Voice Synergy News

How good are your customer facing staff?

Are they your weakest link?

bored receptionist, poor communication, telephone body language, speaking to customers, representing company, be interested, listening skills, speech skills, improve telephone skillsRing, ring…. Ring, ring…. Ring, ring….

“Good morning, you’re through to Acme Applied Applications, how can I help you?”

So far, so good. But although the receptionist is saying what s/he is thinking, what YOU hear is:

“…. morning, you’re through to A’mee-‘plied-‘cations… how ‘ann-ee-‘elp you?”

Oh dear. ARE you through to the right company? Is the receptionist listening to your reply and will your call be correctly directed to the person to whom you wish to speak?

Not a great first impression and first impressions, last.

These first moments of contact between an organisation and its potential customers are crucial to a successful business relationship. So much marketing investment is made to encourage someone to contact your organisation and make an enquiry, so it is imperative that your representative makes a great impression. 

Because we often say the same thing, time after time after time, we can be numbed to its real meaning and just repeat the words. 

Just like a performer on the stage, it is important to treat every single performance as if it were the first one. After all, the audience is completely new and fresh to each production and the actor, or presenter, owes it to the listener to speak to them as though they were the first person ever to have heard what you have to say.

In other words, you need to make a real connection with the person you’re talking to, in order for them to feel a real connection with you – and therefore listen to what you are saying. 

“Have a nice day,” is a phrase often used now in the UK having made its way over from the USA. If you are wishing someone a nice day, think about what you are actually saying and care about it. Your voice gives away your inner thoughts and if you’re distracted or absent from the sense of what you’re saying, the listener knows you’re just repeating words without the slightest care about their wellbeing. 

Three ways to improve the impact of your speech

  1. Speak clearly and at an appropriate speed. If the name of your organisation is so familiar to you that you just rattle through it, take time to slow down and say the individual words clearly. Make sure you pronounce each part of the name, including final letter sounds, such as ’T’ or ‘D’.

Experience teaches that being spoken to clearly, taking time to honour all the sounds in the words you speak, will make the listener feel connected to the speaker and basically, will make them feel better. So, if you want to make a good first impression, speak more slowly and clearly and ensure those who represent your organisation do the same.

  1. Be aware that the person listening to you has called to get vital information about your organisation, product or service. You (or your representative) owe it to this prospect to explain with clarity. Most of all, bring a freshness to your words and remember that unlike you, the listener has never heard this information before. Don’t rush through the key benefits just because they come so easily to mind… take time to speak clearly and be interested in the other person. 
  1. Put yourself in the listeners’ shoes and ensure you mean what you say. Instead of saying blandly, “This will help to speed up the connection time” (for example), first think about what you are about to say and remember how precious time is as a commodity, to all of us, and then say – to that person – in the moment – mean it! “This will help to speed up the connection time.” You may find yourself then adding words such as ‘really’ and ‘for you’, so your speech becomes more genuine, “This will really help to speed up the connection time for you.”

It is very possible that you will discover that your body language will also kick-in, supporting and giving truth to your words and you begin to feel a connection with the person you are speaking to, rather than being ‘absent’ or on autopilot.

In our everyday lives we can experience better or worse communicators. In car show rooms, for example, coming to collect the car for which we have paid thousands of pounds, the salesperson throws words carelessly over their shoulder, in your general direction: “Yeah, I’ll be with you in a minute” as they head towards someone else’s office. It makes you feel trivial, belittled and very unimportant. Then, as you recall how much money you are spending, other emotions such as indignation, annoyance and then deep irritation, if not anger, rise to the surface and a cancelled car deal could be on the cards.

Making time for our customers and potential customers is so very important and is so fundamental, it shouldn’t need spelling out really, but it really does need to be called out and improved. The way we all speak to each other (internal as well as external customers) has a significant impact on how we feel and our subsequent behaviour. The more thoughtfully we speak to each other, the better the chances of positively influencing each other’s emotions and actions. 

Get rid of the Weakest Link! Make sure your organisation maximises the amazing power of its voice. Make sure everyone who is the voice of your organisation is the strongest link. Invest in upgrading the skills of customer-facing staff to ensure they are representing you in the most positive way. 

For more information on how to achieve the best ‘Voice for the Office’, get in touch. 

Top tips for good speech habits

SpeechSome of the professional people who come to me for help with changing the way they speak sometimes struggle in the beginning. The reason for this is that for years we have all spoken on autopilot and developed sometimes poor speech habits. We don’t really pay much attention to how we actually speak or what it sounds like to others until something changes. This could be a promotion at work or a change of career.

