So, in order to be heard, do you have to shout the loudest?
No, in fact you are less likely to be listened to with any sort of respect or interest; unless of course you are shouting out threats in a public area, in which case people probably will listen and possibly even call 999. However, as first impressions go, that really is a wasted opportunity.
They key to being really listened to is, making your vocal output as alluring as possible. Of course, other factors certainly come in to play but the voice is a substantial cog in the machine of your performance. The pitch, the pace, the tone, the volume, the intonations and inflections are all like individual instruments which come together as the final orchestra. It’s worth considering how to improve yours.
In the last week I have had some interesting experiences with some of the people I have worked with ranging from junior school aged children to big, proper grown-ups. Helping people to project their voice, from a stage across a school hall, or a small conference centre is a vital part of people ‘owning’ their own volume switch. Some people have to use microphones when venues are huge but it’s still immeasurably beneficial to learn how to master your own vocal power.
One child in the group I worked with this week had no problem projecting. In fact when I instructed him to imagine someone sitting at the very back of the hall with poor hearing, he shouted the first line of his speech so loudly, he made everyone else jump out of their skin.
My reaction? ‘Brilliant *Billy, absolutely amazing power. Now, let’s imagine that person is a lot nearer, almost in the middle of the room this time.’ Nobody I teach/coach or work with is going to be criticised for giving it their all! (And anyway, until you try out your voice in a certain space, how are you to know how far it reaches?)
An adult woman I worked with had more difficulty projecting her voice. She was held back by her fear of sounding TOO loud. She was well spoken and had a warm, soft lilt to her voice. By nature she had many qualities I often have to encourage out of people. She spoke slowly and clearly enough that words didn’t get lost and her chosen points of emphasis and her pauses were spot on. I assured her, it was a voice people would enjoy listening to. She seemed surprised by this. I explained to her what I have explained above and assured her there was little work to in other areas, she just needed to take a deep breath, and make an attempt.
After some breathing and vocal exercises and a few demonstrations, she went for it. I stood at the back of the hall. The first few lines weren’t quite loud enough. I gestured my hands towards the ceiling and she raised the volume. I gave her the thumbs up and she positively beamed. She continued to read the rest of her speech and I watched her shoulders lift with confidence. All the positive aspects of her vocal output were simply highlighted and she had me engaged.
There’s no getting away from it, it’s scary giving a speech when you’re not practised at it but practise (and some support and guidance) will make it so much easier.