Manage episode 376733901 series 2950797
We know that being formal and stiff creates distance between the speaker and the audience. We also know that a “conversational tone” is ideal, as it creates a strong feeling of inclusivity between the presenter and those in the room. That conversational tone means a relaxed style on the part of the speaker, but how relaxed? We gauge people’s education and intelligence level by the way they speak. So we want to sound smart, but we don’t want to sound snobby. Where is the line?
If you speak with a regional or national accent, should you stick with that or should you OxBridge it up? Typical Australians have very strong accents. Educated urban Australians speak quite differently to rural dwellers and the further you go from the coast, the stronger the accent becomes. Television presenters in Australia all spoke as if they were aping BBC presenters until the 1960s, when television commercials started adopting the lingua franca of the masses. I have read that in the USA, regional accents are a barrier in many cases and as people move around for work, they have to change the way they speak to be better respected. So, when presenting should you present in a more highbrow fashion and change your diction or speak as if you would to one of your local neighbours?
It will depend to a great extent on your audience and the topic. If I was presenting to a room full of Aussies and I put on a posh OxBridge accent, that would be seen as fake and lacking in authenticity and would impact how my message was received. If I was presenting to a room full of well educated Aussies, in a down and dirty local Brisbane boy accent, that would also have a negative impact. If it was a highbrow topic, I would be seen as uneducated and therefore not seen as credible for that audience.
In Japan, I often speak to national Chambers of Commerce. Often these are mixed audiences of non-native speakers. Generally, the international businesspeople you meet in Tokyo speak excellent English, no matter where they come from. However, my Aussie vowels can confuse people at times. I think I am saying “a” and they are hearing “I”. It is always a surprise for me, because I thought I had moved on from that. I have learnt to neutralise my accent for the most part, when speaking to these groups, in order to have the greatest shot at getting my message across.
Am I being authentic, if I am not speaking as I would back in Brisbane? I think there is room for variation of our accents to give us the best communication vehicle to get the job done. If I go all OxBridge though, then that is too much, because I am not British and not a graduate of either of those storied universities and now I am just faking it for effect. If I put on an American accent, that would be ridiculous as well and I am not sure I could carry it off anyway. I go for a neutral accent, which will give me the greatest access to the listener’s attention and will sound both natural and unforced.
What about the way we present? Should we be standing around in a relaxed fashion, as we would down the pub or should we be there ramrod straight and upstanding? Should we put our hands in our trouser pockets or keep them out? Should we be leaning on the rostrum as we talk or should we be standing with 50/50 weight displacement on our feet? I think standing up straight with a 50/50 split is the most professional approach, but it doesn't have to be stiff and tense. Just standing up straight with the knees unlocked is enough. You look good without looking forced.
Hands in the trouser pockets is usually the male speaker thrusting them in there, because he doesn't know what to do with his hands. The most natural position is for the hands to just hang by the side of your body. To find that magic spot, just raise your arms up to a 90 degree angle to the floor and then drop them. Where they land is the most natural position for them when you are not employing them for gestures. Hands in the pocket, behind the back, fig leaf in front of the groin, are all guaranteed to restrict your use of gestures and that should be avoided at all costs.
We need our hands to add power to the point we are making and we want to treat it like a faucet. We turn the gestures on and then we turn them off again. We don’t hold the same gesture for longer than 15 seconds, because the power just dies after that point and it adds no value to anything we are doing. Don’t forget about your hands and just allow the same gesture to linger long. People become self-conscious about where their hands are, but if you are using your eyes, face and voice to engage the audience, they won’t be paying any attention to your hands in the rest position. Your gestures will come up in a natural way and the audience won't think twice about what you are doing, as it just fits in nicely with the whole flow of the presentation.
Our audience and topic will determine how we choose to speak and how we decide to present. There is a range we can adopt and we should use that range to suit our purposes. The extremes of that range are where we will get ourselves into trouble and we should avoid doing that if want our message to get through.