Do you change the way you speak, depending on the situation? Many years ago, when telephones weren’t that common (really, there was a time), my mother would use a ‘posh’ voice when she picked up the receiver and spoke. In those days, we just spoke the three numbers that people dialled locally to get through and waited for the other person to respond. That was the time for a big breath on my mother’s part followed by an alien accent that really made me giggle and squirm at the same time.
Funnily enough, I was speaking to a client the other day about how she used her voice in different ways, depending on the situation and she confessed that she made much more of an effort when she was giving a speech than when she was speaking to her in-laws. ‘That’s quite natural’ I smiled, thinking of my mother’s ‘telephone voice’, ‘we’re much more relaxed with family and friends and our speech reflects that.’
This set me to thinking about what we actually DO do in each circumstance. Delivering a speech to an audience needs thorough preparation. As well as being fully prepared with the content it is important to warm up your articulators, warm up your voice and then speak in the way most appropriate for your audience and the subject you are covering.
Compare that with a chat with your family. A family chat is spontaneous, it is part of a two- or multi-way conversation, you may need to butt in with a joke or an idea as well as listening to the others and keep on top of the various subjects as they rapidly change. No vocal preparation is needed, if someone doesn’t hear you properly, they’ll ask you to say it again. Importantly, we also use and pronounce words and phrases in ways that are familiar to our group.
Don’t get me wrong – speaking clearly is important – but in a formal setting, clarity of speech is top of the agenda. With our families, we can gabble, speak quickly, use slang and even pronounce things differently, which is in stark contrast with speaking in a professional context.
My client added that as well as her voice, her accent also changed depending on the situation. Clarity, confidence and impact were top of her professional speaking wish-list. With her family, there was no list – just spontaneity and a comfortable chat.
However, using your voice well doesn’t mean that you have to put on a false voice or try to speak in a way that is uncomfortable or ‘posh’. The first steps to speaking well are to take your time, take a breath before you speak and let your voice connect with your thoughts. This way, your words will carry truth, create an impact and connect with your listeners.
It takes time to make the most of your voice and to speak really well and it’s a great journey to take. Making the most of the sounds of the words, using them with the appropriate energy and allowing your voice to carry your thoughts can have an amazing effect on your listeners. Leave behind the false accents, leave your family voice at home and step up into the New Year with a resolution to make the most of your fantastic voice!
For more information about voice training speaking and speaking more clearly, please get in touch.