Accent Reduction for Non-Native Speakers of English

Accent Reduction for Non-Native English Speakers – What on Earth Are We Talking About?

When it comes to the corporate world of business where English is the predominant language, non-native English speaking executives and team members can often struggle to deliver the impact they are capable of, primarily because of their lack of confidence or belief in their ability to deliver a message in English in a clear and compelling way.

With this blog, we want to help you by

  1. Identifying whether you are making some of the mistakes outlined below while speaking in English.
  2. Showing you how to avoid them so you can make progress in your English instead.
  3. Avoid any of the stress, frustration, and the feeling of being stuck as a result of making these common mistakes.

So if you can speak in English but

  • You always feel nervous while speaking and sometimes ask your colleagues to speak for you instead
  • You lose your words, you forget what you want to say, and you wouldn’t know what you want in English
  • You’re so worried about your mistakes or your pronunciation, so you decide to stay quiet – especially on conference or video calls
  • You’re feel shy, nervous, and stressed. You’re tired and frustrated. You worked so hard at improving your English, but you still sometimes feel that nothing has worked

Now, first things first. What exactly is a non-native English speaker?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a non-native speaker as

someone who has learned a particular language (English, for example) as a child or adult rather than as a baby.

We often find that people who move from primarily non-English speaking countries to take up a position in a primarily English-speaking environment primarily have a problem with accent reduction, i.e. pronouncing vowels and consonants correctly, understanding stress or connected speech.

So whilst the word “Accent reduction” might not sound the most appealing, it is simply a phrase designed to make the second-language speaker’s English annunciation and delivery much clearer and reduce the influence of their mother tongue.

Why go for Accent Reduction?

The term ‘Accent Reduction’ can seem strange (even offensive) to some.

“Accents are great! don’t get us wrong –  really what we are about is helping you be understood easily, whilst still retaining your authentic self when speaking

But the reality is that even very advanced English speakers who come from a non-native English speaking background can sometimes be misunderstood.

They are often not confident in their spoken English because their level of pronunciation and intonation in English does not match their other skills. It is nearly always the mother tongue that is influencing these areas of speech.

Thus accent reduction is necessary for corporate employees and executives who like to increase their credibility by sounding confident.

Have a look below to know more about some common errors that often affect non-native English speakers. (Some of this might seem a bit technical, but we’ll try to go easy on you!)

Accent reduction exercises can have a powerful positive impact on the careers of executives

Non Native English speakers – Don’t get stressed!!

A key factor which can be a challenge for non-native speakers is the fact that English is a stressed based language.  What does that mean? Well, being a stress based language simply means some syllables are stressed others are not – and native speakers tend to “dance over” many of these syllables, which gives English a certain rhythm.

Many languages are syllable timed, (eg French, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish) which means that every syllable is given same time/weight/stress, making speech very regular.   This seemingly simple difference can cause huge problems in being understood to a native English speakers ears!   

In addition, there are no “set in stone rules” in relation to what syllables are stressed and what’s not – unlike other languages.  So it’s tricky to train your ear!  Non native speakers are told to “feel” the music of English and to add stress naturally – now what’s a pain! and also complex to get right.  But also very difficult to be be understood if you can getting to grips with this irregular approach to stress.

 

Could your mouth make that much of a difference?

Well what I mean is your lips, tongue, jaw actually. These are what form sounds (your vowels and consonants).  For English sounds, they are positioned in specific places and the changing positions of your lips, tongue and jaw result in different vowels and consonants.  If the position is not correct – it simply won’t be understood.

Try this out – If you think of a simple /t/ or /d/ and feel what’s happening in your mouth, then move the tongue or lips and see what happens! Completely different sound!   Do this with a few sounds in a word and you’ll have serious problems being understood very quickly.  So the subtle positioning of your lips, tongue, and jaw is critical to understand for a non-native speaker of English.

 

Accent Reduction: Common Errors while pronouncing Vowels – a bit of a mine field! 

