As one of the world’s most sought-after voice coaches, I have spent most of my adult life in pursuit of just the right “sounds.” I don’t go wandering through the jungle listening for elephants, or climbing trees waiting for specific bird calls. The sounds I look for exist in only one place…inside each and every healthy human throat. I am a voice coach, and my job is to help each person find his or her own perfect voice…sounds that lead to successful communications, financial security, sustained relationships, wish-fulfillment, and personal satisfaction and happiness. You might think that’s a lot to ask from a voice, but I certainly do not. Actually, this is the perfect moment in history to prove my theories correct. Voice is the key, the missing link, the crown jewel in our self-improvement picture. Do you doubt me? If so, then turn on the television and listen to a voice coach’s dream, the 44th President of the United States. Whether or not you voted for him, taking all political elements out of the equation, putting your own party afiliations on hold for a moment, please answer me honestly, don’t you just just love Barack Obama’s voice? I do. I revel in the tone, the pitch, the pace, the melody, and volume control. I find myself energized and captivated by his presence and charisma, and I am certainly not alone. People around the world have been listening and watching him since he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July, 2004. Millions of voters listened and thought this man is somebody special. Did most of the viewers know about his policies, his background, his education, his family, or his plans for the future? No they didn’t. They were making a value judgement based solely on one thing…the sounds coming out of his mouth. Those sounds took a junior United States Senator from Illinois all the way to the White House. In my ears, Barack Obama has commandingly established himself as the “New Voice of Hope.”
Now I have some good news for YOU. Each and every one of you reading my words, regardless of talent or ability, can learn to create a voice that will dramatically improve the quality of your life. How would you like to control the way people perceive you? Would you like to come across as the smartest, the funniest, the most qualified, and the right person for the job or situation? Because I already know that it’s possible. It’s simple, you just need to know what sounds to make when. Let me explain a bit more. We live in a world that is dominated by words. People mistakenly think that those words are the most important part of every successful communication. However, those people happen to be wrong. Statistics actually say that the words we use only count for about 7%, and that the tonality of the voice, the sounds we make aside from the words, counts for more than 38%. Let me put that another way. I’m saying that you are pretty much wasting your time figuring out what words to say to someone. Instead, you need to concentrate on the tonality of your voice…the pitch, the pace, the melody, the volume, and the tone. By understanding those key elements, which I call The Building Blocks of Voice, you will have the abilty to manipulate people’s perceptions about you, and achieve your desired outcomes.
When you were very little, and desperately wanting that chocolate chip cookie before dinner, you shyly reached into the jar, and then recoiled as your mother sternly called out, “No way!” Your response, “I waaaaaant it,” fell on deaf ears, as your dreams of an immediate sugar rush fell hopelessly away. Do you know why you didn’t end up with that cookie? I do. You didn’t use the right tone of voice. And that’s still one of your biggest problems today. There are so many sweet things that you are missing out of in life because of the sounds that are coming out of your mouth. Have you listened to the message on your voice mail lately? Do you like the sound of your own voice? Usually when people hear their own voices recorded, they cringe in disbelief. But think about it, if you don’t like the way your voice sounds, what makes you think that anyone else does? Maybe it’s time you did something about it.
Though most of us have bright hopes for the future, our current economic troubles have certainly caused a great deal of havoc in the lives of just about everyone I come in contact with. So many people have lost their jobs, homes, and retirement funds. With the unemployment rate so high, and people looking for new jobs, now is the perfect time to hone skills to make you stand out from the crowd. You need to be the greatest salesperson possible, your future might actually depend on it. It’s important to fully understand however, that what you are really selling is YOU. What you know, who you know, and what you say are not as important as showcasing how very special you actually are. To make that happen you need to give yourself a present you deserve…a vocal make-over.
Here are a couple of tips to get you started in the right direction:
Tip 1: Learn to use Diaphragmatic Breathing
Great speaking can only happen when the right amount of air meets the right amount of vocal cords. In order to make that happen you need to breathe in through your nose and pretend that you have a balloon in your stomach. As you inhale, fill up the balloon and let your stomach area come out. As you you speak, simply let your stomach come back in slowly and release the air. Make sure you do this without raising your chest and shoulders. The only part of your body that’s supposed to move during breathing is your stomach. You should only ever speak while your stomach is coming back in to its normal position. That sends a solid stream of air to the cords and allows the words to ride out of your mouth evenly and powerfully.
Tip 2: More Melody
Most people speak as if they were a piano with only one or two working keys. They speak in a monotone way that bores people to tears. One important way to be presentational and hold your listener’s attention, is to use a great deal of melody. Let’s look at the song, Happy Birthday. Go ahead and sing now, it’s ok, nobody but me is listening. You’ll notice that the melody goes up and down, like any interesting song. Now let’s do a simple exercise. First sing a line of the song below the way it was originally written. Then sing the next set of words written afterwards with the exact same melody. Do so with each line.
Happy birthday to you ... I’m glad that you called
Happy birthday to you … There’s so much to say
Happy birthday dear friend … You sound very happy
Happy birthday to you … It’s a beautiful day
Now just sing the new lyrics with the Happy Birthday melody.
I’m glad that you called
There’s so much to say
You sound very happy
It’s a beautiful day
You might be thinking, “Why should I sing, I just want to learn to speak better.” My answer is, as far as your body knows, singing and speaking is basically the same thing. I think it would be great if you could have a more sing-song-like voice, one filled with melody, one that makes listeners feel you are not just speaking, but also entertaining them. When you sang the new words to the Happy Birthday song, you had to use a lot of melody to go up and down to hit the specific notes. That’s what I want you to do when you speak. I want to get you out of the monotone patterns you use, and venture up and down the melodic scale like a good singer who wants to please his or her audience with a beautiful song.
Before I let you go, let me say that none of you needs to be trapped in the voice you currently have. If you want to truly change your life for the better, start by listening to the way you sound, and be willing to create a new and better you. A better life is waiting for you…right on the tip of your tongue.
Roger Love is one of the world’s leading authorities on voice. He coaches stars like Reese Witherspoon, Jeff Bridges, Colin Farrell, Tyra Banks, and Will Farrell, as well as speakers such as Anthony Robbins, John Gray, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Suze Orman, and Glenn Beck. Roger has written three top-selling books, been a regular in three major network television shows, produced the vocals for the Academy Award-winning film Walk The Line, as well as created the audio program for Nightingale Conant titled VOCAL POWER-Speaking with Authority, Clarity & Conviction.