Did you know that your speaking voice could be a distinctive part of your personal brand? Our voice is pivotal to capturing (or losing) attention and conveying a clear, confident message. Yet, many of us are unaware of its significance or have overlooked this vital tool.
I grew up in Trinidad, where we spoke British English. When I moved to Canada, I became acutely aware of my accent. That knowledge was particularly challenging as an introvert grappling with a social phobia while adjusting to living in a new country. Consequently, I avoided meetings with clients.
When I transferred to the US, I received invitations to speak at reputable Data Mining conferences. This time, there was no escape from attending those events as I was instrumental in promoting the data mining capabilities of my then-employer.
The earlier feedback regarding my accent haunted me. I ruminated over my audience engaging with my superior content versus being distracted by my accent. It was clear that I needed to take action to move forward.
- Individualized speaking coaching. A valuable investment now 15+ years later, as I continuously benefit from those learnings.
- Consuming materials from voice coaches who trained actors, news anchors, and Opera singers. Why? I observed that the techniques Opera singers employed to perfect their singing voices significantly overlap with those needed for successful speaking. Competences as emotions, intonation, pacing, projection, resonance, tonality, and vocal variety are key components for both.
TECHNIQUES TO HELP YOU CAPTIVATE WITH YOUR SPEAKING VOICE
Here are some practices you can use to enrich your speaking voice. Please modify the exercises so they work for you and your body.
The connection between our voice and body is inseparable. Without physicality, we cannot naturally produce sound. The lungs rely on the ribs to expand and the diaphragm to descend to inhale air. Additionally, the diaphragm requires support from the pelvic floor, abdomen, and back muscles to facilitate the airflow that sets the vocal folds in motion.
- Full Body Stretching helps to reduce any tension in our body. According to author Pamelia S. Phillips, Singing Exercises for Dummies, stretching our body before a vocal warm-up helps us feel like our body is flexible and open from head to toe.
- Lengthen your spine. Our ribs are attached to our spine. We want our ribs and spine flexible to develop good breath coordination. Try this seated spine stretch.
- Posture. Practice distributing your weight evenly on both legs. Your feet should be parallel and hip-width apart. Consider this exercise to improve your posture.
2. Vocal Warm-up
Like performance professionals, set aside 10 minutes to 15 minutes to unblock your voice before important meetings. On other days, this could be part of your early morning routine.
- My vocal warm-up is like this 10-minute exercise from Jacobs Vocal Academy.
- If you work with a reputable singer, as I did because of my TMJ Disorder, pick a piece that builds multiple skills – pitch, range, tone, vocal variety, volume, and more.
- A decent teacher would allow you to tape your sessions. I recommend four (4) to six (6) 45-minute sessions over the same number of weeks. Practice it every day. As your voice evolves, return to learn a new song to keep improving your voice.
According to author and broadcast voice specialist Dr Ann Utterback, breathing is the key to good vocal production. Add a pause in your day to do 10 minutes of deep breathing. You will then activate and strengthen your diaphragm muscle for a fuller, stronger voice tone. Belly breathing also calms our nerves and reduces stress and anxiety.
Here are a few helpful resources:
- Breathing For Broadcast with Dr. Ann S. Utterback.
- Five (5) breath control exercises.
- How To Sing From The Diaphragm – the exercise starts around 4 minutes into the video.
I practice tongue twisters for at least five (5) minutes to focus on clear enunciations.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit, and on the slitted sheet I sit.
5. Pace & Pause
Pace is the speed at which we speak. We are perceived as nervous when we talk too fast. Conversely, when we talk too slow, we are labelled as lesser intelligent, and our audience can lose interest in us.
- With permission, record some of your meetings. Review it. Get feedback. Readjust.
- Read aloud for 15 minutes daily. Record yourself. Listen to it. Notice the following:
- Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Do you drop off at the end of a sentence or question? As in written communication, do you pause as you would for commas and periods when speaking? Where do you stress?
Our voice allows our words to connect with our audience and convey authority and conviction. Hence, mastering vocal presence is a strategic ongoing undertaking.
I believe it is our responsibility to make it easy on the ears of our listeners. And these guidelines will place you on a solid footing to enhance your speaking voice. However, they are neither exhaustive nor instant solutions.
The choice is yours – leave these tools here or integrate them into your daily rituals to accrue influence with your listeners.
Kasindra Maharaj is the Founder and Chief Momentum Officer at KM Career Insights – a boutique establishment providing workshops and coaching services to early and mid-career professionals. With her diverse upbringing and progressive perspectives, she believes in offering fair opportunities for all. And, in her former “lives”, Kasindra was a consumer insights expert, a data miner, and an educator.
You can reach Kasindra via www.LinkedIn/IN/KasindraMaharaj, X: @KasindraMaharaj, or her website at www.kasindramaharaj.com.
Featured image provided by 祝 鹤槐; Pexels; Thanks!