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Positive Voice Blog

A Simpler Way to Reduce Your Accent

Posted on Friday, September 02, 2016 by Positivevoice

For sometime now, i have intended to provide an alternative to face-to-face or skype lessons in accent reduction. My 6 month one-to-one course in accent reduction has proved a great success. Yet, i can't help thinking that i could work more effectively in order to help more people to improve their speech. To this end, i am creating a course that has been long awaited by many. A digital course in accent reduction. This does not replace one-to-one lessons, but can be taken as an alternative or alongside Skype lessons. I am now in the final editing phase and intend to launch the programme in the next two weeks.

This course is for anyone who would like to transform their accent or speak in a more polished manner. It is for both native speakers and those learning English as a foreign or second language. In addition to covering the 44 sounds presented in the international phonetic index, i also cover vocal projection, resonace, warm up exercises and mindset. Anyone who has taken Skype lessons with me, will be familiar with the course style and delivery. Having said this, almost all the content is new.

I am currently releasing sneak previews of the course via YouTube. Here is one such video:



One Simple Way to Transform Your Voice

Posted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 by Positivevoice

Over the years, I have been constantly looking for the difference that makes the difference in voice transformation. I have had clients who have done it in 3 months and others who have taken years… So, what is it that sets the speedy ‘voice transformers’ apart from the rest?

 

We shall take regular practice as a given (without this, nothing will happen very quickly). So, firstly imagine someone who is practicing the exercises done together in class on a daily basis. Secondly, and here is the ‘trick’; the difference that makes the difference; imagine someone who is becoming very aware of how they sound by making recordings of their voice. In and of itself, this sounds very simple, but it is incredibly effective when done in a certain way. This is the first time I have shared this on a blog, I usually reserve it for my one to one clients, but after coming back from maternity leave, I am feeling excited about sharing these things again, so here it is, in chronological bullet form; one of the best kept secrets; an effective way to reduce your accent:

 

  1. Start by recording your voice in everyday conversation. You may wish to ask someone to do it without telling you (think short recordings of 60 seconds max).
  2. Play back the recordings and make a note of what you like and what you don’t like. Notice what you would like to change.
  3. Make recordings in a variety of situations; at work, on the phone; with your partner or husband or wife and with family and friends. Do you have a ‘different voice’ in different situations? Notice when you use your ‘best voice’. How do you feel in these instances? (Your voice and your emotions are inextricably linked).
  4. Once you have ‘got to know’ your voice, you are ready to start transforming it. Point number 3 will prove very useful and is an exercise to be repeated on a weekly basis. The next point, however, may be the difference that makes the difference:
  5. Find a written transcript with an accompanying audio (Past clients have used: audio books and magazines; such as The Economist and even Harry Potter):
  1. Find a short paragraph and read and listen at the same time.
  2. Repeat point a. several times.
  3. When you are ready (or just before) record yourself reading the passage you have chosen.
  4. Play back the original recording and compare it to your own.
  5. Repeat the process until you are happy with the result.The above exercise is one that I do with my clients on a regular basis. We then go through their audios; correcting rhythm and vocal variety.Please do give this a try and let me know how it goes!


7 Phenomenal Secrets to becoming an Extraordinary Communicator

Posted on Thursday, February 26, 2015 by Positivevoice


Have you ever assessed your own ability to communicate?

If yes, how did you rate yourself?

If no, it is never to late; read on!

Recently, I worked with the loveliest little boy to improve his speech. Essentially, his mother brought him to me saying that he needed to improve his speaking skills and confidence. When asked, he said that he believed that once his speech was clearer, he would feel more confident- he had difficulty pronouncing certain words and sounds, which made him hard to understand at times. Initially, he was not motivated to work directly on his confidence or his manner of communicating; just his pronunciation.

Fast forward 6-8 weeks and I notice that he has something emotional going on, which is impeding his progress when it comes to correcting those speech problems. Every lesson, I calmly asked him how he was feeling in terms of confidence at school and each lesson I was met with the same one word response: good. I wasn’t convinced. One lesson, it became apparent that he was blinking back tears.

Finally, he agreed to open up to me and have a coaching session. A big reminder that you can’t help someone until they WANT to be helped.  It transpired that all the children in his class at school were ignoring him. He tried to speak to them, but they didn’t listen; it was almost as if he wasn’t there. As is often the case, as time went on this had an impact on his grades at school and gave him yet another thing to be upset about. All of a sudden nothing was fun anymore. All he could think about was the misery at school; even when he was at home! He talked to no one but me about this.

