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How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation: A Speaking Survival Guide for the Rest of Us by T. J. Walker

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Chapter 20. Linguistics

What About Accents, Lisps, Stuttering, and Other Distracting Factors?

Don't worry about them. Accents, lisps and stuttering are all problems that can be ignored. Being boring and unmemorable, however, is a problem that needs to be addressed.

In my presentation training practice, I encounter clients from all over the world who believe that their accent or mild speech impediment is a real problem for them and their audiences. However, there just isn't any proof for this theory. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's strong Austrian accent didn't hurt his career as an actor or a politician—two professions where speaking is paramount.

Deepak Choprah has an Indian accent, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer has a strong German accent. These two seemed to do okay in their careers, didn't they? Additionally, Winston Churchill, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain all had some form of a lisp, yet soared to great political heights. Even Jesse Jackson and Joe Biden suffered from stuttering when they were young.

Of course, if you want to be the next Meryl Streep, you need to know how to hide your accent and adapt anyone else's and make it seem natural. But I assume you aren't trying to be the next Meryl Streep—you just want to give a pretty good presentation. To that end, here are the only two questions you need to get right when it comes to dealing with any problems you have regarding accents or speech impediments:

  1. Can people hear what you are saying?

  2. Can people understand what you are saying? ...

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