The basics of speech are very deeply embedded in us, right from the word go. We learn from close family, from playmates, teachers, peers and colleagues as we get older. We learn what is acceptable as a tone of voice and the way of speaking which keeps us out of trouble.

When someone like me, a voice coach, comes along and begins suggesting changes to how you breathe, for example, or how to use your tongue, your lips or your teeth – it can be a bit overwhelming.

However, just like when we learn to drive, or make a cup of tea or even use a smartphone, it takes time to master the basics of good speech. In the same way, changing old habits to make your speech better takes time. First it is important to get your muscles working in coordination. Take driving, for example, how difficult was it to get clutch control for a hill start at the very beginning? At what point did the gear stick need to be moved to change to a higher or lower gear? Over time and with lots of practise, those basic driving skills were mastered and the same applies to learning how to make a cup of tea, or getting to grips with getting a new piece of software to function. And indeed, to speaking well, or, good speech.

As we enter the workplace and begin to develop our skills in our jobs, there comes a time when our voices benefit from being developed too. Instead of being the new intern, or the inexperienced junior manager or supervisor, we become accomplished in our thinking and managerial skills and begin to lead a team. We are also asked to make presentations and share information.

At this point, our voices usually haven’t had too much practise at more formal speaking scenarios. When you make a speech in front of others, there’s a lot to think about. How and when to breathe is one of the most important skills to be developed, as well as varying your tone and sounding in control. When you breathe in, you are feeding oxygen to your brain and ideas form. As you breathe out, the idea or thought becomes words which you express as you are breathing out. Take your time and practise speaking on the outbreath, immediately after you have breathed in. Impressing your team and impressing your managers is really important and taking your time to express one thought at a time will help.

Using a varied vocal tone as well as positive body language also plays a big part in how well your communication succeeds.

One important thing to remember which should help to give you confidence, is that the people listening to you – your staff or clients – have never heard what you are about to say. Never! Your words and the way you speak them are unique to you. You are giving them the benefit of your knowledge and wisdom, which might be really familiar to you, but to others, the information that you impart could make a massive difference to how they subsequently work for you and your organisation.

Another good tip is to remember to keep rehearsing your speech. Instead of just reading it out many times, break your speech into chunks. Take the first chunk, let’s call it the introduction. When you welcome people to the venue, for example – really think about what it means to welcome someone. Be in the moment, welcome them truly, be warm, smile and take time to look at your audience and engage with them. The same goes if you are thanking someone. Say the words with meaning, really express gratitude with your tone and body language and you will feel a connection with the people to whom you are speaking – and they in turn will feel a connection with you.

When you are preparing to speak to a group of people, it’s important to remember that these new habits take time to form and it is tempting to get a speech over with as soon as possible and sit down again. Rushing through your words can be a waste of time; new information takes time to process by your audience. If you gallop through your speech, most of the information will go straight over people’s heads. Allow your speech to create impact and sink in by slowing down and remembering to take a new breath at the beginning of each new sentence. Breathe in, then speak.

If you have a strong accent, then it is even more important to slow down your speech to help your listeners process your words and understand the important points you are making.

Speaking slowly and remembering to take a breath before you begin to speak the next sentence are new speaking skills and ones which will take time to learn before they become second nature.

Just like learning clutch control when you had your driver’s L plates on, new speaking skills take time to master, but once you’ve got them, you’re on the road leading to the super highway of communication.

For more information on how to develop good speech habits, get in touch.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Will their accents change after marriage?

Prince Harry and Meghan MarkMay 2018 sees The Wedding of the Year take place at Windsor Castle, Berkshire.  Prince Harry, sixth in line to the British throne, will marry Meghan Markle, former actress and United States’ Californian. Each of them speaks to the media with a fluent, calm, warm voice, but each has a completely different accent from the other. 

Will Harry and Meghan’s accents change?

In a previous newsletter, we explored Queen’s English and how Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has an accent that has changed and evolved over the last 65 years. Her son, Prince Charles speaks in a similar way to his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, but Charles’ sons, Princes William and Harry grew up in a very different world with wider exposure to people from a variety of social backgrounds, in the age of the internet, and speak with a more contemporary English accent. 

The influences on Harry’s accent over the years are numerous. Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s mother, spoke with the ‘Queen’s English’ accent – clipped and precise, which had an enduring influence in his early years but after Harry left Eton he joined the army at the age of 20 – becoming an officer in 2006 – and from that time mixed with a wide spectrum of people from many backgrounds and many accents. 

