Voice & Speech Training for Successful Meetings During Quarantine
First, let’s start by defining what voice and speech training is. Voice and speech training was originally developed for stage actors to achieve the following:
to reduce mental and physical tension which interferes with breathing and speaking while performing; to help actors develop a strong, grounded voice and presence on stage; and finally, to develop stamina of articulatory muscles (lips, tongue, and jaw) for clarity. The need for this training may perhaps seem obvious from the point-of-view of a cast of actors performing Hamlet eight shows a week.
What doesn’t seem obvious is that the same training is essential for business professionals in meetings for several hours a day and anyone in a leadership position. Here’s why . . .
Breathing: Reduce tension and focus your mind
The fastest and most effective way to shed excess tension and focus your thoughts on delivery is to warm up with breathing exercises. I recommend using long deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth. When you breathe out, make the sound of a long, sustained S. Six to eight slow deep breaths 30 minutes before your speech is ideal. While in your meeting, continue to breathe deeply between thoughts and during pauses.
Try to remember excess tension is nothing more than wasted energy. The energy you could be using to articulate your message or persuade and inspire your team is not easily accessed when experiencing mental and physical tension. In voice and speech training, we start with the understanding that humans function as a whole and can only fundamentally change as a whole. In other words, the mental tension and physical tension co-exist together and must be addressed simultaneously. By reducing tension and learning to economize our energy output we can create a stronger presence.
Resonance: Developing your voice
Who doesn’t want to speak with optimum resonance? A fully resonant voice not only projects confidence, it’s easier for your audience to listen to. Being in several meetings a day gets tiring. Particularly if you are in virtual meetings. Think of how you feel when you listen to a stressed or worn out voice. Likely, it causes you to feel tired or stressed yourself. The answer to this problem is two-fold: we must learn to breathe to support our vocal stamina and speak slowly with more pauses.
Articulation: Speaking clearly to be heard and understood
At this stage in my career, I have worked with clients from 37 countries. I have helped my clients raise A, B, and C rounds, sell million-dollar projects and speak to media on camera in high pressure interviews. ESL speakers have a special understanding of the importance of good articulation of language.
However, articulation training is not for ESL speakers alone. Increasing the clarity of your speech with articulation exercises right before a meeting or each morning before work increases the positive impact you have on others. Having taken the time to carefully craft your delivery relaxes your listeners. They do not have to strain to understand you or fear missing out on something you have said. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial this piece is for virtual meetings where the sound quality of the platform itself may be working against you.
As you apply the above exercises and advice, remember these three areas are meant to refuel your energy. The added benefits are the increased power of your presence, a richer vocal quality, and articulate messaging, which enables a more successful meeting for you and your colleagues or team members.