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!