Speaking on Voice for the Chartered Mangement Institute
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: What is a Voice coach?
Priscilla: A voice coach is a professional who helps clients recognize the power that they have in their vocal instrument to influence and persuade. A successful voice coach can help an individual to fully develop their voice and show them how to make the voice part of their business toolkit.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Why does the voice matter in Business Communication?
Priscilla: Well, science tells us that we make a decision on how we feel about someone within a few seconds of meeting them. This is based on how they look, (if we can see them) and how they sound. This has nothing to do with the words used but everything to do with the delivery of those words. A good analogy would be “It isn’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it”!
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: How did you become one of the top UK Voice Coaches?
Priscilla: I originally trained as a professional actress at one of the major London drama schools http://www.gsmd.ac.uk . This experience inspired me to run my own drama school for over 40 years with around 200 students a week. I became an international examiner of performance and communication for LAMDA https://www.lamda.org.uk– a job which I have been doing for 30 years and I also judge acting and public speaking competitions around the world.
While I was running my school, I frequently received phone calls from businessmen and women who had problems with their voices and wanted to know if I could help. In 2000, I decided to start a dedicated voice coaching company for business called Loud & Clear.
Since then, I have been working with hundreds of individuals and many major British and international companies to improve the use of voice at all levels of business communication
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: What does science tell us about the power of influence?
Priscilla: Well, I have already mentioned that our subconscious sense of feeling is strong. If we have a negative reaction at the start of communication, it’s challenging to turn that around. We are affected by sound, musical tunes, body language, facial expression and more.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Can we change the way we sound?
Priscilla: Absolutely, but I’m not going to pretend that it is easy. We actually need to change some fundamental habits of the body and that requires a strong intention together with lots of focus and practice.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: What is involved in developing the voice?
Priscilla: First, you need an understanding of how the voice operates. An initial session will identify the issues. Next, you can then begin to break down bad habits and replace them with good ones. Every client is different, so training can vary. As with changing any habit we have to work hard at it to succeed. Exercises are key and so is regular focus on the changes you are attempting to make.
The most common areas requiring change are increasing volume, improving clarity (this may include reducing an accent) and increasing variety to avoid boring the listener!
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Do accents matter?
Priscilla: They certainly do! In the UK there are 25 regularly heard regional accents. Although we would like to think that our accent is fine, science tells us that this can influence others in a positive or negative way. There are certain accents, particularly those with a nasal quality, which are disliked. If you speak with one of these it can affect your ability to make others listen to you, like you and buy from you.
It is possible to soften an accident by re-shaping vowel sounds and making sure all consonants are articulated. Where English is the second language this can also be a problem. Pronunciation can impact on this and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have an awareness of how others hear and perceive you. We do not make allowances in business. We expect people to get communication right and we can rightly get annoyed if they don’t make an effort to do so.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Does knowledge of how to use the voice help improve our Public Speaking?
Priscilla: It certainly does because science tells us that in the Public Speaking exchange between audience and Speaker, the words matter less than 10%! In other words the way you usual voice and body language matters more than 90%!
It is amazing how many speakers have no understanding of this. Although they know that subject and have prepared the content well, they cannot be successful because the delivery is poor.
You only have to think about the last time you attended a conference. All the speakers were there because they knew their subjects, but you will only remember the ones who delivered the content with power, variety and emotion. In other words, those who gave a ‘performance’.
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: Can the voice be isolated from the rest of the body?
Priscilla: No, it can’t. Every time we move, use muscles, feel emotion or stress, this directly affects the voice.
You will have heard people say “I could hear how nervous she was” or “I could really feel his passion for the subject”. This becomes evident when the whole body is engaged.
The sort of things which make a difference are: balancing the body on 2 feet – if you constantly transfer weight or lean to one side you take the audience’s attention away from the message. Similarly, some speakers like to pace back and forth. This may produce energy but it is also distracting because it has no motivation.
If you push your head forward in your enthusiasm to reach your audience you can hear the throat tighten and the tone of the voice changes. Finally, don’t forget that a smile alters the shape of the oral resonator and makes your tone friendlier and warm. Why not record your voicemail with a smile on your face?
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: What are the 3 key areas of vocal delivery that require our focus?
Priscilla: The first key area is volume. It must be appropriate to the space and audience size. People quickly get cross if they think they are being shouted at or if they can’t easily hear. There is no reason this can’t be sorted out with a little understanding of the physical processes involved.
The second is clarity or precision in speech. It is interesting that we subconsciously equate lazy speech with a lazy person – not an ideal result in business!
Problems here are often caused by weak muscles, in particular the tongue and lips, and this can be improved with exercise. If your accent is making it hard for people to understand you then you need to soften the edges of it and improve your clarity.
Finally, we have vocal modulation, or in layman’s terms, variation of the voice. This is what holds our audience’s interest and what can make us charismatic and memorable. It contains what I like to call a vocal recipe of pitch, pace, pause, intensity, inflection and tone colour. If you have ever had to sit through a presentation where the speaker’s vocal notes are very limited, you will realise how important it is not to bore your audience!
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: How can we ensure that our business communication is the best it can be?
Priscilla: I think the most important thing is to understand how your personal stringed instrument works and to make sure you are using it to the best of your ability at all times. It doesn’t matter whether you are encouraging a colleague, informing a meeting or inspiring conference attendees, your voice is your personal calling card. Your voice says a lot about who you are and how you feel. Instead of focusing on yourself, make sure you consider your audience first – what do I need to do to ensure that they receive my message in a positive way?
I have mainly concentrated on the voice here but obviously body language is also a vital part of this communication equation. Check out your habits and if they distract from the delivery, then aim to change them!
We owe it to ourselves to be the best communicator we can be. We just need focus and some knowledge to achieve good results.
Seminar Leader on Voice Protection for the Swimming Teachers Association
Blue Ocean Global Wealth: When you are not inspiring voices around the globe or speaking on cruise ships, what interests and hobbies do you pursue?
Priscilla: I am a passionate lover of theatre and often go several times a month. I am fortunate to be close to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre https://www.rsc.org.uk in Stratford-upon-Avon where I will indulge my love of the Bard. I also enjoy reading a good book, sitting in my garden, exploring our wonderful history at National Trust properties and ballroom dancing with my long-suffering husband, Stewart.
Of course I also love discovering new countries when I travel for business or pleasure. Last but not least, spending time with my delightful 6 year old granddaughter. It’s important to get a good balance between work and play, isn’t it?
To learn more about Loud & Clear Voice Coaching and partnering with Priscilla for speaking engagements and coaching:
Speak Loud & Clear!