Vocal Exercises to Improve Your Career

Voice exercises can have a profound effect not only on your presentation skills and public speaking ability, but on your career as well.
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Voice exercises can have a profound effect not only on your presentation skills and public speaking ability, but on your career as well.


There was a recent Business Day article in the New York Times titled "In Charge and Sounding the Part." This article described findings on research published last year in the Journal of Psychological Science, which added credence to a subliminal understanding that one's leadership ability is conveyed, not only through the words, but through the sound of the voice -- one's pitch, volume, and so forth. Using sophisticated software, the scientists were able to measure significant vocal patterns in the test groups they were studying. The result: vocal exercise matters.

The research subjects who ranked higher had a steadier pitch, their voices were more controlled, and they were able to vary their volume, and so forth. In other words they had more dimension in the actual sound of their voices and had more ability to convey the information effectively.

The lesser-ranked subjects were less stable. They sounded a bit strained, their pitch typically was higher and, as one professor observed, "Stress leaks out."

One of the suppositions to draw from this study is that, as I say in Vocal Awareness, It is not just what we say, but how we say it.

In daily discourse it is never merely the message, but the messenger that matters. In my latest book, Vocal Leadership: 7 Minutes-a-Day to Communication Mastery, these types of understandings are fundamental to what I call The Work.

Years ago I was speaking at a voice conference in London and one of my fellow speakers was a voice scientist who had spent several years studying two singers. He described how he had come to certain conclusions. However, as I listened to his description of his findings, I realized that his conclusions were faulty because the singers were merely adequate. Because he himself was not a trained singer, he was not aware of what the voice could do if the singers had had better technique or had a greater artistic ability. So the suppositions that he drew from this study and which cast a wide net were inaccurate. If the singers had made certain technical adjustments, it would have changed the outcome of his study.

I cite this example to illustrate that when we read research results in professional journals or hear authorities speak, just because they are authoritative, we want to believe them -- even when their results are questionable. However, in Vocal Awareness, we have choices that provide us with the tools to overcome these vocal limitations; and now, I want all of us to know that embodying the leader you are, embodying your Self in every conversation as authentically as possible, can be achieved by all of us. It is not complicated, however it is complex.

Begin your Vocal Awareness practice with these with these five simple techniques and watch what happens:

1. Create your Persona Statement. How do you want to be identified? The root of the word persona means through the sound. Practice embodying that.

2. Release any tongue and jaw tension by practicing the jaw release exercise I teach in the Work.

3. Never rush. In communication it is never how fast but, rather, how effective.

4. Don't simply convey data. This is what I call the "fingers-and-thumbs technology." Rather, tell story. In your communication be strategic in how you lay out your narrative but then, personalize what you are saying with anecdotes, a metaphor--something that creates a deeper understanding and reveals a bit more of who you are to help you better connect with your listeners/audience.

5. Practice all prepared remarks on a video camera or an audio recorder.

To illustrate this point: The National Football League is one of my corporate clients and I have the privilege of working with everyone, including Commissioner of the League Roger Goodell, and other senior leaders. They recently held an annual meeting which required three dress rehearsals as well as multiple one-on-one sessions on a video camera with me beforehand-just for a business meeting. But, because of the principled integral leadership of Commissioner Goodell, who does whatever it takes to 'represent the shield,' he sets the table for everyone else in his organization to step up and raise their own bar as well. Post meeting someone in the audience wrote to me and among other things commented, "...the format and the staff was very impactful....the presentation emotionally connected, informed, and incited positive action...it was a success."

In summary and in closing, a consistent theme in Vocal Awareness is, A Champion Does It Differently. That's not simply an athletic concept, it is a life concept. Commissioner Goodell is a true champion, not just in his phenomenal leadership of the National Football League, but in life-always striving not to simply 'do' his best, but to be his best. This opening meeting is an example.

I'm always teaching, Context does not determine outcome. A champion never goes out and tries to beat the opponent. All they strive to do is be their best. Do no try to impress, do not try to win over--simply do whatever it takes to be your best in every encounter, every meeting public or private, whether it's one-or-one in your organization or your annual meeting.

Do everything it takes to claim yours and your organization's greatness. Do not 'present' who you are, simply be and outcome will take care of itself.

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