Are you a good listener?

Are you a good listener?

Most of us spend a large part of the day either speaking or listening to others. We advise, persuade and negotiate as part of our daily interactions with friends and family, clients and colleagues. In our most successful moments we are focused attentive listeners. But these moments taken care by visit official website may be few and far between. It’s not that we DON’T pay attention, just that most of the time we listen with only PART of our attention. Invariably it is the quality of the attention that determines the success of our listening. Listening is a skill and like any skill can be learnt and put into practice.

Remember the 3 Cs:

To concentrate means to listen patiently and not wait in the wings to butt in at the first opportunity. It is an attempt to listen with a neutral and open mind, without judgement or expectation. To listen openly and deeply is to concentrate and enter the reality of the speaker. The greater your involvement and participation in this reality, the stronger your understanding of the speaker. To concentrate also allows you to go beyond what is acually said. HOW things are said gives us vital clues about the emotions and attiutude behind the words. So practise listening patiently.

Have the genuine desire to take others seriously. Skilled listeners build relationships. They convey interest in and understanding of the concerns of the client, customer or friend. In doing so they acknowledge and validate these concerns. This in turn encourages others to open up willingly, simply because they feel secure in the fact that they are being taken seriously.

When we are focused listeners we are empathic, non-judgemental and eager to learn. Sometimes our ideas, feelings and thoughts are challenged and we may need to revise our thinking. Having self-belief or confidence allows us to do this without feeling threatened. When we respect and accept other perspectives, we invariably forge closer relationships. To be heard and understood is to be given a gift.

How to have meaningful conversations in the workplace

How to have meaningful conversations in the workplace

Meaningful conversation is at the heart of communication. It is one of the most important life skills that we can develop. Success in the workplace in fact depends on the quality of our conversation. Whether we are managing projects, selling property, creating software or building websites, we cannot operate without sharing ideas. It is how we solve problems, cooperate within a team and create new opportunities for ourselves and others. Conversation helps us discover how others think and feel. And assists us in building relationships with clients, customers and colleagues. If you wish to be noticed in the workplace, begin by developing strong conversation skills. Here are a few tips.

Conversation involves both talking and listening. In other words without listening there is no conversation. Meaningful conversation relies more on the quality of the listening than the quality of the speaking. Good listening demonstrates a genuine interest in what the other person thinks and feels.

Be present both mentally and emotionally. Too often we are pre-occupied by other things e.g. that unfinished report, an impending deadline to fully engage in a conversation. Be open-minded and concentrate. Ensure that you avoid the tendency to make quick judgements whilst listening. This does not mean you have to necessarily agree with the speaker but that you acknowledge and understand their point of view. This can be hard work but the pay off is worth the effort.

Maintaining eye contact whilst listening goes a long way towards building a connection with the speaker. It shows respect and a genuine interest. Keep your body language open and friendly so that you encourage the speaker to share ideas, opinions and feelings without fear. Use other non-verbal cues such as nodding and smiling to demonstrate that you are engaged and participating in the conversation.

Meaningful conversation thrives when there is genuine listening and thoughtful speaking. Asking relevant questions gives the speaker the opportunity to display their thinking or opinion about an issue. The quality of your questions will build not block the conversation. When a conversation builds or moves forward, we gain further clarity and a shared experience.

When engaged in conversation be considerate of your listener. Unfortunately, conversation often turns into a monologue of one person’s experiences and views. This can be exhausting for the listener. Be aware of the listener’s interest in the topic, potential time constraints and contribution to the conversation. Ensure it’s a two-way activity.

Do you dread making presentations?

Do you dread making presentations?

Your boss has asked you to make a presentation to valued clients and you shudder at the very thought. But you can’t get out of it, neither can you delegate the responsibility to anyone else. So what do you do to get through it? Consider the following strategies:

Get to it straight away. The more time you spend preparing, the easier the presentation will be.

On a sheet of paper, brainstorm ideas around the topic including what your audience needs to know. Sometimes these ideas are not all relevant but they will help you identify the key points you wish to make.

Ensure that you have between 3-5 key ideas at most for a 60 minute presentation. Any more than this, and your audience will lose concentration and switch off.

