I have a loud voice which I used to think of as a curse, since being loud is considered unladylike. If the ideal woman is supposed to be demure and sweet-sounding, like sun-tinged honey drops, then my voice is like the blare of a thousand angry women screaming; raucous and intense! Quite often I will find myself at a café, minding my own business and chatting casually with a friend, when someone from a nearby table will get up and shush me – how rude! My mother is always asking me to “keep it down” whenever I speak.
So, it was a great boost to my self-esteem when I learned that having a loud voice is rarer – and far more desirable – than being softly-spoken.
Earlier this year, I attended a PrimeTime event facilitated by Paul Carr called “Boost your career using the power of your voice”. Paul is an experienced radio presenter and voiceover expert from down under. You would never guess it, but Paul used to talk like an uncouth and nasal Aussie in his youth. However today, Paul’s voice is as crisp and smooth as gourmet ice cream. He has the power to both command and seduce a room just by speaking. Paul is often called upon to lend his vocals for luxury brand adverts such as Audi, Mercedes, Magnum and Allianz.
We were a diverse group of about 30 professional women at the PrimeTime event, crowded into a small room and eagerly awaiting for Paul to arrive. When he finally stepped onto the stage, the chattering dwindled to complete silence. Everyone was hungry for his tips on how to improve their communication skills!
One eye-opening exercise we did early on in the workshop was to practice reciting the words to an old Black Magic chocolate commercial. The lyrics go someone along the lines of…
Do you know the secret of the Black Magic box?
No? Then I’ll tell you…
Every chocolate is covered with a mouthwatering plain chocolate coating and filled with delicious fruit cream that melts into perfection the moment it passes your lips.
The Black Magic commercial is intended to be read in a lustful and tempestuous manner. However, the majority of women spoke so timidly that it was difficult to hear them! Paul needed to keep reminding everyone to “open their mouth” when they speak or “speak from their chest”. He added that when he is coaching others, particularly women, he spends the most amount of time helping people to speak up. He said that anyone who has a naturally loud voice should consider it as a gift!
Now that I think about it, there are so many pros to being able to speak loudly. I can sing karaoke without needing a microphone or call “hello” to someone from across a busy room. If I ever get stuck down the bottom of a well, I should experience no difficulty yelling for help. So, the fact that I already have the volume piece down pat means I am halfway to having a great voice.
What I learned from Paul is that a good voice also uses variety. Most of us speak in a consistent yet dull tone, day in and day out. I can testify to the fact that most people I know can put me to sleep with the sound of their voice! I dial-in to many conference calls during the late hours as part of my job, and although the calls are rich in content, they sound as boring as batshit. What we need to do is spice things up by changing our tone, pitch, speed and volume with regularity when we speak. This doesn’t just apply to voiceover work. Imagine you are talking to a client on the phone, delivering an internal presentation at work, or speaking on a difficult topic with your boss. Slowing down and thoughtfully managing your tone of your voice can have a real impact. It may not guarantee you a promotion, but you will quickly start to get noticed.
There are three key tones we can use in our ordinary lives to add colour to our speech. There is the GENTLE tone, like a mother speaking to her child. I would speak in this tone if I needed to deliver a difficult message to someone. Then there is the HARD tone, akin to a headmaster speaking. I would use this if I wanted to reprimad someone for doing a bad job. Finally, there is the SENSUAL tone, such as the voice used in the Black Magic chocolate advert. I use a sensual tone when I am trying to negotiate lower fees with a supplier.
To sound more intelligent, Paul recommended pronouncing each and every letter properly when you speak. Do you know how obtuse you can sound when you don’t articulate your words clearly? People mostly get caught out skipping the T’s and D’s at the end of words. You may need to open your mouth and use your tongue and palatte to facilitate proper pronounciation. Reciting the following poem by Wendy Cope is a great way to practice.
There’s not a Shakespeare sonnet
Or a Beethoven quartet
That’s easier to like than you
Or harder to forget.
You think that sounds extravagant?
I haven’t finished yet —
I like you more than I would like
To have a cigarette.
After attending Paul’s workshop I felt energised and more confident to seek out speaking engagements. With my loud voice I can conquer the world! Fortunately, I am also studying poetry at the moment and I am looking forward to reciting some of my own works at the upcoming George Town Literary Festival. I will definitely use all of Paul’s tips on how to speak with a great voice.
Paul Carr has been living in Singapore for over ten years and he works across both Singapore and Australia. If you are interested to learn more about his methods, or to seek him out for private or group coaching sessions, I recommend you check out the Paul Carr website.