What is Your Voice Saying About You?
"You are in possession of an incredibly powerful tool that, when used well, can greatly enhance your message, whatever that may be."
Have you ever been invited to speak at a conference or seminar?
Or been asked to give a speech at a family event?
Or been interviewed?
If so, what did you first think about when you found out you'd be speaking in public?
Did you think about what you'd say? Perhaps what you might wear? Maybe, what you'd look like physically at the event - for example, your posture, how you plan to walk, sit, stand, move around, etc.
But what about your voice? Did you consider how you might want to sound and come across to your audience during your presentation?
If you think about it, the tone of our voices is often far more meaningful than the actual words that we use.
Just consider a time when you may have questioned the sincerity of someone's apology. The person may have been saying all the right words, but something about the WAY they said those words told a different story.
I was invited to speak at the incredibly inspiring Empowered Woman conference held in Stockholm, Sweden. I spoke about the power of the human voice as a tool for influence, whether good or bad.
You can check out the video below, or read the transcript.
I hope the video will inspire you to consider how you use your voice on a daily basis, and whether or not the essence of WHAT you say aligns with HOW you say it.
By simply becoming aware of the way in which your words sound to others, you can learn to deliver far more impactful messages.
And THAT'S what I call vocal power!
With much love, joy & music,
Singer, Vocal Coach & Co-Founder of the Pure Singing Platform
Download Your FREE copy of "Three Pure Singing Secrets" by CSMA Studio
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(Transcript of Presentation)
Hello, everyone, good afternoon! I am so excited to be here! It is such an honour and a privilege for me to be here with all of you today. I would like to thank my mentors Kane and Alessia and the Industry Rockstar team, can we please give them a round of applause? They've been so awesome! I just want to thank you...I've learnt so much from them this past year, especially on speaking on stage. Now, I'm a singer, but speaking on stage is a completely different thing and is not actually something that I'm very strong at. But I've learnt so much from them, so I'm very grateful.
I am a voice coach, so I work with people on the mechanics of their voices - their vocal technique.
I once had a student who I worked with for many years. We’ll call her Maria. Maria is the youngest of 6 siblings who are all much older than she is. She’s a mother of three grown children who are all very close in age, and when I met her, she was married to a man who was incredibly overbearing and gave her little say in any of their affairs. She came for singing lessons because she always loved music but never had a chance growing up to explore this interest of hers. Now, what would you guess was the single most prominent vocal issue that we had to work on when she first came? Youngest of 6 much older siblings, overbearing husband, three children whose needs she always put before her own? Volume. I literally could not hear her for the first three months. In fact, the sound of her own voice amplified in a microphone terrified her.
Then there’s Tina. Tina is a young and highly successful financial advisor at one of the world’s largest banks. She graduated from an Ivy League university, could speak 7 different languages fluently, she could pick up an instrument and learn to play it over a weekend, and she generally never allowed herself to fail at anything. She came for singing lessons because she wanted to learn how to sing, write her own songs, play all the instruments in the songs that she wrote, and eventually record and sound engineer her music all by herself. Her main vocal challenge? While she could hit all the notes of a song quite well, her voice often sounded like it was stuck in her throat because every time she produced a sound that she thought was less than desirable, she would make a face like she had eaten a lemon.
These stories, both of which are true, may seem a little extreme, but they illustrate an important point. The voice we present to the world, whether it be in speech or song, is highly influenced by our upbringing, our experiences and the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world.
I would like to ask you a question. How many of us here go to the gym or do some form of physical exercise on a regular basis? I would imagine quite a few of us. I used to go running around my neighbourhood in Hong Kong. I'm terrible at running, I would find any excuse to stop. But I kept it up for a time because I knew that it was good for me. And I think deep down, we all exercise, not just for the sake of being healthy, looking and feeling good, but because we know that if our bodies are functioning well, it’ll make achieving our goals in life that much easier.
Now, how many of us here ever think about working out our voices? Practicing exercises that will enhance the quality and richness of our sound. Learning how to feel the different resonators in our body and how they can assist with the safe projection of our voice. Learning how to manage our breath so that our sound can travel out more fluidly and efficiently.
The truth is, if we want to make a bigger impact, which I believe all of us are here to do, then we need our voices to function just as well as we need our bodies to.
Now, I'm going to have to make a little confession here. When I first found out that I was going to have this incredible opportunity to be here with all of you today, one of the first thoughts I had was, "What am I going to wear?" Indeed, I think it’s natural for us to consider our appearance and what we’re going to say when know we have to be in front of an audience or give an interview, for example. It’s not instinctive, however, to consider how we want our voices to sound and come across to the people we are speaking to.
And I’m not just talking about our choice of words either. Are there any parents in the room? I am a mother of two. My eldest is five, and my youngest is 3. And I can say from personal experience, perhaps you'll agree with me, that babies and young children have no issues whatsoever when it comes to using their voices to make their needs known.
