I was with a client recently who apologised for sounding so hoarse. She explained she’d been in end-to-end meetings the previous day. It was all very productive, she added, until she lost her voice.
The voice is critical to who we are; it forms so much of our identity. And, unless you’re a Trappist Monk, its effective use is key to successful work.
The impact of both words and actions can be transformed with a little attention to how we use our voices. So here are our five top tips to help you use yours to excellent effect.
1. Breathe before you speak. It sounds obvious but, particularly in nerve-wracking situations, most of us launch right in – and swiftly run out of breath. If most of your sentence is lost, you can guarantee its impact will be too. So: pause, then, breathe, and then speak!
2. Have a go at speaking as if from the stomach rather than the throat. It’ll help you project your voice – and lend authority – without raising it or straining. And that can be a boon in meetings.
(You’ll still need to open your mouth, of course. We’re not advising ventriloquism – however useful you might find that in meetings.)
3. Don’t rush! If you have something worth saying, give it the space to be heard and absorbed. In practice that means pausing and taking sufficient breath in longer sentences.
4. Think about how you want your words to be received. Delivery is almost as important as content – get those elements in harmony and your words will be infinitely more effective. If you need to persuade, for example, inject your words with energy – don’t undercut yourself by sounding unconvinced. It might take practice, but it’ll help imbue your words with meaning. And you’ll deliver clearer messages with greater impact as a result.
5. Be audible. If you’re feeling tired or nervous it can be hugely tempting to swallow your words. And that leaves colleagues baffled at best, and disengaged or irritated at worst. So make sure what you say can actually be heard. It will smooth communications and working relationships!
Want to learn more? Download our free Chirp Guide to find out how to use your voice more effectively in meetings, pitches and presentations.