Prince Harry’s accent has neutralised a little after years mixing with soldiers of all ranks, working with charities in poorer regions of the world and spearheading the Invictus Games. The ‘insincere and distant’ qualities that had become associated with RP during the 1990s and early part of the 21st century appear to be have evaporated from Harry’s accent. 

A few years ago Received Pronunciation (RP) or Queen’s English, was an accent associated with privilege and elitism and was eschewed, even by some of those who were brought up surrounded by that accent. In the last decades, there has been a tendency to mix Queen’s English with an East London accent with the resultant accent being called ‘Estuary’ English. Today’s RP sounds less clipped and ringing than the ‘cut glass’ sound of the 20th century. And accents continue to evolve.

Our accents change to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the person to whom we are speaking and listening. David Crystal, linguist and writer, says assimilations – as it is called when we adopt accent or speech styles from others – are perfectly normal and that it is difficult to speak without them. 

Fundamentally, we want to belong to a certain group and our accent is our ‘badge’ of belonging. Subconsciously, we modify our speech to ‘fit in’ with the group we are with. Meghan Markle will want to be part of Harry’s world and is likely to increasingly adopt her new husband’s speech patterns and accent. Equally, Harry is likely to make changes to his accent to be in harmony with his wife’s speech style. 

As David Crystal says, “It’s not that one accent replaces another. Rather, features of two accents combine to make a third. When an RP speaker is influenced by a regional accent or vice versa, the result has been called ‘modified RP’”. 

There is very likely to be modified Californian accent to be heard in the new Mountbatten-Windsor household, post 19 May 2018, therefore, and equally, a modified RP accent heard from the other half of the new royal couple. And what could this sound like..? 

“You like potato and I like potahto, 

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, 

Let’s call the whole thing off.”

Despite the words that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang, back in 1937,

Harry and Meghan are highly likely to accommodate each others’ accents – and I don’t think they’ll call the whole thing off!

For more information on accents or speech, please get in touch.

Write it – Speak it!

Write it – Speak it!On 24 April, Voice Synergy launches its new course: Write it – Speak it! 

WHY is this course essential?

You have one chance to make a great impression on your audience. This course shows you how.

There are many ways of presenting:

  • A set of notes to be referred to or bullet points in your hand
  • Extensive information on a PowerPoint slide that the speaker reads out to the audience
  • The seasoned speaker that is so well versed in their own subject matter that the audience feels a bit, well, overlooked to be honest.

On the other hand, the speaker who speaks without notes or a structure of any kind can suffer from verbal diarrhoea (that is ‘to talk continuously or too much’), perhaps caused by an overflowing mind or indeed, by anxiety or lack of confidence. This can result in overrunning a time slot or missing out vital information.

What are the differences between reading out your own notes and speaking from cues?

Writing:

Writing is committed to paper (or screen) as print. It is recorded. It does not change. Your thoughts are written down for another person to read off the page.

Writing can encapsulate complex thoughts suitable for the reader to take time over, digest and return to if necessary.

Writing down information about your presentation or speech, or your project involves a particular part of your mind, leaving out your ‘spoken-aloud’ voice. It is created by your internal voice; the voice in your head. When you read your notes back, you can review them, put them into a list, put them into a different typeface, alter the line spacing, improve the indentation and numbering of bullet points. Your sentences can become quite long and complex. Sometimes we use more complicated language when we write than when we speak – which might not be audience-appropriate.

Speaking:

Speaking comes from an impulse of the moment. Speech carries energy, passion, involvement and provides a direct connection with the listener. Your voice carries your thoughts in the moment after you conceive then your head. You voice uses tone, pitch, speed, accent and intonation which can allow your message to be communicated in the way you wish. You are able to use hand gestures and body language that help to achieve your spoken communication objectives.

How to get the most out of your voice by preparing properly

The most important thing when preparing your presentation is to know your subject really well. It is also important to acknowledge what lies outside your field of expertise and set that out, too. No-one knows everything and it is much better to state where your boundaries lie if necessary.

Ask yourself – what does my audience want to get out of my presentation or speech today? What do I want them to do with the information I give them? This will help shape your content.

Preparing your voice along with your notes

Before embarking on your next presentation, pitch or speech, take time to rehearse, practise and repeat – ALOUD. The words or phrases you have written down on a page may not be easy to say. If you have tripped up a couple of times – go back to your notes and rewrite that part. If the words aren’t coming easily to you, they won’t go easily to your listeners either. Don’t be afraid to edit – and on that note, ensure you time your proposed presentation so that you have the right amount of content to fill your allocated time slot.

