Colorful in Person But a Monotone at the Lectern?

When I consider the thousands of people with whom I’ve worked over the years, it is fascinating to see how many of them lose their ‘color’ when they stand at the lectern to deliver a speech or presentation. In normal conversation, these people are animated, emotional, alive. At the lectern, however, they:

• briefly glimpse their notes;
• look up with fear in their eyes;
• open their mouth to speak and pray that something will come out;
• something does come out but they are unable to control their speed; and,
• talk with little or no expression, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The cause is nervousness.

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I love nervousness – that marvelous rush of adrenaline which can lift your presentation to a whole new level. However, if the above ‘symptoms’ sound like you, then your nervousness is working against you. When that happens, it is impossible for your emotions – the color, the life, the animation – to be expressed. Simply put, your nervousness is in control and not you.

Recently I read an article in which the writer said that in order to control your nervousness, try deep breathing before you walk up to the lectern. That is certainly good advice; however, better advice would be to continue the deep breathing throughout the entire delivery. Make diaphragmatic breathing a habit and you will discover a control that you never knew possible as well as an end to breathlessness.

Successful speakers (as well as performers, musicians, & athletes) allow their nervousness to work for them and the really good ones understand the value of the breath.

Watch this brief video clip in which I discuss the value of breathing for public speaking.

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Forcing Your Voice TOO Deep

dreamstime_xs_26491419I received an email recently from a man who said that when he started as a broadcaster, his “voice was child-like, thin, and at times hoarse;” however, he was able to transform it to a crispy baritone, “probably by its constant use, headsets that helped in modulation and by forcing it to go low through the years.“

There are several facts in his description that I found worrisome; however, what really bothered me was his statement, ‘forcing it to go low through the years.’ I can’t tell you how many in the broadcasting business have done the same and have lived to regret it because of the damage it has done as they aged.

Some time ago, I saw a video in which a man (who thinks he teaches voice) suggested yelling for great lengths of time in order to make the voice deeper. Wrong! In discovering your ‘real’ voice, you never yell or try to force it lower. If handled correctly, you will find that when using your chest cavity as your primary sounding board and speaking within your optimum range, your voice will naturally settle in your lower register. In doing so, you will also discover that it is easier to speak from your chest than from your throat.

While men may wish to have a deep, bass sound, for example, everyone’s range in speaking is individual. Some men will have deeper voices while others will speak higher in pitch. The actor, Kevin Spacey, does not have a deep, bass voice; however, he does have one of the best voices in Hollywood because it is very rich and resonant. In addition, his diction is impeccable. When this man speaks, you want to listen. No, he does not possess a ‘James Earl Jones’ sound – he doesn’t need to.

Great news from Brian in Belgium.

Brian is a Brit working in Belgium and since he discovered his ‘real’ voice, one of his colleagues from Bosnia told him that she understands him better, remarking that he now has more volume and speaks more clearly.

Way to go Brian!

By the way, I’ve Skyped with Brian so I was able to hear the results as well. Remember, as a customer of Voicing It, you get me as your personal coach whenever and as often as you wish by means of Skype. I really am part of the package!

What is Voicing It?  The best means for finding your ‘real’ voice unless you are able to spend 2 days with me in a Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop!

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Public Speaking – It’s Not Over Till the Fat Lady Sings!

fat ladyRecently I spoke to a client named Bryan who I hadn’t had contact with for several months.  Had he not emailed me in advance to schedule a time to speak, I would not have recognized his voice on the phone when I answered.  His higher-pitched, nasal voice was gone.  Instead, I heard his ‘real’ voice, a deeper, resonant sound which was not traveling through his nose!

Bryan still has an issue however.  He finds that there are times when he is unable to hold on to his real or true voice as he feels it going back up to his throat.  I recognized one of his problems immediately while he was discussing this with me.

As he was talking, he would start speaking faster and faster.  This can make your pitch rise unless you are aware of it.  (Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of sound – not the volume which is loudness or softness.)  I hail from New Jersey where we drive fast and talk even faster!  But I am conscious of my pitch when I start to speak more quickly.  Bryan was not.

This brings me to Bryan’s 2nd problem.

I asked Bryan if he had a trim waste and he said, yes.  While Bryan has not consciously been aware of this, his trim waste has been keeping him from making the breathing a habit.  When you breathe properly, your diaphragm will move down and out, thereby slightly expanding the mid-torso region.  With shallow or lazy breathing, on the other hand, the diaphragmatic region is sucked in, pushing the mid-torso region up and out.  (Yes, it is great for the figure but bad for the voice because it places undue stress on the throat and vocal cords.)

What does all of this mean regarding Bryan?  In teaching voice and breathing, I have found that those who were most conscious about the process of diaphragmatic breathing and what it could do to their waistlines were the men – not the women.

Bryan’s difficulty with the breathing is allowing for this expansion.  What he needs to realize is that the amount of movement correct breathing involves is slight…very slight.  This brought to mind the phrase, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.”

What does the overweight individual have over those who are thinner?  Often they are more relaxed in body.  They are not trying to hold in their abdominal region.  That is why some have voices which can soar with such breadth and depth and power.