Learners usually import vowel sounds from their first language, and this holds the key to making many errors. The most typical mistakes occur where a learner pronounces the same sound where there should be 2 or 3 different ones. Try the following word groups; every vowel position should be different:

HIT / HEAT (ɪ/iː)
HUT / HAT / HEART (ʌ/æ/ɑː)
COULD / COOED (ʊ/uː)
BED / BAD (e/æ)
SHORT / SHOT (ɔː/ɒ)

The 19 vowel sounds of English are spelled using a Latin alphabet of just 5 vowel letters: a, e, i, o, and u – an impossible task. This has led to many peculiar variations entering English spelling over the centuries, the letter ‘a,’ for example, could produce up to 8 different vowel sounds:

/æ/ in HAT
/ɒ/ in WHAT
/ɔː/ in LAW
/ɑː/ in CAR
/eɪ/ in PAY
/eə/ in RARE
/ə/ in ABOUT
/ɪ/ in COTTAGE

Accent Reduction: Common Errors while pronouncing Consonants 

Non-native English speakers accent reduction

Whilst we believe this is easier to correct than vowels – errors in pronouncing consonants in English usually fall into a few categories, and again they will be language specific – e.g. if you are a french native speaker you will have different challenges to a Spanish native speaker.  We share a small selection to give you an idea:

1. Sounds that do not exist in the executive’s first language.

Many students do not have the two ‘th’ sounds found in English – /θ/ and /ð/; others may lack a /w, b, f, ʃ/ to name a few, it ultimately depends on the mother tongue. Learners will generally replace the sound with the nearest one in their language, so a ‘th’ may be mispronounced as /s, z, t, d/.

2. Sounds which exist in the executive’s first language but are pronounced differently in English.

Many languages have an ‘r’ sound. But the place and/or type is often different from English.

3. Sounds that are subtly different in the learner’s first language.

Many languages have what’s called a voiceless, bilabial, plosive /p/ sound, but not many languages aspirate the /p/ before vowel sounds, a subtle but important difference in English.

If you are a non-native English-speaking executive or a corporate employee in an English speaking country, then you might be making some of these mistakes. Let us help you with improving your situation.

As a non-native English speaking business executive, what are the next steps for you?

Imagine a world where you and your team communicated in a clear, confident, and unique manner successfully and with ease. 

For a non-native English speaker, challenges related to pronunciation and clarity can lead to miscommunicationconfusion, frustration, and ultimately hinder their professional and personal development. 

At ConfidentSpeak, we work with our clients both individually and one-to-one as well as in a corporate group setting.

Our core focus is to help our clients overcome these challenges and communicate in a sharp, confident, and credible way every time. So, if you want some help to speak English like a native, and learn how to speak English more effectively in a business setting, then ConfidentSpeak is here to help.

Contact us or enroll in one of our learning courses for non-native English speakers to make your corporate life more comfortable and more satisfactory.

5 Steps To Get Rid Of That Dreaded “Bed Voice”

 

Bed Voice

Have you ever overslept, and rushed into a meeting or a webinar, or maybe it was a last minute conference call; or phone call from your boss ? Even if you are lucky enough to be one of those people who snap into alert mode as soon you wake up – I wish I was one of those people!! – we’ve all had moments where our voice seems to fail to catch up with our brain. It’s sometimes referred to as our ‘Bed Voice’

You know what I mean, that flat, heavy, sluggish voice we have first thing!

A client I worked with, on one of our 121 programmes, had to speak regularly on early morning radio. I always remember her being very conscious of her “bed voice”, and was keen to know how to shake it off.

So, in a nutshell, here is how you do it;

Step 1 – Quench that thirst!

One of the primary reasons for this “bed voice” is simply down to the fact that you (and your voice) are dehydrated after sleep  – hence muscles work a little slower and a little more sluggishly.  Drink a glass of water, drinking coffee (although it may be more tempting) will do little to help your voice.

 

Step 2 – Good Vibrations

Place your hands on your head – and hum a gentle ‘mmmm’ sound. Put the focus of the hum into the top of your head until you feel vibrations in your head. Repeat a few times.

 

Step 3 – Get humming

Gently hum up and down your pitch range.  So just like the scales on a piano, start on your lowest note and gently and slowly hum/glide your way up to the highest note you can go (without pushing or forcing) Repeat a few times.

 

Step 4 – Luscious Lips

Place your finger tips on your lips (palm faced in) and again gently hum a ‘mmmm’ sound.  Feel vibrations, or a tingly sensation on your lips and the surrounding area. Repeat a few times, and feel your bed voice start to disappear.

 

Step 5 – Massage

Give your entire face a massage  – your cheeks, lips, forehead, nasal area. In other words awaken your face, stretch your mouth and have a good yawn!

Check out this great talk from Julian Treasure on how to warm up your voice

So remember these five tips next time you need to get rid of your bed voice and enjoy the work out!

Olivia

For more useful tips and ideas check out our other blogs here or contact us to see how we can help you to transform your voice and your communications.

