All of us have accents, whether we’re aware of it or not. In fact, in many cases, we don’t even think of ourselves as having an accent until we meet people from a different culture and they point it out to us.
The real question is how strong our accent is. Having a strong accent isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s a reminder of our culture and where we’re from, but it can occasionally be a problem when you’re a public speaker if it’s getting in the way of people understanding you.
So with that said, let’s go ahead and take a look at a few of our top tips for coping with public speaking when you have a strong accent. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Get elocution lessons
Elocution lessons are essentially one-on-one lessons with pronunciation and speaking experts that are all about helping to ensure that your speech is as clear as possible. They’re not a mandatory part of being a public speaker, but they can be super useful if you struggle with a thick accent or if you have a lisp or a speech impediment. As with many of the techniques that we’re going to talk about today, you can think of them as another tool at your disposal and something that’s definitely worth a try if people are struggling to understand you.
2. Speak slowly
One of the best things that you can do if you have a strong accent is to speak more slowly than you normally would, just so that you give people the time to process what you’re saying. Just be careful not to go overboard, because if you speak too slowly then people can feel that you’re underestimating their ability to follow what you are telling them.
3. Provide transcriptions
Providing transcriptions isn’t always possible, especially if you tend to ad lib a lot or talk around your presentation rather than following a regular script. Still, if you’re able to provide transcriptions then it’s always a good idea, especially if you’re delivering your talk online. That’s because online tools are often compatible with purpose-built AI tools that are designed to provide accurate transcriptions in real time. The downside is that these AI tools can often struggle with strong accents, too.
If you prefer to add transcription afterwards, you can automatically convert your audio file to text, which can save time, improve accessibility to information, and facilitate the creation of subtitles or searchable transcripts from audio and video content – here you can read more about converting an audio file to text.
Enunciating is all about emphasizing certain aspects of the words that you’re saying to make it clearer what you’re talking about. By learning when and how to enunciate, you’re better placed to make sure that your words are as easy to understand as possible, especially for those in the back rows or if you have a strong accent that people are struggling to process.
5. Raise your voice
This might sound like a no-brainer, but if you raise your voice then you increase your chances of being heard by people. Like our tip on speaking slowly, we’re not advising you to shout at people so that they feel as though you’re in the middle of a tirade, but if you raise your voice enough, then at least you can be sure that they’re hearing you, even if they’re struggling to understand what you’re saying through your accent.
6. Be aware of slang and colloquialisms
This trick is particularly true if your accent is international rather than regional. For example, if you’ve been a Londoner all your life and you find yourself working as a public speaker in the United States, you’re going to want to avoid using Cockney rhyming slang, colloquialisms and pop culture references that would only be understood by people in the UK. You have a duty to your audience to give them at least a chance of being able to understand you.
We all know that practice makes perfect, and that’s especially true for public speakers. When it comes to speaking clearly with a strong accent, your best bet is to spend a lot of time practicing speaking and seeing if you can soften your accent. The more you practice doing it, the better you’ll become.
8. Record yourself and listen back to it
This is another one of those old public speaking techniques that has widespread applications. The idea is that by recording yourself and then listening back to the recording, you can listen out for areas in which your accent is stronger than others, and then focus on improving those areas. If you’re particularly keen for feedback, you can even send your recording to some people who belong to your target audience demographic and ask them for any pointers on how you can improve your delivery.
9. Pretend you’re an actor
Actors often have to put on different accents for the roles that they perform, and you can do something similar as a public speaker. We’re not asking you to be someone that you’re not, of course. Instead, it’s all about playing a role and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Perhaps you can follow in the footsteps of your favorite actor and put on a different accent, or at the very least you might be able to soften your delivery. Just don’t deliver the whole presentation with your Christopher Walken impression.
10. Give it your best shot
Ultimately, all you can do is your best, and if that’s not good enough for people then that’s on them and not on you. Like we said at the start of this article, everybody has an accent. If your accent is thicker than most then you can do what you can to try to soften it, but as long as you’re trying your best to get your point across then no one can ask for anything more.
Now that you know our top tips for public speaking when you have a strong accent, we want to hear from you. Do you have a strong accent? And if so, how have you coped with it when it comes to your presentations?
As always, we’d love to keep the discussion going, so be sure to let us know in the comments. You can also follow us on your favorite social networking sites for more. We’ll see you soon for another article!