Bryan then realized what was happening and will work on allowing for the slight expansion of his midriff.  Kudos to Bryan who also admitted that the more relaxed he is, the easier it is to speak.  Why?  Because he has taken the pressure off his throat and vocal cords.

Which brings me back, once again, to the fact that if you want to find your real voice, it isn’t going to happen unless you learn to breathe with support.   Your dog is doing it; your cat is doing it; and, every other mammal on earth is doing it.  It is only the most intelligent of the mammals who stop the practice of deep breathing and revert to upper chest breathing sometime during childhood development!

 

Check out Voicing It, my video training for the speaking voice in which you get me as your personal coach by means of Skype. Consider me part of the package!

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Is a Sexy Voice More Attractive Than a Pretty Face?

Jessica_Rabbit2 I read an article in Psychology Today entitled, Is a Sexy Voice More Attractive Than a Pretty Face? My question with the statistics and the studies is not whether a sexy voice is more attractive than one’s face but how they judged their findings.

There is no doubt that women find men with a deep voice both sexy and attractive – the late great Barry White had not only an incredibly rich, warm sensual singing voice but his speaking voice was just as alluring. We women swooned over this man.

However, I disagree about part of the information regarding the female voice. The article said that “men prefer women with higher-pitched voices. Women with higher-pitched voices are perceived to be younger—as well as thinner.” In all my years of teaching voice, I have not found that men prefer women with high-pitched voices. Quite the opposite. Of all the great roles in the movies where a sensual voice was warranted, the movie companies did not select Fran Drescher, Wanda Sykes or Anna Kendrick!

There is a wonderful scene in the movie Victor/Victoria in which the lovely and sexy Lesley Ann Warren is trying to seduce James Garner. Garner has recently switched his affections from Warren to Julie Andrews. You can see by his expression that Warren’s high-pitched whiny voice is turning him off.

[Incidentally, for comedy, a high-pitched annoying voice is a bonus. Listen to Jane Curtain’s nasal whine when she is playing a comedic role; then listen to her speak in an interview. Curtain’s ‘real’ speaking voice is wonderfully resonant.]

What makes a voice attractive is its warmth. A voice which is being powered by the chest cavity has warmth. Unfortunately, most people (99%) are not using their cavity in this manner; therefore, their voices lack warmth. Add the chest cavity to the placement of voiced sound, however, and you have voices like that of Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Angelina Jolie, Felicia Rashad, and Kathleen Turner.

The question I have for the statistics which were cited in the article from Psychology Today is whether they were questioning the men about their motives:

Were the men judging the female voice as to whether they just wanted to hook up with her or whether they really wanted to listen to what she was saying?

A high-pitched female voice may signify thinner and younger but let’s be honest about the motive. A 50-year-old man looking for a 20-year-old is not looking for intellect! He’s looking for a face without wrinkles, breasts that are firm, and legs without cellulite! If she sounds like a bimbo, oh well.

On the other hand, a deep, rich, resonant female voice sounds not only more sensual but much more confident. Whose voice would you recommend for a company’s board of directors? Kelly Ripa’s or Julia Ormond’s?

Yes, you can sound more confident. Yes, you can sound sexier; however, you must first discover your ‘real’ voice – the one that’s hiding inside your chest just waiting to be found.

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How Your Voice Can Improve With Age When the Rest of Your Body Isn’t!

Bill Clinton OlderOne of the most amazing benefits of voice training is that you will find your voice improving as you age. Unfortunately, President Clinton isn’t aware of this fact: he sounds like an old man.

If you are over 40, you are gradually beginning to discover that nothing on your body is getting better as you get older. You have more aches and pains and your body isn’t bouncing back the way it used to.

If you change your voice placement and learn to power your voice from chest cavity, however, you will discover that your voice will continue to improve with age even though everything else on your body is going downhill. It’s a lot like a fine bottle of red wine. Yes, when you are 85, you may look it, but there is no need to ever sound that age.

The reason this is possible is because the voice which is powered or amplified from the chest decreases the wear and tear on the vocal cords. For most people, using their chest cavity as their primary sounding board is not happening. (Most people are using only 4 of their 5 vocal resonators – voice box, throat, mouth and nose.) Aside from some actors and singers, the majority of the population is unaware that indeed they have a better voice inside. It is only a matter of finding it and making it a habit.

On the other hand, if you already sound old, by changing the placement of your voice, you can eliminate the tremors, the high-pitch, and the faltering or shaking sound. One of my oldest clients was 81 and a stunning woman physically, but her voice was weak and quivered when she spoke. By learning to use her chest to power her sound, she discovered a stronger voice that no longer faltered in speaking. In addition, she sounded younger than she looked.

The goal in good voice training is to sound ageless – not too young, not too old.

For a voice that is ageless and continues to improve when everything else on your body is in decline, learn to power your voice properly and discover a sound which is warmer, richer, deeper and resonant.

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The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the first and only complete video training program on voice improvement. If you would like to see some dynamic voice changes, watch Craig and Trish in the right column.

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