speaking are active.

Tusitala Tom telling another of his stories

People love to be entertained and little entertains as much as the after dinner story.
People love to be entertained and little entertains as much as the after dinner story.

Watch that awful business world jargon

As both writer and speaker I cringe when I hear such office jargon as “when going forward” instead of the much simpler and more meaningful word, “advancing. I do the same when I hear the word ‘basic’ put into so many sentences where it isn’t necessary. It has become a habit with many people. Then there are such expressions as ‘At the end of the day,’ ' when all's said and done,' and that overworked adjective ‘great,’ which really does grate when it’s used to describe everything from mass and size to importance. Yet so many of the people I know who genuinely wish to become top flight speakers use these more or less meaningless expressions as they speak. They are not quite Ums and Ahs, but they serve the same purpose: to pulsate the air with meaningless sound waves because the speakers are afraid of silence.

Avoid them, if you really do wish to reach your fullest potential!

Australia Day breakfast 2011 - guest speaker: Tusitala Tom

For Toastmasters: Advancing through your manuals is one thing. Doing it right is another.

Yes, I know I’m being pedantic. You’re in Toastmasters to learn Communication and Leadership Skills. Fine. You’ll achieve a measure of competence, and maybe a little too much confidence subject to shortcomings you have no intention of overcoming. “I'm doing fine. I’m advancing through the manuals. I picked up my CL and now have my ALB. Goodness, I’m on the way to becoming a DTM.”

Oh, and remember, these title's don't mean a damn thing outside of the Toastmasters environment.

Work perpetually towards being better - perpetually better

Well, if this is enough for you, good. But if you want to rise to your very best; bring out the greater you and to do it with effect, you need to perpetually work towards being better, perpetually better. And in order to do that one of the most important requirements is to have a powerful vocabulary in your ‘ready-to-use’ locker. So get into the good reading…and before you know it, you’ll really be heading up there towards being the great speaker you wish to be.


Submit a Comment
  • sujaya venkatesh profile image

    sujaya venkatesh 

    5 years ago

    a good write-up on words Tom

  • Dee aka Nonna profile image

    Dee aka Nonna 

    8 years ago

    Hey Tom, I have always enjoyed your work. I wish I had a definitive answer to your question. It is one I've had as well. A couple of hubs have been written about the scores and discussions in Q&A and forums. As near as I can come to an answer is this...the score is based, in part, on ones participation in the Hubpages community i.e. writing and posting hubs, asking and answering question in Q&A, participation in forums, hub hopping, leaving comments on other hubbers hubs and responding. I do all of this...have pretty much done it from the beginning. Above all I always leave a comment if I read something and I response to those who read my hubs.

    I don't really know how this factor in... I also have periods, some long, some brief, where I don't write because of other sites and work committments. I do not have a large body of hub articles so that may account for something as well.

    In fact I think I will hop over to read some things I may have missed. Hope you will visit me soon.

  • Tusitala Tom profile imageAUTHOR

    Tom Ware 

    8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

    Hi, Dee aka Nonna.

    Thanks for your kind words. These Hubpages are rather strange though. Can't understand why my score varies so much. Been up as high as 96 a couple of times but is now down to 91. Is the quality of my work deteriorating, or are the Hub people wanting to be spoiled by contant attention?

    Still, it is wonderful to know that people like yourself enjoy what I put on this site. Thanks again Dee.

  • Dee aka Nonna profile image

    Dee aka Nonna 

    8 years ago

    Hey Tom, I always enjoy reading the advice you have to offer. Great information. Voted up and useful


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