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Your voice is a powerful tool in the workplace which is often underused. A strong, confident voice is associated with someone in control; someone who is measured and comfortable. Those with quieter voices can often find they are spoken over, or don’t have as much impact in the boardroom, but even if you don’t have the kind of voice you feel demands attention, there are still some things you can do to use it better.
Using your voice more and gaining more speaking time allows us to clearly state our position on matters in the company, and to invite feedback and express ideas and suggestions - all invaluable contributors to personal growth and progression. Think of your voice as having the potential to allow you to form your own identity and persona in your work environment.
We often assume mistakenly that a voice which has volume is more powerful and engaging; however, this isn’t always the case. Varying the volume of our delivery can be strategic and is worth knowing a bit about. Lowering your voice and speaking slightly quieter than normal has the effect of encouraging people to physically move closer and listen more closely, which is really effective if you are in a group where lots of people are talking or if you want to manipulate the space and keep certain people around you.
Likewise, speaking at one level and changing the volume at certain moments can add a lot of emphasis and excitement to how you impart information.
Most importantly, you want to make sure you can always be heard without too much difficulty. It can be worth checking with a friend if this is the case, as lots of people feel they are speaking at an acceptable volume but could do with being much louder.
This is of great significance when you are speaking in a language that is not your mother tongue. Make your vowel sounds long and your consonants crisp and clear. There are sounds that are difficult for nearly every nationality when speaking English because they don’t exist in your native tongue. Find out what these are and practice ones where you might slip up. The difference in pronunciation could be embarrassing (think of mispronouncing the word ‘sheet’ or 'piece') and can sometimes be worse than getting the whole word wrong. Try some tongue twisters or speech exercises and listen to native speakers model the sounds of the words. It’s worth asking a friend to correct your pronunciation if you go wrong, so you become aware of the sounds with which you have the most difficulty.
Pauses are your friend when you are speaking in English - they can add dramatic effect; allow people to catch up with the information you just gave; or build anticipation. It’s worth spending time experimenting with pausing and stopping a line or sentence in different places. This keeps listeners on their toes and has the effect of avoiding boring monotones and repetitive rhythms of speech that put people to sleep. This can often change the meaning or focus of the information. Listen out for native speakers who do this very well and don’t be afraid of a bit of silence!
The speed or rate at which you speak is very important when addressing a group of internationals. You might want to slow down a bit to be mindful of differing levels of English ability in the room, and give people time to adjust to your accent. The same applies when dealing with people on video calls or over the phone.
Reducing your speed can serve to build suspense, and speeding up can generate excitement; and playing with different speeds can have interesting effects on your speech or how those listening to you receive the information.
These suggestions should give you some ideas and techniques to try out. Were any of them successful for you? Let us know in the comments below.