Avoid speaking too fast or too slowly. Practise using the range of your voice until you feel comfortable that what you are saying sounds interesting and compelling.

Speaking from notes

First of all, always remember that your audience wants to understand and benefit from what you have to say.

Remember to be inspired by your own words and so your audience will be.

Connect with your audience by ensuring good eye contact, which means using your notes as little as possible.

You will have all the information in your head and all that’s left to do is to deliver your words honestly, with truth and inspiration.

How to be a better presenter

Sign up for a place on Write it – Speak it! and benefit from coaching by stellar communicator, Debbie Chatting MA Voice Studies, MA Marketing on Tuesday 24 April at Engineers House, Clifton, Bristol.

How to Communicate with Extroverts and Introverts to Achieve Effective Project Outcomes

How to Communicate with Extroverts and Introverts to Achieve Effective Project Outcomes

Introverts and extroverts share information very differently and in the workplace this can cause significant barriers to good communication and successful project outcomes.

It’s common knowledge that an extrovert is talkative and outgoing while introverts tend to be quieter and prefer focusing on detail. But how does this get in the way of successful project outcomes and how can you effectively communicate with your opposite personality type in the office?

In the sales or marketing department, the extrovert will be talking about the big picture, going for their goals, making it happen. Extroverts are task-driven, motivated and can perceive the introvert as a barrier to getting their projects live. Extroverts tend to be loud, they speak more – but in the workplace, the extrovert from the sales and marketing team needs to collaborate with others who may be introverts, to make a project a success – how can the two types communicate successfully?

The introvert can be found in the research team, science or IT department, or other key roles in an organisation. They enjoy highly detailed work and an orderly flow of logical information as well as a relatively peaceful environment in which to work, to achieve their professional success. The introvert can be a high-detail, planning-oriented individual who takes a pride in producing highly detailed work, rooted in the most exacting level of research.

The introvert may physically cringe when an extrovert from the business development team bounces in to ‘ask questions’ as they know this could mean a barrage of seemingly unconnected questions and requests, a string of enthusiastically unstructured words (possibly spoken enthusiastically / loudly), followed by an unrealistic deadline to achieve a new unscheduled project.

So how can your voice be used to help create harmony between introverts and extroverts? Introverts and extroverts share information very differently and in the workplace this can cause significant barriers to good communication and successful project outcomes.

In meetings and/or following meetings extroverts should:

  1. Provide detail for the introvert
    • Introverts will appreciate written information to back up the information spoken about during a meeting, to which they can refer. Information should be logically ordered, numbered if possible, and clearly state what is required of them and when it should be ready.
  2. Provide more details for the introvert
    • Talk in detail about the information you demonstrate via pie charts, flow-charts, scatter charts or bar charts.
    • Label information clearly for the introvert, talk about risk management and contingency plans and add this detail to your information.
  3. Allow time
    • Contrary to the extrovert’s popular belief, plans need time to come to fruition. Consult with the introvert and agree a reasonable amount of time to read and digest the information and invite feedback (stating dates and times will be helpful).
    • The introvert will also appreciate the name and accurate contact details of one person to whom they can refer to ask questions, or make their reply. Avoid bombarding the introvert with additional questions, changing deadlines or ringing them up to speak to them every hour.

When speaking to an introvert, ensure that you cover the information in a logical order, speak calmly and quietly and be prepared to go through information in great detail.

And for the introverts, what will make their extrovert work colleagues happy and productive? The extrovert needs reassurance from the introvert that their plans are likely to work and come to fruition. This reassurance could be communicated in an email, or during a meeting where the extrovert would enjoy their contributions being acknowledged in a positive manner.

Many of Voice Synergy’s clients are highly educated and passionate about their profession. However, often in face-to-face meetings, they realise that their vocal skills are not as strong as they could be. Here are some top tips to help fantastic high-details thinkers to hold their own in a meeting and effectively communicate with their extrovert colleagues:

Posture

  • Remember you have earned the right to be at this meeting and your views and information are invaluable
  • Own your space; think tall, think wide and think positive, whether you are seated or standing.

Tone of voice

  • Practise using your voice aloud before the meeting
  • Use higher and lower notes than usual to vary your vocal tone
  • Imagine positive outcomes where you can, as you are speaking. This will help lift your voice and sound optimistic – a winner when speaking to extroverts!

