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Your Voice in Focus Part 3: A new online reality

Apr 16, 2020

‘Champions keep playing until they get it right.’  - Billie Jean King

In Part 1 we talked about keeping your voice healthy.  In Part 2, we discussed getting your mind and body ready so that you convey what you want.  Before you click ‘Join’, ‘Start’, or ‘Play’ let’s have a tech rehearsal and discuss mechanics. 

Setting the stage

Whether or not you will be seen by others online, follow photography’s rule of thirds by raising your monitor so that the camera puts your eyes two-thirds of the way up the screen. This is how you see news anchors framed on TV.  Seeing you straight on symbolizes a relationship of equals, provides a sense of normalcy, encourages you to sit up tall, and that allows you to breathe better and energize your voice more efficiently.  And without the angle upward it’s much more flattering on you!  Too much information has disrupted many a meeting. 

Dress for success

We feel and act differently in pajamas vs. a tuxedo.  If putting on a suit makes you feel more confident and professional then don’t dismiss it as trivial.  Everything helps and we’ll hear it in your tone and energy.

The computer is dead

Video flattens everything, visuals, vocals, and the nuances in communication that are essential to relationships simply because it isn’t alive.  So be prepared to smile more, energize words a lot more, and use more melody. 

When you’re only heard and not seen online, there’s an even bigger spotlight on your voice.  Talking into the abyss causes many people anxiety. Try tacking up a picture of a smiling, happy person or people to focus on. This visual cue acts as a reminder that whatever you say is a conversation and connection between you and another living, breathing human being.  Customer service reps are told to smile on the phone and it will work for you too.  Smiling lifts the soft palate which kicks you up into a higher, lighter resonance and makes you sound more friendly.  And more friendly is more confident. 

Pacing and melody please

A rehearsal with your content, its pacing and timing, is essential.  I’ve heard that when the voice is isolated you have to go a little faster to liven it up.  I think that depends.  If you’re a disc-jockey on a rock station then definitely, but if you’re delivering dense material then I would say not-so-fast.  But to keep a slower pace from becoming boring you’ll probably need to add more melody.  Most of you have probably read a children’s story out loud.  The melody and energized articulation accompanying the adventure in a children’s story can follow you into your presentation material.  The change of content and verbiage will ensure that it won’t be overdone. 

If you tend to rush without visual feedback from others, leave large spaces between points in your notes as a reminder to pause and breathe, and plan out places to ask your audience for feedback or questions.  Remember that if you’re speaking on a topic you are likely sharing information that others don’t know.  Focus on the 1:1 conversation of sharing what you know while allowing the listener plenty of time to absorb the material and have space to formulate their own questions.  Make it about them.

A note about ‘vocal fry’

That creaky quality when the energy is dropped at the ends of words and phrases is distracting when we see the person, highlighted and even more distracting when we don’t.  It’s an easy fix and well worth the effort for your own professionalism and future success.  Contact a voice coach to help you. 

To sum it up

Stay healthy and set up a breathing routine to relax your mind and body.  Rehearse your content.  Sit up and set your monitor so that others see you straight on.  Use appropriate pacing to take care of your listeners, and don’t be afraid to add more melody and articulation for a greater quality of ‘aliveness’.   And as always, have fun and make music. 

Tip for the Day

Kickstart your vocal energy by reading an inspirational speech or children’s story out loud, or sing in the shower.  If there’s increased vocal energy then it doesn’t matter how you got there! 

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