by Marilyn Pittman, Voice Coach at ScreenPresence
Women for the most part do not have the deep low registers that men do. In a professional setting, especially one in which women are a small minority, we sometimes have to fight to get heard. Yet when we raise our voices, we don’t necessarily get more respect or attention. Many of us don’t know how to use our voices to engage the listener and lead the team.
Developing your voice and your presentation skills of all kinds, for that matter, requires training and technique. Start with knowing your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to maximize one while you fix the other.
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I remember to breathe when I’m making a speech or presentation?
Do I get people’s attention and keep it?
Do I sound nasal and high-pitched, or do I sound authoritative?
Do I speak with confidence? Do I feel confident?
Do I vary pitch and rhythm when speaking to sound dynamic?
Photo by dfid (Flickr/Creative Commons)
Once you can identify your weaknesses, you can begin to chip away at fixing them. Recording your voice whenever you can and playing it back to yourself will help you hear your voice how we hear it.
Also, finding good public speakers to emulate will help you develop your ear so that you can be a better coach to yourself. Do they vary the pitch and rhythm and emphasize the right words? Do they seem authentic and engaged? Do they project the volume of their voice enough? How’s their diction, is it crisp? Paying attention to these variables helps your ear distinguish between what voice commands attention and what doesn’t.
When it comes to your own voice, notice how you talk when you leave voice messages. Experiment with playing them back before you send them if you can, and pay attention to the clarity of your speech and thoughts, as well as the tone in your voice.
When you’re preparing for a speech or presentation, or even just a meeting with a few people, make time in your schedule to rehearse it out loud, practice it, finding the pauses and the meaning of words. Record it and listen back, pretending you’re in the meeting or audience. Keep at it until you’re satisfied that you sound cogent, present, committed to the content, and confident in your manner. When it’s show time, do something fun or relaxing just before you go on or enter the room. Stretch out the facial muscles, do a few tongue twisters, sing, hum, laugh. That’s right, laughing helps you stimulate the endorphins or pleasure chemicals so you can present from a more relaxed and confident place.