As members of the WriterAccess community, we’re savvy about the “voice” that we share on the page. We’re masters at using it to connect, persuade, and communicate our brand.
But what about your actual, physical voice?
What do you do when you find yourself away from the keyboard, having a conversation in real time? Maybe you hop on a call with a lead, or they drop by for an impromptu chat. Or maybe your favorite podcaster invites you to come and be brilliant on their show.
In moments like that, my go-to strategy used to be an immediate slide into stress-induced dorkiness. But over time (and with tons of practice), I’ve learned seven key techniques for making sure that my speaking voice works just as hard for me as my writing voice does:
Deep breathing is the foundation of a great voice. It keeps you engaged and present with your partner. It gives you the energy that you need to get your thoughts across. Plus it helps soothe nervousness (so you don’t end up rushing or squeaking.)
Alison Shapira, founder of Global Public Speaking LLC and a veteran speech trainer at the Harvard Kennedy School, says that the goal of good breathing technique is to make sure that “the power of your voice matches the power of your words.” Here’s her excellent article on the subject (including detailed instructions on how to practice).
2. Listen and React
Nothing wins people over more magically than the feeling of being listened to and understood.
As you chat, listen to your partner. Are they expressing excitement? Worry? Humor? Take in what you’re hearing and let it affect you. Allow your response to show in your voice. Give up a bit of control, and show that you’re willing to be influenced.
Resist the urge to interrupt a slow speaker or finish their sentences for them. An attentive silence can create trust and rapport.
3. Be Expressive
Letting some enthusiasm and humor show in your voice can make you more appealing and persuasive.
Some people naturally use a lot of intonation and variety in tempo when they talk. Others don’t. If you’re conversing with someone who’s low-key and reserved, don’t jump straight in with high-drama contributions. Establish rapport by matching their speed, volume, and energy level. Then once you feel that connection blossom, try dialing up your expressiveness.
Even if they can’t see you, your partner can hear the smile in your voice. It’s a great way to be instantly likable.
5. Slow Down
Mouths are a lot faster than ears. (I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me.)
We can all talk much faster than we can listen. If you’re pressed for time and feel like you have to cram a certain amount of information into your partner’s brain, you may be tempted to start lecturing at top speed. But no one can absorb what they’re hearing at that tempo. Not only will your partner be overwhelmed, they’ll realize immediately that you’ve stopped listening to them. They’ll hang up on you: figuratively or literally.
Craig Valentine, an award-winning public speaker and master voice trainer for business and marketing professionals, puts it like this: “Too many speakers try to get across too much information in too little time. . . When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out.”
6. Start Noticing Voices
Develop a habit of listening to other people’s voices and noticing which ones seem to draw you in. What is it about them that makes you want to hear more? (Think breath, tempo, volume, responsiveness, warmth, expressiveness.) Take those insights, and start experimenting (ideally in the company of some recording equipment). Be willing to move beyond your vocal comfort zone and maybe make a few weird noises.
7. Get Some Coaching
Once you become aware of the power of your voice, you may want to take it to the next level. A good business presentation trainer can help you do just that. They’ll give you the tools you need to keep your speaking voice on point: engaging, inspiring, and connecting.
Freya S is an experienced health writer with the expertise to write compellingly on a wide range of topics. She excels at taking complex information and transforming it into clear, meaningful content that non-specialists can use immediately. Her work is accurate, streamlined, and engaging. Freya is an expert at brand “voices” and will tailor her tone to match your specifications.