I’ve been in Hong Kong for two weeks now but before I left I picked up on an amusing local news story which I thought you might enjoy. Birmingham City Council have recently installed a new automated phone system provided by a northern company. The automated voice speaks with a Northern accent which would be fine except for the fact that it not it doesn’t always recognise callers with a Brummie accent! Even City Councillor’s have been frustrated and after half an hour of repeating words and phrases and getting nowhere they simply gave up and contacted a real person instead.
Being understood is a fundamental part of communication and you might also be surprised to learn that accents affect us subconsciously. Certain accents have a negative connotation. For example, a Black Country accent has been scientifically proven to be off-putting. There is a reason for this, it’s because it comes down the nose and we don’t like nasality when we hear it. I am constantly working with business people to soften their accents. If it makes you more likeable to a potential customer or client then it could be a good move.
You may know that I am working as an adjudicator in Hong Kong at the moment. I don’t get back until 20th December so they’ll be no work in the UK for me until 2013. Thank you so much for continuing to read and enjoy my blogs. You can keep in touch with what’s coming up at Loud & Clear voice coaching here. I would particularly recommend Voice Matters in Business at Solihull on 24th January still at only £40 and the only West Midlands course available for the first half of 2013.
Have a really wonderful Christmas and raise your glasses to a prosperous New Year.
My subject this month might surprise you, especially if your voice has always been robust and happy to perform in any circumstance. However, I would suggest that if you have some understanding of how easy it is to damage your voice, that might help you to protect it throughout your life.
So, let’s have some science….
The voice is made in the voice box by the vibration of two vocal cords against the breath. We then amplify it in the head before sending it forward from the hard palate in the mouth out into space. The ears of the listener(s) then catch the sound waves from the air.
The vocal cords are tiny and they can be affected by lots of things.
GOOD PRACTICE FOR THE VOICE
BAD PRACTICE FOR THE VOICE
This is not an exhaustive list but it covers most of the key areas.
I work extensively with individuals and businesses who used their voices all day i.e.
When your voice is your main means of earning a living you need to understand it. I have met many people who carried on regardless and ended up with nodules on their vocal cords, total loss of voice and surgery – not pleasant – so don’t abuse your voice. Remember, it is your chief ambassador to the world and you owe it some respect.
I hope you have all had a good month. Mine has been quite exciting and I’ll tell you about it in December from a distance as I’ll be in Hong Kong from 16th November till just before Christmas. In the meantime…..
Hello again everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer (such as it was!). I managed to get a bit of sun abroad as I’ll tell you later but first I want to talk about a fascinating radio programme I heard a couple of weeks ago.
The series is presented by Stephen Fry and it explores the use of the English language through history. This episode was entitled ‘Speaking it Proper’ and concerned the thorny issues of pronunciation, grammer and accent! The variable use of our own language causes great debate and is fraught with problems. The way we speak is a matter of taste, tradition, fashion, class, geography etc. and it is continually changing. George Bernard Shaw said “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making another Englishman hate and despise him” Do we really care that much about how people sound? Well, yes, according to a survey carried out amongst business people recently. Questions were asked relating to individual responses to accents throughout the U.K. The results may surprise you.
The BBC used to only use presenters with clipped vowels but now accents can be heard. However, these are never very broad but quite well centred with the focus on good enunciation i.e. starting and ending words properly. Obviously acents have their place – a broad Glaswegian telling a joke may add to the humour but in the business world this would be a problem because the best English pronunciation is the type that can be understood by everyone. I have, in the past, completely eradicated a Geordie accent for a senior manager. For him it was the right decision as it led to promotion but generally it is intelligability that really matters and that comes from undeerstanding what you’re playing with and knowing how to make the necesssary small changes. suprisingly our accent is actually fixed by what surrounds us at the age of approx. 17 – 19, not our childhood but you can learn to change. Impresionists use strong visual images and body positions to help them create the right voices and amazingly they way we speak and our physicality are strongly linked. When voice coaches train actors on accents (as I sometimes do) the physical positioning of the facial muscles is an essential element in understanding hoe the sounds change and sometimes movement of the whole body can also trigger a correct change. What do we require in business today? Well, people should be clear, fluent and lucid. English is the international business language and companies require therir oral communication to be effective. This has lifted Voice Coaching to a much higher level of importance in the corporate world and many large comapanies now employ people like myself. How your voice impacts on others is important knowledge. We have an unconcious response to vocal sound which produces an emotional judgement as to whether we like someone or not. When you come down to it, your energy, pitch, volume, intonation and hoarseness wil be more important in the long run than your accent but you do need to be aware of your vocal effect on others. Ideally you should speak at between 150 and 180 words per minute and we genereally perfer a lower male pitch (sorry ladies!) Ihope that you found this as interesting as I did. Much of it I am engaged in on a daily basis but it was very nice to have things re-inforced by recognised experts in the field.
I mentioned that I had got some sun this month. That was because we gave up on our dreadful weather and booked a late week at Lake Garda in italy. What a fabulous place! The sun shone, the water was welcoming and all the resorts we visited were absolutely delightful. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to chill out and refresh. I deliberately gave myseld a break from private clients in August but I did do a taster seminar on voice for a Pertemps regional conference in Birmingham, a repeat session on Voice Protection and strengthening for the Parkinsons Society in Coventry and I had a meeting with the head of HR at Lafarge with a view to possible in-ouse workshops on voice.
As I finish this I shall be off on the road to Liverpool for an overnight stop before delivering a Voice Protection workshop for Liverpool City Council’s swimming coaches. I’m delighted to say that my ‘Voice Matters’ courses on 17th and 21st September and my ‘Dynamic Speaking’ on 8th October are now all full and I am booking forward to 3rd and 5th November and 26 January 2010. Details, as usual, can be found here. Well, I think I must sign off now and pack my overnight bag. Until next month:
SPEAK LOUD & CLEAR!