We’ve been hearing plenty of accents through our various media channels these last few weeks especially via speeches made by US politicians, US reporters and UK media channels. During the nail-biting days, spanning the pre- and post- US election day where President Trump seems to have failed to win enough votes to hold off President-Elect Joe Biden, we have heard accents aplenty. Accents from Georgia to North Carolina, from Arizona to Alaska, from London to Liverpool have been carrying countless questions about the predicted outcome of the US election.
In the main, we have understood each speaker’s voice, accent does not hamper understanding of the message. Sometimes the rate of delivery seemed to be at warp speed when listening to commentators on US TV station CNN! But the message and commentary was clear.
The American accent varies from place to place but not so much as in the UK. Simply put, accent variation can mean something as simple as a pronunciation of ‘grass’ as though it has an extra ‘r’ in it (‘grarss’) for example. This change in the ‘a’ being a short or long sound is heard in both UK and US accents but does not distract from the sense or meaning of a speech.
Use your voice well
In the UK we can get quite sniffy about accent, but I suggest that more important than accent is good vocal communication. Good speech is about being clear and the impulse that carries the speech and drives the message home.
Good communication is about more than accent. Good communication is about articulating well, the tune of the voice and speaking at the right pace.
When we speak, it’s also important to identify the underlying emotion to what is being said. This can be conveyed through pitch and tone.
Delivering a speech on Zoom
For example, if you are listening to a presenter on Zoom who has just introduced their topic and is about to go into the ‘slides’ part of their presentation, it would be nice to think that their voice would step up to the occasion.
Speaking to a group of people is a bit like putting on a show. Your voice is different from your everyday conversational speaking.
Those who deliver a presentation, are fulfilling the role of a professional speaker. When speaking to a group, it’s important to speak more slowly than usual, to take a breath between sentences (to allow the listeners to process what is being said) and think about the ‘takeaways’ from what is being said.
What are the ‘takeaways’ from the speech? Quite simply ask yourself how do you want your listeners to react?
It’s useful to consider what you want to achieve, or put another way, why are you making that presentation?
What do you want to achieve as a result of your speech?
Are you speaking:
- To inspire
- To encourage
- To inform
What you want to get out of your speech will inform how you deliver it. In other words, use your voice to communicate with an impulse to influence your listener. For example, enthusiasm, encouragement or inspiration can be transmitted via your voice.
As well as being clear in your speech, the music, or cadence, of the voice is important. It’s easy to fall into poor speech habits where the voice becomes monotonous.
If you feel your voice is a bit flat and lacks interest, think about lifting one or two of your key words in a sentence to a higher pitch.
If you’ve always been in a rush to get information across, your words can be so ‘joined up’ that it’s difficult for the listener to untangle them and make sense of it. Your words can be like a series of train carriages that are linked so closely together, there’s no distinguishing between the end of one carriage and the beginning of the next! Imagine if your words sounded like this: Imagineifyourwordssoundedlikethis…!
It is helpful to think about what you want to say and how you want your listener to react or respond – and your voice should follow your thoughts and energy in a positive way.
In terms of clarity, adding in final ’t’s at the ends of words like ‘light, out, wrote’, pausing to allow a moment of reflection plus creating a bit of ‘lift’ to your normal voice patterns will pay dividends in terms of how your speech is received.
When you make changes to your voice patterns, it can feel very strange to begin with.
With practice and patience you can become a great speaker, whatever your accent.
Overall, my advice is to be yourself and be interesting!
For more information and for help with voice and accent coaching, please get in touch.