What Did You Say?

June 7th, 2010

“I get so tired of repeating myself. Why can’t people get what I say, the first time?” Remember, you have the advantage of knowing what you’re going to say, before you’ve said it, so it’s easy to overlook the clarity of your delivery. Communication isn’t just about content; it’s about caring for the listener and making sure they get the message. Addressing potential obstacles to clarity ensures you are consistently understood.

Fast rate is one of the most common causes of unclear speech. Vowel sounds are shortened and words become a jumble of consonants. Slowing the rate of your speech gives you time to form sounds accurately and gives your listeners time to absorb what you’ve said. Learning to breathe while speaking is one of the most effective strategies for slowing down, naturally.

Mumbling often goes hand in hand with fast speech. When you speak quickly, your mouth doesn’t have time to open very far. Speech sounds get distorted while being squeezed through your teeth. Practicing jaw and tongue relaxation creates more openness in your mouth and encourages more precision in the formation of vowels and consonants.

A soft voice often contributes to a lack of clarity. Sound is the medium for verbal communication. When you’re not putting enough sound out there, your listeners have nothing to work with. Using more breath, feeling sound vibrations in your body and allowing your voice to fill the room will generate more power, without straining. Remember, your voice will seem louder to you than it sounds to your listeners. Get used to it.

Speaking with an accent can make it difficult for others to understand you. Most accents lend character and personality to communication, but sometimes they lead to confusion and even frustration. Learning to improve a few strategically selected language skills will often produce dramatic improvements in clarity. An experienced speech coach can help you identify those critical elements that will give you the most leverage for progress.

Failure to speak clearly is not a minor inconvenience; it has serious implications for your personal image and professional success. Addressing the underlying causes enables you to communicate fluently and distinctly. By effortlessly connecting with your listeners, you increase your confidence and make others more responsive to your message.

For further details, please contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach at:
http://voiceandspeech.com/contact.html

Discovering a Deeper Voice

June 6th, 2010

When asked to describe a good voice, one of the qualities mentioned most frequently is “deep.” Everyone wants a deeper voice, believing it will project authority, strength, sexiness or whatever. Assuming it’s all about pitch, they press their voice down into the lower end of their range. Then they wonder why their voice tires easily and feels uncomfortable after any length of time. Their voice always seems “stuck” in their throat, and it actually sounds higher to other people.

I agree a good voice has a certain quality of depth, but it’s not necessarily related to low pitch. It’s more about having low resonance in your voice. Think of pitch as the actual “note” you are speaking. Think of resonance as the “space” you are using to produce the sound. Finding deep resonance in your voice requires attentiveness to three essential components:

  • The first is relaxation. Muscle tension stops sound vibrations. Tension anywhere in your body prevents the spread of sound vibrations. This restricts your voice to your throat and mouth and makes the sound seem higher. Feel the ground under you, allow your whole body to relax down onto the ground, and your voice will tend to drop into your body and sound deeper.
  • The second is breath. Breathing well relaxes the body at very deep levels, creates more space on the inside and keeps the channels very open. The quality of your in-breath will always set up the quality of your voice. If your in-breath is small and shallow, your voice will tend to be small and shallow. If your in-breath is full and deep, your voice will tend to be full and deep.
  • The third is space. Think of a bass drum. Its size and its large interior space tend to emphasize the lower frequencies of its sound. The same thing will happen with your voice if you enhance the feeling of open space inside your body.

Some people get lucky and seem to be born with voices that sound confident and authoritative. The rest of us have to develop it. You might not sound like Lauren Bacall or James Earl Jones, but the good news is that everyone, including you, has the potential for a voice that is warm, resonant and strong. With some training and practice, you can learn to relax, breathe, and be expansive, cultivating a genuine sense of depth in your voice that others will find appealing and attractive.

For further details, please contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach at:
http://voiceandspeech.com/contact.html

Slow Down, Please

June 5th, 2010

Many business professionals speak too fast. Do you? It might be your natural energy, and it’s often intensified by nervousness. Regardless of the cause, it’s a serious impediment to effective communication. It makes you difficult to follow. Worse, you can be perceived as lacking steadiness, presence and credibility—not the impression you strive to create!

You already know telling yourself to slow down works for about 30 seconds—then it’s back to the usual “rapid fire.” There is a solution! Four characteristics common to fast talkers provide clues for genuine, lasting change.

If you speak too quickly, you’re not breathing well. Speaking fast makes it difficult to take a breath. Racing through your sentences forces you to grab very short, shallow breaths. Sound familiar? Remember, it takes time for a deep breath to sink into your body. Cultivating the ability to breathe while speaking will automatically slow your speech. You won’t have to think about it all time.

If you speak too quickly, it’s likely you have jaw tension. This prevents your mouth from opening very far and tends to distort your speech. Speaking fast and “mumbling” usually go hand in hand. The fact is, it takes time for your jaw to open. When you speak with a sense of relaxed openness around your jaw, you won’t need to worry about speaking too quickly.

