Professional Presence: Finding Your Voice

professional-presence

Picture yourself in this everyday office scenario:

The staff is gathered for a presentation on a new company initiative.

The presenter passes out their information, and in a monotone fashion proceeds to plod through the slideshow presentation on the topic with seemingly little enthusiasm.

At the end they announce, “We really want everyone to get excited about this.”

Are you excited?

Have you bought into your company’s new project?

Given the lackluster presentation, probably not!

 

Maybe this presenter really is excited about the initiative, but they don’t know how to convey that to others… or don’t even realize how their demeanor is being perceived by everyone in the room.

And what would the ramifications be if this had been a pitch to a client, or prospective investors?

The non-verbal communication in this situation was the difference between increased morale at the launching of a new project, and just another boring meeting!

 

The 7 Percent “Rule”

You may be familiar with a “rule” that states communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% being vocal tones (38%) and facial expression (55%). While the studies from the late 1960s that originated this “rule” have been widely misinterpreted – and the results really only apply to the circumstances of the study – it was still a benchmark in recognizing how we interpret messages based on our physical sound and presence… and other studies still reinforce how nonverbal communication influences how we perceive messages from others.

 

Take for example, a later study indicating that the combination of many non-verbal cues had over 4 times the effect of simply verbal cues. And a study out of Harvard University published in 2003 showed how tone of voice increased or decreased subjects’ perception of politeness in statements and questions.

 

Even so, science may not always be able to pin down a statistic about our use of nonverbal cues… but the evidence exists in those won or lost clients, daily engagement with customers and co-workers, and surveys of employee satisfaction.

 

It’s What You Say, AND How You Say It

We know the words we choose are important… no one wants irrelevant, illogical information or interactions. But it’s not just our words – strictly the information – that influences others, and determines their perception of us. Even when our words are in the right, is that enough to convey our meaning? In the example above, the speaker’s overall tone hindered the message of company enthusiasm. No doubt you’ve experienced either embracing or rejecting projects, ideas, or initiatives because of the way the message was delivered to you.

 

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Dr. Ann Utterback, a vocal coach exclusive to broadcasters, says that the world is looking for “comfortable communicators”: presenters who make you feel like you’re the only one with whom they’re interacting. In an interview with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, she describes one aspect of this as ‘vocal energy’ – “focus and passion for what you’re saying.”

 

So just knowing how to run the slide software isn’t enough… the balance of what you’re thinking, feeling, and projecting creates the dynamism to win and keep customers, influence investors, and excite and engage those around your on your team.

 

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Ultimately, your vocal presence can either enhance or break down your meaning.

And this presence is made up of many components… some you may feel comfortable with, and others that may need work in order to really find your voice, and allow others to hear your true meaning.

My corporate professional presence training breaks down these components:

Vocal quality

Vocal variance

Rate of speech

Accent clarity

Body posture and gestures

 

And you may be surprised how factors outside of your physical voice can be used to great effect in magnifying your “voice” and message:

Crafting a powerful story

Knowing when to speak, and when to listen

Adjusting responses to questions for different audiences

 

We’ll be exploring these components of your professional vocal presence in the weeks to come!

 

My corporate professional presence training engages the issues of vocal presence to increase productivity, create stronger client relationships, and improve clarity of internal and external presentations and processes.

Learn more and contact us today at AccentuateCommunication.com.

 

Lisa Scott Featured Speaker at Thought Leader Forum

 

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Did you know that almost one third of the American workforce in engineering, computer science, and healthcare is made up of immigrants? Many of them have studied English for years, but may still have trouble mastering the nuances of the language. Accent reduction training enables talented international professionals to engage more fully in American culture both at work and in the community.

I welcome the opportunity to share the positive impact of accent reduction with other professionals who may not be familiar with this specialized communication training. Highlighting the hard work it takes for foreign-born engineers, doctors, and professors to engage in American culture is something I always want to promote!

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I was honored to be a speaker recently at the Velocity Thought Leader Forum, where I detailed how my proven methods at Accentuate have turned the English language struggles of many immigrant professionals into success stories for their career and everyday life… and how these successes translate into better business for American companies, which now have a way to stop the money leaks caused by communication breakdowns.

I’m very grateful to have received so much positive feedback from other CEOs, executives, and professionals at the Velocity event about my talk and what Accentuate is doing for foreign-born professionals and American corporations.

