10 Steps to a More Dynamic Voice!
by Karen Schadow
"Speak up, Counselor! Speak up!" So went the big Federal drug trial (on which I was a juror) as the Federal judge admonished the prosecuting attorney over and over, every day, during the course of the trial. "We can’t hear you."
The trial of some major drug king-pins, a seemingly open-and-shut case, ended in a hung jury. Why? The jury had lost confidence in the prosecutor -- who had not communicated effectively. He distracted the courtroom because he spoke too softly, he lacked confidence in his closing arguments, and he mumbled.
It all has to do with The Voice!
"There is no index of character so sure as the voice," noted the British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli. And that is doubly true in the business world. How often do we make judgments about people, over the phone, painting a mental picture of our potential new client, new boss, or associate, based on their voices? And are we aware that, at the same time, others may be judging us by the strength of our voices and making business decisions based on their reactions to how we sound?
Can we use our voices to greater advantage? Of course! That is why I have developed the 10 Steps to a More Dynamic Voice.
You can do a Voice Makeover! But first you must Become Aware of Yourself and Your Voice. Just begin to listen to yourself and notice what might need work. Notice others’ voices, too. What is it that makes one voice attractive and another so grating? As a voice improvement coach for over twenty years, I have worked with hundreds of clients who have learned that the most important step in attaining a more dynamic voice involves doing what you do every moment of your life: Breathing!
What is the difference? Breathing for Effective Speech is opposite Breathing for Living. Take a moment to notice your normal breathing: A slow inhale, followed by a quick exhale. BUT, if we become conscious of our breathing, we can work on a Quick Inhale and, to support the sound of our voices as we speak, a Slow Controlled Exhale.
Have you also noticed yourself trying to be low-key in meetings, but you end up mumbling? Try to really Open Your Mouth and increase the Resonance of your voice. Imagine the higher sound of the violin and the deeper sound of the cello: It all has to do with the volume of the container. If you open your mouth more fully, you will gain a more resonant sound from the greater volume!
Try also to Eliminate Lazy Tongue, by pronouncing all beginning and ending sounds of words, articulating each sound. Your confidence level will boost immediately, as you will be more easily understood.
If you feel like the Pitch of your voice is too high, here is a simple sentence to work on: This is the WAY home. Elongate the word, "Way," in that sentence. "Way" should indicate your middle pitch range. Pronounce that word and try to speak from that pitch level to bring your voice down a bit.
Perhaps the most deadly voice characteristic is Monotony. Concentrate on keeping your Energy Up - even if you have to fake it! - and your voice will gain Vocal Variety. Don’t be afraid to sound energized!
And Smile! Nobody Knows that You are Nervous -- But You. When you have to make that presentation to the company leaders, Don’t Apologize unconsciously. Make Eye Contact and Watch Extraneous Body Activity, and they will be convinced that you do know your subject! Remember to Breathe Before You Speak -- Always! And you will develop your own Voice of Success!
- Article appeared in "WomensBiz.US" and in "New York Women in Communications Connect" magazines