You work hard at growing your business every day. You’ve got the skills, experience and savvy you need to make it. But did you know that your speaking voice could be holding you back?
Of course, a speaking voice that’s outright unpleasant hurts any businessperson, male or female. But some of the normal characteristics of women’s voices can be perceived as annoying, weak or childish by other businesspeople–especially men. If your speaking voice is very high, too soft or tends to get shrill or squeaky, you may be seen as childlike and less powerful than other businesspeople in a conversation, negotiation or other interaction.
If you think your speaking voice might be a problem in business, here are some steps to take:
- Record yourself speaking and listen to the recording. Ask friends and family for honest feedback, too.
- Don’t try to force it. Lowering your voice to a growl or making other changes that don’t feel natural will hurt more than they help. The point is to make the most of your voice, not to smother it.
- Breathe deeply. Thin or soft voices can be strengthened by remembering to breathe deeply. Pause between statements to take breaths.
- Project properly. If you tend to mumble or mutter, be sure you’re opening your mouth wide enough to project your words. This will feel unnatural, so practice in front of a mirror.
- Get professional help. If your problem is serious enough or your business requires lots of speaking, working with a voice coach may be helpful and well worth the cost. (Plus, you may not need as many sessions as you think.)
- Get support. Joining an organization such as Toastmasters gives you an opportunity to practice public speaking and get feedback from a supportive audience. You can tell the other members that you want to focus on the quality of your voice.
- Exude confidence. If you tend to make the ends of your sentences rise in pitch as if they’re asking a question, nip this in the bud. It makes you sound tentative and youthful (that’s why so many teenagers do it!).
- Watch the fillers. Um, er, ah, well...conversational “fillers” like these are annoying and dilute your authority. If you need to pause, pause, but don’t feel a need to fill the moment.
- Practice, practice, practice. Small steps daily lead to big changes over time. Put in 10 or 15 minutes a day practicing on improving your voice, and you’ll be speaking more confidently before you know it.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.