When was the last time you listened to a recording of your own voice after giving a presentation?
Presenting aside, have you ever listened to a recording of your own voice?
If you have, how did it make you feel?
If you were your audience, could you listen to you?
Here at Mindful Presenter I have never met anyone who likes the idea of listening to their own voice. Many people say they have never really done it or even thought about it.
The vast majority say quite emphatically, ‘I hate listening to my own voice’. I don’t mind telling you that despite the fact that I’m a public speaking coach and trainer, I also don’t like the sound of my own voice on a recording.
Isn’t it interesting, that many of us don’t give too much thought about imposing our voice on colleagues or clients, yet have no real idea of how we sound to them.
How do we sound?
– Do we speak too fast?
– Is there any flexibility in our pitch, pace, tone or volume?
– If we want our audience to feel excited or inspired, do we sound it vocally?
– Do we say, err, uhm, obviously, like, or so a lot?
– Are we being ourselves or have we adopted the corporate spokesperson voice?
– Is the way we speak congruent with the words we use and the way we feel?
Could you listen to your own voice?
In my experience, it’s not something most of us have given too much thought to.
After all, surely our audience hear exactly what we hear in our own minds, so what’s the point of listening to a recording?
We know exactly what we sound like don’t we, why would an audio recording be any different?
I thought I sounded like Michael Bublé
I like to sing at home.
In the shower, whilst cooking and listening to the radio; you know, that sort of thing.
In my head I’ve long been quite convinced that I sound just like Michael Bublé. My wife and son assure me that I’m mistaken. In fact, they share the same view as an old primary school teacher who caused me a little trauma some 50 years ago when she told me that my singing voice sounded like a bullfrog.
It seems I never quite got over that.
We don’t hear what others hear
I remember reading about this quite some time ago in a short BBC article where the author stated:
‘What makes a recording of our voice sound so different… and awful? It’s because when you speak you hear your own voice in two different ways. Greg Foot explains all.
The first is through vibrating sound waves hitting your ear drum, the way other people hear your voice. The second way is through vibrations inside your skull set off by your vocal chords. Those vibrations travel up through your bony skull and again set the ear drum vibrating. However as they travel through the bone they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. Then when you hear a recording of your voice, it sounds distinctly higher.’
The accompanying video makes it even easier to understand:
I quite like the way Dr Silke Paulmann, a psychologist at the University of Essex, puts it in an article in the Guardian:
“I would speculate that the fact that we sound more high-pitched than what we think we should leads us to cringe as it doesn’t meet our internal expectations; our voice plays a massive role in forming our identity and I guess no one likes to realise that you’re not really who you think you are.”
There are plenty of articles on the internet about the physiological and psychological nature of how and why our own voice sounds different on a recording.
Whilst it’ worth understanding both sides of this, from a public speaking and presenting perspective there’s another important element to consider.
What about our listeners
Understanding the way we sound and the impact our voice has on others, especially when presenting to an audience is worth knowing too.
It isn’t something that only actors or singers should concern themselves with.
In the absence of knowing exactly how we sound through the ears of others, we could be doing them a disservice. In this case, ignorance is not bliss.
When we are speaking in a work context, presenting data, facts and insights it very easy to speak in a way that is more monotone and less engaging than we may like.
At Mindful Presenter we encourage people to invest a little time trying to understand their own voice before sharing it with others.
If we don’t, how will we ever know whether we:
– Speak too fast
– Have vocal energy and contrast in our pitch, pace, tone and volume
– Actually sound the way we want our audience to feel
– Say, err, uhm, obviously, like, or so a lot
– Are speaking authentically
Take some time to listen to a recording of your own voice
When you do so, please don’t try to change your voice.
Your voice is a gift; it is an extremly important and precious part of you. Just be mindful of it’s impact.
Please don’t try to sound like Michael Bublé, the late Steve Jobs, Michelle Obama or whoever your favourite speaker is.
Authenticity is critical, especially in public speaking and presenting.
This isn’t an article about changing your voice, it’s one about understanding it. A key part of mindfullness in the way that we work is having a high level of awareness about what’s helping us and hindering us.
That includes our voice
‘The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.’ Richard Strauss
If you’d like to learn more about how to improve your public speaking voice, take a moment to read these 5 tips.
You may also want to:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
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