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Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Vocal Techniques for Business: How to Speak at Your Best

Dr. Gary Genard is a speech expert in Boston, Massachusetts. 

If you're interested in learning dynamic vocal techniques for business speaking, your research may be time-consuming. A Google search of "vocal techniques" turns up nothing on the first five pages—apart from sites devoted to singing and, with one entry each, acting training and a hospital for speech pathology.

But why should your vocal skills matter in business? If information delivery is the reason for business presentations, isn't your voice—aside from your need to be audible to listeners—of secondary importance at best? This is the trap that too many business speakers fall into. Nonverbal communication, including the voice, has a vast effect on listeners' attitudes and acceptance of your message. To both reach and influence key audiences, you must develop an effective voice for business communication, as the power and quality of your speaking abilities matter greatly.

How to Persuade an Audience Through Your Voice

Every human being responds in basic primitive ways to the sound of a person's voice. Think of when you're drawn to a speaker and therefore predisposed to accept what that speaker is saying—versus the opposite effect. If you're in sales or marketing, interviewing for a job, or "selling" your point of view at a meeting—in short, if you're in the business of persuading listeners—you should give serious consideration to this basic aspect of human nature. (To learn how to use your voice successfuly, download our cheat sheet, "5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics.")  

So how exactly does your voice affect your credibility, authority, and that all-important attribute: believability? It does so through a combination of emotion and subtlety. Spreadsheets and PowerPoint bullets cannot convey emotion. (Exclamation points only make you look either amateurish or desperate.) And the more sophisticated your message, and the more knowledgeable your audience, the more subtle gradations your voice must be able to achieve.

The voice handles the challenge admirably. Your voice, for that matter, is the most flexible instrument you own for persuading and influencing others, apart from the brain itself. And so it's the ideal tool for achieving the precise effect you're aiming for with your audience. To succeed with audiences in terms of performance, no technique works so well. Learning to talk more warmly and accessibly to your listeners, in fact, will give you the world's most powerful tool for persuading audiences.      

Four Techniques for Becoming a Dynamic Speaker

Achieving the right kind of vocal presence in public speaking will not only help your career and your company's success. It will also allow you to truly deliver to your listeners in the manner you want to: with immediacy and impact. Here are four elements that will assist you in reaching the next level of vocal effectiveness as a business speaker: 

  • Breath Support: Speech requires deeper breathing than "vegetative breathing" or breathing for life. And your exhalation must be far more controlled when you speak, since speech consists of exhaled air that activates your vocal folds. Supported breathing for 'inspiration' is the foundation of all good speaking, since it counteracts shallow breathing due to nervousness. The key practice is diaphragmatic breathing. The other name for this technique is "belly breathing," and it's really that easy: allowing your belly to move out and back when you inhale and exhale, rather than moving your chest or shoulders. With belly breathing, you create a reservoir of air that easily and fully supports your sound, for a richer sounding you.
  • Vocal Inflection: This is the opposite of "monotonous" speaking. Like most people, you probably use pitch inflection when you're talking about something that interests you, and when you're among friends. Speaking in high-pressure situations, on the other hand, can make you "flatten" out your voice. That virtually guarantees that audience members will become inattentive, since the ear responds to change and not sameness. Business speakers too often don't allow their pitch to vary. But you possess a vocal range for a reason! If your voice isn't expressive, it's time to dab a little color onto your vocal palette. Learn how to paint word pictures through vocal expressiveness, just as you do when you use storytelling effectively. Audiences will like you for it; become persuaded by you more easily, or both. 
  • Projecting for Power: Why is it that business speakers believe their content will speak powerfully, but ignore their own vocal skills? To lead your audience where you want them to go, you need maximum authority. Your voice is one of the few ways you can achieve that during a presentation. Vocal power starts with diaphragmatic breathing, since it allows the voice to be projected strongly. Never attempt to speak at greater volume to gain that kind of power, since it changes your voice in unpleasant ways. Instead, think of giving out more energy. Click on this link for four more ways to achieve vocal power.
  • Empathy: Every speaker needs to demonstrate empathy for his or her audience. Of course, empathy can't be manufactured on the spot—it's more a question of allowing listeners to hear it. That means sounding passionate about your topic. If you sound like you don't really care, why should your audience? And don't be afraid to use emotional language to convince and inspire. You should also find a way to "listen" to your audience as closely as possible. What nonverbal communication is coming your way? This is your audience talking to you—so are you listening? Show them you understand what they're feeling by how you speak to them and answer questions. Your vocal skills will then truly be helping you speak at your best.  Discover your own brand of vocal achievement for greater speaking success, in business and your personal life. 

Key takeaways from this blog:

  • You need an effective voice in business to reach and influence audiences.
  • Your ability to persuade is linked to how you sound.
  • People respond in primitive ways to your voice, affecting your credibility.
  • Vocal inflection is necessary if you want to be an interesting speaker.
  • You must empathize with listenersand let them hear it.

complete guide to effective public speaking

Tags: voice improvement,business speaking,vocal improvement

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