Jan 07 2010

Your Voice, Your Impact, Your Choice

Published by at 1:39 PM under Executive Presence,Presence

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I am proud to see my blog on 6-Minutes’ Definitive List of public speaking blogs, and I am also proud to be addressing the use and care of one of the most important assets to a speaker (or anyone, for that matter!), the human voice.  So, I’m starting the New Year off with a bit of a rant about the importance of training your voice.

Many CEO’s, public statesmen, and great conversationalists have learned the value of training their voices.  When it comes to public speaking, having the latest technology is not a good substitute for a poor voice.  I know many people will tell you that, but here is my take on it: People are always more interesting to other people than  slides.  Along these lines, I love the post by Olivia Mitchell that tells you how to use the beam of your projector like a spotlight…well that’s not exactly what she said, but as an actor, I’ve always believed that was a much over-looked opportunity! Anyway, Mitchell is someone who gives great advice on the appropriate use of technology in your talks, while also talking about finding your strengths as a speaker with human skills such as eye contact and gesturing.

Yet even with all the human elements of eye contact and gestures,  there really is a direct correlation between “voice” and being a speaker.   Since people come to “hear” you, they expect to hear something they want to listen to. I know that I am a voice teacher, but  your voice is your most valuable asset and the way it sounds may be much more important than you think. In fact,  the remarkable Julian Treasure affirms this when he says, “The human voice is the most powerful sound on the planet.”   To find out why, I encourage you to visit his website, Sound Business.

How studying voice will improve your impact as a speaker

The truth is that you are already making an impact on others with your voice, but the impact you are making with your voice may not be the one you want to make.  In order to create the sound you want, and make sure it is a healthy sound that will optimize your most valuable asset, you must

  1. be aware of how you sound and what you like and don’t like about your voice
  2. become aware of the sound you are creating and the effect it has on others
  3. know how to make a sound that brings out the best in your voice, but also one that won’t hurt you

To accomplish this, you have to listen to yourself and others, but you really need someone else to listen to you and give you feedback, too, and preferably someone who knows what they are doing.

Aligning your voice with your intentions
One of my clients, who is a Fortune 100 CEO, was finding himself hoarse at the end of the day even on days when he was presenting at a conference.   He talked all day long and  found that when he got home, he had to stay quiet in order to save his voice for his work.  This then took a toll on his communication with his wife and kids.  In addition, he started to have difficulty being understood when he got up in front of people, and his publicist started complaining that his image wasn’t as strong as it used to be.  His voice problems were effecting his personal life as well as his business communicatiion by the time he started working with me.  We made some changes that helped tremendously, but the truth is that he could have avoided those issues altogether if he had had training earlier.

You can choose to have your voice more fully support your sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life, and you can have a healthy, vibrant sound. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  It doesn’t have to take years to accomplish.  But think of it this way.  Your voice is part of your body and it is the only one you get.  If you depend on it in your job, it’s a good idea to understand it and take care of it so that you don’t abuse it or even lose it.

It’s like having a great tool in your tool kit and the more you know about it the better you can utilize its strengths.  People who train their voices  have learn that aligning their sound and vocal image with their sense of purpose and intention often results in impact beyond their expectations.

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