Want to be recognized as a dynamic individual who can move people? Here's why your speaking voice is so important in business.
You realize, don't you, that you are one of the most valuable elements of your speeches? That important presentation would literally be nothing without you. In fact, there would be no need for anyone to gather to hear it in the first place!
"Send me your data," I can hear your key stakeholder saying. "Then I'll make my decision." Oh, how we might pray for such a situation! The reality is that your prospect, customer, boss, or fellow industry insider needs you to filter all the data and deliver it in your voice. "Voice" here means knowledge, experience, expertise, etc.
And that leads to the all-important skill of how you use your actual voice.
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Your Voice Does What Information and Data Can't
Your speaking voice matters more to your business success than you think. The truth is, you can't fully reveal your true self and your ideas without knowing how to use it well.
That's because it is the tool par excellence for conveying emotion—and eliciting the same emotion in listeners. This idea becomes all-powerful when you realize that all decisions include an emotional component. We have neurologists to thank for this knowledge. Patients with a compromised limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) cannot make decisions, no matter how analytical, i.e., non-emotional, that decision seems to be.
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Now consider this: you are constantly asking audiences to make decisions about what you're saying—even if only to decide that your content is worth listening to. And if you're actually trying to persuade, then helping listeners to decide "the right way" becomes vital.
Your voice lives on the emotional plane because it is infinitely flexible and able to express great subtleties at either end of the emotional scale and in between. Then there's this huge consideration: people won't remember your facts and figures, but they will remember how you made them feel. Anyone who feels good about what you said or how you improved their lives is going to listen closely to what you say from that point forward.
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The Incredible Shrinking Speaker . . . Don't Be It!
Here's a point from theatrical performance to add to the mix: when you "shrink" your voice, you shrink yourself. Once you do that, your voice won't compel us to listen. And if we don't, we'll be missing all of the essential aspects of you that your vocal performance is putting on display. Yes, you're an expert and your data is filling me up with knowledge. So thank you from the bottom of my . . . brain.
But are you turning me on to you and your ideas, while convincing me of your rock-bottom credibility? Am I willing to follow you because I can sense that you're clearly a leader? Your massive brain and effective body language (and use of the stage) may be helping. But, oh my, when you talk to me that way . . .
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Actors understand this about voice: when you make it smaller, you quickly reduce your overall "size" and effectiveness. And in this age, you're constantly tempted to do so. You speak in virtual meetings when everyone is a foot or two away from you vis-a-vis a screen. And when you're on your cell, the distance is mere inches. Singapore is two inches away!
So it's easy to just back off your vocal skills and speak monotonously. No need to use an energized style, pitch inflection, stress on key words and phrases, pauses and silence, variations of pace and tempo, an assertive yet not aggressive sound, and changes of vocal quality.
Once upon a time, your ancestors worked in fields, factories, and backyards; on docks and farms and in general stores; and they gave speeches in marketplaces and on the steps of buildings. They had to be BIG, and so did their voices. But because technology allows us to speak lazily, we do. We've made ourselves small, and our listeners are paying the price. In terms of both drama and public speaking, that's a real tragedy. So, my friend: THINK BIG . . . and SPEAK THAT WAY, TOO!
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. Contact Gary here.