If people in all areas of business realized how much power they had in the two components that they already have on them, their voice and their body or non-verbal communication, the sky would be the limit for success. Two of the greatest assets we have are right on us and always have been, our voices and our bodies or to be more specific, our non-verbal communication components of eyes, facial expressions, gestures and posture. We have access to other forms of non-verbal communication such as clothing but today, I’m talking about what we were born with and the untapped power we have right on us.
I specialize in making people look and sound fabulous. The reason why? Well, because only 7% of communication actually takes place in words. The balance, 36% is made up by the quality of your voice and non-verbal communication accounts for an incredible 57%. One of my clients, a young man who is successful in sales puts it like this, “so, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we know, if people can’t listen to our voices, then we’ve got nothing”. I really like the way he put that. Now, not to minimize education and training, I love that stuff, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to turn someone off because I could not stand the sound of their voice or what they were doing with their bodies. It does not have to be that way, you can learn a few simple voice and body techniques that will dramatically impact your success in business, corporate positioning, even socially. In this article, I’d like to talk a little bit about the power of the voice.
Let’s talk about voice first. I like to start with an example of the college professor who is known less for his knowledge and more for putting everyone asleep. I’m certainly not slamming professors, I am one at times and I certainly do believe that an academic tone lends itself to credibility so I’m not talking about all professors, I’m talking about the one that everyone seems to use for nap time. This can also be the case with bosses, sales people, anyone really. The reason this happens is what is on deck here and that is that the lack of vocal levels allow us the listener, to check out, in fact, might even lull us to sleep and it’s just that simple. It is essential for anyone in business, especially sales or someone who does presentations or pitches, to move beyond the one level in vocal components. In the world we live in, we are now trained to check out quite easily, the minute things don’t keep our attention. So several components become more key than ever to keep our audiences attention. In my world, there are numerous qualities that make up a fantastic voice, but for the sake of this article, I want to talk about what I refer to as the Big 3.
The Big 3, as I call them, are volume, speed and pitch. Now, we’ve already established that it’s essential to keep our speaking voice as interesting and varied as possible. The easiest way to do that is to incorporate the Big 3. First, up, changes in volume. Now, normally we speak at a moderate volume and that’s great but can also be our death. In order to keep our audience, we need to alternate, at the appropriate times, loud and soft. Some people utilize loud the entire time and they would need to add in moderate and soft. One of the coolest additions is when you use soft when everyone thinks your going to use loud because that’s the norm. Volume adjustments are a great way to reel people in, become unpredictable and wildly interesting.
The next of the Big 3 is speed. Again, most people have a moderate rate of speed but some people talk quite rapidly and others much slower. The speed variables are often related to different regions in the United States or world. The bottom line, no matter what your regular rate of speed is, you want to make sure you incorporate all three, fast, slow and moderate with the majority of your speech being moderate. The main reason for this speed choice rather than fast is because it takes us a minute to catch up and “hear” what you say after it comes out of your mouth. If you go to fast, we will give up trying to stay with you and stop listening, check out. If your rate of speed is to slow, you also give us an opportunity to check out because we get bored. Ideally, you create a combination of moderate pace, fast pace and slow pacer. What you want to do is find the places in your speech, dialogue, pitch, presentation, conversation that faster fits more appropriately and where slower fits the best.
I’m sure you already know where I’m going next, yes, pitch. Now pitch is a little more tricky, especially for men. The degrees of variables on pitch do not need to be as much but if you can alternate or add in some low or high here and there, it makes your speaking voice much more interesting. High is harder for men and my recommendation is not to try and get into a really high pitch, just a pop or two here and there in a little bit higher pitch. The same is true for women, don’t try to get into a really low tone but alternate your moderate pitch with a pop here and there of lower and higher. If you speak in a really high pitch, you might want to consider adjusting your natural pitch to something a little more moderate. Low pitches are not hard to listen to, in fact, we really like them but a higher pitch can become annoying if it’s to high and has no variables. However, be careful with a low tone and make sure you shake it up with variables of speed and volume.
By adding in these simple techniques, your speaking voice will become so much more dynamic and interesting which is what you need to keep your audience. The benefits are many but one of the most marked is that you become unpredictable. If we know exactly what your going to say and the stops you will pull out vocally to say it, we don’t have to listen, if you shake things up and we don’t know what your doing, we won’t want to miss a word.
Other vocal techniques that can be added which make a huge difference in response include adding stress to words and places where more value is needed. Incorporating elongation at certain points and on certain words and utilizing the power of the pause to set up certain points that really matter. All of these techniques should be added and incorporated for a more interesting and pleasing voice. If you overdo any of them however, we go all the way back to square one and give our audience the opportunity to turn us off. Balance becomes key. I like to thing of these vocal techniques as accessories to an already great outfit, you mix and match them depending on what you want to create and if you do, you’ll sound fantastic!