We all have heard the saying, ‘It’s a small, small world.’ Do you know what invention makes the world really small? The international conference call (“ICC”).
The ICC is ubiquitous in global business, and for good reason: it saves time and money. But the ICC can have a big impact on the influence of women at work. Let’s take a look at the problems women who speak English as a second language encounter on the ICC, and how to solve them.
Problem 1: You speak English with an accent. Your accent makes it difficult for everyone on the call to understand you easily.
Solution: The fastest and easiest way to minimize an accent is to emphasize and stretch your vowels. Accents rest mostly on vowels, since they are more open than consonants. Try opening your mouth wider when pronouncing your vowels. It takes a little bit more time, but it makes it so much easier for everyone to understand you. This works with every native language when you are speaking English.
Problem 2: You have a hard time getting heard and are afraid to interrupt.
Solution: I know that you were taught that interrupting someone is rude. However, you do have an option. Begin with this sentence, “I am sorry to interrupt you, but I want to add that…” Try increasing your volume when you use this tip (see problem 3). It is the best way to get heard when your voice is your only tool. Note: if you are really uncomfortable with interrupting, you have to practice it! Rehearse your ‘apology’ interruption sentence with a friend or two until you have the confidence to try it live. Then use the same sentence every time you need to interrupt.
Problem 3: The telephone has a small microphone. This microphone does not pick up your voice very well.
Solution: You need to increase your volume, but you must avoid shouting. The trick is to use your breath to get louder, not to squeeze your throat. One handy trick is to imagine a volume knob that moves from one (softest) to ten (loudest). Pick a number that matches your normal volume. When you need to get louder, imagine turning up one number higher. Keep your throat open and relaxed when you try this. Take a deep breath, and let your voice flow!
Problem 4: You make a comment, and no one responds. Then someone else repeats what you said, and everyone responds positively. You do not get credit for the idea.
Solution: Does this sound familiar? It has happened to everyone. You can avoid it with a little conversational tip. After you make your comment, immediately follow up with a question, such as, “Can anyone give me their feedback on my idea?” or, “I am excited to hear everyone’s comments on my idea.” This ensures everyone on the call has to reflect on what you just said. With so many people paying attention to your ideas, it will be difficult for anyone else to take credit for them.
About the Author
Anna Bernstein is founder of The Brain-Voice Connection™, a communications coaching business offering executive voice and presentation training as well as accent reduction and communication skills coaching.