Have you ever stopped to think just how important your voice is? Something you use every single day whether it’s with loved ones, work colleagues, clients, friends and whether in person, on the phone, whether singing or speaking.

Your voice is uniquely you.  Every voice projects the personality of its speaker – you – and has the ability to persuade, empathise, lead and influence. And yet we underestimate the impact of our voices. Especially now, where we are using them so much more online and in virtual meetings. If cameras are off, others will be even more tuned in to your voice….

One of our most powerful assets is our voice and the way we use it. We tend to focus on WHAT we are saying more than HOW we are saying it. So much of the impact we make is through our voice and online, for example, it’s over 80% because there are no other visual cues to go by and even with video on are brains work harder to decipher visual cues so rely on voice tone so much more.

Here are 4 key elements to help raise awareness of your voice and how you use it:

Resonance – is defined as “the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating.” Reverberation is important to your voice because at its root, your voice is a series of vocal-cord vibrations. The way your voice sounds is going to depend on a number of factors, but where you resonate your voice is one of the most important. If you resonate your voice in your throat, you will sound muffled, gravely–think of this as the bass. If you resonate your voice in your nasal passages, you will sound “nasally”–think of this as the treble. Ideally, you resonate your sound primarily in your mouth, balancing bass and treble. Just as you can adjust your sound system to add a little bass or a little treble, you can adjust your voice based on where you resonate your sound. As a way to hear and feel how you resonate your sound in your mouth, make an “mmm” sound. You should feel your lips tingling. When you feel the tingling, say “my” or “me” and think of discovering your centre–your ideal balance point.

Relaxation – being too tense can have a significant effect on the sound of your voice which is why public speaking and presentations can go differently from how we may have rehearsed. When you are tense, your throat becomes tight. When your throat becomes tight, your vocal cords get taut and vibrate with a different quality–like when you push up hard against something and your muscles become strained. Your voice becomes thin like a thread instead of rich like a ribbon. Your sound will be raspy and constrained, and your tone will be flat instead of round.

The best way to handle this is to drink some water and take a few (not deep) breaths to settle yourself. I do this every time before I run an online masterclass.

Your voice is indistinguishable from how other people see you, but your relationship with it is far from obvious. Rébecca Kleinberger studies how we use and understand our voices and the voices of others. She explains why you may not like the sound of your own voice on recordings, the differences between your outward, inward and inner voices — and the extraordinary things you communicate without being aware of it.

Rhythm – Good rhythm is an essential part of a great voice. Simply put, you want to sound smooth, not choppy. One of the best ways to sound smooth is by extending your vowel sounds and sliding your words together. For instance, when you say “bus stop,” it should sound more like “busstop.” Sliding sounds and words together is more pleasing to the ear than a choppy, staccato sound pattern.

To develop rhythm, move your arm across your body in a smooth manner as you speak. Focus on connecting your speaking with the flow of the movement. Notice how your vowel sounds extend naturally. Notice the full, rich sound you make as you concentrate on connecting.

Pacing – Pacing is critical to add depth and dimension to your voice. Try speaking in short sentences–not long, complex sentences. When you speak in long, complex sentences, you tend to cram more words into one breath. When you compress your sounds, you are fitting more words into a breath and sucking out the tone and colour of your voice. So remember, pace yourself. Speak in short sentences supported by small breaths.

So much of the time on these video calls, we are much more focused on how we look, what we are going to say and on the people who will be there and we hope are present. By focusing more of our attention to our voice, we are likely to make a lasting impact whether presenting, facilitating or seeking to have our voices truly heard in a meeting. Try it!

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