If you use the telephone to sell or market your products and services, you should know the tone of your voice plays a critical role in your ultimate success.
On the phone about 84% of what you communicate is by tone compared to 16% by words. Your voice conjures up an image at a conscious or subconscious level. You can ‘look’ a like professional or ‘look’ like a rookie; you can ‘look’ elderly and wise, or you can ‘look’ young and inexperienced.
I suspect that the vast majority of telephone users feel that that they are ‘stuck’ with what they got regarding their tonality. Not necessarily so! DJs and other entertainers work hard at developing a voice that creates a strong, professional image. Here ten tips that can fix the quality of your voice.
1. Read Out Loud
Reading out loud for 15-20 minutes per day is like weight training: it builds strength. Practice reading both loudly and softly. This forces you to breathe properly and project your voice. It helps you project a sense of confidence. Be sure to focus on articulating your words. This conscious act makes you more aware of how you are communicating and creates a message that is much more clear and convincing.
2. Project a Character
Read out loud but read ‘in character;’ pretend you are someone. Here’s how it works. Find two or three magazine ads that have a paragraph or two of copy. Read the copy out loud. Then read the copy as though you were a coach or perhaps a cop. Your approach will probably be clipped, abrupt, loud or assertive. Then read the same copy as if you were priest, minister or rabbi. The tone will likely be more mellow, soft, and gentle. It’s a hilarious exercise but it demonstrates that despite the words you can create an entirely different impression with your voice. It helps you create ‘vocal range’ and certainly allow you to develop a sense of personal character.
3. Avoid Dairy Products
Milk, yogurt, coffee with cream consumed at your desk can coat your throat with a thin layer of residue. Sometimes it forces you to clear your throat. Ahem! Clearing your throat can create an image of someone who is uncertain, nervous and unprepared. In some cases in can convey an image of someone who is being evasive about a point. This can create distrust in the mind of your buyer (either at a conscious or subconscious level). Finally, it’s just plain annoying.
4. Watch Your Caffeine
While monitoring calls a while ago I watched a rep knock back one of those highly caffeinated canned drinks. In no time flat his words were flying out his mouth in record time. Fast talkers are usually met with skepticism. They sound impatient, rushed or annoyed. It’s not pleasant for the listener. In addition, a message delivered at a rapid fire rate is not unlike the ‘fine print’ on a contract: it suggests there’s something hidden. Don’t risk it.
Humming is like an aerobic workout for your vocal chords. The steady vibration makes them stronger and helps create a more resonant tone. The deeper your tone, the more authoritative you will be to a listener.
6. Facial Stretch
I watched a TV program about young opera singers. Before ever singing a note, they do facial stretching: yawn-like exercises to loosen their mouths, forced grins that made them look like the Joker, sliding their jaws back and forth to eliminate stiffness. Like athletes warming up before a big game, these singers limber up the muscles on their face because it makes enunciation easier. Words flow smoothly. It prevents being ‘tongue tied’ and fumbling about on words and phrases.
7. Sit up Straight
Your mother was right: sit up straight. We breathe from our diaphragm. If you’re slouched your lungs don’t get the air that they need. The net result is a lazy or tired sounding voice. So as your mom says: sit up and breath properly.
If you have certain scripted parts of your call (e.g., your opening statement) practice delivering your lines like an Academy Award winner. Know them backwards and forwards. Know when to pause. Practice inflection and intonation in order to provide emphasis on key words and phrases. For those parts of the call that REALLY matter, practice, practice, practice. In this way, you can focus more on delivery and less on the words.
9. Post a Reminder
Do you talk too fast? Too slow? Too soft? Or do you have an annoying little… like… you know…dude … TOTALLY… annoying mannerisms? If so, a great tip is to simply post a note or two (or three of four) at your desk to remind you to slow down or speed up or whatever. Stick them somewhere obvious so you can’t miss it. On a daily basis moved them around so they don’t become part of the wallpaper. These notes act as a visual conscience and remind you to reel in some of your behaviors.
10. Get Feedback
If you have a coach/manager, get them to listen in and give you feedback after a call. That’s what a coach is supposed to do. So use them. If you don’t have a coach, record a few of your calls and have someone – a friend, spouse, co-worker- listens to it and give their feedback on how you sound.
You CAN have a better, more professional voice. These tips are easy to do. By following them you can whip your voice into shape and give yourself an added edge.