Try not to open PowerPoint until you are clear on your key points. Spend time discussing your ideas with colleagues to get a “feel” for their relevance.

Once you have your key points, think of a concrete and relatable example for each point to assist your audience to engage with the content. These examples or stories are going to be the highlight of the presentation. Embedded in each story will be your key point. Good presenters are essentially persuasive storytellers.

How will you structure your presentation? Make sure it has dramatic shape. Use the 3-part principle i.e. Introduction, Body, Conclusion. For each of your key points, –state the point, explain it with a relevant example or story and summarise it. Keep it simple and conversational.

Use a few well designed slides to “picture up” your presentation. The slides are there to support your presentation NOT speak for you. Use pictures and graphics with minimal text. Remember, that a presentation is not a reading exercise. It is an aural and visual experience. Listening and watching you (not your slides) should be inspiring and convincing.

Allocate sufficient time to rehearse your presentation aloud. Get off your chair, stand next to your computer and practise your presentation referring to your slides as and when required. Your ability to deal with anxiety and nerves will be achieved through thorough preparation and rehearsal.

Remember, your successful delivery is dependent on relaxed body language, expressive tone of voice and confident eye contact. This will engage and inspire your audience.

Audiences want you to succeed. They are not as critical as we imagine them to be. Concentrate and focus on sharing your ideas clearly and succinctly.

Enjoy the ride!

Communication is hard work!

Communication is hard work!

Our workplaces are a melting pot of cultures, accents and languages. Whilst there are enormous postives in the sharing of skills, expertise and knowledge, globalisation has brought about a few challenges in the key element critical to the success of all organisations- COMMUNICATION.

Whether we are treating patients, selling computers, managing projects or advising clients we are in the business of communication. We need to discuss issues, provide information, exchange ideas and share expertise. In other words, we need to be talking about things. Despite the advances in digital communication and our dependence on it, face-to-face communication is still as relevant as it always was.

There are a few simple strategies that can be utilised to maximise opportunities for individual growth within an organisation and to improve productivity and efficiency in the workplace:

Conversation is a social activity which people find easy to engage in. Small talk is non-threatening, comfortable and puts people at ease. Particularly for individuals for whom English is an additional language. Conversations with colleagues and clients can be a critical forum for achieving shared goals.

To listen without judgement and interruption is a skill which takes practice. Communication is a two-way street. Speaking and listening go hand-in-hand. Being present and alert in conversations, discussions and meetings conveys empathy and respect for others. And you learn.

Being friendly and easy to talk to encourages the sharing of ideas and experiences. It empowers team members to take responsibility without fear or intimidation. It motivates and brings out the best in them.

When giving instructions, summarising information for others or providing feedback, be clear in what you say so that others understand you. Use a tone of voice which is assertive but friendly and body language that is open and non-threatening.

How To Neutralise Your Accent

How To Neutralise Your Accent

Do you find that sometimes your accent impacts on engaging with others?

Do others ask you to repeat yourself?

Do you find that you avoid certain words because you’re unsure how to pronounce them?

Keep in mind that your speech sounds are largely influenced by your mother tongue i.e. if you are a Mandarin speaker you may have difficulty with the standard English pronunciation of the ‘a’ in ‘name’, ‘explain’, ‘train’. If you are a Spanish speaker, you may have trouble distinguishing between the English ‘b’ for ‘v’.

If you have a strong motivation to soften your accent, here are a few tips to get you started:

News presenters on national networks such as the ABC, BBC etc are good models of standard English. When listening, focus on how words are pronounced. Listen with interest to the rythem of the language including inflection that are by the home cleaning new york, phrasing and intonation.

The first step to softening your accent is to understand how and where in the mouth the different sounds of the English language are produced. There are 44 sounds and only a few are challenging. So, this is quite achievable. You will then be able to recognise the difference between your individual speech sounds and the sounds of standard English.

Once you have isolated the sounds and learnt or understood how and where to form them in the mouth, regular practice is essential. Short, frequent bursts (1-2 minutes) every hour is the best way to make progress.

