The following is a guest post from Priscilla Morris who runs Loud & Clear Voice Coaching based in the UK. Her goal is to make the business sector more aware of the importance of the voice in persuading clients to buy, managing teams and influencing others positively.
Have you thought how often you and your staff use your voice to inform, persuade, sell and inspire? Oral communication can be a neglected art in business but it is at the forefront of almost everything we do, so, perhaps you should think more about it.
In this post I will share some of the expertise I have gained during the last 40 years.
Within about 7 seconds of opening your mouth the listener has made subconscious decisions about you. There are three areas where we focus specifically:
- Volume – you must be easy to hear.
- Clarity – you must be easy to understand.
- Modulation – you must be interesting.
So, let’s take each of these separately and look at how we can help ourselves achieve success.
1) Getting the Volume Right
We all have an internal volume setting which is habitual. This is a problem because even when people say they can’t hear us very well we don’t believe them! The resonance created in the spaces in our heads means that it sounds quite loud to us. We should mention here the statement I often hear “I don’t like the voice on my voicemail, it doesn’t sound like me!” Well I’m sorry folks but that voice is what carries through the air and that is how others hear you. You can change your habits and that perception with some focus and practice.
Your vocal power comes from BREATH and so BREATHING MORE DEEPLY will make you louder. There is just a small catch though. You actually have to want to be heard too.
Often, introvert personalities find this tricky but you have to THINK POSITIVE THOUGHTS about being louder to throw the words to the listener. DON’T GET TENSE as this will make your voice sound harsh. Try to keep relaxed and focus on expanding your chest more and taking a little more time to breathe.
Habits can’t be changed overnight so don’t expect this to be easy and ask people to you trust to tell you what they hear. It is interesting to note that surveys say that a quiet voice suggests a lack of confidence, leadership and knowledge, so try to find that extra bit of volume.
2) Being Precise
What we are talking about here is taking the trouble to finish the words off properly. We get lazy and omit consonants. Here are some regular omissions and their effects on us:
- G missing on ‘going’, ‘morning’ etc – speech sounds lazy.
- F or V said instead of TH i.e. “I’ve got free children” (that would be a miracle!) – sounds childish.
- Dropped H. Can be cured by breathing properly – sounds uneducated.
We have to mention here the vexed question of ACCENTS.
No matter how much we protest about accents not mattering anymore, this is simply not the case in practice. If the accent doesn’t seem to ‘fit’ the job, our subconscious brain throws out negative thoughts which can put a block on progress in a business context.
I am not saying that all accents should be eliminated, of course not, but it may be necessary to soften the edges a bit so that you don’t put off the listener. Putting more effort and care into how we speak is a good starting point.
3) Being Interesting
There are several elements to this:
- Using your full pitch range.
- Varying the pace.
- Using pauses of different lengths.
- Changing the tone to match the emotion.
- Using inflection glides to point specific meaning.
So what does this mean? If the voice is flat; if it stays on the one pitch band; if the words are rushed; if emotion is lacking; if inflections are extreme – we are less likely to listen to what is being said. This applies whether you are on the phone, talking to a new client or addressing a large audience.
You can become more aware of your bad habits and work to improve if you focus on HOW you are speaking as well as WHAT you are saying.
- ALWAYS KEEP CONTROL
- ENGAGE WITH THE WORDS
- THINK ABOUT THE RECEIVER
- BE SINCERE
To change habits you need a great deal of discipline and focus but if communication is an important part of your business day you should give it appropriate consideration.
When Public Speaking, you probably spend most of your time planning the words you are going to use. Spend time thinking about the DELIVERY and you stand a better chance of being listened to, as science tells us this actually matters more than words.
The voice is a MARKETING and SALES tool. You manage your team with it. Get the equation right and you can directly affect your bottom line.
So let’s SPEAK OUR WAY TO SUCCESS!
As a professional voice coach, Priscilla Morris has extensive experience in delivering bespoke workshops, and 1-2-1 training on all aspects of oral communication. She originally trained as a professional actress before opening her own speech & drama studio which celebrated 40 years in 2012. Find out more about Loud & Clear Voice Coaching here.