Using your voice as a business tool
20 August 2007
Little emphasis is placed on the voice, but it can define and influence how you come across to others. When a client or colleague meets you for the first time, they make a judgment based on how you speak. Therefore it makes sense to invest time in making your voice sound professional and as you would like to have it heard.
When speaking most of us use only the throat, which can cause damage and a lack of volume and quality. It makes sense, therefore, to use other areas of the body to support the voice.
During long meetings, advocacy, telephone conversations, presentations and training sessions using good vocal techniques will ensure that, even after a full day of speaking, your throat will still feel comfortable.
In addition, when you need to project your voice you will be able to do so easily and without strain. A sure and clear-sounding voice will command respect, exude confidence and get you noticed, allowing you to state your case with authority and self-assurance.
Here is an easy to follow, step-by-step guide to help you enhance your sound and volume.
•Posture. Sit up straight but comfortably, making sure that the chest is wide and broad. Don't let your head jut forward. To find a good posture for standing, stand with your back to a wall, with your heels two or three inches away. Allow your head, shoulderblades and bottom to touch the wall. Now extend your arms out in front of you. Return your arms to their sides, allowing the momentum to move you away from the wall without moving your feet. You are now standing comfortably straight, without rigidity.
•Training the breath. When you breathe in, aim to take the air as low down in the body as possible. This will allow you to use the torso like a resonating chamber, giving increased volume and warmth to the tone. To help guide the breath down, lie flat on your back and place a book on your belly. On inhalation, encourage the breath down in the direction of the book. The book should rise on the inhale and lower on the exhale. Practise this for five minutes a day until it feels natural.
•Chest resonance. Following on from the low breath, say "ah" on the exhale, progressing to "ah-ha" and finally "ah-hello" on subsequent exhales. Aim to extend your words, lasting for the duration of the exhale. This will build your breath capacity so that you can speak lengthy, unbroken phrases and guarantee that you articulate each word using the body and breath to propel the sound.
•Facial resonance. Take a low breath through the nostrils, exhaling on "mmm". You may feel a buzz on the lips, nose and cheekbones. To enhance this sensation, wriggle the nose and gently tap the area around the nose while humming. Progress to "mmmaar" then "mmmaar-hah" to "mmmaar-hello", and finally "mmmaar-hello how are you". Make sure you connect all the words into one long phrase with no gaps.
•Throat space resonance. Yawn and at the height of the stretch maintain as much space in the back of the throat as possible and say, "Hello, how are you". This may feel and sound strange to you initially. But if you practise you will soon become accustomed to the extra space and sound.
•Resistance. Adding resistance adds authority and strength to your voice. Sit up straight, inhale using the low breath and on the exhale, hiss. Experiment with long and short hissing sounds. Place one hand on the belly and one on the upper chest. They should press gently against your palms as you hiss on the exhale; don't let them collapse. Progress onto "sss-aah" and then "sss-arpeggio". Make the sound encompass the length of your exhale as before.