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Is your international team performing at its full potential?

Communication breakdowns cost large corporations over $62.4 million per year.

Is your company missing out on grants, sales, or important clients because of heavy accents or presentations that are hard to follow?

Accentuate can help remove these cross-cultural barriers.

Schedule a consultation with Lisa Scott today – and visit AccentuateCommunication.com for more on how your company’s productivity can benefit from a team that is clearly speaking the same language!

Prepositions of Time: “In,” “On,” & “At”

Have you ever asked a co-worker to join you “on 3:00” for a meeting?

Perhaps you mentioned to someone that your birthday was “at Friday.”

Though you may not have realized it, you were using these prepositions of time incorrectly!

 

When do you say

 

In trying to grasp a larger vocabulary, a student of English may start to overlook the small connecting words that bind language together, but these prepositional words have a great impact on others’ perception of your mastery of the language. Using them incorrectly could cause confusion with co-workers or make you feel insecure in your speech.

 

If you can remember this order, “IN, ON, AT”… then you can remember this general rule for how to describe points in time:

 

General Rule

 

See how “IN, ON, AT” progress from general to specific as you read their descriptions:

 

Prepositions of time

 

At the beginning of this article, the correct usage would mean the meeting is “at 3:00,” and that your birthday is “on Friday.”

 

Take a look at the following practice sentences and see if you can choose the correct prepositions.

 

Fill in white

 

Now check out my video from a few years ago that further explains the usage of “IN, ON, AT” and will help you practice how to use them… and then see if you got the sample sentences correct below!

 

 

Answers white

If this video and information helped you, or if you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

3 Ways to Slow It Down: Connecting with International Co­Workers

We’re living and working in an age of international connectedness. Your co-­workers or clients may actually be living overseas and speak English as a second or third language, connected to you through internet chats and teleconferencing. Or, you may work daily in person with non-­native English speakers who have been in the U.S. for several years or only a few months.

No matter the situation, you need to be able to effectively communicate with your team.

In my last article on communicating with non-­native English speakers, I outlined how to keep language simple in the workplace. Today, we’ll talk about slowing down.

Slow It Down!

Right now I’m going to ask you to stop and remember:

• A foreign language class you took

• A time you were shopping in an international market

• Any time you overheard a foreign language conversation

Do you remember how the other language sounded? Was it incredibly fast and jumbled to you? Did you wonder how they could talk so quickly?

An international worker can feel just this way when trying to understand our language as well.

Be Aware of Your Speech.

You know how it is when you get on a roll with an idea… your speech speeds up as you get excited, and your words can hardly keep up with your brain. Or perhaps you’re pressed for time, and you rush your message or instructions. Even the everyday pace of your language can be too fast.

Be aware small

When speaking with an international worker or client, take the time to evaluate how quickly you’re actually talking. Even asking your co­-worker, “Am I talking too quickly?” shows that you care that they understand you. However, be aware that they may answer that you are not, in order to not seem unintelligent or rude.

Slow Down, but Don’t Exaggerate.

When we slow down our speech, we tend to start over-­enunciating our words or stretching them out. Try to avoid this.

Exaggerating small

Exaggerating words makes your listener feel belittled, and your speech no longer comes across the way English actually sounds. Again, just be aware of your pacing instead.

Slowing Down Saves Time.

It seems counter-intuitive, but we all know that taking our time on any project produces a better quality product and fewer headaches later on because of mistakes. Your language in the workplace is no different.

Miscommunication smallThis is especially true for highly technical environments, in which the precision of instructions and language is vital. Take a few extra seconds to slow your speech and make sure your message is clear, and you’ll be glad later that you did!

If you’d like more strategies on communicating with the non­-native English speakers in your workplace, or would like to offer your workers accent reduction classes or seminars, please contact Lisa Scott for a consultation… and visit AccentuateCommunication.com for more on how we can help you break down cross­-cultural workplace barriers.

3 Ways to Keep It Simple: Connecting with International Co-Workers

The American workplace is more and more an international one. Through internship or residency programs, we work daily with non-native English speakers who have been in the U.S. for only a few years, or who even arrived just recently. Online, we’re communicating globally through video chats and e-conferencing. Modern travel and the internet have blurred the borders of our world.

