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Seven elements that empower your vocal tone to have greater influence
Have you ever been to an event where the speaker is able to take you on a journey by connecting with you through the passion you hear in their voice? In this moment you feel completely engaged to the content of their message, you totally trust their authority and knowledge of the subject.
Would you like to be able to do that?
You can harness your voice by finding out how to choose your vocal tone for your message which means you will communicate more freely and connect with your audience.
Just like an actor who begins his interpretation of a character by finding a suitable voice you must consider who you are being when delivering your message content.
There are 7 vocal elements you can control when speaking:
1. You can control the PITCH of your voice
Each voice has a natural or optimal pitch level at which an individual gets the most amount of sound with the least amount of effort. A low speaking pitch can be because your vocal resonance is stuck too low in your throat making you sound very deep and muffled. A high pitch or a nasal quality often makes the speaker sound insecure, shaky or nervous and when this happens the voice is unbalanced and lacks an even calming and persuasive tone.
Vocal technique tip
To locate your optimum pitch say, “Uh-huh.” The first pitch on ‘Uh” is the lower pitch and the second pitch on “Huh” should be the higher one. Your optimum pitch is the sound of the second pitch, the higher one.
Say “Uh-huh.” Notice the second pitch that you sound for the “ huh” and now say your name straight after “Huh” and notice which pitch it was like the first or the second?
If it was lower, try again and say your name on the same pitch as the “huh’
 2. You can control the PACE of your speech
The ideal speaking rate in every day conversation should be somewhere between 120 to 160 words per minute. Speaking slowly can help to emphasise a point and bring clarity to your message. However speaking too slowly can also be monotonous so your listeners may become impatient and just tune out. Speaking more quickly can give the impression of passion and enthusiasm and show that you are confident and know your subject. The downside is that speaking too quickly can make it difficult for people to keep up with you or even understand what you’re saying. Sometimes people tend to speak quickly when they’re nervous or unsure of what they’re saying.
Vocal technique tip
Record yourself, listen back to it and use an app called TickTalk which will help you speak at the pace of whatever your conversations is about. There is a speed for every conversation. When you speak about money or if you are an auctioneer you need to speed up your vocal pace, however if you are speaking on a sensitive topic your may want to slow it right down.
3. You can control the PAUSES of your speech
A pause at a crucial moment could help the meaning and effectiveness of the message. Build them into your speech sparingly. The space a pause creates helps your listener ponder on the message. You must count 7 seconds for a pause to be effective. If pauses are too short it will sound like you’re scrambling for words, well-timed pauses create a sense of intrigue and curiosity.
Vocal technique tip
Practice this speech with deliberate pauses, record yourself and listen to how you change the emotion in it as you pause.
“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. (pause)
our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.(pause)
It is our light (pause) not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,(pause) Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented,fabulous? (pause), actually who are you not to be?  (pause)
You are a child of God……..”(pause) by Marianne Williamson
4. You can control the TONE of your voice
This is the quality or character of sound. Everyone has their own best unique vocal tone. Are you saying one thing and others are hearing another because your tone is not matching your message? We all remember tone because it’s emotional and people connect to feelings of your speech more than to the words you speak. If you sound monotonous, unemotional or lifeless, you may be boring and switching any potential client relationship off. If you sound, depressive, angry or aggressive this tone style can intimidate your client. When you’re able to be flexible with your vocal tone you’ll have more influence. As you gain more control over your voice you can modify your vocal tone to sound passionate even if you are not feeling excited.
Vocal technique tip
Experiment with reading a variety of scripts where you can access different emotions and then notice how it changes your vocal tone. Use high level emotions such as excitement, depression, anger, love, hate and record yourself. Notice how your vocal tone changes, and decide which vocal tone you would like to use for your next speech.
5. You can control the VOLUME of your voice
A projected or restrained voice can affect the clarity of the words. To speak out loud is to resonate, which mean to create echo. By releasing our voices we allow a free resonance, this helps our voice project and sound louder in a healthy non forced way. A forced voice distorts the resonance and vocal projection is then muffled. When you force your voice your larynx raises and your voice becomes strangled and limited, you may then feel like your voice is stuck in your throat. Some call it a “lump in the throat”. Avoid yelling, do you love cheering on your team at the top of your lungs? Yelling can strain your vocal cords and make it difficult for you to speak. In the worst cases, yelling can lead to vocal nodules, or bumps on your vocal cords.
Vocal technique tip
Do a lip- trill to release the voice. Trill from the deepest pitch you can find to the highest (squeakiest) pitch you can find without lifting your neck or head. Project this lip trill straight out of your lips horizontally and ignore the vertical vibrational sensations.
6. You can control the Intonation/inflections in your voice
This is a modulation of the voice where it can go higher and lower or also known as the rise and fall of the speaking voice. A vocal inflection is when you emphasise individual words to make them stand out by raising the pitch and making it sound like you are asking a question, and when you inflect with a lower pitch it ends the phrase. Emphasising certain words can change the meaning of a sentence as well as the feeling behind it. Working on your inflection or intonation will help you deal with a monotone voice and bring a more dynamic and interesting expression to your message.
Vocal technique tip
Read the following.
Hello, how are you? I heard you’ve been ill but I see you’re better now. I’m glad. When are you going to be back at work?
The first time you read it do not emphasise the bold words, read it as a sentence.
You should find the tone is concerned and sympathetic.
Now say the same line again but this time emphasise the words that are in bold.
It will sound as if you doubt whether the listener really has been ill and may even sound sarcastic.
 7. You can control your ACCENT in your voice
An accent is a distinctive way of pronouncing a language associated with a particular country, area, or social class. Usually the problem sounds of most accents are the vowels A,E,I,O,U and Th as in The and Thin, W as in wish, V as in Van also R & L. Another issue that comes up when we hear a strong accent is the rhythm of the English language in comparison to individuals other spoken languages is different and therefore flows differently when we hear it.
Vocal technique tip
Clap to the beat of the English language and notice the rhythm in it. You will notice that the English language is spoken in a legato (flow). If you speak in another language clap it out paying attention to the rhythm and the pauses, is it staccato (broken)? notice if the language rhythm is flowing or stopping and starting.
Eg: My second language is Italian, the language has a stop / start feel to it and the rhythm of the words flow differently because of the rhythm of the language. Changing this rhythm can also alter the meaning of your message. By recording yourself you can then notice what parts of your speech can change to create more flow and this will help you deliver a message that is easily understood by others.
The writer is a vocal tone coach and director of ‘Harness Your Voice’. She can be reached at 0409187601.
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