The Voice: X, Y, and Z

For a trainer, (for that matter, any speaker) - a good voice is vital.
However -
Is it essential to have a 'nice' voice? - Probably 'No'.
Is it essential to have an interesting voice? - Definitely 'Yes'.

Not all of us will be born with a beautiful, rich and sonorous voice.
However, we can all learn to make our voice more interesting.

Having spent many years as a professional cellist, I am very aware of the importance of sound.
Our voice is our instrument and we need to work hard to keep it interesting.

In fact, a beautiful voice can actually be a disadvantage, if the listener becomes so mesmerised by the beauty of the sound that they start to miss the words, which of course for a trainer is never ideal!

For a bedtime story, a sonorous voice may be wonderful.
However, a trainer's first job is to keep people awake!
And that will be achieved through varying the voice.
And varying the voice is usually a conscious decision.
There is no point in having valuable, stimulating content if everyone has fallen asleep listening to you.

Many is the musician who has to say to a colleague or pupil:
'I know you think you are 'doing' the expression marks, but I can't hear them!'

This is why speakers talk about the 3 'P's:
Pitch, Pace and Power.
I think of them very visually.
(Without wishing to get too mathematical on you,)
I have an image of an X, Y, Z axis graph.

XYZ graph.png

My neutral voice floats nicely in the middle, but if it does no more than that, it will become monotonous and increasingly hard to listen to.
(And we have all heard that flat colourless voice, that lacks variation, that regardless of how interesting the subject matter may be, sends you into a trance.)

So in my graph the Z axis represents 'Pitch'.
My voice can go up and it can go down.
The Y axis represents 'Power'.
I can speak louder and I can speaker quieter.
The X axis represents 'Pace'.
I can slow down and even stop!......And I can speed up and build to a climax.

So when I am standing in front of people I imagine my voice floating next to me.
Is it moving or has it got stuck?
I consciously make sure it is going up, going down; going forward, going backwards; and side to side.

It is important to remember that what may sound interesting and varied in your own head, may not project so well, and the larger the group, or the larger space, the more you need to inject extra variety into your voice.

So the key element of an effective voice
is not necessarily tone and beauty,
it is more likely to be contrast and variety.
And that is a conscious decision.

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here