Whilst you are here you might enjoy some of these:

 

Women in Sales Summit London 2019 – “Own Your Space” – Engage with Presence

Voice Coaching Techniques

Avoiding Death By Monotony: The 5 Key Business Presentation Skills You Need

We’ve all been there.  You’re sitting in the conference room for a business presentation and you start to nod off. You zone out, you’ve stopped listening to the person up at the top of the room giving the presentation. Here are five key business presentation skills you can learn so that you can captivate your audience of staff or potential clients when it’s your turn to give one.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

Avoid Death by Monotony - Five Business Presentation Skills You Need

 

You know what a boring business presentation is like to sit through.

When the speaker’s voice has become so dull and annoying that it starts to sound like a mosquito buzzing in your ear.

But are you aware of the pitfalls so that you can avoid them next them you stand up to deliver a presentation?

Follow these five steps to avoid the Death by Monotony presentation.

First: How to Know What Makes a Boring Business Presentation

So what’s happening?

Most of the time this unfortunate situation arises because the presenter has fallen into the Monotony Trap.

They speak from one place in their voice in one rhythm and don’t vary either one at all, and this happens without them even knowing it.

Now, this could be someone your know. It could—let’s face it—even be you and you don’t even know it.

A monotone vocal delivery is one of the worst sins and most common mistakes you can make when it comes to public speaking. Luckily, there are lots of skills and voice coaching techniques you can implement to prevent it.

Here are just a few tips you can use to stay out of the monotony trap and keep your audience interested and engaged.

The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 1: Vary Your Pitch

Here’s one basic fact of physiology.

The ear needs to be entertained and kept interested

So first off, vary your pitch.

Pitch is your vocal range, it’s the movement in tone between the top of your vocal range and the bottom and everywhere in between. (We’ve written a whole article on pitch range and its importance here.)

As children, we naturally have a varied vocal range. As we learn to speak we explore the range of sound our voices can make.

Then as we grow older, something happens. We start to have opinions and start editing ourselves. We start to become self-conscious.

One big mistake we make is thinking that a deep, weighty, monotonous tone for credibility, maturity and gravity.

In short, we stop using the full range of our voices.

Experiment with your vocal range—it’s there for a reason. Remember that the ear needs to be entertained and kept interested so change it up, vary your tone, and use the full range of your vocal pitches.

Here’s a great example:

The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 2: Do Not Underestimate the Power Of Articulation & Pace

Next, make sure you’re articulating and speaking clearly and slowly.

It may seem obvious but do not underestimate the power of clarity.

We may have heard our message a hundred times but we forget our audience is hearing it for the first time. Everyone can afford to slow down their delivery.

We often rush and end up mumbling our words together because we want to get through the material as quickly as possible or are afraid of forgetting what we have to say next.

Think into your consonants, breathe, and you will slow down. This eliminates rushing and your audience will thank you for it.

The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 3: Use of Pause

Pause is perhaps the most effective and underused of voice coaching techniques.

Pause is powerful, so learn to understand and use the power of pause in public speaking.

Former US President Barack Obama is a good example of someone who uses pause well and often.

We can implement pauses to gain different effects.

When we pause before a word or phrase, it creates the classic tension—release.

And when we pause after it, it allows the audience a moment for the information to sink in.

When we use pause, we also vary the pace of our delivery. Varying our pace and using pause keeps the rhythm of our vocal delivery varied and keeps the ear from falling asleep.

The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 4: Volume & Breath

What’s one key objective that too few people think about in speaking.

The need to be heard!

When it comes to volume, this where breathing properly comes in handy.

If you are getting enough breath into your lungs, you won’t have to worry about being heard because your voice will be supported.

Remember, breath = fuel for the voice.

We’re not talking about shouting here.

There’s a big difference between having a supported, resonant sound that fills the space and shouting. The former is about generosity, the latter is unpleasant and off-putting.

The Five Key Business Presentation Skills, 5: Make a Recording

Finally, record yourself.  Whether it’s your iPhone or your laptop, video taping yourself when you’re rehearsing has never been never easier.

It is the only way you can see exactly what you look like and sound like. More importantly it can help decide where you need to make changes.

You can also just use audio recording. Record just your voice and you will quickly know if you’ve fallen into the Monotony Trap!

Recap

When it comes to avoid the cardinal errors that add up to a boring business presentation, remember that language has music.

It has texture, colour, contrast, light and shade to it. The sounds we make and how we make them is the starting point of communication.

