In my experience, the students who seem to fear public speaking the most are the students with accents. Ironically enough, the students who are the most memorable are the ones who stand out (in a good way) because of their unique way of presenting… or speaking. Delivery Lesson Six: your accent is amazing, and you should see it as a good thing!
I’ve had students from all over the globe: Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean Islands… I’ve heard accents from 5 of the 7 continents on our globe. If English isn’t your first language, I imagine giving a speech in front of native English speakers is terrifying. However, your English-speaking audience isn’t against you. They don’t want to hear you butcher the language and watch you fail miserably. Instead, it’s quite the opposite. They find your lovely use of the same words they use each day new and pleasing to the ear. They are more engaged by your presentation right off the bat because you’re offering them something new and refreshing. Yes, your content still has to be good in order to maintain their engagement, but your accent offers you something special: an instant attention-getter. Don’t get me wrong; you can’t base your introductory hook on the fact that you speak words in a different way. You can, however, use that accent as a bonus “hook,” a delivery tool that only you possess.
When it comes to having an accent and delivering a speech, please remember two things.
First, no audience is comprised of people born and raised in the exact same place. We each have an “accent” because we’re all from different cities, states, and countries. Even though I’m American, I’m from the South, and I’ve been told I have a thick Southern accent. On the first day of each new class, my audience (my students) bombard me with a million “Where are you from?” questions. By the end of the first lecture, though, the students are more concerned with the content of the course than how I’m pronouncing “ice” or “rice” or “mice” (FYI: when I say those words, it sounds more like “ass,” “rass,” and “mass.”)
Second, as I just explained, your accent is only exciting and new for a little while… maybe 0:30 to 1:00. After the introduction of your speech, your content is what matters, and audiences will stop focusing on how you say words and instead focus on what you’re talking about. The novelty of an accent does wear off. To ensure your success on a presentation, focus on your content so you can pack as powerful a punch as people who speak ultra-proper Martha Stewart English.