Entries by sjahan

Tips & Tricks are Overrated: Stick with the Basics

Everyone is looking for a shortcut, and it makes sense that if there’s a way to get where you are going without as much effort, you should take it. When it comes to speech, voice, and presence, the best method is to find the best practices and do them consistently. There is no shortcut. Perhaps […]

How can I improve my vocabulary in English?

There are two areas in acquiring English that language learners ask about that typically take the longest. The first acquiring fluency in the language, i.e., how to speak it without using a dictionary. That can take years and requires practice (unlike accent reduction, for example, which can take a few months if you already speak […]

Best Practices & Breaking Habits

When you are speaking, you probably don’t have time to worry about how you sound. For that reason, you have to practice on a regular basis so that when you speak, you come across clearly, fluidly and articulately. Here are a few key items to remember: Record yourself speaking at least once a week. How […]

Start the New Year Off Right!

As you are welcoming in the new year, you may be looking for a way to jump start your success. If you haven’t tried coaching for Speech, Voice or Accent, now may be the time! If you have taken coaching in the past and haven’t yet gotten your ideal result, it may be time to […]

The “Ho Ho Ho” Exercise

One of my favorite speech exercises to open up the back of the throat and allow you to speak with more control is the “ho ho ho” exercise. Yes, it’s just like Santa has come to town, only in this case: you are Santa! To do this exercise, you have to get in touch with […]

How Does Accent Interrelate with Presence?

In my practice, I have combined two disciplines: accent work; that is, speech, clarity, pronunciation, word stress, intonation and pitch control, and in general, sounding American or not with Executive Presence: that is, voice quality, projection, confidence, “how you show up,” how fast you talk, how in control you are of yourself and your reactions, […]

Personality vs. Habit

When I meet with Executive Presence clients for the first time, they often tell me about the issues they are experiencing, and sometimes they mention that it’s just part of their “personality”. I find this interesting because it’s generally things they have difficulty changing that they attribute to “personality.” Things that are relatively easy to […]

Developing Awareness

Most people would agree that self-awareness is key to change, but for many of us, it is elusive. We know we aren’t getting the results we intend to get, or we may not know until others tell us their perceptions. Often a gap exists until we learn to self-assess. Examples in business include being told […]

One Big Drawback

The more I do Presence & Speech Coaching, the more I realize that most people have one thing that is holding them back. It might be an underlying belief, or it might be a muscle pattern, or it might be a misconception. Of course, that one “drawback” could be comprised of many specific components, but […]

Presence is Natural Speech

Whenever I work with clients who doubt their executive presence, they often are trying too hard to project an image instead of embracing who they are. It sounds deceptively easy to “just be yourself,” but there are many reasons why it’s a challenge. It’s natural to feel pressured to perform, so you may appear tense […]

How “Stress Breath” Limits Speech

As part of helping my clients speak more clearly, I often work with them on posture, mouth  movement and breath as precursors to our work together. That is, the work is primarily about pronunciation and articulation, not posture and breath, but you have to be breathing, open chested, and amenable to the new patterns, or […]

Just Like a Dancer

Even if you are not a dancer, you can apply some tips from dancing to your speech: Be nimble and free … at ease, not stiff. Dancers who are stiff are not graceful. Speakers who are stiff are boring and seem tense. Make large movements. Dancers choreograph their moves and direction to reach out to […]

Facial Movement

Asians often skimp on facial movement. That is, the face doesn’t move much when you are speaking, so an audience of mixed cultures may not know if you are passionate, serious, happy, distressed, joking, overjoyed or angry. Learn to connect emotional expression with your words to improve your speech. It makes a big difference if […]

Your Body is a Musical Instrument

Many of my clients are surprised to learn that posture and speech are inextricably linked. What could sitting up straight vs. slumping have to do with how we talk? One way to think of it is that your body is a musical instrument. The shape of the instrument changes the sound quality. If you want […]

Deceptively Similar Sounds

Some sounds seem “deceptively similar.” For Koreans, the /z/ and /j/ sound seem similar; to Americans they are very different. Words like “region” and “reason” differ only by those sounds. Vietnamese speakers struggle with /s/ and /sh/ sounds. Practice with “superstitious” or “special” or “superficial” to make the two sounds close together and make sure […]

Executive Presence in Politically Charged Times

Executive Presence Fake news … trade war … children in cages … severing ties with our allies … the US president meeting with oppressive dictators … these are challenging times. So you may ask yourself, how does this relate to Executive Presence? When times are easy, no one really notices how you behave. As long […]

How Much Change is Possible?

When it comes to changing your voice, many people don’t really believe it’s possible. After all, children learn languages much more easily than adults. However, in my experience as a Coach for voice and speech, the person’s motivation and attitude determine their success more accurately than age or ability. I’ve had clients who were very […]

Timing is Everything

This is so true of speech. You have to know when you speak quickly, when to hold words longer, when you make sounds longer and when to make them shorter. You can plan when to pause strategically and consciously choose how long to look at a listener before looking away. Play with your timing, get […]

What Makes a Good Warm Up?

I often talk to clients about creating warm ups for their voices, and many times they have no idea how to do it or they think exercising alone is enough. It’s true; exercise is good for us, but relying on traditional forms of exercise, like running, swimming or tennis, isn’t really going to change our […]

Challenge Sounds

The biggest mistake many Asian speakers make (Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese, for example) is often focusing too much (over doing it) on the /r/ and the /l/ sound. Of course, it’s a good thing to work on those sounds, especially if you say them incorrectly. However, if you get a “general grasp” […]

Breath on Air Flow Sounds

Most Asians don’t use enough breath on “air flow” sounds in English. Which sounds are these? They are the sounds that sound “breathy” a bit when native speakers talk. Have you ever noticed which sound lasts longer? The voiceless ones like: Ffffeeling ffffanssssy (feeling fancy) Fffffirsssst thththththingssssss ffffirsssst (first things first) Fffffocusssss on the pozzzzzitivvvve […]

Exaggeration is the New Normal

When I ask clients to “exaggerate” or “elongate” sounds, they often tell me it sounds exaggerated, and they don’t want to do it. Recording will help because often it’s not as exaggerated as you think. But in addition to that, what feels exaggerated is really just “strong” so you might ask yourself what makes you […]

Sounding Out Words

Most Asian speakers pronounce words as “units”. This means you say words one-at-a-time with all the sounds at once. So if you are mispronouncing a word, you probably won’t notice. If instead you sound out the word and pay attention to each sound (consonants, vowels, and syllables) and say the word deliberately making all the […]

Who Can Help

I’m always surprised when I ask clients who gives them feedback and they say “no one.” It must feel terrible to be so isolated, but then again, maybe it’s a matter of not noticing things beyond your awareness. I also notice very few of my clients speak conversational English outside of work. That makes sense […]

Questions You Can Ask

So what kinds of questions can you ask strangers at a public gathering when networking? I would suggest that the biggest goal is not to offend anyone. So, steering away from any comments about clothing or weight or jobs is probably a good idea. Why? Because you could insult someone by talking about those things […]

Ease & Grace: Applying Insights from Movement to Speech

Recently I have noticed a much-needed return to the movement and body awareness methods of past generations: Feldenkrais, Alexander & other body awareness modalities, popular in the 60’s and before. In addition, there are the more recent phenomena of pilates popularity, and experts like Eric Franklin to focus on the gracefulness of movement over the […]