vocal tone

Vocal Fry Can Hurt Your Presentation and Job Interview

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huffpost live with nancy redd diane diresta 10 30 14Does your voice crackle like bacon? You may have vocal fry. Vocal fry is sweeping the nation. This creaky vocal pattern, also known as croaking, is a low vocal pitch that's often heard at the end of a sentence. It's prevalent among women and this pattern of public speaking is becoming a form of peer identity for the millennial generation. Kim Kardashian, Brittney Spears, and other young celebrities have popularized this form of speaking. In one study, vocal fry was noted in two thirds of college students. However popular, vocal fry communicates a negative impression and doesn't serve professionals who want to be taken seriously in the workplace. Not only is vocal fry an irritating sound for a public speaker; it can also be deadly in a job interview.

Women job applicants who presented themselves with vocal fry were perceived as less competent, less educated, and less trustworthy. To learn more, watch my interview with Nancy Redd on Huffington Post Live:

You're Dressed for Success, But Is Your Presentation a Mess?

Carol was a bright, up and coming assistant vice president in a health care company. She was definitely dressed for success. Visually, she looked like an executive. The issue was when Carol presented to senior management...

Confidence Class for Teens: Focus on Image

Public speaking is taught too late, if at all. Confidence results from a good self image and from developing skills. Good public speaking skills are paving the way to a confident self image for these girls.

Speak To Be Heard

Do people talk over you so that your voice isn't heard? Do you shut down because nobody listens when you speak? As a public speaker, do you have to shout to get the group to quiet down and listen to you? When you're speaking one-to-one, do you experience constant interrupting? In this video, you'll learn three reasons why you're not being heard and what you can do to be a more effective speaker and communicator.

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Speech Habits Guaranteed to Kill the Sale

Yesterday I received another cold call. This time it was from a woman with a strong accent. She talked about free video emails and doing webinars online. As she rattled on she caught my attention because she was talking my language.  She wasn't smooth but I was interested in knowing about this service and how it was different. She started to give me the website. She said "Go to www.voe..."  "Voe?" I echoed.  "No, /w/." she stated.  "Is that www.vow?" I clarified.  "No," she countered. "www.wo....." After going back and forth several times, a man's voice cut in and he said in a clear voice, "Excuse me mam, we have training calls. Let me give you the website." We then went through an online demo.  While we were looking at all the features the man would say, "I know you busy."  When demonstrating the next feature he'd say "I'm a show you.." and when he turned the controls over to me he said he made me the "presentator."

Throughout the conversation he called me Diana instead of Diane.  Although the product was worth researching I was not impressed with his presentation. His poor grammar made him sound uneducated and that raised a red flag. When a seller or any professional uses incorrect grammar, I question their legitimacy. Was this really a bona fide  web conferencing system or some  fly-by-night basement operation? He ended by asking if he could call to follow up. I decided not to take him up on his offer and said I would look at the website on my own.  Will I use this service? I don't know yet. But I do know this. I won't buy it from the telemarketers who contacted me. I don't trust them.

It's fine to have an accent as long as you know how to speak clearly. In this case, the woman should have spelled out the url. / w/ as in william, /o/ as in oprah, etc.

There is definitely an ROI (return on investment) for public speaking skills. I show people how to monetize their mouth. When you speak with clarity and confidence, you inspire trust. And that brings in more business. When you're inarticulate or use the wrong grammar, you create skepticism and distrust.  This is true whether you're cold calling, interviewing for a job, pitching a story to the media, or convincing your boss to give you a raise.  Success requires good speaking and communication skills.  To learn about Six Sloppy Speech Habits, click on the link and watch this youtube video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1geJXMFCfF8

For grammar tips visit Grammar Girl  http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com

What TV Anchors Can Teach Executives About Public Speaking

Executives need broadcasting skills. I've been saying it for years.  Media training is critical these days for everybody but especially for executives who are the face of the   organization and who lead global businesses. Public speaking and media skills apply to public service announcements, internal video commercials and now company webcasts are using video. Speaking before a camera is  different from speaking live in a town hall format. So here are some quick speaking and media training tips to keep in mind when your presentation is being filmed.

