by Kyra Kudick

Most people do not enjoy listening to a recording of their own voice, but doing so can be useful for understanding how your audience hears your message — whether your audience is a single caller to your voicemail, a conference room of colleagues, or an auditorium of conference attendees.

You might look the part, and your message might be exactly on point, but if you don’t sound like a confident professional, your message will be misunderstood or ignored.

So, the next time you are preparing for a presentation, or maybe just headed out of town on vacation and setting up your out-of-office message, take the time to listen to a recording of your own voice and consider it from the perspective of how others hear you.

Listen for the following:

Tone of voice

What emotion does your tone of voice project? A tone that is too soft might convey doubt or sadness, even when you intend to sound supportive or thoughtful. Speaking loudly, with sharper tones, might convey an aggressive message, even if you’re just excited.

Sarcasm is very difficult to properly convey to a mixed audience, and comedy requires excellent timing, so make sure your tone projects the mood you are intending to set.

Voice inflection

Inflection, or the modulation of pitch and speaking pattern, is very useful to emphasize key points when speaking and can change the entire meaning of a sentence. For example, failing to use inflection can result in a monotonous voice and can project boredom or disinterest.

Some people use a questioning tone at the end of all their sentences. That suggests they lack confidence in what they are saying. Is your inflection enhancing or hindering your message?

Volume

Voice projection and volume are not the same thing. You want to be loud enough that people can hear you clearly but not so loud that you appear to be shouting every word.

Modulate your voice to match those around you and the space you are in (e.g., small rooms or telephone conversations do not typically require a lot of projection).

Pace

How fast do you speak, and is your speed appropriate to your audience? People often rush their speech when they are excited or nervous, which can garble articulation and make them difficult to understand.

If you have an accent or you are explaining complicated concepts to an inexperienced audience, fast speech can further complicate comprehension.

Breathing and phrasing

Related to pace are patterns of breathing and swallowing while speaking. People who speak quickly and seem to be struggling for air always sound nervous or excited.

Professional singers plan where they will take a breath between phrases to give the appearance of natural, relaxed breathing. You can do the same for speaking.

Kyra Kudick is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates. J. J. Keller is a leader in the regulatory compliance field, helping more than 300,000 customers work to ensure their businesses are in compliance with applicable government statutes and regulations in health and safety, employment law, the environment, etc. Kudick holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

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