Monday, August 30, 2010

A simple view of voice in facilitation

A little something different today... I was asked how, in this age of internet (webinars, teleconferences, podcasts, etc.), to use one's voice more effectively in presentation.

Today at work I'm giving a 15 minute 'quick view' on voice for Learning & Development facilitators. Below is the text of my presentation. I know - it should be a podcast :-) ...

Voice & Facilitation

Man cannot learn by voice alone... but if you're on a teleconference, it'll have to do!

A few statistics:
"One study at UCLA indicated that up to 93% of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues. Another study indicated that the impact of a performance was determined 7% by the words used, 38% by voice quality, and 55% by nonverbal communication."

So voice alone isn't ideal. But some days, that's all we've got.

I'm not going to discuss the gaps in using voice alone (the visual cues, the non-verbal message assistance etc.) or how the material needs to be sharp and well-organized (or you can have a voice like hot dark chocolate on caramel rocks and it won't help).

If you really couldn't communicate with voice, radio - from news to talk shows - would never have become popular. Today we've got podcasts and webinars in the aural repertoire.

Why does radio work?
1 - Folks on radio know how to work their voice.
2 - Radio does not mean one-way communication. From call-in to interview, the means of sharing information is as varied as the topics you can cover.

Let's focus first on voice and how you can improve it. Remember, 38% of your impact is voice quality!
* Pitch
* Tone
* Pace
* Clarity/articulation

While I could spend a lesson on each of these items, we've only got 15 minutes today so let's pick some quick hits.

Have you heard a recent recording of how you sound? Like many folks, you probably thought "Oh goodness, what shoddy recording equipment". LOL Nope, that's really you.

Record yourself talking with a friend for approx. 20 minutes (long enough to almost forget you're recording). Try to listen as though it's the voice of a stranger. Is it high? Wavery? Low? Varied?

At very least, you can work on some pitch basics. The most common for women is trending the ends of sentences 'up' even if you're not asking a question.

Tone is the emotional range of your voice. Tone plays an integral role in helping folks understand how they could feel about the information you're sharing. As a facilitator, you should be very deliberate with your tone. On the phone, keep it open and inviting like a conversation between friends instead of lapsing into 'lecture' voice like a professor.

You know how one can 'hear' the smile of the person talking? We know to actually smile if we wish to convey this kind of warmth. Another trick is to actually do the gestures you would make if you were talking face to face. Point, pace, use your hands, nod your head... all this will not only come through in your voice but help you vary your tone and pace.

Simply put, it's speed - or lack thereof. I will probably mostly talk too quickly when I'm excited or passionate about my topic. And yes, it is possible to go too slowly.

But there's one much maligned and overlooked part of speed and that's the pause. You know that asking a question and saying nothing until someone can't stand the silence and answers is a very effective technique. (I've never seen a pause go past a count of 7) You can also deliberately insert pauses to cue a listener that a major point is coming up. (pause) Pauses used deliberately and thoughtfully can help a listener identify new information.

Tie pitch, tone and pace together and just sharpen clarity. That's not simply making sure your lesson is well-organized! That's enunciating clearly and using all facets of your voice to frame segments of your presentation.

As in every new habit to form, pick one thing to change this week. Don't try to change everything overnight.

Remember - you do not have to be "pitch perfect". Your voice has its own quality which reflects your personality and makes you unique and interesting as a presenter. Just make sure you're using your voice deliberately and to its best advantage.

A few easy references:
Clarity and articulation
Patsy Rodenburg - The Right to Speak = best vocal book for any kind of voice work

1 comment:

Maria Lucas said...

Nice and concise. Will try to get working on one technique this week (pause)...or maybe the next 2 weeks. Stumbled into your blog while navigating White Pages. It was an answer from the universe. I've been looking for a way to improve daily conversational speaking. I'll toss out the idea of going for voice lessons. Will also check out that book you suggested.