Voice Coaching Builds a Successful Career

Printed in Better Management Magazine,
By the Management Development Center of Hong Kong
Text by Sandra McKnight

Effective communication and presentations is key to doing business successfully in today’s highly competitive market place. In the business world today, salespeople, managers, VPs and CEOs are expected to be outstanding communicators and presenters. It is the primary way for them to distinguish themselves on the long list of equally qualified competitors.

Content alone does not carry the day. It is the emotional connection you make with people that is critical for persuasion. Presentations are crucial to laying the groundwork for a good mutually productive business relationship.

Let’s think about why some people move more quickly along their chosen career path, successfully influence and motivate others or make more sales. Is there any mystery ingredient in their presentation style? Yes! Voice Coaching! Effective voice training can insure that you make a powerful human connection with your listeners every time you speak.

When you are presenting, negotiating, selling, networking or interviewing, more than half of your communication success rate depends on using your voice and words effectively. That statistic rises when communicating by telephone. Technical and intellectual prowess and creativity combined with a confident voice that persuades, motivates and inspires can make you an outstanding communicator in your chosen field.

Simply stated, perception is everything. The way you sound, look and act is whom people think you are. Everyone is perceived in one-way or another. Voice coaching gives you the power to change or enhance the way you are perceived. With voice training, you have the power to control the impression you create.

Please take a moment to review this simple Executive Speaking Skills Self-Assessment. The following questions are designed to help you decided if you feel your speaking style is working effectively for you.

1. Do you feel that your voice projects power and self-confidence? Yes/No
2. Do you have energy and enthusiasm in your voice? Yes/No
3. Does your voice resonate authority and believability? Yes/No
4. Do you keep 90% of your listener’s attention when you are speaking? Yes/No
5. Do you know how you sound and the effect your voice has on others? Yes/No
6. Does your voice convey your thoughts and emotions accurately? Yes/No
7. Do you speak too fast or too slow? Yes/No
8. Do you speak too loud or too soft and timidly? Yes/No
9. Do you speak in a boring monotone with no excitement and vitality? Yes/No
10. Is your pronunciation clear and easily understood? Yes/No
11. Do you appear preoccupied and nervous sounding? Yes/No
12. Do you use a lot of filler words? Like, so and Un Huh? Yes/No
13. Does your voice engage the hearts, mind and imaginations of the listeners? Yes/No
14. Are you earning the respect and trust of your business colleagues and the public by communicating effectively/ Yes/No

If you find you can use some help in improving your communication, here are a few handy Executive Voice Coaching Secrets that will enhance your speaking style.

• Achieve clarity and credibility by pronouncing all consonants clearly.
• Build audience content retention by speaking between 140-160 words per minute.
• Increase your volume by projecting your voice one foot beyond the listeners.
• Project an energetic/confident voice by breathing in and speaking out on the exhale.
• Create a positive impression by not trailing off at the ends of your sentences.
• Convey your meaning quickly by emphasizing the “power words” in each phrase.
• Use the “Pause” as a replacement for the “Uh-huh” and “ums”.
• Engage your audience by speaking in short phrases that have rhythm and flow.
• Communicate dynamically and expressively by adding colorful adjectives and descriptive phrases that make your ideas come alive in the mind of the listeners.

I am very appreciative of having the opportunity to work with executives in Hong Kong and would like to share two success stories with you.

I first went to Hong Kong because a young, rising Chinese executive, who was working for an American company based in Hong Kong, contacted my website asking for voice training.

“I offer voice coaching by telephone nation wide in the US, and I am happy to teach you in Hong Kong, I said. You realize there is a 14 hour time difference.” “ No problem,” said this determined man who wanted to work with a teacher that had an American accent. “Here in Hong Kong our English teachers are either British or Chinese who have learned English from British teachers, he said. I work in an American company and I need to speak English with more of an American accent in order to be easily and readily understood by my colleagues and to advance, my position within the company. “ He also stated that he was looking for a way to communicate and present that would allow him to work in a western business environment without losing his cultural authenticity.