 

What does this mean for the American professional whose co-workers now come not only from across town, but across the globe? Your international co=workers probably dedicated much of their time and energy to learn English in order to have the job and life they desire. We, in turn, should appreciate that effort by evaluating how our communication skills can welcome them into our workplaces and help them continue to improve.

In this ongoing series on cross-cultural communication, today I offer three ways to…

 

1. Use Plain English

Keeping it simple for your foreign-born co-workers means paring down the words you use. It doesn’t mean you’re dumbing things down for them… after all, these are professionals who are performing their job in a second language. That alone requires skill and intelligence! However, that doesn’t mean they’re familiar with all the vocabulary in the English language.

For example, say “moving” instead of “transitioning”… or “friendly” instead of “amicable.” If a co-worker has to constantly stop to look up words you’ve used, you have slowed productivity for them and your team, and reduced their confidence in communicating with you. You want just the opposite.

 

 

2. Repetition is Helpful

Call a spade a spade… and keep calling it a spade! Changing the word you use to reference a project or piece of equipment will only confuse a non-native speaker, who thought they had already learned the word you wanted to use.

Repetition of labels allows an international worker to become quickly familiar with these ideas, and move past the learning stage to a deeper level of confident communication.

 

 

3. Offer to Explain

Remember to kindly ask if there are any words that were unfamiliar to them, or any concepts that they would like repeated or explained in a different way.

This simple gesture will show you care that your co-worker understands you, and that you value their communication with you. To know they can ask you for an explanation without feeling embarrassed builds trust for your professional relationship.

If you’d like more strategies on communicating with the non-native English speakers in your workplace, or would like to offer your workers accent reduction classes or seminars, please contact Lisa Scott  for a consultation… and visit AccentuateCommunication.com for more on how we can help you break down cross-cultural workplace barriers.

Why YouTube Isn’t Enough

If you’ve been following my blog or Facebook page for any length of time, you know that I enjoy posting videos of American pronunciation and culture on YouTube, and I hope you find them helpful! And there are, of course, many more language pronunciation videos out there as well. But is viewing free online videos enough to help you be understood by your co-workers, clients, patients, and American friends?

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If you are still actively learning English vocabulary, sounds, and grammar, YouTube videos may be great for you right now. But if you’re reading this article with ease, you are probably already beyond that. Take a look at the following question and try to answer honestly:

What kind of English Speaker are you- (1)

If you answered anything other than “I’m always understood”, you are probably ready to take the next step in your English pronunciation: personalized accent reduction!

Depending on which dialect you speak, the English language has anywhere from 44 to 52 different sounds… and non-native speakers usually only have 10 to 15 of those sounds that are affecting the way they speak and are understood. How do you know which are affecting you, and which to actively work on? That is an answer YouTube videos just cannot provide.

The English Language Sounds

So what are your options for reducing your accent?

You may have looked into home-study software kits, a local small group for speech training, or a number of online speech training programs… and you’re probably wondering which is right for you. I like to go back to the familiar saying, “you get what you pay for” when it comes to accent reduction, and what you pay for should definitely include heavy one-on-one attention from a speech coach. You need the feedback of a trained American listener to help you concentrate on the right sounds for you.

No matter which program you go with, do your homework before purchasing to make sure you will receive individual attention to your accent. And as always, I’d love to be your coach! You can receive a free accent screening and pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com. With personalized attention and practice, you’ll be able to say, “I’m always understood!”

Accent Reduction Classes: the Key to a Better Quality of Life?

Have you ever been misunderstood when you thought you had been very clear?

Do people ever ask you to repeat yourself because they don’t understand what you said?

Are you concerned that you may miss a job opportunity or promotion because of your accent?

If you have ever experienced any of these things, you may have wondered if there were any way to solve these problems without losing your native accent or regional dialect.

talking1You’ll be happy to know that the answer is YES.

By working with a trained speech professional, you can increase the clarity and accuracy of your English speech, often by 50% or more, without completely losing the accent that reflects your heritage.

Would it improve your self-esteem to be understood every time you speak? Would you gain self-confidence if you never had to repeat yourself again? Would you sleep better at night knowing that your speech no longer negatively impacted your job performance?

If you answered yes to those questions, then accent reduction training could be right for you.

First, look for a speech trainer or coach who specializes in accent reduction. Speech pathologists have specialized training in how to teach you to pronounce sounds correctly and show you how to form those sounds in your mouth.

