Meet Emma Serlin an entrepreneur, author, mother, businesswoman and the founder and director of London Speech Workshop. Passionate about helping companies have great communication at every level, so that authenticity, connection and engagement are constantly present. Emma developed the Serlin Method™, which infuses performance, psychology and coaching. She has a background in performance; did a postgrad at the prestigious Oxford School of Drama and was an award-winning theatre director. She has an MSc in Psychology, is a trained life coach with CTI Institute, and she has a foundation in psychotherapy. Emma is the author of two books on the art of effective communication: The Communication Equation and The Connection Book.
Tell us, in your own words, what do you do?
I run London Speech Workshop, a communication coaching company. We coach people in all kinds of communication – from the top level and more obvious communication styles such as elocution and presentation skills, through to more nuanced styles such as emotional intelligence, authority, rapport building, impact, charisma, connection and so much more. Obviously, as founder, my main role is to captain the ship and make sure that the direction of the company is consistent with what I believe to be excellent, whilst making sure that we’re growing. As well as that, I’m naturally a creative person and there’s nothing I love more than coming up with creative solutions to psychological relationships and communication issues. I create new material all the time for different aspects of the business – from how to overcome imposter syndrome through to how to navigate difficult conversations.
What was the thought process behind starting London Speech Workshop?
To be honest, I never planned to run a company that teaches communication skills. It happened to me, rather than me going out to look for it. I have always been very driven and focused, with clear intentions (which, at the time, was centred around making it as a TV drama producer!). London Speech Workshop happened to be the thing that came along when I wasn’t looking. My goal was ultimately to help people live their best lives and be their best selves. The human struggle is very real for everyone – it’s my goal to remove the blocks that get in the way of being what you want to be. This was what drove me to work in TV drama too – it was about giving people ideas, albeit packaged as a story, to help inspire them to live their best lives. What happened next, was the realisation that the work I could do with communication coaching was in fact totally in line with what I had always wanted to do, but in a much more connected way. So, I got behind this new idea and felt very excited. The business started to grow from there, and the adventure of growing a company has been compelling ever since!
What makes London Speech Workshop unique?
A lot of what makes London Speech Workshop unique is the creative method at the centre of the business. The Serlin Method™ is influenced by aspects of my own life – my TV drama experience, my drama school days, my work as a theatre director and on The Bill, my psychology Masters, my psychotherapy training, my strong interest in personal development and growth… there are so many strands to the method, and it keeps growing. Being dyslexic, I like to keep things very simple and easy to remember. The tools in our method are just that – they make something that could seem intimidating or complex totally simple, accessible and effective. We’ve been going for almost 14 years, and it’s wonderful to see the method working through the many thousands of clients that we’ve worked with.
Another big part is our uniqueness is about how much we care as an organisation. We truly care about kindness, and we understand how important it is to be valued and of value in the world. One of my main drivers is the idea of a triple bottom line – i.e. thinking about people, planet and profit when it comes to quantifying the success of the business. When clients come to us, they feel it. They understand that we truly care about their progress, and about the integrity of the desire to do good in the world.
What are some tips you can give to women who can improve their way of communicating?
The first tip for women to communicate more effectively is about word power. The words you choose have the power to put you in one position and the people you’re talking to in another position. We don’t want to make people feel angry, defensive, attacked, superior or inferior – in other words, we don’t want to create a status or hierarchy through our words. What we do want to do is use words that make people feel respected. This means avoiding passive words. Many women have a tendency to apologise and use disclaimers – these are expressions such as “I’m sorry for interrupting…”, “I just want to say…” or “This is probably rubbish but…”. These undermining words have the power to put you in inferior position, which you certainly don’t deserve and should try and avoid. On the flip side, female leaders and managers often have a tendency to move from a passive to an aggressive place without intending to. For example, they use words like “you must”, “you should” or “you always” which imply judgment and an “I’m right, you’re wrong” perspective. We have a specific communication tool to overcome this which clients can learn about on an effective communication course.