Start with picking one sound you wish to target. For example, the ‘o’ in “go”, “flow” and “suppose.” Practise this sound on its own, then use it in a short word e.g. “boat”, “thrown” and “cove”. Now, include the word in a short sentence e.g. “The boat was thrown into the cove”. If you have a smartphone or computer it is then easy to record and listen to yourself. Gradually, with this regular practice and feedback, you will refine the clarity of your speech.

Voice Tips and Strategies

Voice Tips and Strategies

What can we do to make our voices interesting?
It’s amazing how most of us spend time and effort to ensure that we look good- we go to the gym, we pay attention to our appearance and we check how we look in the mirror. How we present ourselves is critical BUT we rarely consider the impact we have on others when we open our mouths to speak. People make all sorts of judgements and jump to all sorts of conclusions about us- our credibility, expertise and confidence based on the sound of our voice. It must be one of the best kept secrets of all time.

If you want to make your voice more interesting, here are some strategies to consider:

When we speak we need to have the genuine desire to communicate. We must sincerely want to create understanding in the mind of our listener. And we do this by simply being present. Being alert and focussed in conversation builds rapport and makes emotional connections with colleagues, customers and clients.

The main cause of negative vocal quality is tension. Most of us unwittingly carry excessive tension in the body, particularly around the neck. So, relax the jaw and throat. How we do this is really simpler than you imagine. For example, allowing your tongue to lie on the floor of your mouth with the tip behind your lower front teeth releases the tension in the back of the tongue. When your tongue is tense and high it constricts your throat. Lowering the tongue creates space at the back of the mouth. Similarly, there are several really simple and practical exercises that you can learn to reduce tension in your voice and create a relaxed and engaging voice.

Just as petrol is fuel for your car, breath is the fuel for your voice. Breathing deeply provides the voice with much needed support from the muscles in the abdomen. This is the fuel that gives stamina for a strong, expressive and friendly voice. An adequate supply of breath allows you to project your voice without pushing from the throat. Simply place your hand over your belly button and breath deeply into your hand. Notice the rise and fall of your hand.

Some people have a habit of speaking without really opening their mouths. This strangles the tone, impacts on the clarity of their speech and makes listening with the best services processes by and its hard work. Simply releasing the jaw and creating space in the mouth makes the voice bigger, richer and clearer. Try yawning and notice the space created in the back of your mouth. Feel your jaw release.

Have you noticed how some people are naturally interesting to listen to? Their voices are friendly, they speak with clarity and they use a range of vocal tone and pitch to express themselves. Varying the pitch, changing the volume and controlling the pace of delivery gives the voice vitality and interest. Again, there are several simple exercises that will help you achieve this. For example, practise going up and down the scale i.e. “do, re, mi, fa, so…”



In-house group training or workshops are customised to meet the particular needs of organisations. With a focus on both the essential elements of communication skills as well as invaluable and specialised vocal strategies, those who come out of the training are equipped with the following:

  • A self-confidence that extends beyond the workplace
  • Powerful leadership skills
  • The ability to build strong and beneficial professional relationships
  • The opportunity to develop a voice that will always engage listeners
  • The ability to tackle all public speaking situations without panic or fear

Popular workshops:

1. Your Voice as a Tool of Communication

This workshop is suitable for in-house trainers,  teachers, lecturers, auctioneers and sales representatives who need to use their voice for extended periods of time. It includes simple strategies and practical exercises on how to support your voice adequately, project your voice sufficiently and express your ideas persuasively using vocal techniques.

2. Communicate to Understand and BE Understood

This interactive workshop is suitable for employees, managers and professionals. You will develop the ability to make strong connections with others, handle difficult conversations in the workplace, negotiate successfully and avoid misunderstanding.

3. Pronunciation for Speakers of English as an Additional Language

The Australian workplace is becoming increasingly multi-cultural and international. Whilst there are enormous positives in the sharing of skills, knowledge and expertise, strong accents can sometimes be a challenge for clients and colleagues. A series of small group workshops in English pronunciation will enable participants to soften and neutralise their accents. This will ultimately improve their clarity of speech, intelligibility and confidence. These workshops will allow participants to see and experience where the 44 sounds of the English language are formed in the mouth.

For enquiries, please call Barbara on 613 9889 5654 or email her at [email protected] 

Copyright © 2019 Barbara John - International Voice & Speech Educator. All rights reserved