So be bold, be courageous, and be inventive with how you create speech and sound.

You are a storyteller and the best storytellers are people who speak to you, engage you, and keep your attention.

By putting into practice just these few simple voice coaching techniques you can avoid the monotony trap. You can become a memorable, captivating and engaging speaker.

One who will keep your audiences awake and wanting more!

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056

Email: info@confidentspeak.com

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Why breathing is important for presentations

Five Reasons Breathing Is The Number 1 Tool For Great Communication

When was the last time you thought about your breathing? This morning? Yesterday? How about “Not at all”? Well, if you’re like most people the answer is most likely the latter:  Not at all. If you’re keen to learn some techniques for great communication, here are five tips on breathing correctly to optimise your speaking, performance and leadership.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

Breathing correctly is the most important thing for great communication

First off, if you don’t typically focus on breathing, don’t beat yourself up.

After all, it’s a pretty normal thing, because breathing is something our bodies do by themselves. It’s an involuntary function so whether or not we think about it, it happens anyway.

But I’m here to tell you that breathing is the number one tool for great communication, and spending the time to create good breathing habits and awareness will pay off in huge dividends in your meetings, speeches, and presentations.

Breathing is Vital for Great Communication

When it comes to your effectiveness as a speaker and communicator, good deep diaphragmatic breathing is your best friend.

Breathing is the one thing that voice coaches always, always, always bang on about!

We’re always trying to find new ways of telling you how important it is and what the benefits are of good, deep, diaphragmatic breathing.

And we tell you this with good reason.

Just look at the number of people who are taking yoga classes these days—it’s a revolution in mindfulness and deep breathing technique.

So What is Correct Breathing Anyway?

When you breathe from your belly, your lungs are expanding to their full capacity and the diaphragm, that dome shaped muscle at the bottom of your rib cage, moves down to allow the lungs to expand, and your belly moves out as a result.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a fancy term for breathing deeply from your belly, not high in your upper chest where your lungs are the smallest. Children breathe deeply and correctly from the womb, they don’t need to be taught.  It’s completely instinctual.

So if we know how to do it, then why don’t we do it?!

Typically, life happens!

We start dealing with fears and insecurities and this often manifests itself as tension in the body, resulting in shallower breathing.

As a result, we have to re-learn how to breathe naturally.

It is quite simple, but is it easy?

Actually, to do it effectively it takes practice.

Check out this video.

So why bother learning to breathe deeply and more naturally? What are the benefits of breathing correctly when it comes to speaking and presenting?

Actually, there are quite a few. Simple dedication to practising breathing correctly can ensure that you have great communication skills.

Breathing for Great Communication, 1: It’s Premium Fuel

Your voice needs fuel to perform at its best and breath is that fuel.

It supports the sound and helps to protect your voice from harm.

When you breathe deeply from the belly, you’re getting a bigger, higher quality of breath to fuel your vocal sound.

Breathing for Great Communication, 2: Think Clearly

Your brain needs fuel to run at its best too.

Good, deep breathing helps to get oxygen to the brain and supports clear thinking, so when you feel like you’re freezing or panicking because you can’t remember what comes next in your speech or presentation, take a moment to pause and breathe.

It gives you a moment to clear your head and remember the next thought.

Breathing for Great Communication, 3: Obey The Speed Limit

When we take time to pause and breathe, we automatically slow down our delivery.

Everyone, without exception, can afford to slow down. A good delivery pace gives both you and the audience time to breathe and process information.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

Breathing for Great Communication, 4: Keep It Grounded

Breathing down in your belly, or ‘chi’ centre – as it’s referred to in martial arts – helps to centre your energy and gives you a sense of being grounded and balanced.  When your energy is more grounded and balanced, you are able to be more present in the moment. Being more present in the moment means being more connected to our audience.

Breathing for Great Communication, 5: Fight Or Flight

Getting nervous is largely due to irrational fears and that ancient ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain that kicks in to save us from a situation that our brain perceive as threatening, ie. getting up in front of a bunch of people and speaking.  Conscious, deep breathing, tricks the brain into calming down. It sends the rest of your body the message that everything’s ok and there’s no need to panic.

Our bodies already know how to breathe properly; we’re just reawakening the muscle memory that becomes lost over many years of bad habits.

I could talk about the theories behind good breathing technique and the benefits from practicing it until the cows come home. Learning a few simple techniques and practicing them on a consistent basis is the only way to truly experience the treasure trove of benefits that good, centred breathing can bring to you as a speaker and communicator.