To me this was an exciting challenge. I told him that my philosophy is that the way you are perceived is who people think you are. Based on their perception of you, people decide whether you are sincere and if they wish to do business with you. Now in any given set of circumstances, the way you choose to use your voice, your body language, your word choice and intentions determines the way they perceive you. It is all about your choices.

He had all the management training, business training, and he was an expert in his chosen field. I felt sure that developing his communication skills would help him reach his career goals. Communicating more clearly required 4 months of voice and diction coaching. He learned how to use consonants effectively, to improve his English grammar, to employ phrasing to put the heavy stress on the correct syllable in a word, to emphasize the power of words in his sentences and to develop an American speech rhythm, to name a few of his new speaking skills.

After he had laid the groundwork, he asked me to come to Hong Kong to help him finish building his speaking style. He introduced my services to a training organization in Hong Kong and I was hired to train in Executive Voice and Speaking Skills.

I was excited to have the opportunity to see him give a live speech and to help him with the next step which was improving his body language. Finally I said, it was time for him to emotionally connect to the audience: to let his energy and excitement for his message draw the audience into his speech.

“This is the how you are going to persuade them to listen and to buy, I said. We all know that one sells the benefits of the product but if you are not showing me how excited you are about the benefits of the product, how can I believe in what you are saying?”

“Let me give you an example of another American executive who had a similar situation – In his speech, he was talking about the benefits of a hypothetical hotel room. He spoke of the rooms’ “pure luxury” and how the bathrooms had glass-enclosed showers designed to make the guests feel special.”

“You are being corporate and safe, I told him. I want you to take risks with your speech.” He tried again….”The room is done in a rich teak wood that is just magnificent. And with a touch of a button you can have an incredibly beautiful view.” “Yes! Now I am interested in you and your hotel,” I said joyfully.

The point of this example is that you are the message. The client can’t become enthusiastic about the hotel room until you make it come alive in their imagination. I know you are interested to know that my client has been successfully promoted to the marketing director within his American company.

Another of my clients from Shanghai is the president of a growing Chinese Company. We met at an international conference where I was speaking on the powerful role the voice training plays in communication. “In the coming year, my bushiness plan calls for me to grow my company by giving numerous speeches to promote our services world wide and I feel that your voice training can help me,” she said.

She sent me a video of some of her past speeches. Most of them were in English or Mandarin and in both languages her speaking style was the same. Her stumbling block was that she expected her audience to listen. She spoke as if the audience was there only to hear the factual information she was giving them and based on that information they would make up their mind.

“Of course they want the facts, I said. However, in order to sell them on your services, you need to connect with them emotionally in some meangful and powerful way. You need to demonstrate through the power of a captivating story and your own passion and enthusiasm for your services that your company is the one they need to hire.” I continued. “You are just talking to the audience and hoping they will listen. You need to project the volume of your voice in every way. Instead of just talking you need to totally engage their mind, hearts and imagination.”

I suggested we use her speech to take the audience on a journey: a journey filled with many exciting, dynamic and relevant examples, anecdotes and statistics. Together we improved her word pronunciation, and she learned to emphasize the “powerful and descriptive” words in each of her thoughts, which in turn allowed her to connect her enthusiasm and energy with her factual content.

She was so pleased with the results of her next speech. “Now people are involved, she said. They are excited about the possibilities I am offering them.” She knew that she was engaging her audiences and that as a result that they trusted her, the head o f the company, to do what she was saying she could do…She experienced the power of her voice to persuade. As a result her company is steadily moving ahead in the world market.

Sandra McKnight is a professional actress and the owner of Voice Power Studios located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA and a leading expert in the Art of Voice and Executive Speaking training. If you find the subject matter interesting would like to master the skills, please send your name, email address and phone number for an update of Sandra’s September workshop in Hong Kong.


Sandra McKnight
Voice Power Studios