Content

  • Give the detail you need to, however, précis information where you can as this will directly appeal to the extrovert. The extrovert appreciates succinctness
  • If the plan is workable, but needs revision, say so up front

The extrovert enjoys an effective working relationship where they are allowed to drive discussions. If the introvert can talk about and show interest in the extrovert’s ambitions, so much the better. Good eye contact, positive body language and less, rather than more, detail is the way to winning an extrovert’s cooperation. If the introvert can vocalise their approval of the extrovert’s plans or achievements, this will go a long way to harmonising their business relationship and the success of your company’s goals.

For more information or to book a course on How to Speak to and Motivate Different Personality Types in the Workplace, get in touch.

The London Marathon Challenge for your Voice?

Speakers like Marathon runners need stamina
Voice Synergy tips for short sprint speaking or the long run rhetoric

It’s the New Year and New Year’s Resolutions abound… One thing you might be considering, as part of your New Year’s life changing goals, is taking part in this year’s London Marathon.

And off you go at a pace, without building up stamina, warming up your muscles or even doing a few stretches. No. That would be unthinkable, eh?

Whether you are getting into shape for this year’s London Marathon, or challenging yourself to become a better speaker, you need to get match fit. You’ll be surprised to know that although most people would train hard to improve their stamina and build up marathon-ready muscles, they don’t think about training and building up vocal stamina for their important speaking event.

Just like an athlete getting into shape for the London Marathon, consider what it takes to make a great speech. You can prepare for your big speech by developing vocal strength, power and stamina. You need to be interesting, fluent and relevant to hold the attention of your audience. This takes time and effort.

Don’t leave your voice training until a few days before your presentation. Begin getting into shape a few weeks before to ensure that you have the staying power to deliver your message. You’ll need to speak with passion, conviction and impact from the strong start, through to the big finish.

Think about your chosen topic. What is at the heart of your presentation? What is your subject about and what do you want your audience to take away with them?

The more you prepare, the more familiar you will be with your subject matter. Your brain will start making connections in a considered order, once you have arranged your speech.

Next, read your work to yourself. Then read it aloud. Then using just headings, speak from your heart to tell your imaginary audience about your topic. Keep practising until you know your presentation really well. Don’t be afraid to rewrite at any time during this preparation time. Use words and phrases that you feel comfortable with saying. They might not be the same words and phrases that you have written down. Aim for a good flow of words and phrases that allow you to feel comfortable and in control.

After rehearsing your material thoroughly, go through these vocal warm ups and top tips to help you relax and be prepared:

  1. Hum, relaxing your jaw and shoulders and hum up and down a few scales
  2. Clench your lips together, pout and then give a broad smile
  3. Stretch up with your arms, giving a relaxed and wholehearted voiced yawn – up and down the scale a bit – as you bring your arms gently down to your sides
  4. Blow through your lips as you use your voice, sounds like a Brrrrr… when it’s chilly – also know as ‘Horse lips’!
  5. Give your face and jaw a gentle fingertip massage to relax your muscles.

Repeat these essential voice warm up exercises a few times, remembering to relax your shoulders and jaw as you do so.

On the day, drink water before and have water on hand to sip during your speech. Avoid alcohol until after the speech and also avoid too much milk or dairy products before making a speech.

Using these top tips, you will be well on the way to being match fit for your big presentation. You will be familiar with your material, used to the words you are speaking aloud and relaxed enough to enjoy communicating your topic to your eager audience.

Remember to enjoy your presentation. Just like the marathon runner investing time and effort to create fitness and stamina well in advance of their 26.2 mile run, preparation and practice make all the difference to the success of your speech. Your speech matters, whether it’s a vocal sprint in an elevator pitch or a marathon speech at a conference! Good luck with your speeches in 2018 and a Happy New Year to you.
For more information or to arrange a free consultation, get in touch.

Is it important to speak Queen’s English any more?

Image of Queen Elizabeth II illustrating the Queen’s English and BBC accent spoken in Britain during the twentieth centuryQueen’s English. BBC English. Non-regional specific English. What on earth is that?

During the second World War (1939-1945), with men fighting overseas, women from across the UK took on new jobs outside the home, working in factories, on the land and in hospitals. These women worked together, they came from all sorts of backgrounds and they spoke with all sorts of accents.