Small Changes Reap Huge Benefits

So, tomorrow when you’re going through your day just take a moment every now and then and check in with yourself;

Am I holding my breath?

Am I breathing?

And take a few deep breaths.

A wise man once told me:

Life is like breathing. If you try and hold it, you’ll lose it. But if you’re aware and let it come and go, you’ll always be connected to it.

When we are breathing we are more present in the moment. The more present we are, the more effective we are as communicators because we are able to connect more fully with our audience.

So start breathing. The results—such as great communication!—might surprise you!

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056

Email: info@confidentspeak.com

Final Word from Max Strom

Watch this TEDx talk by Max Strom for even more

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Vocal delivery techniques from Oprah

Five Vocal Delivery Techniques You Can Learn from Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes Speech

Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes was powerful and inspiring. But let’s take a look at the vocal delivery techniques she used to ensure her message was received loud and clear.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

Naturally much will be discussed over the coming weeks about Oprah Winfrey’s speech at this year’s Golden Globes.

Her message to her audience was powerful, emotive, thought-provoking and inspiring.

But as a voice, communications and executive presence coach, I feel compelled to examine the importance of “how” she delivered her empowering message as much as the content of that message.

I’ve written before about Oprah’s exceptional speaking skills, in my blog “The Oprah Communications Manual in 8 Easy Steps“.

But specifically on her phenomenal Golden Globes performance, allow me to break down and analyse the vocal delivery techniques Oprah used to ensure her message was loud and clear.

These are delivery techniques that you too can take into your speeches and presentations.

1. Showing up Authentically is a Key Vocal Delivery Technique

There is no question with this speech, Oprah delivered her message with authenticity and honesty.

The reality is that any audience will connect and engage with people who are truly themselves. Yes, the content is emotive, but you really get a sense that she truly believes her message.

Once there is authenticity in your message, then strong vocal techniques will be easier to access.

When you deliver a business presentation, how authentic are you with your audience? Or do you drop into presenter mode? Because, so many do.

Your Task

Ahead of your next presentation, consider these two questions carefully:

  • What do you feel about your message to the audience?
  • What do you want your audience to feel about your message?

“Feel?” I hear you ask!

Yes, FEEL!

Not what you want them to know and understand, but what you want them to FEEL.

Do you want them to feel excited, curious, frustrated, sad? Whatever that feeling is, you need to think carefully about it, as it needs to be conveyed in your vocal delivery.

2. Great use of timing. She combines pause and pace brilliantly.

The space between your thoughts can be as powerful as the thoughts themselves. She makes great use of pause throughout her speech.

With such strong words she understands her audience needs this time to process her message. Pause is used to strong dramatic effect also.

We can implement pauses to gain different effects.

When we pause before a word or phrase, it creates the classic tension/release.

If we pause after, it allows the audience a moment for the information to sink in.

As opposed to highlighting specific examples in this speech I would simply urge you to listen to the full ten minutes for her use of pause.

It requires bravery for any presenter to accept that silence. If we trust the pause we will hold a listener’s attention.

There is no question about this. It’s so compelling.

When we use pauses, we can also vary the pace of our delivery and the two go hand in hand.

Varying our pace and using the power of pause keeps the rhythm of our vocal delivery varied and keeps the ear from falling asleep.

You can hear throughout this speech she varies pace – for important statements, you’ll hear she slows right down to emphasise the importance of her words.  You’ll hear increases the pace to create energy.

Your Task

For your next presentation, accept the silence.

Try this useful Tempo Technique to engage your audience

  1.  Speed up the tempo before you make that important point
  2.  Pause
  3.  Then slow down to deliver it

It carries your listeners forward and then make them wait.  It’s a classic tension/release at work.  It takes practice, but it’s a very clever device, and it’s powerful.

(Example: Listen to 5.00-5.16 minutes in Oprah’s speech)

3. The Power of Your Consonants in Vocal Delivery

This is where the voice geek in me comes out!

They don’t get much airtime, but consonants can really work for us when we speak and they are used well in Oprah’s speech.

They can grab our listeners’ attention and hold onto it. I believe they give speech emphasis and intent. People often think that they need to speak louder to make their messages stand out, but this is not the case.

I think by Oprah focusing on her consonants she really drives home her message throughout. Any time you want to drive home a point, implant a thought, do it by giving more thought to the consonants in your words. They will make what you say more effective and dynamic.

