As an entrepreneur, you likely have a number of business tools at your disposal. You may have overlooked, however, one very useful instrument – has it ever occurred to you to improve your speaking voice?
Famed voice coach John Henny helps speakers and business owners do just that.
In this guesting, he and James discuss what you stand to gain when you improve voice quality.
They talk about the ways an optimal speaking voice can command audience attention and inspire confidence.
And they outline the process a voice coach might take to improve your voice.
Table of contents
1. A life skill you probably don’t think of
2. My voice is boring…
3. Exaggerate, then pull back
4. Finding the emotional intentions
5. How culture affects voice
6. How to make things less dry
7. Is there a process?
8. One story of improvement
9. The edge of having a great voice
10. Does equipment quality count?
A life skill you probably don’t think of
John Henny has found fame coaching mostly singers. Now, however, he’s been speaking as well with entrepreneurs and corporates, showing them how they can use their voice better in business.
Voice and music are literally the same thing, says John. And the voice, according to studies, is the most important way of connecting emotionally.
John has found that when speakers begin to utilize the principles employed by great singers to capture an audience, they can emotionally connect with the listener on a deeper level, be more compelling and more convincing.
James recalls working for his grandfather, who was legally blind, and who was able to buy and sell timber on the phone by detecting and reading the tonality of his clients. James himself became skilled at interpreting tonality and being a good listener, which became useful to him in debt collection, repossessions, and selling.
My voice is boring…
As a business person, James moved into working on his voice. He started making audio recordings for information products, and then podcasting.
Starting out, someone told him his voice was boring and monotonal. Can something like that be remedied, he asks John?
Absolutely, John says. Unless there is physical damage or neurological issues, a poor voice can be improved with optimal use.
John encourages using music in the voice to add variety in pitch, phrasing, intensity, and tone, even singing some phrases to develop flow and melody. Pretend you’re in the world’s worst musical, he says, and never mind sounding good – what’s key is feeling and speaking out of that flow.
That said, John warns against going over the top or being a non-authentic version of oneself. What he really likes about James’s current voice is how on brand it is – it transmits a sense of honesty.
Exaggerate, then pull back
James reflects on how he used to come across as machine-like and lacked a personal touch in his earlier communications. He had to learn that people want a story and a little bit of color in their interactions.
He also mentions advice he received from a speaking course instructor, that it’s better to go too hard and then pull it back a bit than to try and lift up from a dead base.
John agrees. He suggests initially playing with exaggerations and overdoing it at first, then pulling back.
Read through a sales call speech out loud, says John, and sing it out loud to really overdo the elements.
Finding the emotional intentions
The other thing John stresses is finding emotional intentions, actable verbs that inform how one uses their voice. Inspire, for instance, or teach, or comfort.
It’s really good to play with your voice, says John, really get in touch with your voice. Singers and actors will repeat the same piece of text with different intentions and see what the effect is.
In a world where digital modalities are prevalent, says James, connecting with emotions through voice communication is more important than ever. When people are excited or frustrated, you can hear it in their voice, and when a salesperson is desperate or insincere, the customer can detect it.
It goes for public speaking too, John says. People think power stance and hand moves – he thinks, get your voice working, get it connected with honest emotion and communication, and then worry about your tie.
The highest level of singing, says John, is not just voice mechanics, but communication and connection. Honesty and feeling can make a performance great.
How culture affects voice
James wants to talk about how cultural background can affect one’s approach to vocal expression. Would individuals, perhaps, from cultures that value precision, struggle to adopt playful intonations?
They might at first. John has certainly worked with people from countries where intonation tends to be flatter, whereas cultures like Jamaica or Italy may naturally incorporate music into their conversations.
Regardless of background, however, embracing the musicality of language and experimenting with vocal expression can help individuals develop their voice and convey feeling more effectively.
By finding the music in their natural language and other languages they speak, individuals can learn to play with sounds, accents, and emotions, ultimately enhancing the way they speak.
How to make things less dry
Even in a very analytical business, infusing emotion and musical principles can make dry content more engaging, says John. Introduce contrast; change phrasing; be more intense.
By focusing on the emotional outcomes of the topic, rather than just the information itself, communicators can maintain their listeners’ interest.
James and John also touch on the importance of empathy in communication, such as in professions like medicine and funeral directing. Techniques like softening tone and pulling back on tempo can help convey empathy and produce a delivery appropriate to the situation at hand.
Is there a process?
So what does John actually teach business people when they’re starting out? Is there a process?
John begins with ensuring proper breathing and finding the optimal speaking pitch. He teaches against artificially lowering one’s voice for perceived authority, and emphasizes the importance of a healthy voice, as overstressing the vocal cords can lead to issues.
Then John brings in an awareness of the different musical aspects. They start to play with these and experiment with them, then connect emotion with the new musical voice.
Overall, John’s approach to improving speaking voices emphasizes technical training and expressing emotion with the voice, while also prioritizing vocal health.
And in what format is this done, asks James?
John offers one-on-one coaching, online courses, and master classes for groups.
One story of improvement
James would love it if John could share a story of someone he’s helped in a business context.
John obliges. A trial attorney once came to him with serious voice issues that affected his work; even in social situations, this client found it hard to be heard, which impacted his self esteem.
John worked with him on finding his optimal speaking pitch and resonance, which is important for enhancing the sound of the voice. They did some singing exercises, and after a few weeks, the attorney’s voice sounded great, and he felt a new surge of confidence in his speaking.
The client was so thrilled that he paid John a bonus close to 10 times his hourly rate.
The edge of having a great voice
The big takeaway James sees is that no matter where you’re starting from, there are tools that will help you improve and optimize your voice. And when you speak better privately and professionally, you’ll see a change in how you feel and how people perceive you.
It’s much like driving an expensive car can command respect on the road, says James. People with a great voice get a bit more deference from people around them.
John agrees. You can see this in business and in politics, where a strong, clear voice can convey authority and inspire confidence.
One of the problems is, people don’t notice their voice until they’re having a problem with it, until they’ve lost their voice or their voice hurts.
And even, says Kohn, if your voice is rather pleasant, if you just spend some time really thinking about it, and becoming familiar with it, and playing with it, and finding ways to use it optimally, you will find that you will connect with people on a different level.
James loves that.
Does equipment quality count?
Now on a more technical note, because people always ask, how important is the right sound equipment, say on a podcast or on Zoom? For reference, James is using a digital sound processor and a high-quality microphone in this episode; he used to use, in his words, crappier equipment.
John thinks it can be helpful but not necessary, as even cheaper equipment these days can capture the voice well. Certainly, it can be improved, but he would rather be using his voice well on a lower-priced microphone than not having his best voice on a $10,000 mic.
Now how can people get John’s help as a business voice coach?
At compellingspeaker.com, there is information about John’s course, and details for people interested to work with him one on one or with a group. You can also find more of him on YouTube and on Facebook.
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