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
On this 4th of July weekend, I was thinking about the voices at the table who were drafting the historic document that gave us our freedom. It would be so interesting and fun to hear them talk and discuss at that table. I imagine low voices—very business-like. But of course, I am just speculating based on what I know these men looked like and what they accomplished.
Since I am originally from South Dakota, I decided to look up the presidents of Mt. Rushmore to find out what we know about their voices. Continue reading
Last week, I received a request from Sue Shellenbarger from the Wall Street Journal about a question she received from a reader in Ms. Shellenbarger’s weekly Q&A column, the Work & Family Mailbox. (How to Improve Your Public Speaking) I decided to expand upon it a little today since the caller asked a good question regarding what kind of professional should you call to help you when you experience problems with your speech and voice? Since there are many titles floating around out there, I’d like to give you some definitions to help you understand and navigate your options:Continue reading
Sometimes the most dreaded “presentation” that people tell me they dislike the most, is impromptu speaking. They fear of stumbling on words, sounding dumb, and drawing a blank when they are called upon to give an opinion. There is something about unplanned presentations, which makes people want to crawl under the table and hide. Believe me; you are not alone if you would like to become invisible when all eyes are on you to speak. I get many requests from my clients to help with this skill (and it truly is a skill). But let me assure you that you can develop it, if you are not at the level you wish to be. Here are some pointers:
1. Anticipate the questions. If you able to think about the questions that may come your way because you are the expert in the area, try to anticipate these questions and formulate a short (rather than long) response with no more than three bullet points.Continue reading
This week I read a great article called “15 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter” by Jennie Haskamp. Her word list includes many irrelevant words that creep into our writing but don’t provide that much value. Because our attention spans are so short, eliminating unnecessary words is essential. She talks about these words in terms of writing but they are also relevant to speaking. Here is her list (but be sure to read the article so that you can see her rationale):Continue reading