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The second session in the Taking the Stage women’s leadership program I’m taking at IBM was called The Power of Voice. We learned about some of the vocal habits that undermine people’s confidence and rapport, such as trailing off or using a rising tone at the end of sentences.
We also had a short discussion about what makes presentations engaging. Many of the participants mentioned enthusiasm and passion–if not for the content, then for something beyond that.
The three key tips I picked up were:
- Breathe deeply from the diaphragm so that you can support your voice.
- Open your mouth both inside and out, because that affects your tone and articulation.
- Resonate using different areas of your body: head, chest, and others.
I’ve thought about finding a speaking or presentation coach who can help me learn how to make even better use of my gift of spreading enthusiasm. I’m good at collecting and retelling stories. I’m good at finding something worth being excited about, sharing my enthusiasm, and helping people remember why they care about their work. I’m good at mixing presentations up with creative approaches. I’m good at scaling up – getting more value from the effort I put into making a presentation. I’m good at handling questions and dealing with the unexpected.
The first thing that can help me become an even better speaker would be to learn how to use even more vocal variety. I’ll start with varying tempo, then I’ll learn how to vary pitch, and maybe even learn how to bring in different accents and sound effects. These will help me build more dramatic tension into storytelling, use emotional modulation, and pick the right voice. Articulation would also be good to improve.
I can practice on my own with vocal exercises, aerobic exercise (to increase my breathing capacity), and perhaps even podcasts. I can also practice in my presentations, which usually come once or twice a week during conference season. Once I get my work permit paperwork sorted out, I’ll sign up for Impatient.ca‘s longform improv classes. In the meantime, I can look around for acting workshops or speech coaches who won’t charge an arm and a leg, and I can check out lots of books from the library on how to improve speech.
Other things I can work on in the future: storytelling, navigational structures, vocabulary =) (richer words! more concrete expressions!), improvisation, humor, rhetorical structures, illustration… There’s so much to grow into!
I’m interested in this for a number of reasons:
- I learn things much more effectively when I teach them, and learning how to communicate well lets me enjoy communicating even more. It keeps me excited about learning and teaching.
- If I learn how to communicate more effectively and more engagingly, then I can deliver more value when I give presentations–and I can scale up even more when I write or share recordings.
- So many opportunities come to me because of my presentations and knowledge-sharing. The better I get at this and the earlier I improve, the more cumulative effect this will have over time.
- The better I can communicate and the more control and range I have, the more I can do professionally and personally.
- If I can help other people develop their communication skills, then this will scale up even more.
- It’s fun!
Next actions: Check out library books on voice training, and ask for quotes from voice coaches in Toronto. Waiting for paperwork: sign up for improv classes, and look for acting workshops.