  • Keep your energy high.  Television can be an energy drain.  Speak with enthusiasm.
  • Smile. It's important to show teeth. Otherwise, you'll look too serious or scared.
  • Use make-up. This applies to men and women. Bright lights can cause perspiration so have some pressed powder handy. Don't use lotions under your make-up. It will create a shiny finish.
  • Avoid metallic or shiny materials which can cause glare.
  • Ask about the backdrop color. Don't wear black if the background is black. You'll look like a mime. Never wear kelly green or shiny, bold patterns that can cause shimmer called moire.
  • Anchor yourself. Even a slight bounce will be exaggerated on camera.
  • Look directly into the camera and not at individuals. The director or camera person will take the necessary audience shots.
  • Use fewer and  smaller gestures.
  • Speak in soundbites. Television is a fast medium. Think of commercials and movie trailers-quick, short, compelling.
  • Rehearse your presentation several times.  If it's a live broadcast and you make a mistake, keep going.
  • Don't say anything more until you're told you're off the air. It's not over 'til it's over.

Video is the hottest marketing tool and in-house video webcasts will become the norm for executive speaking. Get media trained. It's time for your close-up.

How to Give Good Phone-Six Tips for An Effective Audio Conference

Nothing beats face-to-face communication. But it seems that we're communicating more often by audio conference. My clients are continually challenged by this medium. It's no wonder. Visual communication, which is 55% of the message, is missing. So here are six tips to get the results you want from an audio conference.

  1. Send the agenda in advance to all callers. It will give introverts or international participants time to digest the material.
  2. Set the expectations at the beginning of the call. Tell them to mute their phones, announce their names before speaking, hit the keypad if they have a question.
  3. Assign a room monitor. Conference calls can be chaotic. To keep control, ask each site to select a point person. That person will speak for the group when there are technical difficulties or communication challenges.
  4. Test equipment by calling in 10 minutes early. This will give the technical person time to troubleshoot.
  5. Count to four before you answer. There may be audio delays. People need a pause to absorb what you just said. Rapid speaking will cause listeners to lose the message.
  6. Engage the listeners. If you're a talking head for 30 minutes, they'll be checking email. Check in periodically and ask for questions and feedback. Require them to do something. Example: "Draw a circle. Put your project in the middle. Now draw 6 spokes around the circle. Write each module on the spokes." Having more than one speaker will keep their attention longer.

And don't forget to recap the follow-up steps so nothing falls through the cracks. Remember an audio conference is a presentation.

Take our audio conference survey and get a free podcast - How to do Video Media Interviews.

One Minute Listening Tip: Vocal Tone

Vocal tone is 38% of the message. Too often people listen to the words in favor of the tone. When this happens miscommunication almost always results. The meta message is in the vocal tone. The voice is the barometer of the emotions. If you listened to a foreign language you would be able to determine the mood of the speaker without understanding a word. Effective listening skills require that you detect  nuances of  vocal tone. Listen to this video and learn how to tune into tone.

Speaking Resolutions: Eleven for 2011

Make this your best year. Start by polishing your presentation and communication skills. Resolve to follow these eleven speaking principles to speak with greater impact.

  1. Make a promise to improve your communication skills. A promise is stronger than a goal. When you promise, it's the strongest commitment you can make to yourself.

  2. Follow the 6-by-6 Rule when using PowerPoint. Aim for reader-friendly slides: 6 words or less per line and 6 lines or less per slide.

  3. Give a speech without PowerPoint. We are PowerPointed out! Don't use slides as a crutch. Try connecting with the audience. The key word in visual aid is AID. You are the message.

  4. Get comfortable with silence. Most people fear silence and this causes them to speak too fast and to use lots of 'um's and 'ah's. Practice dramatic pauses.

