What's Voice Got To Do With It?
Consider this scenario: You have to give a speech at your daughter’s wedding. You prepared your speech weeks ago, and you’ve been practicing every day. You feel confident - you’re ready for the speech. The microphone is handed to you, and you open your mouth to say the first words...but nothing comes out! You feel like your throat is closing up. Your heart starts racing and you’re starting to sweat…
In this scenario, you have the speech part down - all the words had been written out for you, so you weren’t going to forget what to say. But it was your voice that shut down, and without your voice, there was no way you were going to give that speech.
Speech and voice are intertwined so closely that we often think of them as the same thing, but they are different. Speech refers to the motor movements involved in saying words - the way a word is articulated or pronounced (Example: The lips come together to make an “m”). Voicing is a component of speech (a voiced sound means the vocal cords are vibrating, and a voiceless sound means there is no vibration of the cords). However, the quality of the voice is what I want to focus on - what does the voice sound like? Does it sound nervous or scared, hoarse or smooth?
I want you to think of someone who you think is a good communicator - someone you enjoy listening to and grabs your attention whenever you hear them talk. How would you describe this person’s speaking style? What is it that you like about them?
Maybe you think that person speaks clearly and confidently, or they have a style that is energetic and engaging, and they have a good command of English vocabulary and grammar. Now, how would you describe their vocal quality? Is it a low voice or high voice? A loud and booming voice, or a soft and airy voice? Maybe it sounds raspy or gravelly, or maybe it is smooth and pleasant?
No matter how you describe a person’s communication style, it is important to understand that it’s not just what a person says that makes them a good communicator - it’s also how they say it. Saying the right words and using correct grammar are important, but saying those words with an engaging and confident vocal quality is just as, if not more, important.
The way we talk is especially important within the context of business communication - whether we’re interviewing for a job, negotiating a contract, explaining products to a customer, or managing a tense conflict, it’s not only what we say but how we sound to others that can make the difference between successful and unsuccessful outcomes.
Consider your speaking style with the following questions:
Do you use filler words like “um”, “uh”, “you know”, and “like” – making you sound unsure of yourself?
Do you talk way too fast, leading others to conclude that you’re nervous?
Does your voice sound rough, making you sound aggressive?
Do frequent pauses interfere with a smooth sound?
Do you usually speak with an upward inflection, which can make you sound unsure of yourself and may cause others to question your competence?
These are just some of the areas that can be targeted in voice projection and vocal health training. And depending on your needs or concerns, voice training can also be a part of any accent modification or corporate communication program.
Let me know if you would like to learn more about how you can improve your oral communication skills and speak with a more confident, engaging, and interesting voice that commands the attention of the room.
Before you start speaking, warm up your voice with these easy exercises (it takes 5 minutes or less): Vocal Warm-ups
Do you have a person you love to listen to? As a voice and accent coach, my ears are always listening for a good voice. Here’s my new favorite: Jackie Gartner-Schmidt.
Now contrast that voice sample with these samples:
Glottal fry/upward speak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5VW5FMblho
Monotone voice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyyAh2lQXF8
More glottal fry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8mcBdBL-t0
Which voice do you like listening to? And more importantly, which voice would you want to sound like, if you had to pick one?