If you got to hear Pope Francis speak at all on his recent trip to the U.S., you witnessed a special sound unlike anyone else. His unique style may contradict what we typically would expect in leaders in the corporate setting but then again, maybe not. His style certainly works as a leader of lay people. Since I work with leaders on their communication style, I want to share the elements of speech and voice that Pope Francis has that brands him so positively and helps win friends and influence others. I divided what we hear in the Pope Francis’ voice into three categories:
Staying relaxed is one of the most valuable states have while speaking English. The oral musculature (tongue, lips, and jaw) vary in tension for the sounds of the English language, but general relaxation of the oral musculature is essential.
Our vocal cords pull together by way of the Bernoulli effect. (If you aren’t familiar with physics, that’s ok! This has to do with air pressure and the way our vocal folds pull together via a vacuum.) However, when the muscles around the larynx are tense, it affects the corresponding sound. The muscles of the larynx and the vocal tract need to be tension free to perform optimally. Imagine holding a tight fist for a period of time. When you are ready to pick up an object, the muscles of your hand will be stiff and tired for a while even for a simple act like picking up something.
Your speech and voice brand is important to who you are as a professional. When something isn’t aligned in the way that you sound and the role that you are in, you risk losing credibility and trustworthiness. If development opportunities exist, it is important to figure out how to make changes. Sometimes it is relatively easy to figure out and often only small changes are necessary to create more impact. No matter what development opportunity you struggle with, there will be three stages you go through to change a habit.
In my last blog, you discovered what a speech and voice brand is. This week I’d like to share with you how to develop your own unique and very special speech and voice brand. Just like a fingerprint, you have a unique sound. You vocal cords developed during puberty to a certain length and mass which gives you the pitch that you use. You are limited in how much you can change your optimal pitch.
As I have evolved as a speech coach over the years, it has become clearer to me that the way we sound creates perceptions and influences the audiences we encounter. You have an identity, too, based on the way you sound and the way you look. It’s a personal brand that you have available to use as a tool to market yourself, to persuade and influence and to create greater impact.
If you are like most people, you take for granted a well-functioning voice for your everyday needs. If, however, you are traveling to give a presentation, meet a client or run a seminar, proper vocal performance is essential. What can yo do to prevent problems?
Are you fast talker? If you are, you may be losing the most important person in the room: the listener! A good rate of speech ranges between 140 -160 words per minute (wpm). A rate higher than 160 words per minute can be difficult for the listener to absorb the material. There may be some areas of the country that speak at faster rates but a slower rate is preferable. Too slow of a rate may give the listener the perception of slow thinking, incompetence and being uneducated. If you have a foreign accent though, speaking slowly is crucial since pronunciation may be a challenge for the listener. Use a speed that is closer to 140 words per minute.Continue reading
Many emerging leaders and even seasoned leaders find themselves presenting more to senior management teams, and communication exchanges are more high stakes and high visibility situations. This is very stressful for some clients because it requires a different level of expertise that they may or may not be familiar with. In addition to giving more presentations, there is an increased amount of responding spontaneously to questions. Being unprepared for this type of responses can be a credibility buster and career stopper! Feeling anxious and nervous about responding to questions is a common complaint. Here are some tips to help you respond intelligently and genuinely.Continue reading
Have you ever noticed that within minutes of listening to a presentation, you have decided if the presenter and the presentation are going to be worth listening to? For example, have you ever heard a speaker start with “uh” or say something that diminishes their credibility in the first sentence (e.g. “I don’t normally speak to groups and I’m really nervous, so bear with me.”) When I hear that, I think to myself, “uh, oh.” BUT maybe the speaker engaged you from the moment she opened her mouth with a personal anecdote or a question or a compelling quote or statistic.
The most important factor in the listener’s mind, which determines if the speaker is worth Continue reading
I read an article this week about Siri and the Voice Actor, Susan Bennett, who got this role for the I-Phone. What an interesting story that reveals how she got the job and how she spoke the part. Most surprising is how she read thousands of phrases and a technician patched sounds/words together to come up with new sentences. She admits that her real voice isn’t anything like her Siri voice. She spoke more flatly and used a different register to create her Siri speech samples. (Read the entire article here: Siri Speaks! Actor Susan Bennett Discusses Her Most Famous Role.)Continue reading