Article provided by Nadine Shenton
Never has having a voice and using it been more important.
Our current working environment not only requires us to have great computer skills, we’re also expected to be adept at being heard clearly via online conferencing calls which are now the norm.
But presenting well, with clear audible tones, whilst appearing confident in this fast moving, social-distanced online world isn’t as easy as it seems. At least, not for everyone.
Do you like the sound of your voice?
Are you one of those people who squirm when they hear a recording of their voice? If your own voice grates, have you ever considered why? What is it that you don’t like? For many, hearing the sound of their own voice affects the way they feel which makes them question how they come across to others. Maybe you have an accent which you feel ‘gets in the way’. And for those who are introverted, the sound of their voice can make them feel nervous or anxious so that they pull back vocally, creating a ‘smaller voice’, which further restricts how they perform in front of others. All this works together to make you question how others perceive you.
The voice is an incredible tool. It defines who we are. If you have an accent, it’s part of your identity, which gives you a rhythm of speech that is natural and relaxed. Now, more than ever, it’s time to embrace your accent and let it shine through!
It took three years of professional training at drama school, 27 years as a voice over artist and a Ted Talk to start to understand how to be heard through ‘finding your voice’. Over the years I’ve discovered many ways to help you to deliver your voice more effectively, with greater impact. Once you know how to enhance your own personal sound, your confidence grows and you’ll speak with greater effect and impact.
How to be heard
There are many ways to enhance the power of your voice and to be heard but it takes practice. In time you’ll come to observe little changes that will boost your confidence and empower you to ‘find your voice’.
As strange as this seems, being aware of our breath and breathing in a calm and controlled way will help control stress, anxiety and focus. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth whilst you stand in front of a mirror. Don’t let your shoulders rise at each intake of breath but watch your ribs and diaphragm swing in and out naturally in a relaxed rhythm.
When we speak, we forget to breathe, therefore our voice is ‘pushed’ and our voice becomes unsupported and strained. As you get better at this, breathe in for two beats and out for four beats, in for two and out for 4, 6, 8 so that we inhale taking a short breath which on the outbreath lasts longer and the voice is supported in sound.
When you sit at your desk make sure you are aware of the following:
- Your chair. It should be comfortable, supporting your back and your feet should be firmly flat on the ground so that there is no swinging or crossing of legs. If you’re perched at the breakfast bar or sitting on a stool, this affects the way you breathe, restricting your airways, which stops the natural process of air supporting the voice.
- Your computer. It needsto be at the same height as your mouth so that you are not looking down or reaching up when talking online. Again, it affects your breath and voice so that the air is not restricted by the angle of your head in line with your neck. It should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Your microphone. Give it a quick check. Make sure it picks up your voice clearly and that there is no distortion.
- Your clothes. Wear unrestricted clothes both around the waist and neck so that there is no pressure stopping your breath and vocal delivery.
Why not record yourself reading a piece of writing or a blog post. Play it back and be aware of the following:
- Are you speaking too fast/ too slow…become aware of your ‘pace’ and work on it.
- Are you mumbling and tripping on words, dropping off at the end of sentences? A tongue twister is one way to combat this.
- Are you pushing your voice? Don’t forget to support your voice through breathing exercises, or else it can become hoarse and dry.
- If you drop your voice at the end of a sentence, always going down, you may appear disinterested, lacking in energy or appear dismissive and monotone. Become aware of making your voice ‘go up’ at the ends of a line, creating energy and enthusiasm.
A great way to get the vocal cords warmed up, active and sharp. It also connects you brain to your tongue, teeth, lips and mouth delivering a fast, effective sharp delivery. A bit like a car, if we don’t put petrol into the tank then how do we expect it to perform at its best?
Try saying – “New York is unique, unique is New York” three times without a break in between. Start slowly then get faster.
Most of all be yourself and embrace who you are! Be kind to yourself and use this time where you may be working remotely to practice ‘finding your voice’. Now is the best time to work at being heard. Surrounding yourself with kind, caring people also makes such a difference. Nurture working with people who make you feel good, happy and bring the best out of you. Positive people with a growth mindset are contagious to be around, whether in real life or on screen. They will boost your confidence and encourage you to speak out and be heard.
About the author
Nadine Shenton works with many back to work women who have mastered their profession yet for one reason or another have lost their confidence and need a little boost to help once again achieve their full potential. A former Royal Shakespeare Company actress, Nadine is an award-winning voice over artist for national and international clients. Her clients include public organisations like the NHS and HM Prison Service, charitable entities including BBC Children in Need and the UN World Children’s Relief and Volunteer Organization, and blue-chip companies such as The Times, Bupa, Trivago, BMW, Volkswagen and Amazon.
More information about Nadine’s one to one confidence sessions for women can be found here.
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