Your Voice: A Liability or An Asset to Your Business Success?

As an entrepreneur or an employee, you know that the average business day is replete with interactions with others. Depending on your role and the particular day, you might find yourself involved in any of the following activities:

  • Initiating or following up on a business matter by telephone
  • Leading a meeting
  • Presenting a formal speech
  • Conducting a training session
  • Acting as a spokesperson to the media
  • Engaging in a one-to-one conference or dialogue
  • Networking or participating in outreach efforts in the community

While some of these interactions may vary in terms of formality and the amount of preparation required on your part, the common denominator is that they each represent an opportunity to make an impression and have an impact on others. The impressions we make are all too often long-lasting ones, and as the saying goes, we don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Having said that, this seems like an opportune time to reflect for a few moments on your events of the past week. As you either thumb through your daily planner or scan through your palm pilot, review the contacts you’ve made and then consider if any of the following issues have come up:

  • You were asked to speak up.
  • You needed to repeat yourself.
  • You were misunderstood in terms of the content of your message.
  • You received incorrect information in response to something you said.
  • Your message was perceived in a way other than how it was intended.
  • You couldn’t get the full attention of your audience.
  • You didn’t get the results or reactions you had anticipated.

These phenomena are actually quite common in the course of the typical business day, but ironically most people describe themselves as having effective communication. If however, one stops to ponder the cause and effect behind these types of concerns, it becomes apparent that there is room for change. When it comes down to improving how one communicates, my approach is to look at specific behaviors and the skills that are required to create change. If we use this tactic with the list stated above it would end up looking like this:

  • Speaking with too rapid a rate of speech
  • Speaking with too low of a volume level
  • Speaking with imprecise articulation
  • Speaking with inadequate intonation
  • Speaking without organizing your thoughts
  • Nonverbal and verbal language are in-consistent with one another
  • You are asked to repeat yourself
  • You are asked to speak up
  • You are misunderstood
  • You can’t hold the listener’s attention
  • You don’t get the reactions you expect
  • You are perceived in a way other than what you intended

As you look even more closely at these speech behaviors and the resultant communication breakdowns that can ensue, the impact on your success as a business professional is actually quite staggering. If you take this same situation and apply it across your company and other employees, the implications are profound.

Since we’re evaluating the impact of the voice on your success in business, it would be an oversight to not consider the importance of also maintaining a healthy voice. It’s quite easy to forget that our voice is a muscle that often gets a rigorous workout as we perform our jobs. But remember that your voice has to last a lifetime and therefore warrants appropriate care and maintenance. This is known as vocal hygiene and some of the best guidance I can offer you is the following:

  • Avoid excessive throat clearing
  • Sip water frequently throughout the day to ensure sufficient hydration
  • Whenever possible, breathe through the nose rather the mouth
  • Use a humidifier during winter months to combat the effect of heat drying out the voice
  • Get adequate sleep and rise 2-3 hours before voice use is required
  • Discontinue smoking and avoid exposure to smoke-filled environments (second hand smoke)
  • Avoid speaking over noise (e.g. planes, loud equipment, and loud parties)
  • Avoid straining the voice at recreational events (e.g. concerts, sporting events)
  • If you get laryngitis or a sore throat, avoid whispering as this causes excess strain
  • Be aware of tension points in the body and avoid speaking through clenched teeth

So what do you think? Is your voice a liability or an asset to your business success? If after reading this article you found yourself identifying with several of the speech behaviors, and your vocal hygiene needs some adjustments, then you may be looking at a liability. Last time I checked, no one can afford a business liability. The solution: seek professional input from a Speech and Language Pathologist or Speech Improvement Specialist and start working on transforming your voice into an asset…. it just might end up being a gold mine!

By: Dale G. Klein, M.A., Corporate Communication & Speech Specialist, © 2008, Profitable Speech, LLC A Sound Investment®. All rights reserved.