Tips for Top Virtual Meetings 7 - Voice & Presence
Do you know how important voice is to presence? A thin reedy, withheld voice does nothing to engage us; a flat monotonous voice puts us to sleep; someone who speaks way too quickly, drenching us in a torrent of words, has us tuning out through sheer exhaustion! None of these voices have presence. And yet, it is very common on online platforms (and actually on the telephone) for people to speak too quickly (are they trying to get it over with?), to have dull, flat voices (are they bored?), or have thin, reedy voices (are they tired?). Make sure this isn’t you if you want to have presence and be listened to in a meeting online. Here’s what to do:
Project: I know you are talking to faces on a screen, but your voice must reach out to them and it won’t if you just talk as far as the screen. Sit tall, breathe well, have energy and enthusiasm for what you are saying and, looking through the camera lens, imagine you are talking to people beyond that lens. Make sure you are opening your mouth well. Yes, seriously! You may not be: go and stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself, then try opening your mouth a bit more, and a bit more, and again a bit more until you probably look a little silly. Now bring your mouth back a fraction and note the feel in your jaw. That is how open your mouth needs to be to project your voice and imbue it with some resonance.
Inflect: your voice must have the sound of a conversation: chatty, colourful, spontaneous. No lists, no reading, no drabness. Take a paragraph from the book you’re reading, read it out loud recording yourself; play with the inflection, experiment, see how far you can go without sounding foolish. It will be further than you think. This is how you tune in to your voice.
Pause: the most vital tool, yet one of the most difficult to use. Pausing gives meaning and emphasis to your words and gives your listeners time to assimilate, to think, to feel something about what you have said. It gives you time to compose, focus, and stay succinct. Try reading aloud again, recording yourself, this time playing with pause. This helps you develop a sense of when to pause and for how long. Now you can bring real power to your words and draw people in.