Tag: Speaking Voice

Founder’s Corner

What do Eleanor Roosevelt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Warren Buffet, and Beyonce Knolls have in common? They all possess a challenge with speaking to an audience.

Hello, I’m Byron Darden and welcome to this addition of Leading with Purpose On Purpose.

Throughout the course of our 7 month series on The Executive VOICE we’ve covered values based leadership, when leaders focus on achieving goals seen through the lens of their personal values much of which aligns with the values their organizations hold dear.

We’ve addressed openness that a leader profits from demonstrating by taking the time and interest to tap into their team’s views and opinions regarding whatever project in which they are all jointly engaged.

We even explored the need for leaders to practice the principles of intentionality in all aspects of their lives with the hope that being intentional becomes their default way of leading.

There’s also the concept of consistency in leadership delving into the idea that consistency is the name of game. Especially when you want customers to develop the grow, like and trust factor in products and services offered to them.

And there’s the overwhelming amount of data that greatly suggests that, when a leader succeeds at engaging their stakeholders, be them customers, employees, suppliers, communities and in the case of publicly held companies, shareholders . . . So much more can be accomplished in building a healthy bottom line.

This all leads to grounding the all inclusive Executive Voice. Which we complete in this final installment addressing what we hear and see from a leader who exemplifies The Executive VOICE.


Branding Your Executive Voice

August is about how we show up for others and how that presentation of ourselves impacts those around us.

It is said that you have 7 seconds to make a first impression. Any time you stand in front of a new group of people to introduce yourself or make a sales pitch, you are being judged – how you hold your posture, your appearance, the grip of your handshake, and how you sound.

Your speaking voice can make the difference in whether someone takes you seriously or their attention wanders to the next meeting. Your voice is unique and authentic to you. It is how people perceive you – the most crucial part of your brand.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is running for president, and the first time people hear his voice, they are taken aback. He has a vocal impediment that makes him sound old due to the frequency of sudden involuntary pauses. For this reason, some take his candidacy less seriously as a result. They have limited faith in his ability to be authoritative enough to represent the United States on the world stage. He may or may not have the most suitable ideas or be the appropriate person for the job, and the way his voice sounds makes people pause – which can be an advantage when used strategically.

Some aspects of your voice cannot be controlled, and several others can. You can change the meaning of your words by changing the tempo, quality or pitch, volume, accent, or enunciation. How you speak can make a difference in whether you are taken seriously and whether your message is heard. Your speaking voice is also a vital part of your personal brand.

Crafting Your Voice

Learning to convey compelling messages to your audience takes practice, and the benefits far outweigh the effort required to become an effective speaker.

Communication is an art form that is not only about what you say. It includes how you speak and express yourself, which, in turn, determines how others perceive you.

Aligning your intention with the desired impact is crucial, as how you are remembered when you are not present in the room determines your success. Using your voice, whether in person, virtually, or in print, is about shaping the perception of your character and the way you want to be thought of when your name is mentioned. It delves into the core question of who you want to be.

When your audience hears you speak for the first time, they automatically assess your social and economic status, intelligence level, and willingness to listen to what you have to say.

Perceptions are based on how you ACT:

  1. How authentic you are, the image you portray, and whether your audience can personally relate to you based on your likeness or resemblance to them.
  2. The content of your words, including word choice, phrases, and sentence structure, derived from your experiences, background, understanding, or wisdom that led you to your position.
  3. The timing of your message, including how you verbally deliver the message, derived from your training, education, knowledge, insight, observation, or judgment based on the topic.

Your challenge is bridging the gap between what you say and what your audience hears.

A speaker’s voice plays a significant role in triggering personal and aesthetic biases. Different aspects of the voice impact our perception of the speaker.

  1. The intensity of your voice, including volume and loudness, can evoke certain emotions or convey authority.
  2. The rate at which you speak – the speed and pace – can influence others’ perception of your intelligence and confidence.
  3. The frequency of your voice – encompassing pitch and quality – contributes to the overall impression of your personality and emotional state.
  4. The inflection, which relates to the voice’s emphasis, contrast, and energy, adds depth and nuance to your communication.
  5. The clarity of your enunciation and articulation affects how easily the audience can understand your message and determines their level of engagement with your words.