This is my youngest (picture). Can you hear her screaming right now? She's angry at the world, and that's me in the corner trying very had not to laugh.
From the moment we were born, all of us have been using our voices to convey our feelings and our desires long before we even learnt how to formulate words. This was completely instinctive, spontaneous and, above all, uninhibited.
As we grew up, however, many of us were taught, whether directly or indirectly, to restrain our voices in social situations. How many of us remember ever being shushed as a child, or even as an adult, right? I remember being in school in Hong Kong and being told that it's not “ladylike” to speak up too much. Look at me now! (Applause) Thank you! Thank you so much. Thank you.
And what about this idea of self-suppression. Have any of you ever been in a situation where you've stopped yourself from speaking up about something for fear of what other people might think? This is not uncommon. I've done this on more than one occasion. But what if this behaviour pattern of holding back the voice, restraining it and keeping it inside is actually repeated one too many times? What message are we sending to ourselves and to the universe for that matter?
We are living in an increasingly digital age where much of our day to day conversations are actually happening over our various devices and not in person. We email, Whatsapp, Wechat our way through life. This is not a new idea, but what’s interesting to me is that the more we rely on the written word as our go-to and preferred mode of communication, the less opportunities there will be for us to actually practice communicating verbally. I mean, we could go through an entire day communicating our thoughts and feelings without actually having to say anything out loud. Now, I have a teenage student and I once said something in class that she thought was funny but instead of actually laughing out loud, she said, “Lol”. Which is of course an abbreviation for "laugh out loud".
Isn't it interesting how our society in general is becoming so used to abbreviating our expressions?
I once received a text message once from a friend of mine and this is what she wrote:
“GTR. ILB8. SSRY. OOTD. SMN. LOL.”
Getting ready. I’ll be late. So sorry. One of those days. Shoot me now. Laugh out loud.
LOL was the only one that I understood.
So, I responded with, “WTF?” Which of course means, "What the fill-in-the-blank."
And just to be clear, I also sent this: (I don’t know Emoji)
Yet in spite of our preference for texting, the desire to hear people’s voices IRL (in real life) is still highly relevant today as it ever was. As entrepreneurs, we know that pitching to a client in person is far more engaging and powerful than over email or even over the phone. Before hiring a babysitter for their child, parents will usually request to meet in person to get a sense of whether or not that individual is trustworthy. Hearing someone say, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry,” is far more meaningful than reading it in a text message.
According to research carried out in the Neuro-Linguistic Programming field, audience members will respond to a presenter giving a presentation in the following ways:
- Body language: 55%
- Voice tone: 38%
- Content: 7%
The presenter’s body language by 55%, their voice tone by 38% and their content by just 7%.
So this is somewhat comforting to me as a presenter because I know that I can mess up 93% of my content and probably still get away with it!
These numbers clearly show that what really matters is not what we say but how we say it.
The question I want to pose to all of you here today is this:
What is your voice telling the world about who you are?
By simply tuning our ears and becoming aware of the way our voice sounds and how we use it in social situations, we can begin to pick up on habits that we may not even realise we had. In doing so, you can start to build a vocal profile for yourself, taking note of aspects about your voice that resonate with others, and those aspects that may actually be dampening the impact of what it is you’re trying to say.
The next time you find yourself having a lengthy conversation with someone, I encourage you to record the exchange on the voice recorder function in your phone. You may want to let the other person know what you’re doing in advance though.
When you listen back to the recording, I want you to notice the quality of your tone: is it soft, gentle and nurturing? Or is it more piercing and edgy, perhaps slightly confrontational? Does it seem full and sturdy and are you clearly heard? Or is it whispery, unsteady, perhaps a little breathy?
How is your pace. Are you speaking so quickly that you're stumbling over your words? Or are you allowing for pauses?
What about pitch? Do you have a tendency to speak mostly on one or two notes for the majority of the time? Or do you have a natural inclination to vary your pitch throughout your phrases, adding inflection to certain words?
Do you ever feel like you’re running out of breath, or needing to replenish your air in the middle of your sentences.
Compare your voice to that of the other speaker as well. Are you comfortably matching each other in pace and volume? Is one of you louder than the other? Are you interrupting the other person without realising it? Are you using a lot of fillers such as, “um, sort of and like”, usually an indicator of a discomfort with silences.
Asking yourself these questions is important because it's the first step towards understanding how we’re already using our voices and how we can learn to use it better.
A mentor once taught me that people will often forget what you said, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.
I believe all of us are here because we have a message that we want to share with the world, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to learn skills that will help us to spread that message in a way that will make people both hear and feel it.
If there is one takeaway that I hope you will all get from this presentation, it would be the knowledge that you are already in possession of an incredibly powerful tool that, when used well, can greatly further your mission, no matter what that may be.
And if you’re still unsure about the value of your voice, perhaps the incredible human rights activist, Malala Yousafzai can give you a different perspective:
“We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
Never underestimate the powerful ripple effect that one voice can have on the world.
Thank you so very much.