Remember that episode on Seinfeld with the "Soft Talker"? Sometimes people say I'm one of those too. Or you ever meet someone and their voice didn't match up with your image of them? You read about all their amazing accomplishments and experience, expecting some dynamic speaker, only to find this person speaks softly, in a monotone, or so slow you have time to check--and respond--to your email. Are you that speaker? What about speaking too fast?
Voice is a large part of the first impression we make. It doesn't matter if you're giving a keynote speech, a team presentation, or a casual meet and greet, how you talk determines how people will react to you and more importantly, how they will remember you.
This is why I love working with Roger Love, author of Set Your Voice Free, who has been a speech coach to Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood actors, famous singers, and many of the keynote presenters you love. He has taught me so much about how to improve my own voice, in all situations.
In addition to his great classes and lessons, Love taught me to do daily voice exercises, record my voice, and listen to my melody, pace, and volume so I can understand the impression I'm making.
Change your melody
In speaking, melody is about emotion. Depending on how you change the melody of your voice, you can convey happiness or sadness. When you start with a low voice and go higher, it conveys happiness to a listener. The converse is also true--if you start high and then end all your sentences low, it conveys sadness.
So when you're telling people good news, raise your voice by the end of the sentence so they know they should be happy. Or when you need to convey bad news, bring your voice down to show the gravity of the situation.
Watch your pace
Pace determines how exciting or important information is to your listeners. Speaking at a faster pace conveys your excitement. On the other hand, when you slow down it shows how important the information is to remember.
The key is to vary your pace when you are speaking. If you speak at the same fast pace, people will think everything is supposed to be exciting and get overwhelmed. Or if you speak slowly all the time, people will think all the information is supposed to be important and get fatigued, not to mention bored.
Change your pace depending on the information you are trying to share.
Control your volume
Your speech volume is an indicator of strength. When you speak at full volume, it shows you are confident and strong. On the other hand, speaking at low volume conveys softness or kindness, which was part of my problem as a "soft talker."
You'll need to change your volume depending on how you want to appear to your listener. Do you want to come off as a strong leader or do you want to appear like someone's compassionate friend? You don't want to give orders in a meek voice, nor do you want to tell people how much you care at full volume.
The first step to improving your voice is becoming aware of how you sound to your listener. Start recording yourself today, listen objectively to these three elements tomorrow, and you will find you are communicating better every day.