The British press including The Independent has recently been reporting on the current increase in demand for speech training and elocution lessons here in the UK. Over recent decades we have seen regional accents become less of a hindrance and sometimes even a plus point in sectors such as the media or in contact centres. However, the current economic climate, with jobs increasingly hard to find, is causing new job seekers and experienced professionals alike to re-examine their skills to ensure they can present themselves to the best of their abilities. And this skill set extends as far as how they speak with more and more people resorting to elocution lessons or speech training as a way of improving the way they come across.
It is one thing to turn to elocution lessons or voice coaching to improve the clarity, accuracy and pace of the way we speak and it is a positive sign that young school leavers and university graduates are keen to invest in their speaking skills in order to improve their success at job interviews. Experienced managers and professionals are also seeing the value of improving the way they speak in order to further their career development. An ability to speak clearly during meetings and formal presentations – particularly now that so much business communication takes place through virtual methods – is integral to business success and can often make one candidate for promotion stand out from another.
However, it is slightly more surprising that a key reason cited for approaching a voice coach or speech trainer is to soften a strong regional accent or even lose it altogether. People from the West Midlands, West Country and Essex are particularly keen to neutralise the way they sound as they fear that their strong local accent might be holding them back in their careers. It is understandable that people want to present themselves as clearly and professionally as possible in order to do well in a shrinking jobs market and this might mean softening sounds that make their speech less intelligible. And a less pronounced local accent may give people more credibility. But it seems strange in this day and age that someone would want to eliminate completely an important element of their identity such as their accent.
Good elocution lessons or speech training should enable individuals to identify and improve the elements of their speech that make them harder to understand without trying to change them into someone they’re not. Gone are the days, after all, when we should be striving to sound like the Queen in order to get on in life!
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2012