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7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Voice

7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Voice

Bill Lampton, Ph.D.

June 23, 2009

Your phone rings. You answer, and the caller says hello, without identifying herself. Yet immediately you recognize her voice, even though you haven’t spoken with her in more than ten years. How are you able to do that? There’s no mystery here, for voices are highly distinct and distinguishable, sort of our “signature in sound.”That being the case, you’ll want to make the most of your voice, especially when you speak to audiences. So here are 7 steps for putting your best voice forward.

ONE: Before your speech, be kind to your vocal chords.
Avoid cold water, which constricts your speaking mechanism. To quench your thirst, go with a warm or lukewarm liquid. And stay away from liquids for the last two or three minutes prior to your speech, to avoid getting choked

TWO: Be fluent
Let your words display a continuing flow, without too many unnecessary pauses when you appear to be searching for the next word. That mannerism distracts listeners,who might think you have forgotten something.

THREE: Speak in your regular conversational tone.
No need to sound like a broadcaster, because you aren’t one. Your audience wants to think that a real person is speaking with them personally, as individuals. Decades ago, President Roosevelt accomplished this personalization in his popular “Fireside Chats” on radio.

FOUR: Consider speaking with a faster rate.
Listeners can understand you when you speak rapidly, because our minds can absorb words two or three times faster than the normal speaking rate. Also, think about the speakers you consider the most dynamic ones. Aren’t they rapid fire? Usually, yes.A word of caution: You don’t have to exaggerate as much as the used car salesman on TV. Work toward achieving a revved up pace that doesn’t smack of artificiality.

FIVE: Pause Occasionally
My college speech professor advised students to “leave out everything but the pauses.” Remember that a pause never seems as long to the audience as it does to you, assuming the speaker still looks like he is in control. Pauses help you emphasize certain points, give your audience a few seconds of mental rest,and bring in the variety we have called for with rate and volume.

SIX: Analyze your vocal quality with every opportunity you can create.
Record your speeches and listen to them afterward. You don’t have to use expensive, bulky equipment. For a very modest price, you can purchase a small device that fits inconspicuously in your coat or jacket pocket.Of course, the most effective way to analyze your vocal quality is to enlist the services of a speech coach. Your speech coach will give you objective feedback, tell you what needs attention,and offer specific steps for improvement. Through the magic of the Internet, you can work with a speech coach many miles away when you can’t find one locally.In fact, I invite you to consider enlisting me as your speech coach. Check the Coaching page on my Web site, and watch the video that describes the benefits I brought to top-tier executives at Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Duracell, and others:

SEVEN: Use your own voice, without imitating anyone else’s.
I like the way Roger Ailes, Chairman of Fox Broadcasting, put this in his book, You Are the Message: “Nobody can play you as well as you can.”