What Has Voice Got To Do With Coaching?


Over a month ago I attended a talk on “Media Presentation Skills” organized by the ICF Chapter in Singapore.  It turned out more interesting than I had anticipated because there was segment on voice training, something I have great interest in.

Most people do not think that their voice could be trained to sound better – more pleasant and attractive – relegating that to something that only singers do.  You may or may not have noticed that some singers sing beautifully but when they start speaking, you want to cover your ears not because of what they say or even how they say it.  It is because of their voice!

Many tell me that I have a good voice but I have never had it professionally evaluated.  I would love to know what constitute a good voice and if it is true that we can change it.  This is where Paul Carr, Media Presenter and Broadcaster, comes in.  In the talk, Paul shared a few tips on being a good media speaker which, as mentioned, include having a good voice and how he had transformed his voice to one that is now well sort after and paid for.  I have extracted a few points from Paul’s presentation and added a few insights of my own.

Having good planning and preparation
Not everyone is good at speaking off the cuffs, and even then I am sure they run through a framework in their minds before they speak.  Otherwise the speeches will come out incoherent.

The first step, unsurprisingly, is to plan what you want to present or say.  Decide on the objective of the presentation – is it to promote, sell, or introduce a product, or protect and defend a reputation or situation – and keep your focus on the objective.  Depending on the type of presentation (i.e. a speech, interview, product introduction, etc.), content and pitch of the presentation have to be well thought through to ensure relevance.

Then write out the presentation speech and practise, practise and practise until you are fairly familiar with the content, including how you want to deliver it and visualize the response you want to incite from it.

One important thing to note:  You are on Live Presentation when you have a meeting with your clients and hence pre-meeting preparation is just as important as preparing for a speech.  Likewise for a coaching session with our clients, we prepare.

Presenting
With the increasing use of social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc., presentations can be delivered in a number of ways either using audio-visual as in video clips or simply just audio such as podcasts.

In audio-visual presentations not only do you want to sound good but also look good.  The audience’s attention is divided between what they see and what they hear, and while the voice is not the only focus point, it is nonetheless important if you want to drive a point through clearly.

Audio presentation as in a radio interview or a podcast will have a very heavy emphasis on the quality of speech.  The voice then becomes a very important part because that is the only thing that the audience will be focusing on.

Executing a good presentation would include having these components in the speech and voice:

“Finishing your words” is one of the most common issues in speeches and conversations.  Too often we make assumptions when we speak and have a tendency to “eat” up our words forming incomplete sentences. Just look at the quotes reported in the newspaper articles and note the text in square brackets and you will know what I mean.  By “eating” up your words, you no longer can deliver a concise and clear message leaving a lot to interpretations that can lead to disastrous results.

Intimacy is apparently a very important ingredient to conversations and speech delivery.  You want your audience captivated and focus on you and your words, showing that you care and is present.  Obviously you need to pace yourself on the level of intimacy added to your tone to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.  Especially in a one-on-one conversation, for example in a coaching session, having intimacy in your voice can demonstrate your full attention on your client and can promote trust and confidence.

Pitch Variation adds interest and live to the speech or conversation.  When is a dead-pan voice attractive unless you want to act or become a robotic I’ll-be-back terminator!  To be sure having a short statement delivered in a dead-pan voice can be very effective when used in an appropriate moment, just not the entire speech.  Delivering with high impact differentiates a superb presenter from the average presenters.  I am sure want to be the former and not the latter.  Take notice the next time you speak and see if you have good pitch variation or are you putting people to sleep in spite of the interesting topic discussed.

Tone, like pitch variation, gives depth to the speech.  You need to use the right tone for the right moment.  Obviously a gentle tone is better than a harsh one almost under any circumstance to sound encouraging, supportive, understanding, compassionate, etc. but you need to apply a firm tone if the circumstance calls for it to get the highest impact from the interaction.

Volume gives the speech a total different dimension if used appropriately.  If you are too loud, you sound coarse and unrefined.  This is very off-putting.  On the other hand, if you speak too softly, you could not be well heard and that frustrates your listeners.  Applying the right volume adds attraction and interest as your audience feels comfortable and do not need to strain their ears to hear you.

Pace, like volume, is critical and I can say this from personal experience.  When speaking, we must be mindful of our audience ability to follow you.  People lose interest after a few minutes of trying hard to understand and fail.  It is very brain draining to absorb, translate and try to understand, and if they cannot catch up, they give up altogether.  This is especially so when you are speaking in pace too fast and in a language that is not your audience natural language.  However, speaking in too slow a pace is equally unattractive for you will sound too dull and your audience need to pace their brain waves to follow your speech which can be just as exhausting.

Pronunciation is probably underestimated in importance.  It is not enough that your fellow countrymen understand you.  Operating in a global environment, we need to ensure that we speak for a worldwide audience to be heard and understood.  Otherwise why bother speaking at all?  Having good pronunciation means having a clear and crisp enunciation of the words and not necessarily changing your accent which, in some cases, could be worse off sounding most unnatural and certainly unattractive.

Breathe correctly is the most fundamental feature in having a good voice to do all those things mentioned above. Shallow breathing will not deliver the depth of feeling of your voice to execute good pitch variation, tone, volume and pace.  Taking a deep breath and releasing it in a controlled pace in alignment with the speech gives the best voice result, very similar to how a singer learns to sing.

Do you listen to yourself?  If you don’t, start now and learn to pay attention consciously to how you speak.  Compare your speeches in all the areas mentioned above to see how you fare and consider where you might need training.  I started listening to myself since my teens when I decided I want to speak good English and the practice pays off well.  I still continue to do it now but am adding the new components I learned here to my listening.

So why is voice important to coaching?  Coaching is a very intimate relationship between the coach and the client involving a lot of trust and confidence.  With an attractive voice as elaborated in this article, together with a host of other coaching techniques, could put a client at ease quickly to incite the needed trust and confidence for a successful coaching engagement.

Today, marketing your coaching practice may mean capitalizing on the use of social media networks and you may want to try a number of things involving audio-visual or just audio presentations in your blogs and/or websites.  Knowing how to use your voice to the maximum effect to attract audience and followers is certainly a way to go.  Good Luck!

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