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'How To Speak Well In Business' by John Dalby

Susan Page | 01.09.1996

Cover: 'How to speak well in business'Book review by Susan Page.

This book benefits from and reflects the author's experience and expertise in the field of voice. Whilst the title, as it implies, has a focus on applications in business, it is useful to all who need to communicate by speech. It is rather a voice-manual than an exposé on public speaking.

The author opens by saying that an irritating voice is bad for business but having a good speaking voice can be regarded as one of the new management skills. The book balances psychology and physiology with a mixture of humour and opinion to produce an enjoyable yet informative read.

It begins with a comprehensive chapter on "vocal demands in business today". Areas such as "chairing a meeting", "interviews", "giving a talk", "using microphones and telephones" offer practical advice. A chapter on different voice types aims to help identify your own from the characteristics listed. He then proceeds to describe common and not so common faults such as "pulpit terror" and "frozen lips" with accompanying solutions.

There is a detailed yet accessible chapter on "vocal mechanism", which describes all the main components of voice, such as jaw, tongue, larynx etc. He briefly covers the benefits of good posture such as letting your spine "grow" and back "widen". Practical exercises and explanatory notes with diagrams support this section.

The "whispered Ha" is introduced as one of the most useful exercises of all for freeing the voice. Then follows a series of technical chapters on phonation in which the author explores areas such as pitch, resonance, diction and articulation. Numerous exercises are described for readers to experiment with at their leisure.

There is a brief chapter on stammering in which nothing new or controversial is said. His interpretation of the condition being that a "hiatus" occurs in the connection between the brain and the organs of speech. He encourages an attitude of "self-help" combined with a re-education of the speech method.

Finally, he recommends and describes a short daily workout which can be incorporated into everyday life. With location and opportunity in mind, the author conveniently categorises the exercises into silent and loud, invisible and visible, and an assortment of degrees in between.

Whether in the bath or the office lift, John Dalby's book is very practical and easy to follow. In contrast to much detail in the main body of the book, the reader is left with the simple message that if your listeners have heard and understood what you have said you cannot wish for more. A tape accompanies the book which enables you to hear all exercises and sounds described.

How To Speak Well In Business  by John Dalby. Aardvark Press 1993, ISBN 0-945777-13-2

Reviewed by Susan Page in the Autumn 1996 issue of 'Speaking Out'.