Oct 19 2016

Your voice on conference calls: How to show up when no one can see you

Published by under Presence,Vocal Image

dreamstime_s_18638726Recently, I facilitated a workshop for a group of people who work in their pajamas.   One of them told me that she will do her hair and makeup for the rare call when her customer turns on her video camera, but normally she doesn’t have to worry about being seen. What she has to worry about is being heard, and being heard well enough to make an impact.  Sound familiar? According to Globalworkplaceanalytics,  currently, 50% of the US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 20-25% of the workforce teleworks at some frequency.

Although convenient, teleworking presents big challenges for vocal impact. Some of these are gauging the interest and response of others on a call when you can’t see them, getting a chance to voice your opinion when others are louder or more aggressive on the call, and making sure that you are more important than email.  The sound of your voice has risen to an importance rarely realized before. If you need help making your voice heard, here are three areas to explore:

  1.  Get to know your voice.  What do you know about how others hear you? In the work that I do, I find that most people have very little concept of how the sound of their voice is perceived by others, and yet it does create a perception. Think about someone you know well. What can you say about their voice? Is it high or low, rich or thin, strong or weak? Record your own and listen for the same things. Then pay attention to how people respond to you. Where are you effective and where are you not? You can use exercises on this blog to create the voice you want, but you have to know what you are working with first.
  2. Be expressive. Research has shown that people are not engaged  because the emotional elements and stimuli are removed from most conference calls. When people are on mute, their immediate response to humor is gone. When people are not on the screen, you can’t see their facial expressions. And when you only see slides, you don’t get the same sense of connection with other humans. Therefore, if you want people to listen, try taking some steps to enhance the human side of meetings, add what’s missing to your voice, and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Prepare to participate. Always go into a meeting with the intention to participate and pipe up at least every 10-15 minutes. If you own the meeting, make sure you have prepared a real opening and close to the meeting and that you have an intention for the meeting that you can use to keep people on track and involved. Invite participation and interaction by asking others to prepare to present as well.  If you don’t own the meeting, always be prepared with relevant questions or comments that you have thought through in advance.

Of course, many people you speak with have bad habits around being on conference calls. You probably can’t change those, but if you create a more interesting voice and align it with a clear intention, and always prepare to participate, you have a much greater chance of catching the ear of the listener on the other side.

Vocal Impact Tip: How to make them choose you over email


How to be more expressive


Your (Executive) Presence is Required

Photo © Diego.cervo | Dreamstime.com – Frustrated Colleagues Playing At Conference Call

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Sep 12 2016

The Aging Voice: Thicker middle, thinner voice

Published by under Vocal Health

dreamstime_xs_3311941If you are over 50, you may have noticed your voice growing weaker, or phlegmier, or sounding more tired than it used to. Sorry to say, but the process that makes your knees sag also makes your vocal folds get thinner and lose strength and tone. Without sufficient bulk, the cords’ opposing tissues can’t meet in the middle to produce the vibrations that cause sound. Yes, it’s not fair that you get a thicker waistline, where you don’t need the bulk, and thinner muscle where you do! Although there is no fountain of youth, the search for the voice you used to have doesn’t have to end in frustration.  According to laryngologists, older voices can be revived with the proper care, exercise, treatment for acid reflux, and even collagen injections to plump the folds and close the gap. Note: you have to get collagen injected into the vocal folds; the improvement doesn’t come from just getting rid of frown lines.

* Stay hydrated. It seems that we need more water as we age because our bodies have lower water reserves.  Dehydration contributes to phlegm in the throat. Besides,  water is good for your heart! Drink water! Consider using steam and be sure to avoid things like cough drops and other lozenges with eucalyptus that can be drying. Consider glycerin based lozenges like Lakerol or Black Currant Pastilles.

* Keep your body strong and healthy. Your body is your voice; improved circulation, respiration and stamina will improve your voice, too.

* Once the vocal folds begin to lose their bulk, it’s less likely that you will damage your voice by being too aggressive with your voice (i.e. over-singing, yelling, or belting.) In fact, louder, stronger vocal exercises can improve the strength of an aging voice. Try some nice loud shower singing to start your day.

Just remember that you should always consult an otolaryngologist (ENT) or a Speech Language Pathologist if you are experiencing vocal weakness, and before beginning vigorous vocal practice. While age-related changes can cause voice changes, there are other vocal fold issues that must be ruled out before you begin to work on any strengthening program.

Special thanks for edits by Edie R. Hapner, PhD CCC-SLP, Professor
Tina and Rick Caruso Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
Keck Medicine of USC
University of Southern California
USC Voice Center

Related posts:

Three steps to create a super voice for vocal marathons

How to relieve a tired voice

How to find a singing teacher

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