Last week, Johanna and Ulrike travelled to Vilnius, Lithuania to attend CONVENE. On her way to the exhibition site on the bus, Ulrike met Susan Heaton-Wright, a very sympathetic British lady who turned out to be a former opera singer and now works with clients to ensure they are using their voices and body language the best way. She teaches them in creating a presence and acquiring charisma and confidence in a variety of business situations.
Susan is a regular speaker at business groups including the Institute of Directors and Chamber of Commerce, at conferences and universities where she has been a guest lecturer. She has appeared on BBC 2’s Working Lunch and BBC radio shows as well as online radio shows in USA and Australia. She was a regular BBC radio commentator on the voice during the recent General Election. Her blog “Superstar Communicator” was a finalist in the 2015 UK Blog Awards.
At CONVENE she gave a lecture on “Using your voice and physical presence to make an impact in meetings”, a very interesting and interactive seminar!
Ulrike wanted to learn more about her work and asked her for an interview.
1. What do speakers do wrong?
A lot of them speak too fast, have a poor diction, a strong accent and speak too loudly. It is very unpleasant to listen to them and people switch off. Often, they don’t understand the vocabulary.
Me for example, I try to speak slowly and clearly because I know that not all of my listeners speak English as a mother tongue. And very important, I don’t make english jokes because the vast majority wouldn’t understand our “British humour”.
2. How can people improve their speaking skills?
Training is very important. Of course, you can work with a specialist but initially, it’s worthwile to work with other people who are giving you honest and friendly feedback. You can for example ask your colleagues whether you speak too fast on the telephone or whether you mumble in a meeting.
A useful tip: Pay attention to the punctuation of a sentence. Ask yourself where you normally would set a comma – this is the ideal time to take a breath. It also gives your brain a change to catch up.
3. What other tips can you give us?
Drinking is very important when you are giving a speech, I mean water of course. But be aware that it takes approximately 2 hours to absorb water. So, when you have a meeting at 9 in the morning, you already have to hydrate your body at 7. A symptom of dehydration is a crumbling and mucus voice.
When you are sitting, remember that you have sitting bones. You’re anchored with the chair, the feet are on the ground, the thorax is open so that you can breathe easily. It also gives you more presence, it gets noticed that you have more energy.
You can find more information on my website: www.executivevoice.co.uk.