If you speak too quickly, you’re not harnessing the power of your whole voice. Resonance is largely connected to vowel sounds, and it’s something you can feel. Speaking quickly shortens vowel sounds, so resonance suffers. Your voice becomes shallow and one-dimensional. Developing vocal resonance automatically slows you down. You actually begin to enjoy the feeling of sound vibrating throughout your body, like a massage!

If you speak too quickly, you may need to pay more attention to your listeners. As a quick-thinking individual, it might be difficult to articulate thoughts as quickly as they occur in your head. You become focused on the content of your speech, and less focused on your audience. Be attentive to your listeners, committed to delivering the message effectively, and you will instinctively find the right pace.

Mastering your speech rate takes time. Learning to breathe, relax your jaw, discover resonance and shift your focus won’t happen overnight. But if you practice these basics, you will enjoy the benefits of relaxed and confident speech patterns. You will transform your ability to communicate well.

For further details, please contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach at:
http://voiceandspeech.com/contact.html

Open for Business: Your Selling Voice

June 4th, 2010

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario

You communicate for a living. You are the voice of your company. You offer advice and solutions your clients must understand, approve and implement. So how quickly do listeners connect with you? It’s not just about content. The depth of your engagement determines the impact of your message.

The challenge is to be totally available every time you speak. What would it feel like to communicate with your whole being, not just your mind? Your voice is the vehicle. Using a fraction of your voice produces only a fraction of your potential impact. Tension, unawareness and poor habits are obstacles to effective communication. They close doors rather than opening them.

In this workshop, you will identify the characteristics of a voice that sells and explore three critical components of powerful communication: grounding, breathing and resonance. Come prepared for movement; you will learn exercises addressing these areas – a small taste of what this crucial training can involve. There will also be time for practical answers to audience questions.

You will leave realizing you have a voice that can authentically express your brand and have maximum impact on your clients.

Presenter: Jay Miller, M.A.

Jay Miller is a speech coach operating from offices in Toronto. He provides training in voice, presence and public speaking for a wide range of clients, but his favourites are entrepreneurs and other professionals creating their own income. Jay has over thirty years experience in the field of voice and speech. He is consulted by the CBC, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Star, ELLE Canada and Eye Magazine, and has appeared on City TV and Discovery

Health. Jay is passionate about helping individuals grow and become more fully available whenever they interact with others.

Contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach for more information on participating in this seminar, which is part of the BIG Mastery Workshop.

Reach Jay:

Tel: 416-922-6384 Email: Jay@VOICEandSPEECH.com

http://voiceandspeech.com/contact.html

Managing Nervousness

June 4th, 2010

It would be difficult to find an activity more fraught with fear and anxiety than public speaking. Invent a pill for stage fright and you’ll be an instant billionaire. Until then, it may be reassuring to know you’re not stuck with an acute condition. There are natural remedies to keep the symptoms of nervousness under control.

One of the easiest ways to reduce nervousness is to rehearse. If the actual performance is your first experience of the speech, no wonder it’s nerve-wracking. When you’ve been through the presentation several times, you know how it sounds, how it feels, how it flows. You’re on familiar ground. In addition, every run-through will result in improvements. Why blow off the benefit of that process?

The ability to physically relax under pressure is the most overlooked skill of public speaking. The problems you face as a speaker are usually not head problems or content problems; they’re body problems. Your hands shake, your heart pounds, you can’t breathe, and so on. Cultivating the ability to be comfortable in your body puts you miles ahead of the competition. But this knowledge alone doesn’t make a difference. That state of being must be practiced, or it won’t be accessible onstage.

The most powerful thing you can do to manage nervousness is breathe well. Like most people, you already know that, but few people practice it. So, under stress, your body goes back to its familiar habits: small, shallow, tense breaths—or even holding your breath. All the main symptoms of stage fright have a direct physical connection to breathing. If you make deep, open, relaxed breathing a habit, you have a powerful tool for managing, if not eliminating, nervous energy.

Allowing your voice to resonate fully is a less obvious strategy for managing nervous energy. If your voice feels small and weak, that’s exactly how you’re going to feel at other levels. If you engage your whole voice, feeling it vibrate throughout your body, and sense it filling the room, you set up positive feedback that helps you feel strong, expansive and confident. The sense of “putting something out there” channels nervous energy in a constructive way. You become proactive.

There are no magic pills for curing stage fright. But, there are critical skills you can develop to prevent nervousness from hijacking your performance. Yes, skills require practice, but they are effective. Mastery takes time, but it beats being a victim. So, start now, and discover how it feels to have the quiet confidence of a pro.

For further details, please contact Jay Miller, Toronto Voice and Speech Coach at:
http://voiceandspeech.com/contact.html