In my travels through corporate America, I meet many people with voice and speech issues that undermine their credibility.
Here are 3 common issues that can be corrected with voice and speech training.
A soft voice, one that is hard to hear, is a liability for any speaker. First, you speak to get others to think or do something, and if they can’t hear you, you’re wasting your time and theirs.
Second, emotions are contagious, and a soft voice can signal a lack of conviction or belief in one’s point of view. Greater volume is not always the answer, but a greater degree of intention is necessary. You can even whisper and be heard at the back of the room if you have enough intention.
This brings us to the nexus of voice and psychology. If you are accustomed to speaking with a lower degree of intention, you will need to practice speaking with a greater degree of intention. Voice and speech instruction can help you do this.
Talking too fast
Speaking fast (say, faster than 180 words per minute) is not bad in itself because listeners can often understand you at that speed. But if you speak at that rate continuously, and fail to pause between phrases to create some silence around your words, you will cause your audience to tune out.
There is also evidence that speaking fast creates the impression of intelligence. However, it also causes listeners to be critical of you. Actually, studies suggest listeners are more likely to derograte fast talkers. That means they will actually make derogatory remarks about you, criticize, or find fault with you.
Not good. You can learn a new habit through voice and speech training. Instruction will not change who you are, or take away your beautiful fast talking. It will only help you develop a new, slower way to speak so you can sound more credible.
Not using a full voice
This problem is more complicated. The voice has three basic resonating surfaces: the chest, the head, and the bones in the front of the face (most of us call this the nasal sound). An attractive and effective voice is a blend of all three.
However, when you use only one of the resonating surfaces, you put yourself at a disadvantage.
If you are stuck in the chest resonance (which very few people do) you sound like Raymond’s brother on Everyone Loves Raymond, kind of stupid and oafish.
If you speak predominately from your head, you may have a bright sound, but it will lack body and gravitas if you fail to dip into the chest tones now and then.
Finally, everybody may love Raymond, but they hate nasality. To have a nasal voice, an exclusively nasal voice, is hard on listeners and hard on the speaker, since he or she will no doubt pick up the subtle and not so subtle clues that their voice is despleasing to others.
All of these difficulties can be addressed in voice and speech training, using simple, repeatable exercises.
The voice is a plastic instrument, meaning that it can be molded by practice and exercise, just like your muscles. Voice and speech training will open up your sound, increase its range and expressiveness, and make your speech more clear. These qualities will make people give you the benefit of the doubt.
And best of all, you will be heard!
Sims Wyeth & Co. provides public speaking courses, executive speech coaching, presentation skills training, voice and speech training, speech writing, and courses that address stage fright, body language, presentation strategy, and effective use of PowerPoint, all of which contribute to greater executive presence and personal impact.
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