Monday August 8, 2011
by Constance Lamb, learnpurple associate, professional actress and public speaking consultant.
Is passion and enthusiasm enough to convey your message?
One would think so.
However, it was with interest that I watched on television an emergency debate in the House of Commons and observed how some speakers conveyed their viewpoint without being shouted down by fellow MPs. Sadly, this was not the case for one female MP.
The moment she stood up and started to speak, many of her fellow MPs began to talk over her. Having not gained the attention of the House, they continued to shout her down. Despite having some pertinent views she just couldn’t get heard.
Why was that?
I noted that her voice was high pitched and had a 'little girl' quality. It lacked power, resonance and that all important gravitas. As the House of Commons is predominantly male, this is a vital component. Her voice was not congruent with her level of expertise and knowledge. Consequently, her valid contribution was not heard.
Whether you are in a meeting, team briefing or speaking at board level, it is not just what you say but also how you say it that makes the impact. As learnpurple’s voice coach, I work with business people who wish to communicate with greater impact. Voice work and delivery skills are an integral part of successful communication as well as good planning. Experimental psychologist at Harvard University, Nalini Ambady reported how it takes only about 10 to 15 seconds of speech for someone to form a lasting impression about another person.
On a subconscious level people make judgements about the way someone speaks. It is not the accent but hearing the quality of the voice that forms a negative or positive perception. The female MP’s strident and high-pitched tone of voice had a negative effect upon member MPs. Clearly not the result she had intended. The goal is to develop the voice so that it matches your business expertise and experience; that you are perceived in a positive way and can motivate and inspire others.
There are five elements to dynamic speaking:
5. Body Language
To have mastery of these five elements will enable business professionals to speak with more gravitas and authority. It enables you to overcome nerves and gain greater confidence as well as build on your personal impact. It ensures that, vocally, you have command of the room. Advice the female MP, in retrospect, may have wished to have been given.
In our working lives, good communication skills are essential. Everyone deserves to discover that their “real voice” is dynamic, powerful and memorable.
What does your voice say about you? Are you being heard?