Voice Synergy News

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.

Why is the Italian accent so special?

Italian accent illustrated by image of gondolier in Venice, Italy, photograph by Voice SynergyRossini, Puccini, Bellini… the great opera composers knew a thing or two about the Italian accent and how wonderfully the vowel sounds resonate at length around the opera halls.

The sound of a long ‘ah’, ‘ee’ or ‘oo’ contributes so much to the atmosphere created by the singer and expresses the emotions of fear, despair and love. Add some long ‘or’, ‘air’ and ‘er’ vowels and the audience is transported.

Operas seized the opportunity to influence their audiences through the music and sounds of the words and vowels of the great singers. But it’s not just the great Italian operas which uses the long vowels so effectively to impact on the listeners. And it’s not just in song that you hear those long vowels.

Listening to lively conversations, during a recent trip to Venice, the melodic rhythm of the Italian speakers was all around. The passion of the spoken language was evident with the strong emphasis on the vowels – supported by the hand movements and body gestures. So expressive, so passionate, so very different from the way British English speakers speak.

Sometimes clients explain that they have just one style of speaking, especially if they come from Italy or Spain. It’s rapid, full of supportive hand gestures and loud. These clients say that their voice style is holding them back in the business world. With voice coaching you can discover new ways to use your voice. The right kind of voice for the right occasion. Subtle, quiet, persuasive or authoritative speech can win you respect from your peers and even new business from your clients.

With voice coaching to help you find new ways of expressing yourself, you can choose or lose those long vowels. It’s horses for courses, as we say in the UK, or the right voice for the right business occasion.

For more help with improving your accent and speech, get in touch.

Voice recognition technology

Voice recognitionLove it or loathe it? Voice recognition technology is all around us at every moment of the day. We can ask our smartphone what the weather will be tomorrow, dictate notes, or vocally activate a bank account transaction. But is voice recognition technology as good as it claims to be?

A lighter take on the drawbacks of voice recognition from a lift somewhere in Scotland can be seen here.

Two Scottish guys are imploring a voice-activated lift with increasing desperation, to whisk them up to the eleventh floor. Their Scottish accent is not understood. They try an American then English accent in a dismayed attempt for their voice command to be recognised and understood. But the lift’s voice recognition technology has been developed by the United States and any other accent becomes an insurmountable barrier which results in the Scottish guys being literally, grounded.

BBC Radio 4’s programme, “Word of Mouth” presented by Chris Ledgyard, tackles the complexity of voice recognition and asks, how well can a computer analyse speech?

With difficulty, it seems. The human voice is a complex mixture of your physical characteristics and lifestyle as well as a healthy dose of ‘state of mind’ and ‘social context’. If you’re chatting to a group of friends in a pub, for example, or speaking to your doctor about your health problems, chances are your voice will have a very different blend of characteristics in each situation. A drift of accent, a change in level of relaxation, even a change depending on whether you are sitting or standing will affect your voice pattern and would present a problem for voice recognition technology.

The voice is a very changeable thing. The vocal tract is subject to emotional as well as physical influences and according to forensic speech expert, Peter French, you would never find two matching utterances from the same individual. If you say something as simple as ‘Yes’ a million times, there won’t be an exact pair.

So where does that leave us with our new secure banking access, based on voice? According to the Guardian, banks such as HSBC/First Direct and Barclays are using their customers voices to build up a data bank to help with voice recognition. Once the customer has submitted enough vocal material, they can choose to use voice recognition rather than a password. Santander plc have gone further and their approved customers are able to transfer money by their voice alone.

Should we be worried about the security of our bank accounts if they are voice activated? Have you had a good or bad experience of voice recognition technology? If so, please me know.

For more information and help on how to speak clearly to a human or a machine, in any accent, please do get in touch.

Ditch the dull monotone! Wake up your voice! 

Sound of Music to make your voice sound more interestingThe Greek word for “one tone” is monotonia, which is the root for both monotone and the closely-related word monotonous, which means “dull and tedious.” A continuous sound, especially someone’s voice, that doesn’t rise and fall in pitch, is a monotone.

Know someone in your office that sounds that way? Could it be you?

Wouldn’t it be exciting if people we encountered on a daily basis had interesting, compelling voices, the sort of sound we really enjoyed listening to?

Our voices can go into ‘auto-pilot’ and information can be trotted out routinely, with very little alteration to the pitch throughout the entire sentence. You think you sound boring, other people think you sound boring, and valuable information can be buried in a deep, dull, voice.

This needn’t be the case!

To wake up your voice a little, just try the following steps:

  1. Hum up the scale of ‘Doh, ray, me, far, so, lah, tea, doh’ (as Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’!)
  2. Repeat going back down the scale.
  3. Now substitute the words, “This is how my voice can sound good” for each of the notes up and then down the scale.
  4. Next, ‘say’ the words instead of using a ‘singing voice’, to normalise the sound.
  5. Finally, choose a word you wish to emphasise and use a higher note for that word.