Accents were more pronounced in those days, owing to less social mobility and the effects of mass media being restricted to firstly BBC radio, then television which began in 1932. The BBC was itself populated by broadcasters from the upper classes who spoke ‘Queen’s English’. People grew up speaking like their parents and their friends and accent was a great indicator of social class. As soon as you began to speak it was immediately obvious from your accent that you came from Norfolk, Kent or Manchester. Phonetics Professor Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’ is able to locate Eliza Doolittle’s ‘despised’ Cockney accent immediately and accurately to Lisson Grove in London.

Strong accents can cause the listener to react to the speaker and the effect of the accent of the upper classes in 1940 was no exception.

During the second World War, The Honourable Nancy Mitford, debutante and socialite, was asked to deliver a series of lectures to trainee fire-watchers in London, but after the first lecture – she was sacked. Apparently Nancy’s upper-class vowels irritated her listeners so much that they wanted to her on the fire1.

However, Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth) spoke clearly to the nation during her first radio broadcast at the age of just fourteen in 1940, and her accent carries her social status in her young voice without a haughtiness often associated with the upper class.

Queen Elizabeth’s first television broadcast at Christmas 1957, allowed her heightened vowel sounds to be heard, with ‘often’ pronounced as ‘orfen’ and ‘lost’ as ‘lorst’. ‘Family’ was ‘fem’li’ and words with ‘a’ in them were longer as the original
/æ/ was pronounced in full. ‘Stand’ was ‘ste-and’; ‘grand’ was ‘gre-and’, for example.

Language and speech is an evolving phenomenon, however, and as the Queen has grown older, her accent has softened and her voice has lowered its pitch. It is still very clear and precise, however.

All around us, during the early decades of the 20th century, the exclusive broadcasting accents of those with an upper class, or BBC, accent were heard across the UK, both on radio and television. The owners of this accent were considered to be of a higher social status and well educated. They spoke ‘The Queen’s English’.

The sixties brought enormous change to the balance of power in the UK. Rock and Roll happened. Those with enormous artistic talent in music and fashion rocked the social balance and, as Melvyn Bragg observed in this era2, where energy goes, power follows. Scouse, Cockney and other regional accents flourished, breaking the old boundaries of wealth and class.

Since the last decades of the twentieth century, the BBC has actively recruited presenters and journalists from around the regions of the UK. John Cole, journalist, born in Belfast, reporting during the Thatcher era in the 1980s was a trusted voice to the people of the UK, according to BBC Director-General Tony Hall.

Still in the 80s, children were able to watch ITV’s ‘Biker Grove’ from Newcastle while their parents enjoyed ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’ about a team of builders working in Germany. They spoke with Cockney, Newcastle, Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham accents and Cilla Black’s ‘Blind Date’ featured contestants from all over the UK. Today BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ characters represent just about every UK accent.

Colin Pillinger, the inspiring scientist behind Britain’s Beagle 2 Mars mission in the first decade of this century, spoke with a broad West County accent, which would have been unheard of coming from the mouth of a rocket scientist a couple of decades earlier. Yet Sir David Attenborough, born in 1926, still retains his Queen’s English accent and uses his remarkable voice to illuminate BBC documentaries such as Blue Planet 2.

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, William, Duke of Cambridge, and his brother Harry speak an easy, relaxed upper class English. It still has the confidence and clarity of their grandmother, but is less ‘cut glass’ and more accessible, more in tune with modern Britain.

So the question is, does accent matter in modern Britain?

My thoughts are these:

  • Are you speaking clearly?
  • Are you clear about what you want to say?
  • Are you confident about what you are saying?

If the answer to these questions is yes – then that is the main objective of communication. The tone of your voice, the intonation, warmth, empathy, pitch and pace will come from your commitment and enthusiasm for your subject and these are hugely important qualities, more so than your accent.

Accents are becoming blurred from their origins. We live in a multicultural society where many people speak English as a second language, where English is often spoken with a strong foreign accent. With American Meghan Markle joining the Royal Family next year as she weds Prince Harry, the Queen’s English pronunciation is likely to change again. Always, however, the most important thing is to be understood and learning the rhythm and tune of the English language as well as the articulation is vital to your speech success.

The old Queen’s English or BBC English, still holds an elevated position for some and with it, the old upper-class social status. But with mass media and global travel the norm in the 21st century, many accents are becoming levelled out – and with it, the inability to pinpoint and make judgements about the speaker’s origin and class, which is probably a very good thing.

For more information about accents, get in touch.

  •  1 – The Mitford Girls by Mary S. Lovell (Little, Brown and Company 2001)
  •  2 – The Adventure of English, Melvyn Bragg (Hodder & Stoughton, 2003)

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition (some of the ingredients of ‘How to Make a Good Sales Speech’)

Ducks in a rowThe long established, three golden rules of advertising: “Repetition, repetition, repetition” can work well when you are preparing to make a sales presentation too.

