“We have an executive who needs some help to refine his English communication skills. He could use some accent modification training and support with clear communication. What factors can influence the success rate of such training?”

For best results, the person being trained should:

  1. Be completely onboard and committed to the training.
  2. Prioritize the training and practice time.
  3. Accept that changing the way one speaks takes time.
  4. Be prepared to experience occasional confusion while communicating.
  5. Understand that progress is not always a straight line.

If you have been charged with finding a communication coach or language trainer for one of your employees, it is common to have doubts about the effectiveness of the training. But, while having a good trainer or coach is key, making sure the person being trained or coached is prepared and willing is half the battle.

Taking the time to discuss these 5 success factors before starting any communications training will help to set the playing field and contribute to greater success over time.

  1. Be completely onboard and committed to the training.

When a client has self-identified and chosen to work with a communication coach, we can assume there is a significant degree of commitment to the process. But sometimes clients come to me at the request of their manager or due to a performance review highlighting communication issues. In such cases, there is sometimes reluctance or perhaps a feeling that receiving training is a form of criticism. When the client’s attitude is negative, it is difficult to move forward.

Changing how we communicate entails changing our face to the world. It is an identity adjustment. Adjusting our pronunciation changes how our face and lips move. Using the voice more effectively may involve increasing pitch range. Speaking more clearly almost always means slowing one’s speech. Communicating in a more culturally appropriate manner may involve softening skills. All these changes come along with judgments which are often accompanied by resistance.

If clients have not bought into the training, if they are not completely on board and committed, they are unlikely to make any noticeable changes over the long term. 

  1. Prioritize the training and practice time.

Like learning to play an instrument, adjusting speech requires regular practice, repetition and attention to detail. Some people feel their pronunciation will change once they understand what to do. It is possible for certain vocabulary to improve in this way but to make any global adjustments, ongoing practice is required. This cannot be done adequately while rushing. It is also not ideal to spend two hours one evening and then ignore practice the rest of the week. And a client who has irregular training sessions tends to lose focus and commitment easily.

Weekly classes are recommended. Very short but daily practice sessions combined with at least 3 blocks of sit-down practice weekly is ideal. A client that can commit to this will see progress. Establishing commitment upfront will go a long way towards achieving success in the training.

  1. Accept that changing the way one speaks takes time.

Most of our clients have been speaking English for a long time. Their habits are engrained and, as we know, old habits die hard. To make lasting change takes time. This does not mean that classes have to go on endlessly but rather that, once the skills are learned and the awareness developed, as long as the short daily practice habit is in place, the client will continue to deepen the new habits of speech.

I usually recommend a short refresher 6 months to a year after ending the initial training. This allows for a reassessment and refocusing that helps the client understand what changes have held and what, if anything, could use further attention.

  1. Be prepared to experience occasional confusion while communicating.

Have you ever studied dance? Let’s say you have informally danced salsa and enjoyed it. Then you take a class and learn different movements which you initially struggle with, making you feel like you can’t dance at all. This is how it feels when learning to adjust pronunciation, volume, pitch, etc. It’s okay in class but when you go to communicate with your colleagues, you begin to second-guess yourself, stumble over sounds and feel inarticulate. There is temporary confusion and perhaps some insecurity which can affect anyone who has established a sense of professionalism and authority in their work.

This is a normal experience when relearning aspects of speech. Being prepared for this makes a huge difference. Improving the delivery of your second or third language is a worthy pursuit. Taking it in stride and having a sense of humour will smooth the process.

  1. Understand that progress is not always a straight line.

Learning a language has its ebbs and flows. One day, things come out smoothly and easily; the next, you trip over your tongue. Stress, lack of focus, tiredness, etc. – all influence how skillful you are. Since communication is, to a large degree, measured subjectively, these ebbs and flows can be discouraging.

It is important to be patient and see progress in perspective. While a reassessment will usually show the same issues, they will hopefully be to a lesser degree. What may be clear is that people are asking you to repeat yourself less often. Setting these types of goals which can be measured over time will help the client be more objective in their progress.


Make a point of discussing these factors with both the trainee and whoever else is involved in making training decisions. A little advance preparation will go a long way towards making clear speech training an effective and successful choice.