Voice : Presence
Our voice is our presence, just like you hear a roaring sound com- ing from the waves that are crashing to the shore and know that the ocean is present. Since we were born, the very first time we opened our mouths we announced our persona, our presence was made known, we let out our first cry to say, “Here I am, I am here to love and be loved.”
Everything in nature has a sound, thus has a presence. Some sounds in creation are really loud and clear and some are subsonic, you cannot hear them. Everything that exists is here to powerfully communicate by transforming whoever chooses to engage. The challenge for us all is how can we communicate in a way that we can connect, build trust, and create lasting change in our interaction with audiences and clients by using the beautiful organ of our soul called the VOICE.
From my experience the voice comes first. We can use our voice to add artistry to communication. We can choose to use our vocal tonality in many ways and just like an actor we can paint a picture with the way we communicate. This then makes it powerful. In any conversation or song the presence of the persona is heard through the voice as it artistically communicates a message. The potential of the voice is often limited because there is an unawareness of how to use the larynx (voice box) efficiently. For most professional communicators the voice is the last thing that would matter and the only time they will want to get a vocal coach would be if there was a problem. You get paid for your vocal confidence. What you know and what to say must come through your voice. The choice of language and the sound you use when you speak creates perceptions.
- What perceptions are you creating?
- Is this perception you you want?
- Is your voice matching your branding?
- Do you have the right tone for you message?
I suggest anyone who intends to use their voice on a platform develops vocal skills by learning techniques that can enhance and strengthen the voice for powerful, sustainable presence.
Vocal Tone is Adjustable—You Can Sound Better
Recent research suggests foetuses in utero begin hearing and relating to their mother’s vocal tone from about 16 weeks—about six months before they’re even born! Language is added later. To go into more depth about this research click here.
What does this mean for you—the speaker, presenter, teacher, preach- er, singer, coach?
Well, I think it’s very simple. As communicators we usually know when we’re being lied to. We have been trained as babies what the sound of the primary carer will be even before we were born. Our audiences are always trying to engage with us and looking for what can help them solve their problems. They are just hoping you have the answer they are looking for. They are wanting to hear authenticity in the voice. But sometimes there is something in the person’s tone that just doesn’t sound quite right or at least not a complete truth. Because people are usually kinaesthetic we remember the feeling of a conversation or a presentation more than the words themselves. Our voice exposes us and you will probably never know unless you listen back to yourself on a recording what you really sound like—what tone you used, it’s appropriateness, and was it what you were intending.
You cannot assess your own vocal tone because what you hear inside your head is not what actually everyone else hears and it’s your skull that’s to blame. More specifically, it’s the way your skull vibrates. This is why pro- fessional voice users have a vocal coach who is trained to listen and adjust specific nuances in a vocal tone and they help create a quality that is best for the style of speaking or singing the person is required to deliver.
I was coaching a client who happened to have a clenched jaw. He tells me it’s because he is generally shy. So imagine how he could struggle to impact audiences having a tight, clenched jaw making his vocal tone muffled and restricted. I also picked up that he was incongruent and not really releasing his voice because he was afraid of messing up. We all feel that we may not be good enough from time to time and unconsciously our voices can be held back such as showing up as a clenched jaw or a tight tongue. This is why, even though I am a vocal coach myself, I have five different master vocal coaches that I work with as over time I can develop bad vocal habits that will eventually affect the quality of my speaking and singing.
Impressionable Vocal Tone
Have you ever been to a workshop or to an event where the speaker is able to take you on a journey with just the way they use their voice in their presentation? Have you noticed how they’ve been able to connect with you through the emotion and the passion your hear in their voice when they deliver their message? In this moment you feel completely engaged. You are impressed and feel the excellence. Research is telling us that when the audience trusts us they are likely to share more with us. People open up and engage so much more when they are emotion- ally connected. Read Here for more on this research. Would you like to be able to provoke your audience with a tone that carries emotion? When you are a confident and competent voice user you will be able to communicate more freely and become believable to your audience. If you want greater vocal power and influence for the art of powerful communication you must harness your voice by modifying certain ele- ments of your voice and powerfully communicate.
Here are 5 vocal tips you can immediately do to empower your speaking confidence.
Watch this 7 min video for instruction and tips for:
1. Deep Breathing strategy
2. Warmups for energising your voice speaking
3. How to not reach and strain for projecting high and low sounds when speaking
4. How to not sound monotone by releasing a tight jaw and tongue
5. How to increase your resonance and have a confident, certain and credible voice.
These seven elements can help you manage your vocal tonality.
Just like an actor who begins his interpretation of a character by find- ing a suitable voice, a speaker must consider who they are being when delivering a message. I have made a list of seven elements that can be modified to help you control your speaking voice. You can make adjustments and manage these seven vocal elements when speaking:
Tone – quality or character of sound
Pace – the speed of the spoken word
Intonation/inflections – the rise and fall of the voice, command, and questioning tonality
Pitch – high and low frequencies; we all have a best speaking pitch Volume – how loud or soft your voice is; a projected or restrained voice can affect the clarity of the words
Pause – a pause at a crucial moment could help the meaning of the message
Accent – a distinctive way of pronouncing a language associated with a particular country, area, or social class
1. Vocal tone means:
quality or character of sound. Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t use that tone of voice with me”? Everyone has their own unique vocal tone; however, does it suit the intention of your communication? The ability to adjust your vocal tone to any conversation is paramount to the success of business influence. If you do sound monotonous, unemotional, or annoying or lifeless, you may be boring and switching off any potential client relationship. If you sound angry or bullying, that aggressive style can intimidate your cli- ent. When you’re able to be flexible with your vocal tone you’ll have more influence. As you gain more control over your voice you can modify your vocal tone to sound passionate even if you are not feeling excited.