It takes practise to use your voice to highlight words using the pitch of your voice but you’ll be surprised at how effective it can be. Listen to BBC radio broadcasters and notice how they use their voices to emphasise words using pitch. Practise making your voice start on a higher pitch and gradually getting lower until you ‘land’ on the final ‘note’. Practise starting low, going higher and finishing low again.

Most importantly, enjoy what you are saying. Your enthusiasm should help to release your voice to be more expressive and convey your ideas, giving them life and sparking interest…

For more information on using pitch, tone and intonation, get in touch.

Warm up your articulators and celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday!

ShakespeareDid you know that it was Shakespeare’s birthday on 23 April? The Bard, as he is known, was responsible for introducing hundreds of new words into the English language back in the 1600s, many of which we still use today.

Manager, Ladybird, Inaudible, Swagger and Laughable are among those first penned by Shakespeare. Less common terms are Clay-brained, Dog-hearted, Paper-faced and Rump-fed. Words creating a compliment include Honey-tongued, Tiger-booted, Wafer-cake and Smilet.

Shakespeare’s words are so cleverly crafted but many have fallen out of favour. Nevertheless – there is plenty of opportunity to use his expressions as an articulation warm-up, before an important speech.

Using your tongue and lips to their fullest potential, try saying:
‘Thou thunder darting, tiger booted, canker blossom”. Or how about, ‘Thou peevish, shag-eared rabbit-sucker’? Slow the words right down for the fullest effect.

If you really want to get your articulators moving, this one will certainly help:
‘Thou waggish, peevish, grizzled, white-livered clot pole.’ Not one to try on your director if you’re looking for the next rung on the career ladder, perhaps.

Shakespeare can be a lot of fun. Using just a few of his less common words as a warm up releases you from the ordinary and takes you to the unexpected. This helps with slowing your speech down a little and giving your lips and tongue time to fully form the sounds of the words.

Good luck with that, thou celestial, young-eyed cuckoo-bud!

For more information on how to improve your articulation, get in touch.

Speech Habits – get the best from your voice

Barak Obama demonstrates good use of voiceWhat do you want from your voice? To inspire others..? To lead your team…? To convey your ideas with enthusiasm and clarity…?

How can you achieve that and what is stopping you?

Over time we all develop poor habits and the way we routinely use our voice is no exception. Unchallenged, we will go on speaking the way we always have done and wonder why

  • we don’t get promoted
  • others seem more successful
  • we suffer from a lack of confidence when speaking.

I hear people who speak too quickly, mumble, have a strong accent or who are simply nervous about speaking in front of others and these speech habits can block our progress.

If we speak in a certain way and don’t receive any guidance, our speech habits become embedded, and we don’t even think about it. Try folding your arms. Now do it again, but cross them the other way round. The second way will probably feel strange and slightly uncomfortable, even unbalanced. This can quickly showed you an embedded habit.

The ‘new’ way may feel different for a short time, but undertaken routinely, this way soon becomes the new habitual and embeds into muscle memory.

Five key ingredients for improved speech habits are:

  • Pitch
  • Pace
  • Pause
  • Projection
  • Passion

Try taking yourself out of your speech comfort zone – if you experience more, you may have more tumbles but you develop higher levels of ability through finding and using good speech habits.

For help to release you from your speech habits, get in touch.

Mumbling? Or has the cat just got your tongue?

MumblingThe new big budget drama from the BBC, ‘SS Great Britain’, has been slammed for poor sound quality – in particular actors’ mumbling. More than 1.5million of the 7m viewers switched off before the end of the first episode.

Like the BBC’s ‘Jamaica Inn’, viewers struggled to interpret what characters were saying and, frustrated at failing to catch key words and phrases, voted with the OFF button.

It´s one thing to make an ‘artistic interpretation’ of the script when playing a character when you are an actor, but if you´re at the sharp end of business – clear diction is essential – no mumbling.

One of the fundamentals of marketing is that to have successful communication, there must be a meaningful transmission of information on one side and meaningful reception of that information on the other. When you speak, your listeners must hear what you want them to hear. Clarity, tone and articulation are essential if you want your message to be received and understood. No drama, no mumbling, just good speech skills.

New Year, New Career… New Interview Voice!

Interview panelFIDGET fidget; knee bouncing… Check papers, check notes… Mentally rehearse opening lines of interview… Think of an example of a time where I demonstrated leadership/innovation/inspiration…?

It’s the interview season, the time of New Year’s resolutions, the time to make the most of your potential. You challenge yourself to progress your career and carefully modify your CV. Then begins the round of interviews and the opportunity to display some of your sparkling interpersonal skills.

However, before you begin, think, ‘how does my voice sound?’ Does your voice make you sound interesting? Do you speak too quickly or perhaps you need to speak more clearly? Make sure these comments from recruitment agencies don’t relate to you:
“He was a great candidate on paper, but he tended to mumble, he let himself down, really.”
“I noticed she had a tendency to fidget, which was off-putting, plus she spoke so quickly I couldn’t catch everything she said.”
“He knew so much but the way he spoke was really dull. His voice was just a monotone.”

