The low growl. The vocal fry. The deeper, “Hey, I’m calm, professional, and not overly perky” voice of the virtual communication world is often less than helpful. The non-energetic monotone or quiet voice is tiring to follow and often loses the audience. It’s simply too hard to follow with the other distractions of the virtual platform.
We need our voices heard! Think back to all of your virtual interactions and consider the voices you heard. Isn’t it so much easier to follow a voice that is not only loud enough but also clear and easy to follow?
So what keeps many of us from using our voice fully? Or do we even know what that means or how that feels? Our voices are a bigger part of our identity than we may realize. The virtual platform is unnerving at times, so it’s no wonder we hold back our voices so we don’t overshare ourselves. But, we need your voice! We’ve found it helpful to have folks consciously take note of how much they appreciate it when a voice is easy to hear. The thing is that we don’t often take note of voices that are easy to follow because, precisely that, they are easy to follow and we don’t notice. It’s the voices that are irritating or hard to follow that we notice. So flip that, notice what works and then empower yourself to try it.
Our vocal prowess is essential for virtual communication. Our in-person presence is different from our virtual presence because, in-person, our energy fills the space and adds to our ability to connect with others. The virtual platform needs more physical commitment to our voice than we might think.
We need to infuse our conversations with energy.
Our voices are designed to express an amazing variety of color – you can easily switch up your sound so that people can tell what you mean and how you feel. But we tend to squish out the variation, to flatten our intonation, to not show up too enthusiastic in a business meeting.
What keeps us playing smaller when playing bigger is easier for everyone? We’re not suggesting that we talk over others – we’re suggesting that we bravely step into using our full voices at the risk of showing up fully!
Three things about voice for virtual:
1. Speak with energy
Don’t back off on loudness and intensity just because the virtual platform makes it weird and uncomfortable. Claim your voice. Speak with energy. Risk being energetic.
- Full breath, sit up and speak up.
- You are a leader regardless of your role, and we need to hear you.
- Careful of the low energy vocal fry — so hard to hear and understand. It doesn’t carry well on a digital signal.
2. Slow down
“Slow down” – often an irritating message to be told. We speak quickly for so many reasons, not the least of which is that we feel that we have to get our information out before someone speaks over us.
Speaking quickly in a virtual setting is even more of a detriment than in person. Use thought chunks, instead of full long sentences or phrases. Landing sections makes it much easier to follow.
3. Monotone sucks… the life out of a meeting.
Monotone speaking also wastes time. Make music! Make it easy for folks to follow. The droning, long-held notes in music are often used for meditation and aren’t effective on a long drive to keep you awake. So, on the virtual platform, we don’t want to send our listeners into meditation mode. Instead, use your prosody and vocal variation to jazz up the message.
- One word with prosody carries more information than one word without, which usually needs five more words to clarify it.
- For example, “Yes” (with vocal variation connected to meaning) vs. “Yes, that’s great, for sure” (with no variation, and not connected to meaning).
- Spoken words are begging for inflection and intonation. When you read silently to yourself, is it monotone? Most studies would suggest not. So, let’s share our vocal variety to please our listeners’ ears.
Challenge yourself to be the one on the call that no one has trouble understanding. Use your full voice, energetically shared with the music of the message. Voice on!