  5. Listen to the audience listening. There's always a silent communication between the speaker and the audience. Tune in, feel, and hear what the audience is telling you.
  6. Speak from your head and your heart. Speakers either give too much data and stay on the intellectual plane or they just tell entertaining stories without enough substance. Today's audiences want hard data in an entertaining style.

  7. Tell more stories. Stories create word pictures, which are memorable and touch the heart. Even a business presentation is more effective when using stories, analogies, and metaphors.
  8. Don't be afraid to be real. You don't have to be a perfect presenter. Most audiences don't relate to someone who's slick and overly polished. Don't imitate someone else. Be your authentic self - the audience can see through phoniness.
  9. Kick your energy up a notch. Enthusiasm sells and with bigger groups you need greater energy to make an impact. You need to push your energy past your comfort level, especially on video and television, which tend to reduce energy.
  10. Practice the Rule of Three. Most people think in threes. When crafting a presentation, aim for three agenda items, three main points, three benefits.
  11. Get over yourself - it's not about you, it's about the audience. Fear of public speaking is still at the top of our list of phobias. Take the focus off of YOU - when you're nervous, you're self-centered. Focus on the audience.

Good communicators are more successful in all areas of life: relationships, career, and well-being. And speaking is the new competitive weapon.

Sexism and Sarah Palin's Voice

This morning as I was watching Morning Joe on TV, a clip was played of Sarah Palin.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/#39684087

The discussion was facilitated by Mike Barnicle who asked that the clip be played again, but this time we should listen to the tone. After listening for a second time, Barnicle asked the group, "Do you want to listen to that for four years?" While I agree that Palin sounded a little shrill and high pitched, that was not the issue. The issue was the way the question was asked.   Barnicle's question was judgmental. Let's ask it a different way.  "What do you think of her voice? Do you think she loses credibility? How will that impact her on the campaign trail?"

This is a different kind of question and a valid one at that. The voice is 38% of the message according to a UCLA study. The meta message is in the tone and not the words. Hillary Clinton  lost credibility when she gave vent to her anger and passion in the form of an escalating tone.  She has since found her voice.  Men have an advantage over women in the vocal arena. A deeper or lower pitched voice will be perceived as more authoritative.  While using the upper range of her pitch level doesn't serve a woman candidate, it seems that there's a double standard when it comes to men.

Former Mayor Koch of New York City has a nasal sounding voice and uses /um/  after almost  every other word. This is how he spoke during his administration and he still uses this speaking style. Yet, we didn't hear comments such as "Could you listen to him for another four years?"

The points made during the discussion regarding tone were valid. What some people don't get is that there is a tone to language. And I heard an element of sexism in Barnicle's comment. What do you think?

Are You Straining To Speak?

speak-238488_1280I just returned from a networking event. The venue was crowded and noisy. The host tried to get our attention by speaking over the crowd. We had difficulty hearing him and he was obviously straining his voice. Straining your voice can cause laryngitis, vocal nodules and inflammation. A vocal pathology affects your image but can also cause you to cancel meetings and lose business. Too many people misuse their voices. To protect your voice, here are some tips for good vocal hygiene:

Never speak above noise. Find a quieter venue or use a microphone or an amplifier. Chattervox or VOISTA digital voice amplifer are two portable, cordless products you can carry with you.

Avoid dairy products 24 hours before a long speech. They create mucus build up. Drink water with lemon at room temperature. Coffee can restrict the veins. Alcohol has a drying effect.

Use abdominal breathing to project your voice and to remove tension from the neck muscles.

Hydrate the day before. Drinking lots of water will reduce dry mouth.

Do some neck roll exercises to relax the muscles.

Pause so you can fill up with enough air before your next sentence.

Take turns speaking. Who said you have to do all the talking? Let a partner have the floor to make announcements or introductions.

Don't speak at full volume. Practice speaking more softly when talking to an individual.

Resist clearing your throat. Take in air and swallow instead.

Practice vocal rest. People are constantly on their cell phones and taxing their vocal folds. Try 1o minutes of silent meditation each morning. Better yet, practice the art of listening. It will save your voice and pay great dividends in building relationships.