In our everyday lives, we take our voices for granted. We don't think about producing sound. When we open our mouths to speak, we are confident that sound will come out.
As presenters we need to consider more than just making sound. We need to consider how our sound sounds -- the quality of our audio. Yet many presenters exhibit a range of vocal problems which make them hard to listen to and diminish their impact on the audience.
Do any of these issues sound familiar? A monotone speaking voice? Squeaky, high-pitched voice? Raspy, hoarse voice which can't project? Constant throat clearing? A breathless voice that sounds like it can't get enough air? I hear these vocal annoyances all the time. The good news is these problems are treatable and fixable. Enter the Voice Coach.
According to Kate Peters, voice coach, singing performing artist and author, "...there's a simple secret to maximizing your impact on others in public speaking...and that means aligning your presentation content with your intentions and both with the sound of your voice."
This is one of the surest ways to dis-engage your audience. It's very difficult to listen to someone who speaks without inflection in her voice. According to Peters, "Most people with pitch-related vocal problems are not aware of the sound of their own voices. Although very few people are actually 'tone-deaf' (less than 1% of the population), there are many who lack awareness of pitch. People with pitch-related issues can benefit greatly from feedback given by a professional with good ears, as well as recorded sessions and exercises to increase sound awareness."
So if you suspect that you may have a limited range of pitch, get an assessment from a voice coach. Peters says that the best way to deal with pitch problems is to study singing with a reputable teacher.
You've all heard the presenter that starts to go hoarse or raspy because he's tried so hard to make his voice fill a large meeting room. "A voice that is too soft or lacks energy is usually a voice that lacks air or resonance," warns Peters. "A few lessons with a trainer can help you learn how to breathe and how to use that air more effectively to get more power in your sound. Again, I highly recommend singing lessons because singing is body building for the voice."
"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning." Maya Angelou
CONSTANT THROAT CLEARING
Recurrent laryngitis, a raspy voice or chronic throat clearing are all signs of damage to the vocal folds. Peters explains, "This damage may be temporary, as in laryngitis caused by a virus or cold, or it may be more serious and permanent as in the development of vocal nodules -- callouses that develop on the vocal folds as a result of overuse or misuse. The first thing to do is give your voice a rest for a couple of days and see if it improves. During that time, avoid iced liquids and write notes instead of talking." If things don't improve after 10 days, it's time to see an otolaryngologist or Ear-Nose-Throat (ENT) doctor. A voice trainer can help you learn good habits, if there is nothing seriously wrong medically.
If you suffer from any of these vocal issues or if you just want to improve your vocal quality, Peters offers this advice: "The final area where a vocal trainer can help a speaker is the area of vocal image. Although you can do a great deal of work with recordings and personal analysis of your voice, it helps to have someone work with you who understands the areas of inflection, cadence, vocal variety, how emotions affect the sound, and, if you are lucky, someone who is aware of research in linguistic psychology, as well as the study of intention. This expert perspective can help you turn your voice into a powerhouse of support for your message."
[Many thanks to Kate Peters for her expert information and advice. Please visit her blog for fantastic tips on how to take care of your voice and maximize your vocal impact.]