By Paul Barton
I get approached from time to time by business professionals who are seeking help because they believe their accent is a detriment to their public speaking or business presentations. This usually surprises me because I find accents to be charming and at times even mesmerizing to listen to (my wife’s Filipino accent for instance).
But whether it’s charming, mesmerizing or something else, your accent is a part of who you are and attempting to change it dramatically would be disingenuous to your audience, and indeed, yourself.
That said, the real question becomes this: Can you be clearly understood by your audience? If the answer is “yes,” then embrace your accent! The problem was probably mostly in your head to begin with. Be yourself and speak with confidence.
However, if the answer is “no” and you are not being clearly understood, there are a few tips you can try to improve the way you speak:
- If you speak fast, try speaking slower.
- Practice pronouncing words that are used frequently in your business. Make sure you are enunciating the words you are having trouble with and stress the correct syllables.
- Record yourself reading a script or a book out loud and listen carefully to see what words aren’t being pronounced correctly.
- Listen carefully to TV newscasters and radio announcers. They are trained to speak clearly and typically speak without glaring accents.
- Try singing karaoke, watch the lyrics scroll across the screen, and note how the syllables are pronounced. A different part of your brain is engaged with music and often great learning can occur. After all, how did you learn your ABCs and why do you remember that ridiculous radio jingle you haven’t heard in decades?
If after trying these “home remedies” for a few weeks and you aren’t seeing any appreciable improvement, you may want to seek the help of a speech pathologist.
But whatever you do, please don’t try to lose your accent! Accents add a little spice to you and your presentation. Make sure you’re being understood and you will be great!