The Voice Factor is Crucial to Effective Audio-Teleconferencing.
In an audio teleconference, you want to achieve maximum productivity and profitability for all concerned. Did you really accomplish that the last time? Have you noticed dwindling enthusiasm for regularly scheduled teleconferences? Are you planning your first teleconference?
In any event, you'd use the latest technological equipment available. Of course, you'd carefully prepare your agenda. But that's not enough! You must consider the impact of the voices-- vours and the other participants.' Here's why:
In face-to-face meetings, information is conveyed by body language and facial expression (50 percent), by tone of voice (35 percent) and by the verbal message (15 percent). In audio-teleconferencing, phone lines eliminate body language and facial expressions, so 70 to 80 percent of the total information comes from vocal tone. How you speak is often more important than what you say.
Words carry intellectual content, but your feelings, attitudes, physical state and self-image are also revealed by your voice. Distracting mannerisms such as monotony, harshness and slurring are magnified over the phone. These mannerisms can distort, dilute or confuse the verbal message. By using a controlled voice, you can accurately communicate your ideas and achieve your objectives.
Here are the five elements of vocal control:
BREATHING--The key to voice control is diaphragmatic breathing. Place your hand on your abdomen and pant like a dog; you'll feel your diaphragm working. Now take a deep breath (do not move your chest or shoulders) and pretend you are filling a balloon (your lungs) from the bottom up. Then slowly, evenly, exhale until the balloon becomes flat and empty. These muscles must be strengthened and exercised to provide support for the voice.
Proper posture is a must for teleconference participants. Sit up straight and do not lean forward towards the microphone. Remember to press the lower spine against the chair, pull up through the rib cage and keep the chin parallel to the floor. Good posture aids breath control, which makes your voice sound full of vitality.
VARIETY--If you find your mind wandering 15 minutes into an audio teleconference, perhaps it is because the participants' voices lack variety. You need a voice that will keep listeners alert and focused on the discussion. People tend to forget three out of four ideas even in a face-to-face meeting, so you must work twice as hard to effect variety of voice in order to maximize over-the-phone retention. To achieve variety, keep changing the four basic characteristics of the voice--rate, volume, pitch and quality.
Rate--You'll be misunderstood if you talk rapidly over the phone. Slow down to give technical information or statistics, particularly when your listener does not have reference materials. Pauses provide you with a means of emphasis, a kind of oral punctuation pointing out the significant information you want the listener to remember. A meaningful pause will allow the listener to reflect on what you have just said or to anticipate what's coming next. If you're reading material, be especially aware of having variety in your rate. Talk a little faster and then change your pace by being slow and deliberate with a certain phrase--this will give those words more importance.
Volume--The same volume, whether loud or soft, can become very monotonous, and thus meaningless to the listeners. Focus their attention with change in volume, but don't "punch' words for emphasis. In fact, your words can have more intensity if you lower your volume when making a special point. A strong voice will give strength to your presentation. Maintain adequate breath control so that your sentence endings don't fade away.
Pitch--One of the easiest ways to make your voice expressive is to have pitch variety. Exercise your voice by reading the morning newspaper aloud. Make extreme changes up and down your vocal range. Find a three-year-old to read a story to. The child will soon show disinterest if you narrate in a monotone. If there's little change of pitch in your voice, it's as though you're speaking to a mechanical object.
Visualize Tom Selleck or Bo Derek as one of your listeners, and see what happens to the expressiveness in your voice! By visualizing what you're saying and using vivid language, you'll help the listeners form images in their minds. Your "reality' will become their "reality'. Keep your listener's attention by using pitch changes on words and phrases. Don't let your "audience' become indifferent. Make clear choices as to how you want yourself and your ideas to come across. Your attitude towards your audience and yourself are apparent in the pitch of your voice.
Quality--The quality of your voice reveals your emotional and physical state. Fatigue, stress, irritation, anxiety and boredom can be recognized immediately in the voice. These feelings are transmitted over the phone lines. If you are tense or tired before a conference, plan to do some physical activity. Running in place, doing knee bends, swinging your arms or stretching will help. Lack of motion brings about lack of emotion. Others will notice immediately the energy in your voice or the lack of it. Deep breathing to recharge the body will also help. If people have to work harder at listening, they often tune out. You can gain attention through the enthusiasm in your voice, and thereby increase the probability that your message is received and remembered.
Quality of voice is largely dependent upon resonance. For a rich, full voice, your whole body should be used to build up and reinforce vocal tones. Try humming--feel the tones resounding throughout the entire body. This is similar to the reverberation of air as it travels through the passages in a French horn and emerges amplified and mellow.
The quality of your voice can be the encouraging element that gets everyone to participate fully in your teleconference. People won't buy your ideas unless you get them involved. Warmth and interest in your voice can urge them to risk a spontaneous response or invite them to ask questions.
ARTICULATION--Speech must not only be audible but also articulate, distinct and accurate. Listeners cannot be attentive to what's being said if they are constantly called upon to "translate' sloppy speech sounds. Put endings on words and be careful not to drop consonants, mispronounce or omit sounds. You can talk faster and be more easily understood if you have precise articulation. Reading tongue twisters as fast as you can will loosen stiff jaws, lazy lips and sleepy tongues.
CONTROL--Participants sense a lack of control in audio teleconferences. "Is anyone out there? Why didn't I get an immediate response? Am I making a good impression?' Quiet those internal messages and employ these: "Am I getting inside their minds? Are my words visual enough? Are my pitch, rate and volume varied, and is there enthusiasm in my voice?' Becoming conscious of your own voice and assuming control of it to obtain your objective will make you sensitive to the nuances in other voices. You will find that you gain a sense of their "presence' even though you cannot see your listeners.
PRACTICE--Start practing for your next teleconference when your phone rings. Smile as you pick up the receiver. Instead of being "just a voice,' be a distinctive voice with a strong personality. Keep a cassette recorder handy and record material you might be using in an upcoming teleconference. Play it back, concentrating on one element, such as pitch variety or precise articulation. Replace bad habits with skillful ones. If you are designing or producing a teleconference, encourage conferees to obtain voice coaching.
Tone of voice can significantly influence the outcome of your audio or video teleconference. The exciting promises of communicating by means of electronic meetings will be fulfilled by successful utilization of the "voice factor.'
Photo: Jan D'Arcy (right) heads her own speech/video consulting firm, Jan D'Arcy & Associates, in Bellevue, Washington.
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|Date:||Feb 1, 1984|
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