Long ago, during marketing communication lectures at university, it was drawn to my attention that the potential buyer of your goods or services needs to receive your advertising message at least three times within a reasonable time frame in order to be able to recall it and then make a purchase. You will notice the frequency of TV, radio and social media advertising you receive yourself, all designed to drive home a sales message and encourage you to act upon it.

This principle holds good when applied to making a sales speech. In order to help your audience to remember your message, the heart of your speech, your presentation must repeat your key message at least three times. It must also flow, be interesting but above all, be memorable.

It is perfectly possible to repeat your message if you are speaking clearly and you can use different words and phrases which mean the same thing. For example, “this product will last.” You can also say, “you will still be using this product a year from now.” Or, “this product has a lifetime guarantee”.

Using repetition will serve to emphasise the point you are making, while keeping your presentation fresh and engaging.

Keep repeating your key message and it will sink in. Whoever hears your message will remember it, if your message is repeated at least three times.

When preparing your speech, remember this simple rule:

  1. Say what you’re going to say
  2. Say it
  3. Say what you’ve said.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, your introduction should include the bare points of what is to follow. Your introduction serves as an hors d’ouevre or an amuse bouche or a starter and it should be designed, therefore, to whet the appetite of your listeners. Allude to the main points which are to follow, but in brief, giving a taster to your audience of what you are going to serve up in your presentation.

The main body of your presentation should clearly deal with the key points you wish to make. I suggest strongly that you include only three major items here if you wish your message to be remembered and recalled after your presentation is over. Fewer points will render your speech weak and potentially a waste of time for the audience. More points could overload your audience’s memory capacity and therefore be wasted as they will be forgotten.

The three key points should each be dealt with using clarity, impact and relevance. If humour is appropriate, use it, but use it sparingly as it is can be difficult to judge the mood of the room and humour can work against you as easily as it can work for you.

Once you have clearly addressed each of your three topic areas, using logical links and compelling language, you can move on the final part of your presentation; the summary of your speech.

The concluding part of your speech or presentation follows the in-depth analysis. This should lightly touch on what you have just said, outlining again the benefits of your product or service and what those mean for your audience. Use a short story of a satisfied customer’s experience to underline the three points you made in your presentation, for example, to highlight what you have just said and bring your presentation to a well-balanced close.

There are many different ways of achieving an impactful speech. As well as using the rule of three – Repetition, repetition, repetition – a good sales presentation embodies good posture, congruent body language, and the effective use of intonation, pitch and pause.

The content of your speech – what you actually say – is vital and you need to rehearse it more than once, more than twice, ie three times, before you deliver your speech in front of your audience.

Be interesting, be yourself and remember to repeat your key message. Repeat your key message not once, not twice. Remember to repeat your key message three times and your audience has a good chance of remembering, recalling and most importantly, acting on the message to buy your product or service.

For more information on how to make a good speech get in touch.

See previous newsletters.

How to speak more clearly

Smile
Smiling exercises can help you speak more clearly

This month the spotlight is on articulation. Or, how to speak more clearly.

Why should you bother with articulation or even be thinking about it? Articulation happens when we change, or shape, the basic sounds we make into sounds that can be understood. Our articulators are our tongue, lips, teeth and soft palate.

A baby can make all sorts of sounds like ‘ooo’ ‘ahhhh’ and ‘eeee’ and we can make very accurate guesses about what the baby is ‘saying’ to us. But it’s still a guess. When we grow older and develop our speech skills, we use our articulators, including our tongue and lips to shape sounds into intelligible speech. This makes us speak more clearly.

For example, the sound ‘ahhhh’ with the addition of the tongue being held on the gum ridge (just behind our top teeth), then released, becomes ‘dah, dah, dah’ or ‘lah lah, lah’. Placing the tongue gently between the front teeth changes the sound ‘er’ to ‘the’.

The more accurately you use your articulators, the clearer your speech becomes.
Here are some top tips to help you strengthen your tongue and lips to help you speak more clearly:

The Tongue

Here are some exercises to help you to strengthen and use your tongue more effectively when you speak and help you to speak more clearly.

