Making Good Speakers Great

Voice Training Imperative
Does Your Voice Send the Right Message?

Forget about what you say. People make instant judgments about you based on the sound of your voice. You might be smart, friendly and ever so competent, but if your voice sounds young, bored or irritating, it affects the outcome before you get to the end of the sentence.

Quantified Impressions, a communications company in Austin, Texas, studied 120 executive speeches, used computers to analyze the voices, and collected feedback from a panel of 10 experts and 1,000 listeners. Their research showed that the quality of a person’s voice is more than twice as influential as the content of their message.

Consider the level of thought and care you typically give to choosing the right words and structuring your message. Then consider how much time and attention is given to sound of your voice, the vehicle for that message—probably little to none, right? And yet it has twice as much influence.

If you’re like most people, you go through life assuming your voice is what it is. Unless you’re experiencing vocal problems or getting negative feedback from others, there’s little incentive to think about the quality of your voice, let alone invest in voice training. Yet, in light of the research, how can you not afford to consider this crucial aspect of communication?

At the very least, get an expert assessment from a vocal coach. People are reluctant to tell you if your voice is sending the wrong message. They don’t want to anger you or hurt your feelings. Furthermore, the layperson may not notice some vocal issues, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. So talk to a qualified vocal coach and get the truth about your voice.

There are three common vocal qualities that can unfavorably skew your personal image. For men, there’s the tense jock voice. It’s low-pitched, but has no richness, fullness or expressiveness. It makes listeners feel unwelcome and kept at arm’s length. For women, there’s the high girlie voice. It’s bright and energetic, but lacks strength and authority. It makes listeners feel impatient and skeptical. And both genders fall victim to scratchy voice or vocal fry, that raspy quality that often appears at the ends of sentences. Some think it sounds sexy, but it lacks clarity and projection. It makes listeners feel frustrated and disengaged. A vocal coach can help you identify your unique issues.

Once you’ve clarified your personal areas for development, get some voice training. It can be a self-study program, a group class or intense one-on-one coaching, but it’s got to be more than tips and tricks and YouTube clips. You’re looking for a well-rounded approach that addresses all three critical components of voice training: relaxation, breathing and resonance. The actual work with a vocal coach doesn’t need to take long. You can learn some basic skills very quickly, perhaps in one to three months. Of course, you’ll need to continue practicing, to implement the voice training, and change the habits you’ve developed over the years.

If your voice isn’t enhancing your personal image or reinforcing your impact on others, don’t just shrug and assume there’s nothing to be done about it. Your voice matters more than your words. Take it seriously. Get an evaluation. Do some voice training, at least a little. So that when you open your mouth, your listeners think, “Smart, confident and successful.”

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