Michelle Bowden: how to speak elegantly

Have you ever noticed that most news readers have a low, authoritative vocal tone? It's highly likely they use the Commanding Eagle method of persuasion. Here, persuasion expert Michelle Bowden explains how to be a Commanding Eagle and why it will make you more credible.

When it comes to persuading the people around you, you may not know there are four main persuasive types – the Wise Owl, the Commanding Eagle, the Friendly Budgie and the Captivating Peacock.

Commanding Eagles are the type that is driven to persuade by establishing personal authority.

They give people the sense that they have done this before and you can trust them.

As you know, people usually build their authority and credibility over time. 

One way to build your credibility and bring out your inner Commanding Eagle is to speak with elegance.

When Commanding Eagles speak, they demonstrate fluidity, elegance and smoothness in their speech.

And, interestingly, they often speak just a little faster than average, as though they are just that little bit more intelligent and, therefore, able to form their thoughts more quickly than the average person!

Credible people give you that impressive sense that they can think on their feet no matter the issue being discussed. 

Here’s how you build spoken elegance:

  • write out your answers in advance
  • articulate well
  • resonate vocally
  • pause for power
  • use vocal flexibility
  • eliminate annoying linguistic habits.

Let’s look at each of these actions in more detail.

Write out your answers in advance

Credible people don’t waffle.

As scientist, inventor and statesman Benjamin Franklin is said to have wisely noted, “When you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

While no substantive evidence exists that Benjamin Franklin employed this adage, his words are powerful.

And the opposite is also true: when you plan thoroughly, and you know your words will shift your stakeholder from where they are to where you want them to be, and then you practice until you can’t get it wrong, you’ll be undeniable. 

To improve your spoken elegance, brainstorm and write out a list of possible matters you will need to discuss.

The writing process helps you refine your thinking and craft your perfect response.

I have clients with a special notebook they use for this purpose. In preparation for upcoming meetings where they might be asked their opinion on a matter, they jot down their thoughts and then refine them so they are brief, insightful and can be delivered smoothly.

The writing also acts as another type of rehearsal. 

Fun fact: Ronald Reagan was a master at delivering short, impactful messages.

The story goes that he kept more than 30 palm cards with him that contained his key points on a wide variety of subjects that he might find himself discussing — everything from the world economy to race relations and the Cold War.

Before attending an event, he flipped through the cards to find the most appropriate conversation starters and responses.


Articulation is the clarity of your words and, as US entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn highlights, “Accuracy builds credibility”.

If you speak quickly, focusing on emphasising the beginning and ends of your words will mean they are clear and crisp. 

To articulate, warm up your lips, teeth, cheeks and tongue so that you can say your words nice and quickly without tripping or choking.

Blowing raspberries, stretching your lips into the shape of a kiss (with your lips pouting) and then a grin (with your top and bottom teeth showing), and neighing like a horse help warm your articulation.

Have some fun with this! The point is that you want to speak with clear, crisp articulation so you further cement your credibility.

Resonate vocally

We associate authority and credibility with people who have a deep, rich vocal tone (male or female).

Your vocal tone has nothing to do with how flat or interesting your voice is.

It’s not about the highs and lows in the sound when you speak (that’s called your vocal range).

Instead, your tone refers to the resonance of your voice or how smoothly your sound reverberates through the resonating chambers of your face when you speak.

Listen to anyone who has been to four years of acting school and notice that they speak with a rich, resonant tone.

The good news is that you can warm your tone — and when you do, you’ll automatically improve your credibility with it. 

If you’d like to warm up your tone, you need to do some big guttural yawns.

Forget what your parents told you about yawning with polite manners and be sure you open your mouth very wide. As you do, make a guttural sound from the back of your throat that sounds a bit like this, “Ahhhhhh”.

Do this five times in a row.

You can do this on the way to work each morning (although maybe not on public transport), before an important meeting or whenever you have a spare moment because the results are cumulative.

The more you do this, the deeper your tone will be. The benefits last for hours after each set of five yawns.

Pause for power

The ability to hold the silence and not fill it with meaningless chitchat is the sign of a true Commanding Eagle.

Writer Mark Twain wisely said, “No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause”.

Pauses help you separate one point from another.

They give your stakeholder a moment to reflect on what you said.

Pauses in the right places make you more persuasive.

Use vocal flexibility

Ending a sentence on a high note sounds like you’re asking a question.

When you end your sentence on a down note, it comes across more confidently and more like a command.

Commanding Eagles speak with conviction, which means they generally end their sentences on a low note.

Eliminate annoying linguistic habits

People with personal credibility give you that impressive sense that they are a complete expert, and they express their message in a way that makes their assertions undeniable.

They don’t say ‘Um’ and ‘Ahh’, they don’t use overcomplicated words, and they are confident you heard them the first time, so they don’t repeat themselves unnecessarily.

And because of these habits, any reasonable person would not be able to disagree with them.

To appear personally credible, it’s important to do two things to eliminate annoying linguistic habits:

1. Speak plain English.

2. Don’t repeat yourself.

Speak plain English

Be sure to use the right words in your sentences. Don’t try to use complicated words that no one understands, and don’t accidentally use the wrong word or the wrong pronunciation of a word in an attempt to sound sophisticated (unless you’re doing it on purpose to get a laugh).

Using the wrong word, or a mispronounced word, makes you look like you’re trying too hard and is a turn-off.

Don’t repeat yourself

Commanding Eagles communicate clearly and succinctly.

They are so confident in their knowledge and capability that they expect you heard them the first time, even if you don’t give them an active listening signal.

For this reason, they rarely repeat themselves unnecessarily.

To build this as your habit, say something once and clearly, and don’t fall into the trap of thinking people didn’t hear you the first time and repeat yourself! 

No one is just a Commanding Eagle. We all have a combination of the four types in us.

However, in most persuasive situations, conveying personal authority is something your stakeholder is expecting from you if they are to believe you — so use personal authority to improve your overall persuasiveness in life. Happy persuading!

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Michelle Bowden

Michelle Bowden is Australia's expert on presenting persuasively in business. She's a best-selling, internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting your ideas and influencing people using techniques that actually work. For more information visit