Your Task

Try this useful Consonant Technique to drive your message home.

Lengthen the consonants in the word or syllable you want to emphasise.

This creates the illusion of being louder by bringing everything to a halt while we wait for that word.

4. The Importance of Power words: What They Are, and How to Make Them Powerful

All words are not created equally.

When we speak we do not pronounce each and every word and syllable with the same importance.

It is so evident in Oprah’s speech.

If you want your audience to listen and engage then you need to understand

  1. What are power words, and
  2. How to give these power words the power!

Power words are the 1-3 words in each phase or sentence that absolutely reduce it down to its basic meaning.

They communicate the essence of what we are saying.

These words require more time more emphasis, more vocal importance, if they are to resonate with the audience.

But how does Oprah do this? And how do we do it?

First things first: like Oprah does, you need to be authentically communicating your message. To be really connected to and truly believe your message.

  • Change of volume: Listen how Oprah either increases or decreases volume on specific power words
  • Pitch variation: She changes the pitch on certain power words to highlight and bring importance to them—she makes them stand out
  • Articulation: She will overly articulate certain consonants in the power words to bring the word out further—lest the audience forget!
  • Change of pace: She tends to speed up and then slows down on her power words/phrases.
  • Pause: She will pause before or after key power words

Your Task

Try combinations of any of the above.

They are vital to a strong vocal delivery – that will be listened to and understood by your audience.

You can hear examples of Oprah using power words effectively throughout her speech, but skip to 8.00 mins and onwards for a series of great examples, such as:

  • “ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning
  • “even during our darkest nights
  • “when that new day finally dawns”
  • “the time when nobody has to say me too again”

5. Mastering the Skill of the “Clap Trap” is One of the Best Vocal Delivery Techniques

She doesn’t wait for the applause and she doesn’t wait for clapping to stop before she continues.  Pausing and waiting for the audience to clap is a faux pas, it removes the sense of spontaneity.  Carrying on with her message and refusing the applause implies that she is not expecting a clap, she is more focused on her message than herself.   A speaker always needs to be more committed to the message than to accepting praise. This she does very well throughout her speech

Skip to minutes 2:22, 3:22 and 7:02 to see Oprah do this.

Conclusion

Be under no illusions, Oprah would most certainly have practiced and rehearsed this speech many times to refine her vocal delivery techniques.

It would have been a shame to have a great message delivered poorly.  My message to you is that it’s not enough to have a strong message—your vocal delivery needs to support that importance of your message.

So, finally, record yourself when you’re preparing and practicing your words.

It is the only way you can hear exactly what you sound like and then you can make changes accordingly.

  • Are your showing up authentically in your speech?
  • Are you using pause and pace combined to engage your audience?
  • How are you making your power words standout and be POWERFUL?
  • Are you giving Consonants the importance they deserve?
  • Finally, don’t fall into claptrap mistakes!

Here’s Oprah’s Full Speech

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056

Email: info@confidentspeak.com

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Vocal Warm-Up

Why You Should Do a Vocal Warm-Up Before Speaking

Joe Duffy, the presenter of Ireland’s most popular radio talk show, does a daily vocal warm-up before he goes on air. You might not be speaking to hundreds of thousands of people, but if you’re talking or presenting in any way, you should do a vocal warm-up too. Here’s why.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

Joe Duffy does a vocal warm-up before going on air

In an article in the Irish Times newspaper recently, Joe Duffy, presenter of Liveline, Ireland’s most listened to radio programme, mentioned that he does daily vocal warm-up exercises before every show.

(Not only that, but he admitted that he goes into the bathroom to do so!)

Why does he need a vocal warm-up, you might ask?

To prepare himself both vocally and mentally for the show ahead.

Every day he has a ritual, he says. “I go into the loo at 1.30pm to wash my face, do a few vocal exercises and say two words to myself: ‘libel’ and ‘entertainment’.

(“Entertainment” is obvious enough. “Libel” because Liveline is a live phone-in talk-show where anything can happen, and often does!)

Why does a vocal warm-up matter ahead of presenting?

When you decide to exercise, whether  a jog, or playing any sport, a warm up is always done.

It’s a good way to prepare, to improve performance, and prevent injury to yourself.   Funnily enough, the same applies when you use your voice.   We don’t think about our voice as a muscle – but it is.  We don’t think of presenting as a dynamic activity that uses many muscles – but it very much is, and these muscles need a vocal warm-up for peak performance.