Incorporating the Speaking Voice into Your Brand

An integral aspect of The Executive VOICE is its relationship to personal brand and persona. When branding a product or service, we often think of fonts, colors, images, and logos. Each component is critical in crafting a distinct and impactful written message that resonates with the audience. We can extend our branding further by considering how we present our brand to others through our speaking voice.

While fonts determine the quality and style of the message, colors evoke specific emotions and set the overall mood, and images capture attention and convey powerful messages, your speaking voice does all this and more.

Earlier, we outlined several characteristics of the spoken voice that shape the speaker’s perception (clarity, inflection, intensity, inflection, and rate). Non-verbal communication is also important when people are speaking. Think about how you move your body and hands, your facial expressions, what you wear, and how you interact with your audience. Each of these can reinforce the intended message or cause a distraction.

The cohesive interplay of these factors forms a holistic representation of The Executive VOICE, ensuring a memorable and influential presence.

Finding Your Speaking Voice

Our audible voice is a powerful tool that allows us to convey our thoughts, emotions, and intentions. However, sometimes we feel the need to improve certain aspects of our voice to make a greater impact on our audience. Whether you are a public speaker, an actor, or simply someone who wants to communicate more clearly and effectively, these transformations will guide you on your journey to finding your voice.

Move Away fromTowards
High PitchLow Pitch
Fast SpeedSlower Speed
High IntensityLower Intensity
MonotoneVoice Variation

In the next section, I’ll provide an exercise to help you explore these transitions.

A Lesson from the Coach’s Corner

At the height of my career as an Olympic coach, I also coached business executives worldwide. The father of one of my students was a partner in one of the seventeen global consulting firms with which I worked. As a leadership consultant, I coached their junior and senior consultants on how to climb the ladder into management and principal roles.

One day my skater’s head coach approached me, lamenting, “Some of my parents don’t take me seriously when I offer advice on how best to support their skaters.” I listen attentively as the coach shares their frustration with the parents.

When my fellow skating coach finishes sharing their challenging relationship with their clientele, I suggest bringing the pitch down in the voice when speaking. My advice isn’t taken well.

That was when I learned a valuable lesson. It isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it. I didn’t heed that warning and missed the opportunity for my advice to be heard. As a result, my coaching partner changed nothing and continued to struggle to be taken seriously.

The Ideal Pitch

The ideal voice pitch varies from person to person. For men, a lower to middle-range pitch can exude confidence, authority, and masculinity. For women, an ideal pitch is perceived as feminine, expressive, and engaging. While some women tend to lower their voices to fit cultural norms, your job is to find out what works for you and your audience.

Let’s revisit our example about RFK, Jr. and his voice. A survey by the American Scientist found that pitch matters to voters when choosing a leader. Candidates with a lower voice (male or female) were 13% more likely to win office than those with other voice pitches. This bias might be enough to switch favor from one candidate to another in a close election. It would be prudent to choose a candidate based on their message rather than the tone of their voice.

The same rationale can be applied to a CEO, a high-level executive, or an entry-level employee pitching an idea to their boss. When we determine what we need to say, how the message is conveyed can make a huge difference in its impact. Speak with confidence and authority and see how people respond to you.

Action Steps

It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it” – Mae West.

Your voice is an integral part of your personal brand. Recruiters looking to fill a position often eliminate candidates based solely on how they sound over the phone. It’s worth the time and effort to put your best voice forward.

Did you listen to my Founder’s Corner at the beginning of this article series? Would you believe I grew up in the heart of Texas with a strong southern drawl? Once I joined the world of coaching and professional speaking and relocated to the east coast, I found it advantageous to spend time with a voice coach and retrain my voice to reflect my personal brand.

Whether you embark on formal voice training or make a few adjustments, there are steps you can take to hone your voice.

One last example – James Earl Jones has a distinctive voice. Few people know he grew up with a stutter and sharpened his voice onstage. James Earl Jones went from struggling to talk to becoming an icon known for his voice.

My 50+ years of acting and coaching have taught me the importance of a strong voice. Schedule time on my calendar to discuss how your voice is helping or hindering your success (or another leadership topic on your mind).