The Three Key Components of a Powerful Voice
A powerful voice may not be loud at all. When I was in college, I worked as a teacher’s aide for a second-grade teacher. She was a sweet, elegant woman who spoke so softly that if students were talking, I could not hear her. She never raised her voice, and I’m not sure she was even capable of yelling. When she wanted the students’ attention, she just kept speaking quietly until they listened, and, surprisingly, she had the most attentive students in the school.
What, then, is a powerful voice? Can you develop one and if so, how? When I discuss “the voice,” I am referring to both the physical and metaphorical voices. Over the years, it has become clear to me that they are one and the same. The physical voice represents the thoughts and ideas of the speaker just as they are, and where there is a powerful physical voice there is a person speaking with real purpose and passion. On the other hand, a weak physical voice may represent a person who is lost or apathetic. As the great vocal practitioner Herbert Cesari said, “The voice is the voice of the mind”. A powerful voice starts there. Below, I discuss the three key mental and physical components of a powerful voice.
Intention is one of the most critical components of a powerful voice. It’s “the why” of communication. Intention is defined as “the aim that guides your action.” Intention includes purpose or goals but is more– it is what you have in mind to do or bring about and how you plan to get there– why you are standing in front of an audience or conversing and what you want them to do as a result of having heard you. If a person is clear about their intention, they are focused and much of the unnecessary noise of communication fades away. They organize their thoughts more efficiently and get to the point more quickly. Intention usually involves a clear vision as well, providing an opportunity to communicate passionately and bring your authentic voice to the world. Conversely, if your intention is unclear, if it conflicts with your message or even with the reason people think you are there, the power of your voice, both physical and metaphorical, diminishes.
Passion is the power of intention aligned with personal conviction. With personal conviction we are more likely to speak in our own voice, a voice as unique as our fingerprints. The revelatory nature of the human voice is remarkable; the sound of a person’s voice reveals things about their particular experiences and perspective as well as their emotional state, education, family background, and even, in some instances, their vocation– the essence of who you are is in your voice for all to hear. When a speaker is passionate, when their intent aligns with their content and their conviction, spoken in their clear, authentic voice, whether loudly or not, the power is contagious– literally! Their passion lights up our mirror neurons so that we too get excited and energized. This brain connection is real, influential communication – powerful!
While intention and passion are mental states first, the physical voice is just that, and a Strong Vocal Physique produces a vibrantly resonant sound which is powerful by its nature. Resonance is the color or timbre of a voice, the way it reverberates and the way it excites our ears. Just like abs and bi-ceps, voices require care and conditioning to be healthy and robust. Many people spend all day hunched over a computer or slumped in a chair in meetings, preventing them from breathing deeply or utilizing the air they take in. Lack of air in a listless body produces a weak, tight or thin and listless voice. A powerful physical voice is one that connects through the whole body of the speaker, down to the toes and out to the fingertips and then out into the world with good posture and full breaths.
To sum up, a powerful voice is not innate, nor can it be attributed solely to the shape or size of the person, nor how loudly they can talk. If you want to develop one, start with what’s going on in your mind. Do you have a personal vision that inspires and motivates you? Find one. Try some daily vocal exercises. Get physical. Take a chance and get up in front of others when you have something to say. Plan important communication with intention and sit or stand with conviction as you energize your voice and speak. Finally, remember that a powerful voice is one that connects and carries its words to both the hearts and the minds of listeners.
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