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The Expert MC’s Guide to Pronouncing Names Correctly

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How to be an Expert MC, EmceeDale Carnegie’s sage advice …

“Remember, that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”

… has been trotted out by sales, networking and influence trainers for the last 80 years since his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was first published.

And what great advice it is. But, interestingly, modern technology like MRI scans have now proven that our brain actually does respond to hearing the sound of our own name in different ways than how it does when it hears the names of others. Different parts of the brain actually activate. And this still happens while we are asleep! Carnegie was really onto something.

As part of my pre assignment briefing for corporate MC assignments and sometimes in the sales process, I often ask a client who they have used as their MC in previous years. The follow up is to ask “what did you like about them” and “what didn’t they like?” A common complaint is the mispronunciation of speakers names when introducing them and this is often the cause of an MC not getting rebooked for assignments!

So here are a few tips on Getting it Right!

Web Sites

These two sites are both useful and quite comprehensive.

http://www.pronouncenames.com/
http://www.hearnames.com/

This next site is more for Celebrities, Sportspeople etc

http://www.thenameengine.com

Here is a general Pronunciation guide that includes People, Places and Stuff with some great resources hidden away.

http://inogolo.com/

YouTube

YouTube can be quite a useful tool especially if the person is a celebrity or politician. Look for news clips and listen to how the anchor tackles a difficult name. Try and get more than one source if doing this. I often use this if I am doing any Government or semi Government assignments.

Just Ask

Straight from the horses mouth is always best if you have opportunity to meet your speaker before hand. People love it and appreciate being asked. (see my Derivation Strategy below)
I love it when they say “Ahh… just like my grandfather would have said it” when you ask if this is the correct pronunciation.

Having a voice recorder or phone ready to grab it is also handy if you have a really tricky one.

Another strategy is to get the conference team used to the fact that this is an important factor. They will then listen out for the name when the speaker first arrives and can often then introduce you to the speaker using the correct phrasing. Or perhaps they have talked to the speaker before on the phone.

Phonetic Spelling

It’s useful to have some form of Phonetic Spelling System that you can use in your notes. Which syllable is stressed etc.

Here’s a link to the Wiki page where you can have an explore of some of the major systems ranging from the mindboggling International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) through to the more useful Initial Teaching Alphabet and various Re-spelling systems. This is probably overkill for most MC’s needs, most just develop a simple crib system of their own, but it’s interesting to see what could be used if needed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Phonetic_alphabets

Derivation of Name Technique

This is a technique that I’ve been using for sometime and only sharing for the first time here. It sort of combines a couple of Dale Carnegie techniques.

If the name is at all unusual, first do a quick Google search for it’s meaning and derivation. Then when you meet the speaker you can check the pronunciation with them and casually say something like ” I don’t think I’ve ever introduced a XXXXX before, is that of XXXXX origin?”

I’ll give you an example. The speaker I introduced last week was named Shegog and my quick Google search turned up that it was an ancient French/German name with possibly Huguenot origin. I casually mention to him, “now that sounds like a really old European name, is it French?” His face positively beamed as he explained yes, Huguenot and then went on to tell me of a couple of famous Shegogs.

What a connection we had made. He was impressed that I had bothered to check the correct pronunciation and further that I was a student of names. (No need to explain that Google was my best friend.) He’s now more than ready to help me out, by following directions, keeping to time etc.

Name as Acronym Technique

I don’t have space to describe this fun introduction in full in this article, but it is fully described in our book The ExpertMC Resource Book & Toolkit with examples. Very easy way to use the name to tie in with conference themes and slogans.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • I eagerly wait to be one of the 1st 10 people to purchase your book… Thanks a million for the knowledge you share. ….

    • Mr Hyde

      Thanks Joyce, I appreciate the comment

  • brilliant article..have always used you tube and linkedIn to watch and read …it’s very helpful indeed….also…it kind of gives me the edge when i meet them in person…perhaps it’s because I know them in detail and as such am comfortable dealing/working with them.

    Please continue with your great articles kind Sir.

    andrew susay

  • Stephen Burke

    Excellent tips. I will put them to good use. Thank you for sharing them.