To determine if an accent reduction class will be beneficial, ask for a screening or consultation and tell the trainer exactly what concerns you have about your speech.

A quality program should include a customized evaluation and a training plan tailored to your individual needs. It may include either individual or small group sessions, since it is often beneficial to hear others practice even if their native language is different from yours.

Your classes may be held in person at your office or at the office of your speech coach. Alternately, you may choose to have individual lessons via webcam, a more private and time -saving approach.

During the sessions, you should learn to hear the differences in your speech, discover a new way to pronounce troublesome words, and practice your new skills in relevant conversation.

Reducing your accent will require a time of dedication and practice on your part, but by working with a qualified speech professional and practicing at home, you will soon find yourself communicating more easily with everyone around you.

As Anthony Robbins says, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”

Don’t you deserve a better quality of life?

 

Cross-Cultural Business Communication: Do’s and Don’ts for Co-workers

In our ever-increasing global marketplace, it is more and more likely that you will encounter non-native speakers of English in your workplace. This can be a wonderful opportunity to get familiar with another culture, but the cultural differences in communication can be frustrating, particularly when the other person has limited English or a heavy accent. Don’t give up, though! Cross-cultural business communication does not have to be so hard.

You may not think that you can do anything about it, but actually there are several steps you can take. If the person has very limited English, you could offer to help him or her find ESL classes. If their knowledge of English is good, but their accent makes them hard to understand, suggest to management that they offer accent reduction training for those who need it. In the meantime, though, what do you do if you are working with this person and you just can’t understand each other?

Try these five tips to improve your ability to communicate:

1. DO NOT speak more loudly

Unless the person is wearing hearing aids or has a known hearing loss, please do not speak more loudly to him or her. He or she is not deaf, and shouting does not improve communication. It is a natural reaction for many people who are misunderstood to repeat their statement a little louder each time, as if the listener were a stubborn two year old willfully ignoring the request. Use a normal tone of voice. Your listener will thank you.

2. DO NOT over-enunciate

Another tendency many of us have when faced with awkward communication is to s-l-o-w- d-o-w-n and over-enunciate. Do you hear the words I am trying to say? we think to ourselves in an over-exaggerated fashion. But that is not how English really sounds, and it won’t increase the chances of being understood. It will only make the listener feel belittled.

3. DO speak more slowly

Try to think back to the foreign language class you took in high school. Whether it was French, Spanish, or German, I’ll bet that your reaction to hearing native speakers was something like this: Why do they talk so fast? Can’t they just slow down? I can’t even understand the words they are saying. Now the shoe is on the other foot. English sounds just as fast to a non-native speaker as those foreign languages did to you. I’m not suggesting that you slow down to an embarrassingly slow pace, but be conscious of how rapidly you are speaking. Particularly when communicating technical information, it is important to ensure that the other person has understood every piece of the communication. If you are hurried or stressed, work even harder to slow down. It is very natural when we are stressed to talk even faster, but most likely this is when it will be most critical to speak slowly enough to get your message across clearly. A few extra seconds on the front end can save an endless stream of headaches later on.

4. DO offer to explain unfamiliar words

Most non-native speakers are working hard to improve their English and are extremely intelligent. After all, they are performing their job in a foreign language; not everyone could do that! If you kindly offer to explain an unfamiliar word, you are not only helping your colleague to boost his English skills, but you are building trust and rapport as well.

5. DO ask if they would like your help with pronunciation

Have you ever had one of those embarrassing moments where you had a piece of spinach caught in your teeth, or your fly was down, or you had toilet paper caught on your shoe — and no one told you? Didn’t you wish someone had just said something to you sooner instead of letting you walk around like that? That is how most non-native speakers of English feel when they mispronounce a word and no one tells them it is wrong. Some people are very self- conscious and prefer not to be corrected, but many foreign-born professionals are very appreciative of a little English guidance. It is important to be polite and discreet, though. Correcting someone across the table in a meeting with the boss may not go over so well, but a casual comment afterward could be helpful.

In fact, if you develop a good rapport with the person, you could offer to be their resource contact whenever they are unsure of how to pronounce a word. You could help them avoid many of those embarrassing little moments – and you could become the office expert on effective cross-cultural business communication!

If cross-cultural communication is an issue in your business, please recommend that the non-native English speakers in your office download my FREE report How to Speak English Like an American: 6 Steps You Can Take Today