But does your accent matter when you speak in public?
If you have a strong or very distinct accent, is there a case for reducing or even retraining how you talk to become a more effective public speaker?
These are questions I am commonly asked by our clients. And my answers are “yes”, but “don’t be too quick to change your accent”.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge that accents do matter when you speak in public.
There is legion research to confirm that most people form views of others within the first few seconds of seeing and hearing them. So, first impressions matter and can affect an audience’s disposition to you as a speaker and what you have to say.
However, before those of us blessed with a distinctive manner of expression rush off for elocution lessons (acquiring a BBC or mid Atlantic voice) – hang on a second.
Even if you believe you have a strong accent and this might result in prejudice towards you, beware of changing your accent. It could be counter productive.
The fact is that our accents are part of who we are. They go beyond mere pronunciations and include the inflections, tones and words/phrases we use to express our ideas. Your accent forms part of your personality. If you try to change it, you run the risk that people may find your voice affected or contrived. And, as a speaker, this can have a disastrous effect on your perceived credibility and, therefore, the value people are prepared to attach to what you say.
The reality is that there are many things that matter more than your accent when you give a presentation. The more important of these are your tone, your pace of speaking, your passion and whether you tick the following boxes:
- Is what you are saying relevant and interesting to your audience?
- Do you know what you’re talking about?
- Are your messages thought provoking, logical and compelling?
Of course there are things that you can do to soften or negate the impact of a strong accent, including the following 3 golden rules:
- Avoid any sense of rushing by injecting pauses at the end of every sentence, allowing your audience to keep pace with you.
- Speak with passion – let your audience know that you care.
- Practice, practice and practice some more
And the moral of the story is – when it comes to accents – don’t try to be an Act-orr! Your first instinct should be to “dance with the girl you brought – but don’t be afraid to give her a few dancing lessons, if they are needed!”
Over to You
What do you think? Do you believe speakers should accept their accents? Share your observations.