Why expatriates choose South Africa
Top Tips from our Recruiters!

Stressed about an upcoming presentation? Or maybe just trying to brush up on your conversational skills? Here are some tips on how to sound smart, even if you might not be feeling that way.

Nonverbal language:

A large part of sounding smart has to do with nonverbal language. Seems weird, but its true. The way you carry yourself can affect how what you say is received, because your body language speaks volumes without you saying anything.

  • Try and portray an open body language. Sit or stand upright, yet relaxed. This makes you seem more confident in yourself, which in turn makes your speech more convincing.
  • Keep your head up, literally.
  • Maintain eye contact with your listeners, as it shows you see them and are addressing them directly. This creates a more personal connection, encouraging your listeners to be more invested.
  • Avoid crossing your arms, as you might come across as aggressive or upset.
  • Use your space. If addressing a room, try and move around it, or lean forward if making an important point. Providing variety in your posture can help hold your listeners attention.
  • Gesticulate! Use your hands to gently emphasise key points. Remember to keep your gestures related to your speech.
  • Avoid fiddling! Any unnecessary movement can be distracting to your listeners, taking them away from your words.

Pitch, pace and tone:

  • Projection is key! You need to speak at a level where your voice can be heard clearly and succinctly. Importantly, you should not be yelling. Your voice should comfortably reach the back of the room.
  • Alternate your pacing. Introducing new points should be discussed slower to give your listeners time to take it in and understand, whereas summarizing your key points could be spoken at a faster pace. Think of pausing at dramatic points to create emphasis.
  • Match your tone to the conversation. You don’t want to sound angry, sarcastic, or pretentious if the conversation does not call for it.


  • Know your crowd! If addressing a group of professionals. In a given field, you are able to use specific jargon that might not make sense to people not in the field.
  • Avoid filler words. “uhm”, “uh”, “like” and other such words act as conversational fillers. They represent points where your brain is scrambling for other words, and attempts to cover the silence. But they can make you seem as if you don’t know what you’re speaking about.
  • Ask questions! When people ask questions, it shows that they’ve taken in what you’ve said and want to understand further.
  • Use bridging words. Words such as “therefore”, “furthermore”, “thus”, “subsequently” and others help connect your speech effectively. As a result, you sound more purposeful when you speak, making your listener more likely to listen and believe you.

General tips:

  • Read more! Referencing literature in conversations tend to make you seem well-read. Furthermore, reading more helps you better grasp grammar and broadens your vocabulary.
  • Know your current events. Download a news app and scan the headlines every morning. Even if you don’t have time to read the full article, you at least know something about current events.
  • Steer the conversation. If a conversation moves away from you to stuff you are not versed in, try to steer the conversation back to a space you can comfortable speak in.

Do you have any other tips on how to sound smart? Leave them down in the comments below!

Why expatriates choose South Africa
Top Tips from our Recruiters!