So, we had some coaching which had a huge impact on how he felt and of course how you feel has a big impact on how people behave around you, so come the next day at school and that little problem whereby all the other kids were ignoring him had just disappeared!

Another interesting thing about all of this is that in the weeks that followed, his speech improved inordinately.

However, as is often the case, he needed more than just one session focused entirely on this little issue of confidence. As, I can’t force people to do a follow up, he had only had one session. Unfortunately, this breakthrough was followed by a little breakdown just a month later. So, we looked at his situation again. One of the things that jumped out at me was this:

How he communicated did not fill me with the greatest sense of self importance and worth; I was never quite sure how much he was listening to me or taking in. I just kept getting those one or two word responses. So, here is the lesson I taught him next:

How you communicate with others has a HUGE impact on how they communicate with you. When I talk about communication here, I am not just referring to TALKING, but LISTENING! If you are an excellent listener, others will be encouraged to talk to you and furthermore, they will feel amazing around you.

So, here is how to become a great listener (this is a great challenge for all you TALKERS out there).

Before I begin, take a moment to think back to all the greatest conversations you have had. Consider not just the words, but the extent to which you were listened to or encouraged to listen.

After all, what is the point in speaking if no one listens!

7 Secrets to becoming a GREAT listener:

  1. Eye contact: without this, no one will know that you are listening
  2. Undivided attention: put away your phone/tablet!
  3. Facial expressions: smiling, nodding and generally showing keen interest
  4. Avoid the temptation to focus on what you are about to say next: If your thoughts are elsewhere you are not listening. You may be able to repeat back what has just been said in the manner of a parrot, but have you really taken in the deeper levels of meaning?
  5. Little words and noises of agreement or understanding: yes (accompanied by a nod), really, how interesting, oh ok, are you sure? Hmmmm (or similar noises of agreement)
  6. Avoid interrupting: if number 5 (above) involves more than 2-3 words, this is considered as an interruption- some sensitive speakers can’t cope with more than one word, so be a sensitive listener. Always be willing to adapt your listening techniques to fit in with the person speaking- notice what they respond well too
  7. Last but not least: the number one secret: Behave as you would like others to behave around you. Consider those around you as your mirrors. If they are not listening to you, perhaps you are not REALLY listening to them either!

These are just 7 secrets; in reality the list could go on forever. For instance, you could do all the above and go away with nothing after the conversation. Real listening is not just with the eyes or the ears; it is with ALL the senses and only occurs when we really feel what is being said.

During the very best conversations I have ever had; I have lost all awareness of space and time and become totally engrossed in what is being said. This is LISTENING.

In my next post: How to Become More Convincing and Influential, I show how to apply this same little rule to public speaking.



7 Secrets to Acquiring a British Accent

Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Positivevoice


I rarely write about accent reduction because whilst it appears to be my main offering, it is, in fact, just one of the many routes to becoming a confident communicator.

This week I had a chat with a potential client, who like many people I speak to on the phone, said that he was convinced he would feel more confident and be taken more seriously if his accent was less obvious. My automatic response was to say, but ‘If you were totally confident, how would you feel about your accent?’…There was silence for a few moments, and then he said that he 'wasn’t sure'. This is a conversation that i have almost every week. 

So, in order to help people become more confident communicators, I offer the following options:

  • Confidence coaching: 2-4 sessions of 2 hours
  • Public Speaking training: Lesson duration dependent on needs, but usually 4-20 hours
  • 12 week course in Accent Reduction: 24 hours

I have listed these beginning with the quickest solution first J

For those of you who have chosen to pursue lessons in accent reduction, I would love to share my top 7 Secrets. This is based upon the mindset, practices and learning styles of my most successful clients. One of the very best ways to become good at something is to model those who have already succeeded:

