Join John Ullmen for an in-depth discussion in this video Improving vocal delivery, part of Communication Foundations (2013).
- A grown man in uniform once pointed in my dresser drawer and whispered hoarsely, "Owen, you're a disgrace, "you call that a crease in your pajamas? "Pathetic." I was a student at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It's a military college and this was during an inspection my freshman year. There are lots of inspections and we were required to wear official uniforms at all times, even at night. So yes, laugh if you will, and you should, we were issued pajamas and they had to look just so in the dresser for inspections.
Now, I went on to enjoy my time in the military very much, but at this point, I was coming in for heavy criticism about my pajama pressing. I was so surprised, I didn't say anything. I was thinking "A crease? "Has anyone ever ironed pajamas? "He can't be serious." He sure sounded serious, though. Especially when he went from whispering to yelling. But now, after many years, I see what he was really doing. And it's the reason I tell this story. Surely, he was illustrating the use of volume change as an attention getter.
It's one of four vocal techniques we'll cover here that enable you to add force and clarity when you really want to hit home with your listeners. Volume is how loud or soft you speak. Just like a volume control button when you listen to music, you can turn your vocal volume to be louder or softer for any word or sequence of words. The second element is pitch. Pitch is how high or low your voice is. Pitch is like volume, you can dial it up or down anytime. Same goes for all four elements. You can adjust each of them independently.
Next is pace: your rate of speech, fast or slow. You can talk very rapidly, or slowly and very deliberately or any pace in between. The fourth element is tone. That's the mood or spirit you want to create. You can set a serious tone that's more somber, weighty or earnest or you can set a lighthearted tone that's more cheerful, entertaining and upbeat. One of the most common mistakes with vocals is to give them no thought at all. And stay within a narrow or repetitive range on the four elements.
The unintended impact can be that listeners think we lack belief in our message or passion about what we're doing, or that we're nervous and insecure. We often feel inside like we're being more expressive than how it actually comes across on the outside to our listeners. Often, it's because our voice sounds different in our own heads when we're speaking as compared to their ears when they're listening. So add variation in your vocals, some expressiveness, some modulation in the four elements. Don't let your listeners think you lack confidence or energy Here's another tip, add some vocal variety especially where it matters most.
Choose the most important points or phrases you want your listeners to remember. Then, add vocal techniques to emphasize and draw attention to them. Quick example, I coached a leader who often ended sentences with rising pitch, it made his statements sound like questions, like I'm doing now. The impact of that repetitive pattern was to make him sound less authoritative. Instead, when you want to emphasize a point with authority and confidence, dial your pitch from relatively higher to low. Like that, I put a pace change in there, too.
How much you adjust any or all of the four dials is dependent on your purpose, situation and audience. How do you establish guidelines for that? Well, this is where Captain Pajamas from our opening story comes back in. Well, sort of. We recruit him as a reminder to look for examples in your organization or industry. Notice what works and what doesn't on you and others and how leaders use their voices. As an action step, pick three leaders in your experience who you find especially effective. Over the next two weeks, I want you to pay attention to how they use their voice as a leadership tool.
Observe how they use each of the four elements: volume, pitch, pace, and tone. Don't mimic them directly, but notice if they use any of the four elements in ways you want to adapt to your style. In which situations should you speak louder, softer, higher, lower, faster, slower, with more gravitas or with a lighter spirit. Study those role models and ask for feedback from people who see you in action, to make smart choices about how to use your voice for more impact in any situation. Your meetings, presentations, and , hey, you never know, just in case the occasional visit from Captain Pajamas.
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- Managing the intent-impact gap
- Designing the content of your message
- Improving vocal delivery
- Adjusting your body language
- Being politically savvy
- Listening to what's said, what's unsaid, and how it's said
- Increasing empathy and trust
- Overcoming anxiety<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.