A short vocal/voice warmup improves the quality of the sounds you make and helps prevent vocal injury, keeping you in good voice and making your voice production feel better.  It will also bring you right up to your best speaking voice and will energise your speaking voice

I was listening to a key note speaker recently who was opening a conference and started with a dry, croaky, crackly voice – he could have been so much better if he had done a short vocal warmup pre-presenting.

​Here is a 10-minute vocal warm-up you can incorporate into your pre-presentation preparation

 

1. Wake Up the Body

  • Shake your shoulders and release the tension.
  • Stretch out your body, pat your face, open up the chest area.
  •  Massage the Face – Jaw, shoulders, and neck.
  • Stretch out the neck, roll shoulders

2. Connect to the Breath

  • Hand on lower belly, Sigh out on breath on a ‘fffffff’ sound.
  • Allow the belly to relax and the breath to become centred.
  • Speak a sentence with the focus on your breath

3. Resonators/Articulation

  • Soft Palate stretch (breathe in & out on a ‘ka’)
  • Tongue Stretches (keep the tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth and then stretch out your body of the tongue!)
  • Articulation on ‘puh-tuh-kuh-tah’ and ‘guh-duh-buh-duh’
  • Tongue twisters:  ‘Peter Piper’, ‘Mother Pheasant Plucker’

4. Short Sharp Sniffs

Breath up one nostril and breath out the other.  Repeat 3 times.

5. Try some gentle humming and intoning

A little like this.

6. Do a Superwoman/Superman stance for 2 minutes!

Breathe deep into your belly – have a listen to this video for guidance on superhero pose.

Conclusion

If the man with arguably Ireland’s most recognised voice practises vocal warm-up exercises, then so can you!

Our Mantra is always “It’s not about you!”

It’s about the AUDIENCE and what you can give to them today.

You’re bringing your best to this presentation so give your best.

So try out these vocal warm-up exercises for yourself and see how you get on.

Contact us (details below!) if you need any more details on any of the above.

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056

Email: info@confidentspeak.com

Brene Brown an authentic speaker

With 32 Million Views Of Her TED Talk, We MUST Learn From Brene Brown About Becoming A Confident Presenter

Brene Brown is an Internet phenomenon. Her speeches have been viewed tens of millions of times on YouTube, TED and elsewhere online. But just what is it about Brene Brown that makes her talks so compelling? I want to share with you what can be learnt from her presenting style that will help you also become a confident presenter and perhaps transform how you approach your next presentation. Here we break down the key things to take away from Brene Brown’s confidence, to help you become a better speaker, presenter and communicator.

By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak

How You Can Learn from Brene Brown's Confidence

 

Firstly, who is Brene Brown?

Brene Brown is a researcher of shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy.

Like, there’s not many of those people around, right?!

Her TED talk—The Power of Vulnerabilityis one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 30 million views.

She is also the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers.

But the real reason I’ve put this blog together is because Brown is a stunningly powerful presenter. Brene Brown’s confidence on stage is a sight to behold. Here we analyse why.

Brene Brown’s Confidence is Based on Wholehearted Living and Wholehearted Presenting

One important thing to know about Brown’s teachings is that she speaks about wholehearted living.

This roughly translates to:

By accepting vulnerability in our lives we can live more meaningful, more connected, successful lives.

Her research is based on following 10 guideposts which she urges us to practice daily.

But does she practice these guideposts when she speaks to her audiences?

In short, is Brene Brown a wholehearted presenter?  

The answer is “Hell Yes!”

And you can learn so much from her if you want to connect in an authentic way with your audience.

Let’s discuss a number of her 10 guideposts in the context of her presentation approach, so that you too can bring Brene Brown’s confidence into your own presentations.

Guidepost 1: Cultivating Authenticity– Letting go of what people think

‘‘To be willing to let go of who you think you should be,  to be able to connect” Brene Brown

Brown communicates with her audience as if she’s having a chat over coffee.

She talks in an authentic, conversational easy way.  She has the courage to be herself (in true Texan fashion), to “show up authentically”, no pretense, no facade.

To adopt Brene Brown’s confidence and become a more powerful, impactful, confident presenter, we need to let go of what others might think of us—our colleagues or managers.

You need to have the courage to show up for your presentation as your true self, not trying to be something you are not—this honesty connects powerfully with any audience.

