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Recently I was giving a Voice Power speaking skills workshop and a participant who was the director of operations for a small IT company stood up and said that he was currently hiring new people and the problem was that many of the applicants looked really good on paper, however, when he spoke with them in the interview, he could not understand them.

I’m Israeli, he said and I know I have an accent that is why I am in your workshop: to speak even better than I do. Both my CEO and I believe that speech and communication are important business drivers for our company. If my employees cannot be understood, how can they communicate and how can I manage them. I asked if he ever told these applicants that they were not hired was because he couldn’t understand them. The answer was no.

This story beautifully illustrates the first way that your speaking voice stops your career. All your brilliance, and the education and hard work that you put into your chosen profession, can be stopped by not being easily understood by your employer, fellow employees and your clients and customers. May I also say that speaking clearly is not only applicable to foreign speakers, but also to native English speakers.

There are several reasons why this isn’t obvious to the speaker? Many people take their speech for granted, and think of speaking as something that happens automatically, like walking, seeing, or breathing. Often people ask me if it is really possible to change their speaking voice after so many years. The answer is a resounding yes! And furthermore it is relatively easy. You need to identify your speaking problems, become aware of how to change your speech and then practice, practice, and practice the exercises. It takes about 3-4 months of practice preferably with a voice and speech coach to permanently change your speaking voice.

Talking too softly is the second way your speaking voice will stop your career. If an audience can’t hear you easily, they don’t pay attention. And without their attention it is hard to be persuasive and influential in a business meeting, a sales presentation, or while closing a sale.

There are both cultural and personal reasons that people speak too quietly, however in the highly competitive business world you need to be heard, “loud and clear”. Being easily heard sends a message that you are a confident, knowledgeable and persuasive speaker and that is when people pay attention to your message.

Again you may think this is common sense, why isn’t it obvious to the speaker? Because most people just don’t think to tell you about your speech, unless it is your manager in a performance review at work. Many of my clients have been told that they didn’t sound assertive enough to be promoted. Your friends most likely think that is just the way you talk and they don’t want to insult you or they may think that there is nothing that can be done. Many times in voice workshops, someone has told me, “I am shy and that is why I speak softly.

Data Dumping and talking too fast is the third way your speech will stop your career. The name data dumping implies that you are saying all the relevant information on a particular subject as fast as possible with very little regard for your listener and whether or not he/she understands you and your message. When “data dumpers”, stop to check in with the audience, the listeners have missed so much that they don’t know what to ask. A confident, powerful and persuasive speaker speaks at a pace that allows the listener to comprehend the entire message.

How do you know that you have one, two or all three of these problems? The quickest and most accurate way is to have a professional speaking voice analysis. If people ask you to repeat yourself continually that is most often a sign that you have a problem. Finally you can also record yourself giving a presentation or your side of a telephone conversation and have a friend listen and give an opinion as to whether your speech is:

  1. Unclear.
  2. Soft spoken, and/or
  3. Too fast.

Three things you can start doing right away.

  1. Start saying the ends of your words which will slow your speaking rate.
  2. Imagine that your listeners are slightly hard of hearing; which will make you speak louder. You will quickly notice that your listeners will stop asking you to speak up and you will get used to the new level of loudness.
  3. Get an objective analysis from a Speaking Voice Expert If you would like to learn how you can improve you’re speaking voice.

Sandra offers a 25-minute Voice Power Studios foreign accent reduction & speaking skills consultation, or call 877-783-2455.