Perhaps to better connect with remote teams, colleagues, and/or clients? Maybe to win over bigger, better deals? Possibly to speak in high-stakes meetings with more ease and efficiency?
Below are 5 ways global business leaders can speak English more clearly to achieve faster results.
Clear Speech Tip #1 for Global Executives: Control Your Speed.
When you’re up at the podium or speaking center stage on Zoom, you want to be mindful of how your audience is processing the information. Always keep in mind: You’ve had the opportunity to process the information but your audience hasn’t. They might be very familiar with your topic, but again, whatever you’ve decided to talk about in that moment is new to them.
Below are a few ways to control your English-speaking speed:
- Move your mouth, lips, and jaw to enunciate the clear vowel sounds in the key words of your message. These are the important words of information. E.g., the nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and question words.
- Insert holds and pauses between the chunks of information in your sentences. You can think of these chunks of information as idea chunks. Take the short sentence, Clear communication is critical. This short sentence has one idea. Another sample idea chunk is the prepositional phrase, in the global workplace. This chunk contains one idea about place. Two more sample chunks include the noun phrase A rockstar communicator and the transitional phrase, As a result.
When you insert holds and pauses between the idea chunks, you help your audience process the information with more ease.
Clear Speech Tip #2 for Global Executives: Use A Steady Volume.
You probably understand that speaking loud enough in meetings is important. After all, you want your listeners to hear your invaluable insights and ideas.
What you might not really understand is that it’s super important to speak loud enough at the beginning AND end of your sentences due to English sentence structure. We typically start a sentence with old information and end with new information.
You want to make sure that your audience can hear the new information at the end of your sentences. Otherwise, your audience is required to exert more effort to follow you from point to point. And this can negatively impact how much information is retained after the meeting.
Clear Speech Tip # 3 for Global Executives: Articulate the Medial & Final Consonant Sounds.
Have you ever paid attention to how a TED Talk speaker typically articulates his/her medial and final consonants in the key words of information?
If you hear this speaker conversing in the grocery store or on the train, you might not hear these sounds so easily. But when up on stage or during a virtual call, this speaker is most likely carefully articulating the medial and final consonant sounds. This speaker knows that the pops, hisses, and audible breaths matter. They hold up the words so that the vowels around them don’t collapse into each other. As a result, the listener is able to more easily process the words within themselves and within the sentences in real-time speech.
Clear Speech Tip #4 for Global Executives: Alternate the Stressed & Unstressed Sounds.
People tend to assume that if they master the individual sounds (vowels and consonants), they are easily understood by speakers of different language backgrounds.
No doubt, the individual sounds are important. However, the stress and intonation patterns are also very important.
English is a stress-patterned language. At the word, idea chunk, and sentence levels, there is an alternation of the stressed and unstressed sounds. This alternation at all three levels helps the listener process the information with more ease. The speaker is better able to communicate effectively to achieve a specific result.
To get in the habit of alternating the stressed and unstressed sounds, I recommend beginning at the word level. Focus on developing a feeling for how to produce a stressed syllable sound and an unstressed syllable sound.
Clear Speech Tip #5 for Global Executives: Vary Your Pitch in Sentences.
Sometimes a client’s speech has a monotone or robotic sound, and we talk about this. They explain that they associate less pitch variation with sounding “more educated.”
What they don’t understand is that pitch variation (some form of it, not necessarily wild and crazy) helps their listener(s) to stay engaged and follow what they are saying each step of the way, from point to point.
To vary the pitch within sentences, focus on how you are producing the key words of information — the nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, transition words, and question words. There are more, but this is a good place to start. Make sure that each key word carries a small pitch change within the sentence.
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