How to Stop Mumbling and Be Heard

In Part 2 of the mini-series on mumbling, The Public Speaker shares 8 tips and exercises to help you kick your mumbling habit forever and be heard.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #220

Last week, in Part 1 of this series, we started talking about mumbling. In the episode Why You Mumble (and Why You Need to Stop!), I gave you the top 5 top reasons why people mumble. We talked about how mumbling hurts your credibility and can negatively impact your career. As Part 2, I’m going to share some of my best secrets for kicking the mumbling habit for good!.

Mumbling happens when your conversation partner has a hard time understanding your words—when you have indistinct enunciation. How do you know if you frequently mumble?  People will often ask you to repeat yourself!   

Mumbling usually happens because your mouth isn’t open enough.  When you’ve got partially closed teeth and lips, the syllables can't escape properly and all the sounds run together. Mumbling can also be caused by looking down, and speaking too quietly or too quickly.

Today I’ll cover 8 exercises you can do to get your mouth open and your lips moving and, most importantly, to have you speaking more clearly:

Exercise #1: Enunciate. Articulate. Exaggerate.

One way to avoid mumbling is to simply remind yourself to stop mumbling with this little phrase: enunciate, articulate, exaggerate. But say it this way…

E-nun-ci-ate. Ar-tic-u-late. Ex-agg-er-ate.

Whenever you speak, it is important to enunciate or pronounce words or parts of words clearly. To do that, open your mouth very wide and pronounce each syllable separately. Try repeating these words several times this way. If you are someone who regularly mumbles, it might help you to imagine that you are outside in the wind talking on your cell phone using the speaker phone, then say the words…

E-nun-ci-ate. Ar-tic-u-late. Ex-agg-er-ate.

Or pretend like you’re really mad at someone because they're ignoring you and you are repeating the words for the third time:


Exercise #2: "The Lips, the Teeth, the Tip of the Tongue"

Keep in mind, your mouth is an instrument, and like all instruments, the more space you allow for the sound of your voice, the more resonant and clear it will be. Think of opera singers and pop stars when they need to hit the big note—their mouth is wide open.

My kids went to drama camp this summer. Enunciating their words was a big part of their training. They started each morning with a vocal exercise. You can try it now. Simply repeat these words quickly:

“The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue.”

If you don’t open your mouth widely for this exercise, what happens? You’ll fumble the words. You simply can’t repeat these words quickly without opening your mouth.

Think back to the tongue twisters you may have learned in childhood. These are all good exercises to help get your mouth wide open. Repeat each of these several times quickly:

  • Rubber baby buggy bumpers.
  • Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers.
  • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Now, let's try the "pencil in the mouth" trick!


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.