The tongue is a large, flexible muscle, rooted at the base of the mouth and used to shape many sounds. You will benefit from using a mirror in the following exercises:

  1. Drop your jaw away from your face so your mouth is open and let your tongue sit on your lower lip, completely relaxed. Flex the tongue so it becomes round like a sausage and relax to return to its flat state. At first this may be a challenge, but persevere and the muscle will awaken and respond well.
  2. With the jaw still relaxed and dropped away from your face, curl the tip of your tongue to precisely touch the centre of the top lip, then touch the tip of the tongue to the centre of the bottom lip. Maintain the distance between the two lips to encourage the tongue to travel and grow in strength and accuracy. Relax your shoulders, keep your head free and centred between your shoulders.
  3. Repeat the above exercise, and then move the tip of the tongue to the corner of the right side of the mouth, then to the left, so the tip of the tongue is bending up, down, right, left. Ensure you are very precise with the point of contact. It can help to touch the tip of your tongue with your finger then touch the centre top lip to match the two points of contact then allowing them to locate.
  4. Then move the tongue to make contact at that exact point before moving to the next point and so on. Take your time—this is a new exercise and takes time to master.
  5. Maintaining the position of the jaw dropped away from the face, put the tip of your tongue in front of your bottom teeth and inside your bottom lip. Move the tip of your tongue around the teeth in a clockwise direction, noticing the texture and shape of the teeth, then move up to the top teeth, all around, down to the bottom teeth and finishing back at the start point. Repeat in the other direction.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the tip of the tongue on the lips themselves, clockwise then anticlockwise.
    Stick your tongue out as far as you can in a straight line and pull back in until it is bunched at the back of the mouth. Keep the jaw dropped away from your face during this exercise.
  7. Leave the tip of the tongue resting behind your bottom teeth, low in the mouth. Allow the wide middle of the tongue to come forward (rather like a frog action!) and bring back into the mouth again.

Repeat each of these exercises 5–10 times and take your time. Your body will find it new and it is your role to introduce the new demands slowly and build up strength and flexibility over a period of time. Relax your tongue by making a flappy ‘blblbl’ sound as your flick your tongue out and over your lips.

The Lips

Here are some exercises to strengthen and create more flexibility with your lips to help you speak more clearly.

  1. Your lips work in conjunction with your teeth and tongue to shape your words clearly. Your lips move in all directions, up and down, sideways, in and out, assisted by many facial muscles which grow stronger with exercise. Regularly warming up and strengthening these articulators is essential to speaking more clearly.
  2. Give a wide, expansive smile that includes a sparkle in your eyes. Relax, and then bring the lips together in an exaggerated French-style pout. Pull the lips together so they can hardly be seen, then tuck the lips around the teeth, as though you have no teeth to show. Repeat several times in different combinations.
  3. On an out-breath blow the ‘Brrrr’ sound out through your lips, ‘horse lips’ as it is sometimes called! It can also sound like an old car puttering along the country lanes. The lips are completely relaxed and your voice just helps to blow the sound through your lips. This relaxes the lips, the sound of your voice keeps the sound at the front of the mouth while gently continuing to warm up your vocal folds in your larynx.
  4. Give your face a gentle massage around your mouth area, using a light circular touch with your fingertips.
  5. Next, read a challenging political speech aloud, over-articulating each word, exaggerating all articulator actions. Pause at punctuation and take a full breath with each new sentence.

These warm up exercises will help you to develop your speech muscles and shape your speech more accurately. The more you practise, the easier it becomes and the clearer your speech.

To book a one-to-one coaching session, or for more information on speaking more clearly, get in touch.

Speech of Fire and Ice

Speech of fire and ice“When you speak a language, it has to be authentic.” So says David Peterson, creator of Dothraki and Valyrian languages for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Those whose native tongue is Dothraki or Valyrian speak with an authenticity that gives an air of command and authority. The strong 18 consonant sounds superbly blended with the six long and short vowel sounds have been refined to effectively invent a new language in Game of Thrones.

Daenerys Targaryen (Khaleesi) speaks High Valyrian (a refined form of Dothraki) as well as English.

Throughout the seven seasons of Game of Thrones, Valyrian is heard being delivered by those in high command, in high status roles, challenging and influencing their audiences.

The ability to make great speeches doesn’t just fall into your lap. To make great speeches, it is essential to use the full power of your voice. Use those consonants to shape your words clearly, use those vowels to create the heart of your speech, whether you are speaking Dothraki, High Valyrian or English.

Whatever you say, it is vital to be authentic in your speech. Believe in what you are saying, be present, and honour the sounds of the words you speak.

Just like Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, it is possible for you to be commanding, persuasive and most importantly – authentic – you just need presence, timing and outstanding speech skills.

For more information, get in touch.