Going, going, gone: an auctioneer’s worst nightmare

What could be worse for an auctioneer that having lost their voice on auction day? Probably not much!

As a voice coach, I cringe when I see an auctioneer yelling across the street to potential buyers as cars drive past, trams ding down the main street and there’s not a microphone in sight.

The demands on an auctioneer’s voice and speech are huge in these situations. Not only must they be heard but they must be able to be understood. This means that there speech must be clear and articulate despite all the distractions and background noise. Finally, they must also engage their audience and keep them interested in the process. Not an easy task.

I have worked with both novice and experienced auctioneers. We have worked together on ensuring they get that loud voice but also ensure they look after their voices.  Here are some key tips for auctioneers:

  1. Breathe from the belly – rather than taking short sharp breaths which ultimately puts strain on your throat, take breaths deep into your belly. This way you’ll be able to project for longer and the strain won’t be felt in your throat
  2. Have periods of voice rest – if you know you have a big day of auctions coming up, rest your voice the night before and after your auction make sure you also have some quiet time
  3. Drink plenty of water – keeping your vocal tract moist and yourself hydrated is essential during these high voice use periods
  4. Warm up – Before your first auction for a day warm up your voice by humming and doing some breathing and pitch exercises
  5. Finish your words – When there is a lot of background noise and we have to maintain a high volume and speak quite fast, often we drop off the ends of our words e.g. the ‘-ed’ or ‘-ing’. With all the distractions at an auction, this can make it difficult for the audience to understand what has been said and if they can’t understand, they’ll switch off and not engage.

To learn more about looking after your voice and making the most of your voice, why not attend a few voice coaching sessions? Contact naanki@vocalchord.com.au for more information.

Vowels: There’s more than just 5 of them!

At school we are taught that there are five vowels – a, e, i, o and u and this is true for written English but not so for spoken English. In spoken English the same “vowel” can be produced three or four different ways. For example, “black” vs “baby” or “bite” vs “bit” or “cut” vs “cute”. In all of these the letter vowel may be the same i.e “a” or “u” but they are pronounced quite differently.

In fact, in spoken English there are 20 vowel sounds.

When someone is learning English these idiosyncrasies can be very challenging to overcome and they can have a huge impact on being understood. For example, you don’t want to be the person that asks for a “sheet” of paper and instead says “shit”!

In order to work on vowel production it is first important to create an awareness of how these different vowels are produced. Therefore, I work with my clients through word and sentence lists that look at the short vowel contrasted with the long vowel equivalent, for example hearing the difference between “fit” and “feet”. Once we have mastered hearing the differences in these sounds we then work on production of the vowel sound in words and sentence combinations, for example, “do those shoes fit your feet?”

It is through this increased awareness of how the different vowels sound, how they are produced and how to use them in sentences that can markedly improve intelligibility. This may be a slow process but it is a worthwhile one and is one that I enjoy supporting my clients through by giving feedback and exercises to make it simpler and easier to reach their goal.

Ten Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

A must read for those of us aspiring to be leaders. And in order to be a great leader we need to first be great communicators. This is of course not easy and something I work on every day as I evaluate what I say, how it was perceived and what I might do differently next time. This article highlights ten tips to help us on our way to “greatness”


Accent Neutralisation: Speak clearly, Be heard, Be Understood

This was the title of a recent workshop I facilitated for the Speech and Drama Teachers Association of Victoria. It was fantastic to work with a room full of voice and speech teachers, drama teachers and EAL teachers all committed to supporting their students communicate their message clearly and effectively.

My key message for those wanting to neutralise their accent is to remember that it’s not about speaking like someone different or trying to change who you are. It’s important to remember that accent is intrinsically linked to identity so my focus when working with clients is about identifying the situations where you feel your accent is impacting on your ability to communicate clearly. For example, when speaking with your family or friends it may not be as important to think about your clarity as you feel comfortable in this situation. Whereas, when you are in a job interview, giving a presentation or in a meeting, you may feel that you accent is affecting your ability to get your message across clearly and perhaps you’re often asked to repeat yourself. If this sounds like you then I recommend a program of one-on-one sessions which will target the particular sounds (vowels and consonants), words and situations that you want to focus on.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting more about the different aspects of communication that I target as part of my accent neutralisation program, so stay tuned!

Presentation tips from a magician: Sight, Sound, Sync

This fast paced and funny Tedx presentation will keep you entertained but also give you some handy tips on how to prepare yourself for your presentations. As presenters it can always be confronting to review yourself and watch a video of yourselves back. Vinh Giang takes us through how to review videos of ourselves presenting and critiquing our “sight, sound and sync”

The risk of making assumptions

My husband and I were at a restaurant recently and when the waiter came over to take our drink orders this is how the conversation went:

My husband: “Can we have 2 glasses of pinot please”

Waiter: “Which one?”

My husband: [hurriedly opens menu again] “Oh is there more than one by the glass?”

Waiter: [looks confused] “Ah well there’s the Pinot Grigio or the Pinot Noir”

My husband: “Oh, well it’s 2 glasses of the Pinot Noir please”

To me, this is a classic example of making assumptions about your audience. My husband’s favourite wine is Pinot Noir and because of that he assumes that if he ordered a “Pinot” it’s immediately obvious what he means and what he wants. But that’s of course only obvious to him.

I’ve talked a lot about knowing your audience in previous posts and this is another example of why it is so important. If we make assumptions about someone’s knowledge about any topic we are automatically creating a communication gap and this is likely to result in your audience switching off and disengaging.

In conversation we often make assumptions about other people’s knowledge on a topic. I know that with my husband I’m guilty of using TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) that are relevant to my profession and he has no idea what they mean and vice versa,

We get so caught up in our own world that we forget when we talking to others to check ourselves for firstly the other person’s interest in the topic and secondly how much knowledge they have on the topic.

We’ve all been on the other side of these “presumed knowledge” interactions where we are sitting there going “what are they talking about??” and if you’re anything like me you find it incredibly frustrating or just plain boring.

So, the next time you’re chatting with a friend or family member, try to make sure they are not saying “what are they talking about?” about you!