7 Secrets to Acquiring a British Accent

  1. Set a Specific Goal: set a timeframe and an intention in terms of what you will be able to do when you can speak in this clear, confident manner: E.g. In 3 months time, I will pitch for new business at work or in 3 months time, I will begin interviews for a new job…
  2. Mindset: I was working with a client over the weekend who just seemed to be trying too hard. I know this sounds like an unusual observation, but when working on an accent, it is very important to remain relaxed; otherwise the muscles in the mouth and throat can become too tight. I suggested relaxing and just speaking ‘normally’. He said that he was afraid I would lose my patience if he made too many mistakes. This made me smile and I reassured him that I enjoyed teaching and would always remain patient- from my side, it isn’t even about patience, I just get into the zone and focus on helping my clients. I enjoy the challenge! As a student, it is important to do just this; let go of negative thoughts and emotions, get into the zone and rise to the challenge.
  3. Practice: This is perhaps the most important point in this list. You obviously must be very passionate and dedicated to practice at regular intervals throughout the day. This is, of course, much easier if you have plenty of English people around you to practice with. In this instance, every conversation becomes an opportunity to ’practice’. I often suggest doing a few of my warm up exercises each time you come in contact with water- if you are anything like me, this will be plenty of times per day. Sticking up post-it notes with key words written on them is another great way to encourage practice. Remember it is ALL about resonance; my warm up exercises will help you with this. Check out my video on YouTube
  4. Listen to Recordings of Your Own Voice: All my students are encouraged to record their lessons and then listen to the recordings between lessons. Recently, one student listened to all of the audios we had recorded and wrote up all the advice I had given on each sound, so that these pieces of advice would all be written down in the same place for each sound. The interesting thing about this was that I noticed a big improvement during the last few lessons we had (by which point she had already begun doing this). She said she had felt very relaxed whilst writing these notes and we all know that this is the best learning state, don’t we?
  5. Ask for Help: Let me know if you are experiencing any negativity/frustration- we can then work through this together
  6. Follow My Advice: This sounds very simple, but not everyone practices in the way I suggest:

-          Listen to the audios recorded during lessons

-          Practice throughout the day, everyday (remind yourself that it is only for 3 months)

-          Correct yourself when you catch yourself making mistakes (repeat what you just said, or use the word in the next sentence, modifying your pronunciation as needed)

-          Listen and read at the same time (Use audio books or download the podcasts that accompany magazines, such as the Economist). This is very effective as it helps you to change the voice in your head

-          When listening to the audio of the lesson, pause it to repeat where necessary

-          If you ever feel frustrated/ tired during self study, change to a different sound or come back to a warm up exercise- there are specific warm up exercises that will help you with each sound

-         Practice awareness: Be aware of your speech and that of others during conversation

  1. Choose someone to Emulate: A great way to transform your speech is to find someone who has got what you want. Who do you ‘know’ who has a lovely British accent? If no one comes to mind, find an actor or TV personality.

Of course, having one-to-one lessons with me is not the only way to change your accent. I have had great reviews from people watching my YouTube videos. The important thing is to follow the concepts in the list above:

Practice positively and regularly

If you haven't already, download my FREE eBook and audio series: 

http://positivevoice.co.uk/vocal-impact-video-tutorials



How to Create More Peace in Your Life: My 2 Top Tips

Posted on Tuesday, February 03, 2015 by Positivevoice

“Be the Change You Wish To See In the World”

 

I used to feel that it was impossible for a person like me to incite lasting change in the world. That is until Mahatma Gandhi’s quote really hit home. I have learned that the most lasting change comes when we lead by example, when we inspire others to do as we do. How we behave as individuals is reflected in the behaviour of wider society.

 

The example that you set now and in the future, will set the tone for the next generation. This concept is particularly poignant for me right now, as I am pregnant with my second child. You don’t need to be a parent to lead by example, though. We are all teachers to someone; family, friends, neighbours or colleagues.

 

How can you make a difference?

 

My Top Tips

 

  1. Don’t take things personally:

 

Initially, this is often one of the most difficult things to do, but with practice, it will get easier and easier. All you need to do is remind yourself that when someone gets angry or upset, it is their fear that is talking and not them! (All negative emotions can be interpreted as fear) They are fearful and by responding with anger you only exacerbate the situation until one of you ‘makes peace’ or until you go your separate ways. What if I told you that by changing the way you feel about this person, the whole energy dynamic will improve?

 

When you remind yourself that all negative behaviour is just fear in disguise, you will feel so much better and will realise that there is nothing to take personally. It is all about ‘them’ and nothing to do with you at all. Eventually, all negative emotions will drop away and you will feel only compassion.

 

EXERCISE

 

Think of someone who you have had conflict with; either recently or in the past, (a small argument will do for this exercise) ask yourself:

 

‘Was this about me or them?’

 

If it is about them: Perhaps you remind them of someone or even of themselves: often the behaviour we tolerate least is the behaviour that mirrors our own weaknesses. For instance, if, in the past you had a problem with listening or your attention span was very short, you might find the same behaviour in someone else absolutely intolerable. So, often the behaviour of others is a reflection of your own behaviour (past or present).

