The single most important tool in the speaker’s toolkit is the voice.  If you have no voice, you have no speech.  If your voice is strong, you get to worry about everything else – and maybe change the world with your message.  To kick the new year off right, then, here is my second set of new year’s resolutions –  specifically for your voice.

1.I resolve to breathe to support my voice.  Everything depends on air – the air you take in your stomach to inflate your lungs to push air out your mouth to make your vocal chords vibrate without straining them.  Without the belly breathing, nothing else good can happen.

2.I resolve to drink the water, limit the coffee and milk, and eliminate the smoke.  We do control a good deal of what goes into our mouths, and speakers need to maximize the water, to keep the vocal chords lubricated.  I can’t live without coffee, myself, so I won’t tell you to eliminate it, but if you do drink coffee, keep it under control (no more than a couple of cups per day) and hydrate even more.  And of course – of course – don’t smoke.  Surest way to ruin a good voice, not to mention a good life.

3.I resolve not to make every sentence sound like a question.  Verbal uptick is one of the curses of the modern workplace.  An uptick at the end of a phrase signals a question?  Too many people use the device to ask for agreement?  It suggests insecurity, uncertainty, and junior status?  Don’t do it – unless you’re actually asking a question.

4.I resolve to pitch my voice at the appropriate level for my vocal range, not too high up and not too low.  I hear voices pushed too far to one end of the spectrum or the other.  Adrenaline in general pushes the voice higher, and must be compensated for.  Every voice is individual; you should not try to match someone else’s pitch because you admire them or report to them or whatever.  Review one of my earlier posts to determine the right pitch for you.

5.I resolve to eliminate the filler words from my conversation and speaking.  Like, really, it’s actually totally important to eliminate, you know, filler words, uh, from your, ah, stuff.  So get to work.

Your voice is your instrument.  It’s unique – each human voice is like a fingerprint and identifies you and you alone.  Indeed, one of the most amazing talents humans possess is to instantly identify hundreds of human voices without any apparent effort – from the unique timbre of each voice.  That speaks to the importance of the voice, and the importance of each voice’s uniqueness.  Don’t take that for granted.

Instead, take care of your voice and you will reap the rewards.  Ignore it and you will find that no one pays attention.  It’s up to you.

In fact, the real work is in making your voice even more yours – to bring your uniqueness out even more.  What is your unique vocal fingerprint?

Here’s hoping you take charge of your voice and take good care of it in 2018.

2 Comments

  1. Happy New Year Nick! Your “voice” is one of the strongest on the web for speakers and public speaking. I am glad to see you placing emphasis on vocal care, strength and presence for speakers. What many professionals and even professional speakers don’t know is that they can develop the sound of their voices just like actors do. As a Lessac certified voice teacher for 40 years, I have been surprised that professionals don’t know they can change their voices. and how easy it is to have a great voice!

    There is a whole technology of voice training available through people who have been trained in the Lessac Method. Arthur Lessac was a part of the original Group Theater in New York and was the first voice teacher for the Lincoln Center Repertory Company when it opened. He developed a complete voice training program that is mostly taught to actors in theater departments at universities and in acting schools.

    The three main areas of Lessac voice training are 1) voice tone, pitch and projection, 2) articulation of consonants or diction and 3) pronunciation of vowels for a standard American pronunciation. There are about 60 certified trainers in the world, mostly in the US. You can learn more at http://www.lessacinstitute.com. I was trained personally by Arthur in 1975/76.

    If anyone is interested, they can read a post I wrote about how to develop resonance and vocal strength at http://www.self-expression.com/speaking-freely/how-to-have-a-good-voice-for-public-speaking-and-group-communication/

    1. Thanks, Sandra — it’s very important for speakers to work on their voices in a structured way. Good to know about this system; there are a number around the world that can help speakers wherever they live.

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