You can improve your speaking voice to become a first-rate business presenter, but you must first accept that you can and should improve it.
Some folks get skittish and think the voice they have now is somehow “natural” and should not be tinkered with.
No, your voice isn’t “natural” in any meaningful sense. In fact, its qualities are likely the result of years of chaotic development and influence from many factors.
Why not seize control of that development process and begin to improve your speaking voice today?
Improve Your Speaking Voice
Face it – some voices sound good and others sound bad. And all sorts of voices fit in-between.
Here are some of the most awful and yet ubiquitous problems that plague speakers.
Let’s call them “verbal tics.” They are nothing more than bad habits born of unconscious neglect and chaotic voice development over years of influence from sources as disparate as television, radio, parents, and peers.
They eat away at your credibility. Recognize them as corrosive factors that leech your presentations of their power. They are easily corrected.
Here are four deal-breaking verbal tics . . .
Vocal Fry – This unfortunate verbal gaffe comes at the end of sentences and is caused by squeezing out insufficient air to inflate the final word of the sentence. The result is a grinding or grating sound on the last word.
Primarily a phenomenon that affects females, its most famous male purveyor is President Bill Clinton, whose grating voice with its Arkansas accent became a trademark. Clinton was so incredibly good along the six other dimensions by which we adjudge great speaking that he turned his vocal fry into an advantage and part of his universally recognizable persona.
This tic is likely a manifestation of 1970s “valley girl” talk or “Valspeak.” Vocal Fry is manifested by a creaking and grating on the last word or syllable.
It actually appears to be a fashionable way to speak in some circles, pinching off the last word of a sentence into a grating, grinding fade. As if a frog is croaking in the throat. As if someone has thrown sand into the voice box.
When combined with “cartoon voice,” it can reach unbearable scale for an audience.
Verbal Down-tic – This is also called the “falling line.” This is an unfortunate speaking habit of inflecting the voice downward at the end of every sentence, letting the air rush from the lungs in a fading expulsion, as if each sentence is a labor.
The last syllables of a word are lost in breath. The effect is of exhaustion, depression, resignation, even of impending doom.
The Verbal Down-tic leeches energy from the room. It deflates the audience. In your talk, you have too many things that must go right than needlessly to create a gloom in the room.
Verbal Sing-Song – The voice bobs and weaves artificially, as if the person is imitating what they think a speaker ought to sound like. Who knows what inspires people to talk this way, usually only in public speaking or presenting.
It’s an affectation, and if you find yourself affecting a style or odd mannerism because you think you ought to, it’s probably wrong.
Uptalk – This heinous affectation is also called the “rising line” or the “high rising terminal.” Uptalk is an unfortunate habit of inflecting the voice upward at the end of every sentence, as if a question is being asked. If you could choose only one thing to change to improve your speaking voice, this would be it. Uptalk is so corrosive to credibility that correcting this one pathology can transform a weak presentation and how it is received by a skeptical audience.
It radiates weakness and uncertainty and conveys the mood of unfinished business, as if something more is yet to come.
Sentence after sentence in succession spoken as if questions.
You create a tense atmosphere with the verbal up-tic that is almost demonic in its effect. This tic infests your audience with an unidentifiable uneasiness.
At its worst, your audience wants to cover ears and cry “make it stop!” but they aren’t quite sure at what they should vent their fury.
In certain places abroad, this tic is known as the Australian Questioning Intonation, popular among young Australians. The Brits are less generous in their assessment of this barbarism, calling it the “moronic interrogative,” a term coined by comedian Rory McGrath.
Speech coach Susan Miller superbly describes these speech pathologies and offers remedies for both vocal fry and uptalk here.
These are the tics and gaffes that destroy our presenting. Recognizing them is half-way to correcting them
For more tips to improve your speaking voice, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.