Professional Presence: Finding Your Voice
Jul 11, 2019
Picture yourself in this everyday office scenario:
The staff is gathered for a presentation on a new company initiative.
The presenter passes out their information, and in a monotone fashion proceeds to plod through the slideshow presentation on the topic with seemingly little enthusiasm.
At the end they announce, “We really want everyone to get excited about this.”
Are you excited?
Have you bought into your company's new project?
Given the lackluster presentation, probably not!
Maybe this presenter really is excited about the initiative, but they don't know how to convey that to others... or don't even realize how their demeanor is being perceived by everyone in the room.
And what would the ramifications be if this had been a pitch to a client, or prospective investors?
The non-verbal communication in this situation was the difference between increased morale at the launching of a new project, and just another boring meeting!
The 7 Percent “Rule”
You may be familiar with a “rule” that states communication is only 7% verbal, the other 93% being vocal tones (38%) and facial expression (55%). While the studies from the late 1960s that originated this “rule” have been widely misinterpreted – and the results really only apply to the circumstances of the study – it was still a benchmark in recognizing how we interpret messages based on our physical sound and presence... and other studies still reinforce how nonverbal communication influences how we perceive messages from others.
Take for example, a later study indicating that the combination of many non-verbal cues had over 4 times the effect of simply verbal cues. And a study out of Harvard University published in 2003 showed how tone of voice increased or decreased subjects' perception of politeness in statements and questions.
Even so, science may not always be able to pin down a statistic about our use of nonverbal cues... but the evidence exists in those won or lost clients, daily engagement with customers and co-workers, and surveys of employee satisfaction.
It's What You Say, AND How You Say It
We know the words we choose are important... no one wants irrelevant, illogical information or interactions. But it's not just our words – strictly the information – that influences others, and determines their perception of us. Even when our words are in the right, is that enough to convey our meaning? In the example above, the speaker's overall tone hindered the message of company enthusiasm. No doubt you've experienced either embracing or rejecting projects, ideas, or initiatives because of the way the message was delivered to you.
Dr. Ann Utterback, a vocal coach exclusive to broadcasters, says that the world is looking for “comfortable communicators”: presenters who make you feel like you're the only one with whom they're interacting. In an interview with Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, she describes one aspect of this as 'vocal energy' – “focus and passion for what you're saying.”
So just knowing how to run the slide software isn't enough... the balance of what you're thinking, feeling, and projecting creates the dynamism to win and keep customers, influence investors, and excite and engage those around your on your team.
Ultimately, your vocal presence can either enhance or break down your meaning.
And this presence is made up of many components... some you may feel comfortable with, and others that may need work in order to really find your voice, and allow others to hear your true meaning.
My corporate professional presence training breaks down these components:
Rate of speech
Body posture and gestures
And you may be surprised how factors outside of your physical voice can be used to great effect in magnifying your “voice” and message:
Crafting a powerful story
Knowing when to speak, and when to listen
Adjusting responses to questions for different audiences
We'll be exploring these components of your professional vocal presence in the weeks to come!
My corporate professional presence training engages the issues of vocal presence to increase productivity, create stronger client relationships, and improve clarity of internal and external presentations and processes.
Click here to learn more.
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