The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Keep attention – with an ‘unpredictable wind’ voice

Consider this . . .

Even a small increase, in your knowledge and appreciation of your voice, is a worthy investment.

Following my suggestion last week to listen to your audio-recorded voice – consider how your knowledge and appreciation of your voice has increased over the last seven days? Even a small increase in knowledge or appreciation is worthwhile.

The focus this week is on practical techniques to upgrade the operation of your voice. In the same way you can learn to better drive a motor vehicle, you can learn to better drive your voice.

‘See’ your voice as an unpredictable wind.

What does this metaphor mean?

Think of your speaking voice as the wind – and your audience, as sailors on the open seas. If your voice (the wind) is predictable, the sailors (your audience) will set their sails, take a break and perhaps nod-off. (you’ll lose the audience’s attention).

If your voice is unpredictable, your ‘sailor audience’ will need to keep alert to that ‘wind voice’. You can be unpredictable with the speed and cadence, the loudness, the pitch and the emotion of your voice.

When we begin speaking to an audience, we usually have their attention. Over time, their attention will wane.

Imagine ‘entertaining’ the ears of your audience to keep their mind engaged. Monotone speakers first lose the ear of the audience, and soon after the mind of the audience.

Acceleration/Deceleration

One way to be unpredictable with your voice, is to vary its cadence via juxtaposing acceleration and deceleration of speaking speed.

Here is practice technique for acceleration/deceleration.

  1. Go to a quiet room with your smart phone and open the stop watch application of the phone.
  2. Read over the below steps and with the aid of the stopwatch, carry out the steps with the allotted time durations.
  • Take no more than 3 seconds to speak the following sentence, ‘You never get a second chance to listen to someone the first time’.
  • Have a 2 second PAUSE GAP
  • Taking a full 4 seconds to speak the following phrase: ‘Because if you’re daydreaming’
  • Have a 1 second PAUSE GAP
  • Take no more than 2 seconds to speak the following phrase: ‘that might be the precise moment’
  • Take a full 4 seconds to speak the following phrase: they’re sharing the key bit of information’.

For the above steps, there should be a total time of 15 to 17 seconds.

With regular practice of this acceleration/deceleration exercise, you’ll embed a ‘speed variation audio file’ in your brain, to weave into your speaking.

Enlarge/constrain your body posture to increase/decrease voice loudness

There is a correlation between the physical space you occupy with your body posture and gesturing, and the loudness of your voice.

Still your body and keep your gestures close to your torso, to decrease the loudness of your voice. Enlarge your gestures away from your torso, to increase the loudness of your voice.

Practice speaking the following sentence, varying your body posture and gesture.

  • First with arms close to you body with no movement.
  • Second, with arms extending outward in front of your torso. Note the effect on your voice.

‘What if, in any interaction, you were perceived as very articulate, extremely confident and genuinely interested in the other person?’

Picture in your mind what you’re speaking about to make your voice more interesting

Some topics are difficult to visualise. However, my anecdotal field research reveals that when a person visualises a scene, and the people and objects in the scene, their voice sounds more interesting and alive. To practice this technique – in a few sentences, visualise a a special holiday scene while describing it.

A metre beyond

A recent productive technique to help my clients project their voice, so it is easily heard by their audiences, is the concept of ‘a metre beyond’.

This means when you’re talking with one person, or ten people, or 100 people, imagine your voice as an arrow extending a metre beyond the last person in the audience. This technique – especially relevant for people with ‘quieter’ voices – will help you be easily heard and understood on the first occasion. Trial this imagery technique and note its impact.


Own the Conversation

Over the next seven days, choose one of the above techniques and every day practice the technique in safe interactions.


Check out this post on how to ‘seat’ yourself with confidence

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