MOST professionals in corporate jobs would not think of showing up for work in beach attire. They know instinctively that the outfit is not appropriate for the situation, even if it doesn’t affect the quality of their work or capabilities in any way.
It is the same with the way you speak. You need to be aware of the register or style you are using when you speak, and whether that register is suitable for the situation you are in.
By speaking Standard English — generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of educated speakers — in the workplace and in business situations, we acknowledge that the context we are in requires a more formal and professional approach to communication.
It also reduces the likelihood of miscommunication, especially in a multilingual or multicultural workplace.
Here are some answers to common questions that professionals ask about speaking in business settings:
Should I change my accent when I’m speaking in a professional setting?
Some speakers feel the need to use a different accent, or to speak very loudly and slowly when communicating with someone who is not fluent in English. This is not necessary and, worse, can be offensive.
An accent is simply a result of a person’s regional, linguistic, social and family influences.
All you need to do is check on the correct pronunciation of words — and speak with the Standard English accent that you feel most comfortable in.
How do I give my voice more presence when I’m speaking to an audience?
Whether your audience consists of five or 500 people, your voice is a big part of what holds their attention.
Speaking is a full-body exercise. Create space around yourself — don’t back into walls or press into lecterns. Try to project your voice to the back of the room.
My colleague tells me that I use fillers such as “like” and “um” when I speak. How do I stop this?
Record yourself speaking and try to identify patterns. Perhaps you use fillers at the beginnings of sentences or when you are unsure of facts.
Once you have identified the issue, pay attention to how you speak over the next few days.
Next, try to say the filler words silently to yourself, instead of out loud.
For example, if you are in the habit of starting your sentences with the word “well”, say it silently in your head, before you continue saying the rest of your sentence aloud. This will help you to phase out the habit.
How do I speak in a more confident tone?
Imagine punctuating your spoken sentences. Would you use question marks, commas, full stops or exclamation marks?
Many people speak as if they are asking questions, with the last word ending on a rising note.
For example: “I’d like to get this done by Friday? And I’d like to get the information consolidated by next week? Please let me know what else you need?”
This makes the speaker sound unsure.
Inflect your voice downwards at the end of sentences — this makes you sound more definite and confident.
If it helps, visualise the sentences with full-stops at the end.
How can I make my voice more effective in meetings and interviews?
Add impact to what you say through eye contact.
Many successful and charismatic people use eye contact to direct their voice to a focal point, usually someone or a group of people in the audience.
You should also mirror the body language of your interviewer as it subconsciously creates empathy and mutual understanding.
How can I make speaking well a habit?
When you speak well in private, you will speak well to everyone else. Practise your best voice, choosing your words carefully and using correct grammar, in your head — even with simple internal monologues like planning your day or debating with yourself about what to eat for dinner. The closer you get to your ideal voice in your head, the easier it will be to get that voice out.