As the latest series of The Voice reaches its conclusion this weekend, our voice coach Jessica Claire shares her thoughts on the importance of voice quality and how to be a “winner” when vocally communicating a message.
Boom Shake Shake Shake the Room
I was in my favourite local coffee shop last weekend desperately trying to savour my morning cappuccino, eat a bacon sarnie and read my book in relative tranquillity at the end of a stressful week. No squealing toddler this time but an adolescent barista was the culprit and he insisted on carrying out his conversation about his gap year in Canada at a decibel resonance high enough to shatter the entire bar of glasses and crockery on display behind him!
Some people speak too loudly. Others can barely be heard. Voices should be varied in order to add emphasis and dramatic impact. Inaudibility is different from speaking softly with vocal support. A whisper is air without sound; air must vibrate against your vocal cords to produce audible sound. A sentence or phrase may begin well enough and then collapse into unintelligibility. If you want to communicate with impact, you must project your voice; carry your thought through to the end of the sentence to ensure you don’t sail away, sail away, sail away…
Dull as Ditchwater or Like a Songbird
When you speak about something, does your voice convey life, colour and melody? In order to communicate with impact your voice must express emotion and conviction. The highness or lowness in the sound of your voice is known as pitch. If your voice is squeaky (think Joe Pesquale); guttural (Maggie Thatcher); shrill (akin to Miss Piggy) or flat (just like Joe Brand), then you should work on your pitch. The desired speaking pitch sounds low, clear, full and varied.
Rain Cloud or Rainbow?
The essence of your speaking sound is your voice quality. Voice colouring is what you use to convey your feelings. Your thoughts are a form of energy that you transmit to others. Through the quality of your voice, you establish the tone of your relationship with your audience. If your voice is full, clear, mellow and enthusiastic, you can create an unbreakable bond of friendship and acceptance. On the other hand, if your voice quality is nasal, breathy, harsh, or lifeless, it would be a nifty idea to work on improving it.
The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension, either emotional or physical tension, so controlling tension is critical to improving your voice quality. Relax your throat while you speak, think in terms of friendliness, confidence and a desire to communicate. If you release the tension from your voice, a pleasing tone is bound to result.
Let’s Get Ready To Mumble
When you speak, you must be understood. If you mouth your words or swallow, suppress or mumble them, people will soon tire of trying to follow your thoughts. You will not come across as authentic and will appear as if you are trying to hide something, as though you do not believe what you are saying is true. Mumbling appears to be the new fashion with articulation the height of uncool. For me talking through a half-opened mouth is the same as speaking with a book in front of your lips. Which is not at all trendy – I’ve had a word with Cara Delevingne!!
The Hare or the Tortoise
The rate at which you speak is difficult to change because it relates to how you think and behave – how you live your life and your individual personality. Speaking either too slow or too fast can distort your articulation, limit changes of pitch and alter your voice quality.
An effective speaking rate is between 120 to 160 words per minute; this will avoid the boring drone, yet slow enough to be understandable. Varying your speaking rate during a talk reflects changes in emotions and mood, as well as emphasising critical points. Listen to Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Nick Vujicic, Dr Wayne Dyer. They demand attention the moment they open their mouths; their pace reflective of their inner steel, their words demanding attention and reflection, stimulating and motivating with every sentence, every pause.
Agitater or Orchestrater?
People speak in musical notes. A good speaker may use as many as 25 different notes to convey variety and meaning. Inflections comprise another important characteristic of speaking. An inflection is a raised pitch – a high note used to add emphasis to a word. A single change in inflection may often change the meaning or implication of a sentence, as illustrated in the following example:
- I was born in America (You, on the other hand, were born somewhere else.)
- I was born in America (How dare you imply that I wasn’t?)
- I was born in America (I’m a native – not a newcomer.)
- I was born in America (Not outside Australia. Not in Canada).
We can all be “Winners” with our Voices, it just takes a little practise. In my next blog I will share with you a series of simple daily tasks to help improve voice quality. Until then – Happy Talking!
If you would like to find our more about working with Jess to improve your voice and enhance your impact either in one to ones, in meetings, addressing any audience or making a key note speech, please contact us at email@example.com. She will be happy to have an initial chat with you about how she can help you.