Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Speech Training: How Important is Learning Phonetics?

People can be surprised that in a course on pronunciation and speech training I rarely, if ever, refer to the phonetic alphabet. This is because I believe the phonetic alphabet has little relevance in improving pronunciation today.

The main reason for learning the phonetic alphabet is so that you can look up words in the dictionary and know their pronunciation by reading the phonetic script. But today, pronouncing dictionaries come with CDs with every pronunciation recorded and dictionaries online also have pronunciations you can listen to, usually with both American and British pronunciations.

If you are having trouble listening to the pronunciation of a word and are really concerned about it, you can always go back to the phonetic alphabet key at the beginning of the dictionary and figure it out. There's no reason to hog space in your head with the phonetic alphabet chart!

It is much more important (and much more fun) to learn pronunciation through fine tuning your listening and production skills. Although it isn't important for you to learn the phonetic alphabet, your trainer should know it like the back of his/her hand so she can make those sounds come to life and let you hear and understand the different nuances of sound. Make sure he/she has a background in either speech and language training or linguistics.

If you live in Singapore and are serious about changing your pronunciation and speaking more clearly, be sure to check out my newest program, the Speak Clearly 8-week Intensive. You can get more information and register here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Communication Etiquette: Invite Yourself to Meetings

Everyone knows that business networking is one of the most important ways to build one's business, stand out from the crowd and maintain beneficial professional relationships.

When you are looking to branch out and meet new people, you might consider joining new groups or, at least, attending a meeting or two. But what if the meetings are for members only or are "by invitation."

Don't let this deter you! Groups are almost always looking for new members. If you don't know someone in the group who can "invite" you, invite yourself! Now that doesn't mean showing up on the day unannounced. Rather, it means that you should do your homework, find the contact information for the President or Membership Chair of the group and send them an email.

No group wants a networking leech - one of those people who suck everything they can from a group (mostly names, phone numbers and email addresses) in order to advance their own businesses. If you have something to offer and aren't just trying to blatantly serve your own interests, most groups will welcome you with open arms.

If you really want to be invited to a meeting, include these things in your email to the group's leadership:
1. Your name and profession
2. How you heard about the group
3. Your intentions when visiting the group
4. A polite request to attend the group's next function
5. An example of how the group could benefit from meeting you

Here's an example of how this email could be put together:

Dear John
(1) My name is Heather Hansen and I am a dog trainer and animal lover. (2) I came across the "Dog's are Great" website today and can see that you're President of the local chapter. (3) I am really interested in meeting other like-minded dog lovers, and the events your group organizes look really exciting. (4) I would love to attend one of your meetings. Could I possibly join you next week at your November get-together? (5) I would love to meet all of you and would also be happy to share my dog training experience with your members if they have any questions.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best

Now who could say 'no' to such a considerate request? Not only have you been up-front about who you are and why you are interested in attending their group, you have also offered to help serve them - and you're not even a member yet!

Don't be afraid to invite yourself to meetings in this way. The worst thing that could happen is that they say 'no.' And maybe that's not the type of group you'd like to socialize with anyway!