Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Small Market Meetings Going on Faith

Eight tips for improving speech with older customers

Mike Sullivan

In our training sessions with associates of banks, we are approached by individuals who wish to improve their conversational skills with senior customers. Oftentimes, they want to reduce their own accents, pronounce words better and improve their interpersonal speech.

The following tips are a collection of techniques used in my speech training sessions for staffs:

Practice speaking slowly and clearly. Pronounce each word and syllable. Don’t be concerned about your listener getting impatient with your slow speech. It’s more important that every word you say is understood.

Observe the mouth movements of other speakers and try to imitate them. When watching TV or a movie, look at the mouth, tongue and lip movements of the speakers. Repeat what they are saying, imitating the intonation and rhythm of their speech.

Project your voice. Imagine there is a straight line between your mouth and the listener’s ear and then aim your voice to reach that destination. Don’t be afraid to open your mouth wide when speaking so your words won’t sound muffled. Remember: Your goal is to speak so people understand you more easily.

Make a list of frequently used words that are different for you to pronounce. Ask a person whose speaking you admire to pronounce these words for you while you record them. Listen to the tape and practice saying each word 10 times.

Read aloud for 15 to 20 minutes each day, if seeking to reduce an accent. This will help you strengthen the mouth muscles that you use when you speak. Research shows that it takes about three months of daily practice to develop strong mouth muscles for speaking better.

Record your own voice and listen for pronunciation mistakes. Many people hate to hear the sound of their voice and avoid having to listen to themselves speaking. However, this is a very important exercise because doing it will help you become conscious of the mistakes that you are making.

Buy books on tape. Choose a book that you have at home and buy the taped version of that book. Listen and read at the same time. Record yourself reading the book. Compare the sound of your pronunciation with that of the speaker on tape.

Be patient. You can change the way you speak but it won’t happen overnight. People often expect instant results and give up too soon. You can change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it.

For information about Sullivan’s training programs, contact him at Michael P. Sullivan, president, 50-Plus Communications Consulting, Charlotte, North Carolina, 704-554-7863, consults and trains staff at banks, financial services and health care organizations. He is listed on LinkedIn under Michael P. Sullivan. His book, “101 Easy Ways to Increase Business with Boomerplus Clients” is available on his website,