Focus Public Speaking

Speak Like a Fish: Exploring voice language

Speak like a fish and create bubbles of inspiration!You know sometimes how people fall head over heels for a voice. They go on and on about THE voice, the amazing sound of THE voice, the magic of THAT voice, yes… on and on and on again. The same things happens to me. True. As soon as I hear that voice, it’s a firework of goosebumps on my arms; hair simply jumping out of my skin; heart-bit pumping up to a sprint; and if it was not for some good self-control, I would kill the owner of THAT voice. That specific voice simply calls the worst out of me.

Similarly to body language, we can talk about “voice language” or “voice quality!. The tone of a voice, its tempo or rhythm, its pitch, all these have their own impact and sometimes hidden messages. They can in fact break or make a speech.

What do you think of high-pitch, fast voices? Now that I have mentioned them, you are probably going to notice that they are often used for making fun of a situations, for instance in kids cartoons, in political satires. In reality they are very hard to be taken seriously, for two reasons -fast is associated with nervousness -high-pitch is associated with insecurity, and in fact nervousness and anxiety, modifying the rhythm of your breathing, do often increase the pitch and tempo of a voice. Neurosciences is telling us that sound activates two areas in the brain, the audio and the motor ones. I truly believe that a poor voice triggers people’s leg walking straight out of the room.

We could argue our voice it’s kind of a given item. Still we have many tools to influence its quality such as body stance,  opening of the chest, strength of the shoulders, mood and spirit, dryness of the mouth, digestive system, stress level, sleep level, etc. and one “must-pay-closely-attention-to”: the respiration.

We actually speaks when we exhale; and there is no-doubt, you will all have experience once in a while the out-of-breath effect “Herhh, I… Herhh… can’t… Herhh… speak….Herhhh… when….Herhh…out … Herhhh… of…..Herhhh… breath….. pfffff”, especially when you have just been running to catch your train in the morning.

How then to improve the quality of our voice? For this we play with our voice pitch, tempo and tone. As said for body language, unless you play with your voice and test how far you can go, you may never really use it to support your public communication, either be a presentation or an on stage speech.

Have fun then!

1 – Exercise ONE: to be done daily: an easy breathing exercise based on cardiac coherence, a specific rhythm of breathing which induces an homogeneous wave pattern at our heart-bit and with it a decrease of stress and an increase  sense of calm. The idea is simple,  inhale as you count up to four or five seconds, then exhale as you count up to four or five seconds keeping the same rhythm while counting. if you are a visual person and like to follow something with your eyes rather than counting, do a quick YouTube search on “coherence cardiac” and explore following one video, they can be with or without music.

2 – Exercise TWO: to be done on ad-hoc basis when needed: first think about 2 minutes of speech or conversation you could be using. Then organise yourself in a room “as if” you were going to speak in front of others; do really take a moment to visualise the “as if”. Start your 2 minutes of conversation out-loud and as you do so, bring a lot of diversity in your voice language. For instance, start with your normal pitch, then go very soft and quiet like a murmur, then go the opposite, speak as loud as you can, shouting even; next modulate your pitch, start very high pitch and then goes very low pitch; then play with the rhythm, make your voice going really fast and then very slow; next combine elements together, etc. At the same time develop an awareness of your reactions. How do you feel? Which voice works best? Which one do you hate? If you have a bunch of friends, try this second exercise with a mini and friendly audience. It will boost your self-confidence, and this whatever the type of “public speaker” you are, either the “on stage” one or the “in meeting” one. And if you want a great “pick-me-up” to listen to on a bad day, record yourself.

Both exercises are here to stretch us outside of our comfort zone. They are beneficial when you play the game of “going to an extreme”. It may actually feel extreme and way-off balance for you while it may appear very subtle for another person.

Let me know how it goes, either using the contact page or in the comments section below?

See you tomorrow, and you will see tomorrow, it’s just between you and me…

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