Slight Adjustments for Public Speaking with an Accent
- Fast-paced speakers – If you naturally speak fast and string multiple words together, then I suggest you be conscious of your speaking rate and slow it down slightly. I suggest this to all fast talkers (including myself), even those without an accent. The pauses in your presentation allow your audience to think and remember what you’re saying. Speeding through your message can make it hard for them to understand and recall what you said at a later time.
- Slow talking presenters – Contrary to fast-paced speakers, many slow talkers are easily understood. However, some audience members may take your slow speaking rate as lacking excitement or interest in the subject manner. Make sure you talk at a comfortable pace and show some energy; smiling helps too.
- Muffled speakers & mumblers – People from some regions of the world do not open their mouths much to speak so their voice does not project well. Mumbling, especially combined with fast-paced speaking, can be difficult for your audience to hear and understand you. Open your mouth more and project louder than you’re comfortable doing (at first). Watch the people in the back of the room and see if they are engaged. If they are not watching you speak, then they probably can’t hear you and have given up straining to hear you. Your audience wants to hear what you have to say, so speak up.
- Your words have different pronunciations – If you naturally say a word different than the region you speaking in (like caramel or tomato), then just go with it. You may joke with the audience that you say “tomato” and they call it “tomato” so they’re on the same page with what you’re talking about and it could be a way to engage them on a personal level.
- Your words have different meanings – If you travel abroad to speak, you need to be conscious that some words have different meanings even if you’re still speaking the same language. The United States, Great Britain, South Africa, and Australia all speak English, however, have wildly different words for some things. Take a look at this long list of different British and American terms in the Oxford Dictionary. Make sure what you’re saying is even relevant and feel free to joke about it a bit if you’re not doing a super formal presentation.
- You use words unique to your culture – Even though I’m from New Orleans, it sometimes feels like we’re a different country than the United States because of the way we say and do things here. For example, I can’t go to New York or Seattle and expect those audiences to know what making groceries or lagniappe means. (FYI – buying groceries and something extra, respectively.) Just like words that have different meanings, you may know what words are unique to your culture and you need to explain them. Sometimes you’ll be surprised that is a regional term, so watch your audience for clues that they don’t understand. (Another reason not to read your presentation.) If they look puzzled, pause and explain so they are up to speed with what you’re sharing.
Keep in mind when you’re speaking with an accent, to share your personality and be comfortable being you. Watch your speaking rate and the meaning of the words you’re using, and remember to articulate your words. These slight adjustments when public speaking with an accent will help your audience to understand you without sounding vanilla.
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