Professional Presence: Finding Your Voice


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.



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.



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


Springtime Challenge: Grow a Speech Garden

People who love gardening often spend all winter planning what they’ll grow in the spring. They pore over seed catalogs and websites, plot out their flower or vegetable beds on paper, and put aside money for new plants, mulch, and all the other necessary materials to make their garden beautiful and prosperous.

Have you ever thought about tending to your speech the way you’d tend to a garden?

Well, I’m issuing you a challenge!

Springtime Challenge

For Better Hearing and Speech month, we’re talking about how your communication takes care… the kind of care that would go into the planning and maintenance of a lush and healthy garden.

What does it look like to “grow a speech garden” with care?

Identify The Weeds

Any gardener knows that weeds will take over your garden in no time if left to grow! They become harder to uproot as they get bigger. The same is true for your speech: an unhelpful sound left unchecked will make you harder to understand, and will take more work to “unlearn” the longer you continue to use it.

Feed the Healthy Plants!Garden beds need nutrients in the form of fertilizer or compost – and of course watering – to ensure healthy plants and growth. Your American accent can benefit from similar care… so practice the sounds you know are working.

Introduce New SpecimensGardeners are always looking to include new specimens in their gardens – perhaps an heirloom vegetable variety they’ve never grown, or an exciting new hybrid of their favorite flower. When your correct sounds become strong enough that you don’t have to focus on them as much anymore, you can more easily introduce the next batch of sounds that need more work.

So, how do you know which sounds to focus on?

In this video from awhile back, I explain more about how your clear speech is like a garden you must maintain, and how important an individual speech coach or listener is.

And I also want to encourage you to join me for my 8­-week online clear speech course that starts June 9!

This course will tackle exactly what we’re talking about with your “speech garden”… identifying the sounds that give you trouble, practicing the correct sounds, individual attention from a speech pathologist (me, of course!), and listening and support from others who are also growing their “speech garden.”

Speaking and Learning Together

All the course information is right here, so don’t miss this opportunity to change the course of your speech this spring! Just like a garden that produces a bountiful autumn harvest, you can be speaking more clearly by this fall after my 8-week course.

And after you reserve your spot, you can bring a friend for free!

Working with a friend will help you both better tend to your speech gardens.

I hope you take this “Speech Garden Challenge” and commit to working on your American accent this spring… and I hope to see you June 9 for my “Speaking and Learning Together” accent reduction course!

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?

Why youtube isn't enough (3)

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 With personalized attention and practice, you’ll be able to say, “I’m always understood!”

Broken Rules: Learn how to say Snow Plow

Some people like to say that “rules are made to be broken.” Well that’s certainly how it seems to be with the English language sometimes! Just when you learn a pronunciation rule, it seems there is a group of words that break that rule.

learn to say...


This often happens with words that have the same spelling, but are pronounced completely differently. In this video, we’re going to talk about that wintertime white stuff – snow – and the phrases and sounds that go along with it.

If this video was helpful, my free pronunciation guide and accent screening can help you with these sounds and more. Check it out at


Smell Your Way to Clearer American Pronunciation

You’ve been working on your American pronunciation, but maybe you’re not having the success you had hoped for, and you don’t think that your American accent is improving. You may find that smelling your way to clearer speech is just the tip you needed!

Spring Has Sprung! What Did That Bird Do?

Episode #14: American Accent: What’s Growing in Your Speech Garden?



Easter Bunny or Easter Rabbit? American Pronunciation of Easter words

Are you AT work or IN work? Figuring out Prepositions of Place

American Pronunciation of Stare and Steer: What’s the Difference?

Welcome! In this video, you get some American pronunciation practice as we talk about the difference between the words stare and steer. We’ll talk about the double meanings of each word and how they are pronounced, and you will improve your American accent as you learn how to say each sound.