Guideposts 2 & 3: Cultivating Self-Compassion– Letting go of perfectionism, and Cultivating A Resilient Spirit– Letting go of numbing and powerlessness

Brown’s TEDx talk—“The Power of Vulnerability”—was originally going to be named something like “Variables Mitigating Self Actualising”.

Which begs the question: why the change?

Well, how often do we intellectualise our language? Speaking in conceptual language stifles audiences.

Why do we do it?

In truth, we do it to protect ourselves, to appear like we are worthy and perfect. We put “armour” on—complex language, or a data dump on a PowerPoint slide—to protect ourselves from being vulnerable.

We strip the humanness from our presentations, and this results in numbing and stifling both presenter and audience.  

By allowing self-compassion (as Brene does in her talks) we allow ourselves the permission to be imperfect in our presenting.  This allows us to show vulnerability, to show emotion when we speak, whether that’s fear, anger or asking for help if we need it. 

By allowing this self-compassion, a presenter becomes more resilient as a result.  And ultimately creates a more honest, authentic, stronger relationship with the audience.   

Guideposts 4 & 5:  Cultivating Gratitude and Joy—Letting go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark, and Cultivating Meaningful Work—Letting go of Self-Doubt

Brown refers to scarcity as a mindset of “never enough, never perfect enough, never relevant enough…” 

Many presenters live in constant scarcity, or what some people might recognise as “imposter syndrome”.

Brown admits to working daily to overcome her scarcity self-talk and to conquer her “imposter syndrome”.

Moving from “I am not worthy” to I am worthy and enough. In the context of becoming a confident presenter, we need to let go of our scarcity self-talk.  This is a huge factor to overcoming fear/lack of confidence when presenting.

Guidepost 6: Cultivating Creativity – “Stories are just data with a soul”

One of the most striking things about Brown is the skill with which she weaves years of research with her personal, vulnerable, honest stories—both funny and painful.  

 I just love the quote: “Stories are just data with a soul.”

The vulnerability in her stories, metaphors and analogies resonate very strongly with her audience.  

Stories help audiences to remember important points and they also build that important empathy with listeners.

In order to connect with audiences, there needs to be a balance of Evidence-Based-Content (Head content) mixed with emotive content (Heart content). Brown achieves this balance perfectly.  This results in a fully engaged audience when presenting.

Throwing data coldly at audiences will numb them, and yet we see this all the time.

So I strongly encourage you on your journey be becoming a confident presenter that you close your laptop, get pen and paper out or go for a walk.

Get creative, brave, and playful with your presentation content. This is powerful and I would say mandatory to fully engage your audiences.

Guidepost 8:  Cultivating Calm and Stillness

This one is, I believe, absolutely essential to becoming a confident presenter.

Listen to Brene Brown speak (I’ve included the videos at the bottom).

There is no rush, no anxiety, no sense of urgency. She pauses, to think and reflect.

Now this is confident presenting.

She’s not distracted with whatever content is coming next. She’s not worried about “getting through” her content. She remains present with what she is speaking about.

Of course she has researched and prepared her talk.

But she is also a big believer in the power of meditation and the importance of breathing, and we experience this as she speaks.  Working to understand the role breath plays is vital to help connect with both our content and our audience.

Guidepost 10: Cultivating Laughter, Play, Intuition, Trust – Letting go Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Brown has fun in her presentations, and as a result the audience has fun.

She laughs at her stories, she laughs at herself!

Whilst her content is grounded in strong evidence, she allows herself not to take herself too seriously.

She doesn’t rely heavily on a script or slides, and she reacts to her audience’s reactions throughout.  She “lets go of total control and certainty” – not totally but just enough!

Conclusion: How to Gain Confidence from Wholehearted Presenting

Implementing all of this in your own talks, speeches and presentations is easier said than done, of course, but as we’ve seen from Brown, weaving personal stories through your talks certainly makes it easier.  

To reach the level of confidence embodied by Brene Brown requires preparation, practice and BRAVERY, but when achieved it will totally captivate an audience.

All 10 of Brene Brown’s guideposts encourage us to show vulnerability in some way.

As a presenter in a corporate context, this requires immense bravery.  This bravery will ultimately give you a deep sense of connection with both your message and with your audience.

I strongly encourage you to explore wholehearted presenting if you want to become a confident presenter.

It really does work.

Watch Brene Brown’s confidence at first hand in her two most lauded TED talks below – “The Power of Vulnerability”, and “Listening to Shame”

About ConfidentSpeak

ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.

We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives

Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.

Telephone:- +353 1 9696056

Email: info@confidentspeak.com