To get what you want in life, you have to use your voice. Often this refers to the figurative voice, the way you express yourself or stand up for yourself. Americans are given a voice in government through their Representatives and Congressmen. And your voice can be the way you convey your company’s goals and beliefs, which you communicate through a blog or other media.
But aside from all the figurative uses for your voice, there are some practical uses for your actual voice. The way you speak to others, whether it’s coworkers or clients, in meetings or during presentations, can propel you to new levels of authority and success. By the same token, misusing your voice can damage your credibility, and hold you back.
“It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Ever heard that before? Maybe during an argument with a friend or significant other, and maybe you even brushed it off at the time. The thing is, there’s a lot of validity to that statement, not just in your personal relationships, but in your professional ones as well. Imagine you encounter a problem at work, and you need a coworker’s help. You’ve been working on it for a while, and you’re frustrated, so you go into your coworker’s cubicle, and whine, “I just can’t figure this out! Please help me!” Odds are, your coworker is going to get a little annoyed because you seem to just be complaining rather than being proactive.
The truth is, everyone needs help from time to time. Approaching your coworker, and saying the exact same thing in a calmer, quieter tone will communicate that you do need assistance, but that you’re not letting your frustration get the better of you. It also conveys that you’re asking for help, not trying to push your work onto someone else. Granted, having one stressed out moment when you let your tone of voice convey your frustration probably isn’t going to do much damage. But make a habit of it, and you’ll be creating a reputation for yourself as at best, a whiner, at worse, a lazy worker. Make an effort to communicate calmly, and build a good relationship with your coworkers, and you’ll be seen as the cooler head that prevails.
When it comes to public speaking, if you don’t have a fear of it, you’re the exception. Even seasoned speakers who make their living on stage can get nervous before every speech. It’s just human nature. But whether you’re giving a paid lecture, or giving a presentation to a client, if your voice doesn’t convey authority, you’re going to lose the audience’s confidence. You don’t want people leaving and regretting having paid to hear you speak. Worse, you don’t want your company to lose a client because they feel they can’t trust you.
Before you get up in front of your audience, practice your presentation. Whether it’s in front of friends or coworkers, or just in front of a mirror, the more times you run through it, the more comfortable you’ll be for the real thing. Tone of voice is important here, too. Two mistakes commonly trip up speakers. First, avoid fillers. Saying “uh” or “um” too frequently makes you sound as though you don’t really know what you’re talking about. It also become a distraction to the audience. Second, be keenly aware of your intonation. The wrong tone at the end of statements can make them sound like questions. Try it. Say out loud, “This is what you need to do to solve your problem.” and “This is what you need to do to solve your problem?” Which way do you think you’re going to convey more authority?
Finally, when speaking to an audience, whether it’s one person or one hundred, always speak with confidence and in the normal tone of voice you use when you’re in a comfortable situation. Speaking too softly also conveys trepidation, and undermines your authority and expertise. It may take some practice, and a little will power, but using your voice to its full potential can open up new doors to you, and put you on a steadier path to success.
About the Author: Sarah Stockton is an Outreach Coordinator for Voices.com, a site connects businesses with professional voice talents. She enjoys helping potential voice talent find their start in the voice industry.
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