The second bit of communication advice for women is about taking up space. Women in the workplace sometimes have a tendency to make themselves smaller when they’re feeling nervous or intimidated. This is the case both from a linguistic perspective, as previously described, but also from a physical perspective. Not only will people perceive you as small if you take up as small a space as possible, you will also feel small. So it’s a really good idea to allow your body to take up more space – particularly in a meeting environment or a situation where you feel slightly backfooted. At LSW we teach women how to work from the outside in and how to use body language and nonverbal communication to help them. We talk about this in our free eBook – “How to look and sound confident, even when you don’t feel it”.
My final tip for women is about vocal delivery. Your ideas have weight and therefore must come down rather than floating up. This is called downward inflection or vocal gravity. So, to make sure you have impact, gravitas and authority, make sure your voice comes down at the end of your point. Here are some more communication tips for women at work.
How do women communicate differently to men and what could they learn from each other?
Of course there is no one way that all men communicate and another way that women communicate. Though of course dependent on the individual, the general stereotype is that men are often more forthright in their communication i.e. they tend to get to the point straight away and use fewer disclaimers. Rather than saying “this is probably rubbish”, they will often go straight in with “I’ve had this idea”, and then present their idea. So that’s something that women can learn from men when it comes to effective communication. On the contrary, where men are more forthright, women tend to be more sensitive and attuned to the people around them. Often the reason women use disclaimers in the first place is because they don’t want someone to think they’re arrogant, or their words need to be softened to avoid offending or being taken the wrong way. So, a feminine quality that men can learn, is about reading the room and making sure that people are receptive. In summary, women don’t need to apologise, but they also don’t need to get straight to the point – “I’d really love your opinion on this idea” is a perfect balance of this. The ideal space between the extremes of female and male stereotypes in terms of communication is one with warmth AND gravitas. Here’s a bit more on how women can play to their strengths to get heard.
How do you define good communication?
We have a simple equation for good communication. Authenticity + Connection = Engagement. Authenticity is when you truly care about what you’re saying – it matters to you. Connection is when you care about your audience – they matter to you. If those two things are present, you get engagement – when the listener cares about what you’re saying. This is at the heart of effective communication, and there are so many tools within this that we teach in our method. My book is filled with simple, no-nonsense tools for better communication with friends, colleagues, family and business partners, that can be put into practice in as little as five minutes – you can download a free sample or buy the whole book here.
Tell us something about communication we don’t know
A lot of people think communication is just about talking, but this simply isn’t true. Communication is very much a two-way dynamic, and therefore the art of listening is a huge and important part of the art of communication. Essentially, if someone is a great listener, they are in many ways, already an amazing communicator. There is so much evidence around this – President Clinton was known to be a great listener, and this made people feel like they mattered. At LSW we teach the importance of active listening – watch this video for three tips on this topic.
How do you stay relevant and current, and where do those inspirations come from?
I absorb the world around me – this might be in the form of a podcast, a newspaper article, a casual office chat or whatever else that pops up on any given day. Creating a platform where my team are excited about what we’re doing, and therefore take pride in offering up their ideas, is also a very important part of it. This is innate in me – I can make a lot from a little drop of water. For example, I was recently reading a bedtime story to my son, and in reading it, I found three big communication lessons that I can now teach to my clients (my latest newsletter was all about this – sign up here to receive the next one). I’ve trained my mind to be an expert at finding pearls of wisdom in anything.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career, what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. From experience, I know that if you get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks, you won’t get to do all the big beautiful things that are out there. If you decide that you’re on a bigger trajectory, don’t get your energy caught up in little bits along the way.
At London Speech Workshop, our mission is to empower people across the world to communicate more confidently, more authentically and more effectively. We work with people to improve their connections and achieve their personal and professional goals. We help people remove barriers that get in their way due to their communication. They might want to get a promotion, be more respected in their work, have more authority or gravitas, increase in confidence at work and in personal life. Or they may have trouble delivering presentations and speeches, dealing with nerves, connecting with others, building rapport, getting their point across or being articulate. We give people the tools to be the best communicator they can be, and our courses genuinely change people’s lives. Our courses include Effective Communication, Elocution, Accent Softening, Interview Technique, Public Speaking, Presentation Skills and group workshops for businesses. Each course is entirely bespoke, depending on the person’s unique communication goals, budget and timeframe. We have 12 amazing coaches who deliver the 1-hour one-to-one sessions on Zoom or in one of our London offices. For more information, we recommend booking a free 15-minute Discovery Call to find out how we can help.
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