 

If it is about you: ask yourself what you were afraid of? What action could you have taken to dissipate this fear? All emotions can be interpreted as a call to action- after all, when you’re tummy rumbles; you easily interpret that as a call to eat. What do you do when you feel sad? Do you continue to feel sad or do you interpret the emotion and find a solution?

 

What could you have done to remedy your fear?

 

  1. Change yourself first!

 

It is impossible to change others through force. In fact, the harder you try, the more they will resist. It is, therefore, much better to focus on developing yourself, as then you can shine with love and humour * and inspire others to follow your lead. Also, the more you work on yourself, the less other people’s behaviour will disrupt your peace and the less inclined you will feel to try to change them, so you see, it is an upward cycle.

 

Humour is a great tool: react with it and respond with it whenever you can. Humour can lighten the saddest and heaviest of moods. As always, practice makes perfect.

 

Final thought: All war; whether it is on the battlefield, in the boardroom or in the classroom, relates to fear. The best way to heal fear is through love, kindness and understanding.



How to become exceptional

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 by Positivevoice


Anyone interested in personal development will want to improve themselves in some way. After all, we are all a work in progress. Even the greatest teachers still have something to learn.

People often ask me: ‘How can I become more: ‘confident’, ‘positive’, ‘well spoken’, ‘organised’… You fill in the blank.

Here is my answer: ‘Stand on the shoulders of giants’, Learn from the masters in the field. All you need to do is seek someone out who ‘knows’. These days we have access to everything. You will find amazing information in books and on Youtube. Once you have read a few books and watched a few videos, you will have a point of comparison and be able, if you so wish, to choose a coach or teacher in order to perfect your skills, but why not start by teaching yourself; by reading a book or watching a video. These days it is SO easy to learn.



Make More of an Impact!

Posted on Wednesday, June 06, 2012 by Positivevoice

So, you’ve overcome your fear of public speaking and all you need to do now is engage your audience. What can you do to make your delivery more captivating?

The first thing to do is to make sure you are passionate about your subject matter. If it is dry and boring to you, it will be dry and boring to your audience. I was teaching a little boy last week and i was explaining how there is not a market for 'good speakers'... You have to be more than just a good speaker. There is a market for passionate people who have done amazing things and are willng to talk about it. One such person is Jeremy Gilly, of Peace One Day, who established World Peace Day in 2002. Like most British professional speakers, he is very natural and real. He doesn't appear to have been trained and this is his greatest asset.

Once you have established what the topic and angle are, there are plenty of very simple tricks that you can implement. I do a lot of them without thinking, so please do not fear that you will appear less natural. 

Here are just a few:

 

  1. Make your audience feel important by asking questions whenever you can:

-          ‘Rhetorical’ questions

-          ‘Raise your hand if…’ questions

-          Question tags

 

  1. Repetition: Yes, it is normally very boring to repeat yourself, but you can highlight that something is important by emphasising the second time:

‘It’s important. I'll say that again; it’s VERY important’

 

  1. Metaphors and similes: these bring your speech alive

‘He ran as fast as lightning’ 

‘She stood still like a rabbit caught in head lamps’.

 

4. Connect emotionally with the words. Really mean what you say and your audience will believe in you.

 

5. Pause, pause, pause: This is VERY important. When you pause, you give your audience the opportunity to digest all that you have said. Pause after questions, pause after emphasising something, pause after a big, important statement. Pause creates intrigue.

These are just a few things that you can do to leave a lasting impression with your audience. I will bring you many more tips in the coming months.

 



Become a Competent Communicator

Posted on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 by Positivevoice

People often ask me how best to manage their staff or deliver constructive criticism without causing offence.

The quick way:

Sandwich your constructive criticism between honest praise or compassion.

1. Commendation: Offer a commendation by praising them for something they do well or thanking them for doing something. This could be about their punctuality, presentability or the fact that they just made you a cup of tea!

2. Constructive criticism: Ask them about the problem rather than launching straight into accusations or say: 'you're doing well and I'd like to see you doing even better' (notice how I use 'and' in place of 'but'- 'but' always negates what comes before and should be avoided.

3. Commendation: Finish by saying something pleasant, by praising or thanking them. This may seem foreign to start with, but will keep them motivated. Criticism can often perpetuate a problem and demotivate, so this last step is crucial.

As I said, this is the quick way. You can keep people motivated by highlighting the good things they do on a daily basis. Interestingly, a lot of managers only point out the negatives, which can lead to low self esteem and under performance.

Give this more supportive approach a try and notice the results. You may, initially, find it easier in writing... But keep practicing and you'll soon become extremely competent.


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