2. Vocal pace means :
speed of your words your speak. The ideal speaking rate is somewhere between 120 to 160 words per minute. Speaking slowly can help to emphasise a point and bring clarity to your message. However, speaking too slowly can also be monotonous for your listeners, so they may become impatient and just tune out. Speak- ing more quickly can give the impression of passion and enthusiasm and show that you are confident and know your subject. The down side is that speaking too quickly can be difficult for people to keep up with you or even understand what you’re saying. Sometimes people tend to speak quickly when they’re nervous or unsure of what they’re saying.
3. Inflection / intonation means:
modulation of the voice where it can go higher and lower or the rise and fall of the speaking voice. Inflection is when you emphasise individual words that makes them stand out by raising the pitch and making it sound like a questioning tonality, and by lowering the pitch it ends the phrase. Emphasising or stressing certain words can change the meaning of a sentence as well as the feeling behind it. Working on your inflection or intonation will help you deal with a monotone voice and bring more interesting ex- pression and dynamic in your message.
The first time you read it emphasise the words that are outlined in bold only.
You should find the words in bold are very concerned and sympathetic.
Hello, how are you? I heard you’d been ill but I see you’re better now. I’m glad. When are you going to be back at work?
Now say the same line again but this time say the words that are in bold sarcastically. It will sound as if you doubt whether the listener really has been ill.
4. Optimum pitch / fundamental pitch means:
Find your best speaking pitch. This is all about your optimum speaking pitch or the central speaking pitch that sounds the best in your voice. Voices with high pitch or a nasal quality are often that way because the speaker is insecure or ner- vous and when this happens your voice is strangled and not free. We call it a forced voice. Speaking in a shaky or unsteady pitch gives the impression of nervousness, while an even voice is more calming and persuasive.
Your optimum speaking pitch helps you find resonance and vibrations that make it easy to carry vocal speaking power and create a free voice. The best speaking pitch isn’t the lowest or highest note of your range; it’s somewhere near the middle voice range for women and the chest voice range for men.
It is usually where you say, “Uh-huh”. The pitch on huh works the best for most people.
To find your optimum pitch, follow these steps:
1. Say “Uh-huh”. Notice the second pitch that you sound for the huh of “Uh-huh”.
2. Say “Uh-huh” a few times and then move right into speaking by saying your name immediately after the huh.
Notice the pitch when you said your name. Was it one of the pitches in “Uh-huh”, or was it lower? If it was lower, try again and say your name on the same pitch as the huh.
5. Volume means :
How loud or soft your voice is; projected or re- strained can affect the volume. Volume is to resonate, to resound which means to create ECHO. We create volume by releasing our voic- es and allowing a free resonance. This will help our voice project and sound louder in a healthy, non-forced way. A forced voice distorts the resonance and the volume and projection is reduced as it’s then muf- fled. When you force your voice you are reducing the resonance, your larynx raises, and then your voice becomes strangled and limited, and there is a feeling of your voice being stuck in your throat.
For example, strum guitar strings and then put your hand on it and muffle the resonance of the strings. Here we can demonstrate how volume is reduced when this happens.
If you have been told you have a soft voice all the time, it’s important to modify your volume so that you can be heard when you speak. If you tend to whisper, mumble, or speak with your head down it is much easier for people to talk over you or ignore you.
Avoid yelling; do you love cheering on your team at the top of your lungs? Yelling can strain your vocal cords and make it difficult for you to speak. In the worst cases, yelling can lead to vocal nodules, or bumps on your vocal cords.
6. Pause means:
Well-timed space in your speech that helps the effec- tiveness of the message.
Build them into your speech—sparingly. The space a pause creates helps your listener ponder on the message. You must count seven sec- onds for a pause to be effective.
If pauses are too short, it’ll sound like you’re scrambling for words; well-timed pauses create a sense of intrigue and curiosity.
7. You can control your ACCENT in your voice
An accent is a distinctive way of pronouncing a language associated with a particular country, area, or social class. If your accent is really strong it can be softened but it will never be completely removed. Usu- ally the problem sounds of most accents are the vowels A,E,I,O,U and Th as in The and Thin, W as in Wish, V as in Van also R and L. An- other issue that comes up when we hear a strong accent is the rhythm of the English language in comparison to individuals’ other spoken languages is different and therefore flows differently when we hear it.
Tip for Speaking Rhythm awareness
Clap to the beat of the English language and notice the rhythm in it. You will notice that the English language is spoken in a legato (flow). If you speak in another language clap it out, paying attention to the rhythm and the pauses; is it staccato (broken)? Notice if the language rhythm is flowing or stopping and starting.
For example, my second language is Italian; the language has a stop / start feel to it and the rhythm of the words flow differently because of the rhythm of the language. Changing this rhythm can also alter the meaning of your message. By recording yourself you can then notice what parts of your speech can change to create more flow and this will help you deliver a message that is easily understood by others.
Thank you for reading this post
Strategist for Confident Speaking