Improve your vocal variety when you speak and your listeners will thank you for it. In a series of posts, Sage Business Expert Liz McLaughlin looks at how you can improve your verbal, vocal and visual communication to improve your sales and customer service.
How interesting is your use of vocal variety when you speak? Do you give it any thought? The reality is, most of us pay little attention to the sound of our voice and the tones, intonation, speed and variety we use when we speak. Sure, we notice our voice changes when we are upset, excited, angry or shy but these changes happen naturally, without us consciously making them.
Today, we’d like to invite you to think about the use of your voice as your primary vehicle to carry your message. Certainly, our voices reflect our emotions – when we are anxious or stressed, our breathing tightens and speeds up, so our voice changes pitch and also speeds up. Put simply, our voice and variety of speech is a complete give away of our emotions, so just as we need to be aware of our eye communication, facial expressions, our mannerisms and our body language, so we need to be very focused on the message our voice is giving out.
What’s more, the more interesting our intonation and speech pattern, the more engaging we will be to our listeners. Consider, for a moment, people you love to listen to. Naturally, we will all have our preferences, but it is likely that those who we find most interesting will have similar vocal traits. Radio presenters, in fact presenters in general, all tend to take us on a roller-coaster ride when they speak. For example, have a listen to Chris Evans on Radio 2 breakfast show. His voice is positively brimming over with energy, enthusiasm, excitement and passion. His vocal variety is enormous and as such, over 9 million people tune in to him each morning, knowing they are guaranteed a positive start to the day.
We all use our voices as a vehicle to get to a destination. Only we can decide whether we want our vehicle to be an old banger or finely-tuned super car. Both will get us to the same end point, but the journey will be a very different one.
Keys to Effective Voice and Vocal Control
The keys below are among the most important tools for making a positive impression with your voice, whether you’re speaking to one person or to one thousand.
- Your voice transmits energy. The excitement and enthusiasm you feel should be directly conveyed by the sound of your voice. Record your voice and ask colleagues to see how much energy, or how little, your voice conveys to others.
- Your tone, intonation, resonance and delivery accounts for 84% of the believability of your message when people can’t see you i.e. when you talk on the phone.
- Subtleties of voice are far greater than we think. We can read an enormous amount into the vocal tone of people in the first few seconds of a telephone conversation. Call someone you know well and listen as they say hello. What does the utterance of this one word tell you about their mood?
- The four components that make up your vocal expression are relaxation, breathing, projection and resonance. Each can be altered through exercises to expand your vocal effectiveness. All work together to give your voice its unique qualities.
- Use variety in your voice. Vocal variety is a great way of keeping people interested and involved. A vocal “roller-coaster” is what you’re aiming for. Lift your voice and let it fall to avoid monotone.
Improving your Voice and Vocal Variety
The following skill development exercises and tips can enhance your voice and vocal variety in your daily interpersonal communication.
- Emphasize the right word. Read the sentence “Now is the time for change”, emphasizing a different word each time. Notice the difference in meaning each time. Emphasis is critical. Experiment with emphasizing the right word in everyday life experiences.
- The voice of the company. Call five different companies at random. Listen to how they answer the phone. Rate them by tone and quality. How does your company rate? How do you rate?
- Good and bad voices. List five people you know or hear on the radio or television who have attractive, pleasant voice deliveries. List five people with poor. Why are they good/bad?
- Record yourself. The best way to understand and improve your voice quality skills is to record yourself. Record a business meeting or even a casual conversation with a friend.
How we say things carries much more impact than what we say and our voice is an extremely powerful communicator. Consider these tips and see how small changes can have significant and positive results.