There are many aspects to an interview that you can practise before the big day to improve your posture and speech skills and avoid those pitfalls. As well as writing your CV and covering letter, put your energies into improving your voice by doing ‘speak-out-loud rehearsals’.

Here are five top speaking tips to help you triumph in an interview. Improving your speech skills ahead of the interview will ensure you make the most of your voice in front of those dreaded interrogators:

  1. Rehearse your opening sentences with which to impress the interviewer(s)
  2. Speak your prepared words aloud, using the range of your voice to sound interesting
  3. Record your voice, speak clearly, listen back, make notes and repeat
  4. Film yourself, watch back and again, modify your approach and repeat
  5. Remember to take time to breathe.

On the day of interview, you will be a Professional Voice User. You are potentially the next Head of Department / Director of Operations / Senior Partner and your voice matters. Make your voice interesting and be fluent. The time you have invested into rehearsals will pay dividends. Listen to the interview questions and respond using an interesting voice. Your voice and body language can boost or break your career.

Here is a short checklist to help you prepare your voice, calm your nerves and shine at your next interview:

  1. Rehearse what you are going to say – out loud, several times to warm up your voice
  2. Take time to have a sip of water during your interview, it lubricates your voice
  3. Remember to breathe before you begin to speak
  4. Maintain good posture, both seated and standing
  5. Resist any temptation to fidget, sit still and maintain good eye contact
  6. Use the range of your voice to good effect and speak clearly
  7. Practise pausing to add weight and impact to your words.

Enjoy a sparkling career in 2017 and for more information on voice coaching, get in touch.

HO HO HO…the benefits of laughing

The benefits of laughing on our bodies and voice

hohohoIt’s the season of goodwill and Father Christmas is soon to arrive with his sleigh full of special treats. But why does he say ‘Ho, ho, ho!’? Perhaps it’s about his general air of relaxation and happiness… and it’s Santa’s relaxed state that we should adopt if we’re about to perform.

Muscles in your body and especially in your larynx (voicebox) can tense up if you are about to perform a speech. Tension in your body can manifest in the quality of your voice, restricting how it carries, how it resonates. Finding out how to relax your body and therefore improve your vocal performance can pay dividends. A good way to begin is to do the following Christmas exercises (five to ten times through):

Stand in front of a mirror. Screw up the muscles in your face so you look as though you’ve been chewing a lemon! Then relax and quickly open your mouth and eyes wide and stick your tongue out, looking like a lion’s roar.

Give a big wide grin; so wide the sides of your mouth almost reach your ears. Relax and blow out the air between your loose lips making a tractor sound.

Think of a great joke. My short, clean and memorable joke is “What did the zero say to the eight? ….. Nice belt!” Give a wide smile and create the sound, ‘Ha ha ha ha ha!” Breathe in and repeat with ‘Ho ho ho ho ho!’ Then, ‘Hee hee hee hee hee!’ (try seriously to get into it!) Remember great jokes you have heard before and repeat them out loud, looking into the mirror and laughing as described above.

After a short time you will begin to relax and give a big genuine grin to yourself. Try it with a group of friends during a night out. According to research we’re 30 times more likely to laugh at something when we are with other people.

We are also more likely to laugh when we hear someone laughing in an inappropriate situation. A classic example is newsreader Charlotte Green attempting to read the news live on BBC Radio 4 whilst desperately trying to suppress a fit of the giggles

You should be nice and relaxed now, ready to speak. A Merry Christmas to you!

Is your accent holding you back?


Is English your second language? If so, your accent can be a barrier to promotion and according to the Financial Times (3.11.16), heavily accented voices can struggle to be heard in the workplace.

According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, “non-native speakers of English are common in the workforce throughout the world, but those studying organizational behavior and human resources management have only recently begun to understand the effects of non-native accent on the speaker’s opportunities and performance.

“Two trends make this an increasingly important issue.

“First, the United Nations (2010) reported that 214 million people – one out of every 33 people in the world today – work in a country other than their birth country, with immigrants working at all occupational levels and in virtually every country in the world.

“Second, English increasingly has become the “language of business” throughout the world, with an estimated one billion nonnative speakers of English (Cook, 1999) in the workplace.”*

Even native English speakers are obliged to be clearly understood. In the legal profession, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) now requires that barristers must speak fluent English from ‘day one’ of being issued with a practising certificate. (Counsel, November 2016.)

Speaking English as an English person, is not just a matter of accent. It is a matter of using your voice with certain patterns, rhythms and ‘tune’. It’s a matter of knowing when and how to pause and it’s a matter of affecting your listeners in a positive way. Like all good communication, speech should comprise a meaningful transmission on one side and a meaningful reception on the other.

Many of our clients are professionals who come to us for help with accent reduction. They wish to develop a more effective way of speaking – and they become better, more confident, communicators.

Your voice is an amazing instrument, complex and versatile with massive potential for a variety of range and pitch. If you’re facing challenges at work because of your accent, or you have staff who would benefit from accent reduction – get in touch.



*© 2013 American Psychological Association