As a speaker in business communication, it's your job to get helpful information across to listeners and to do so audibly. If that's your primary role as a presenter, why should you be concerned about the quality of your voice?
The answer to that question is one of the most important in all spoken communication: Your voice is the most flexible instrument you own for persuading and influencing others. That means that the warmth and quality of your voice matters very much indeed.
Wonders of the Human Voice
The human voice is a supple agent of both intention and subtlety of expression. Nothing else in your presentation toolbox equals it, except perhaps the visual impression you convey. Where visual clues are absent, however--such as in phone calls and conference calls--your voice reigns supreme.
And significantly, the way you look and sound together bestows maximum believability in your message. Perhaps even more important, it is a critical component of your credibility and authority. So let’s look at how you can fine-tune this marvelous vocal instrument that enriches your visual impression.
Breathing Properly Means a Calm and Pleasant Sound
If your voice is harsh or otherwise works against your speaking goals, you should start at the most basic level of improvement, i.e., with the breath. Fullness of vocal sound comes directly from diaphragmatic or belly breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing not only produces sufficient energy for strong vocals; it also provides a “cushion” of air that softens the voice. The combination results in a speaker who sounds calm and confident.
Shallow breathing, on the other hand, gives your voice a thin and somewhat harsh quality. It can also give the impression that you’re “hurried and harried.” An average American speaks 150-180 words per minute. If you’re racing along due to shallow breathing, however, you can easily exceed that range and make your listeners feel exhausted.
Audiences Can Hear When You're Tense or Relaxed
The second essential element for a warm, pleasant voice has to do with anatomy. For, not surprisingly, your voice reflects what is going on in the rest of your body.
If you're frazzled and tense, your body reacts not only visibly but audibly. Just as your listeners can see that you're not at ease and centered emotionally, for example, they can hear it in your voice.
Imagine that you're giving a presentation while mumbling your words, leaning too close and then too far away from the microphone, and regularly gasping for air. Whether you're unprepared or just having a bad day, your voice gives the impression that you're distracted and not fully present for your audience.
Now here's you on another day: vocally responsive to the questions and remarks (and yes, even the challenges) coming your way from the audience. Your voice reflects a range of empathy, excitement, and emotional investment. Everything you say in this presentation therefore has the sense of being solid, steady, and strong.
Which speaker do you think the audience would rather listen to? Isn't vocal improvement worth whatever effort is takes to succeed with those listeners?
Whatever else you have going for you in terms of expertise, energy, and experience, work on developing a voice that's warm, confident, and responsive. Have colleagues give you feedback, or record yourself and listen to the results. But train your ear to hear if your voice is the valuable professional tool you need it to be.