Voice Your Personal Brand - dummies

By Susan Chritton

If you master your voice, it can be a positive part of your image and brand. Obviously, your voice is a crucial communication tool. The quality of your voice is crucial to the quality of your communications.

Pitch, pace, enunciation, and volume

Some people (as diverse as Vincent Price and Gilbert Gottfried) build an entire career out of a distinct voice. You likely don’t need to base your entire career on your voice, but you do need to consider how you sound:

  • Pitch: Is your pitch very high or very low? While you can’t radically change the voice that you were born with, you can practice changing your pitch. A high-pitched voice can come across as screeching or whining, which usually doesn’t serve you well. If your tone falls outside the normal range, practice changing your pitch. (Sometimes just slowing down your pace can help you lower your pitch.)

  • Pace: Pace is the speed at which you talk. Are you a New York–type fast talker? A southern-style slow-talker? Yes, I’m dealing in stereotypes here, but pace is important if you want to connect with your audience. A perfect pace doesn’t exist; instead, you often need to pick up your pace or slow it down to mesh with your audience.

    In other words, try to mirror (to some extent) the people you’re speaking to and match the pace at which they speak. Don’t exaggerate this effort, or else you’ll end up sounding and feeling foolish, but practice altering your pace slightly in order to connect with your listeners.

  • Enunciation: Are you clear when you speak? Do you enunciate your words? Obviously, it’s important to speak clearly so that people can understand you. I have seen brilliant scientists held back in their careers because no one could understand them when they spoke.

    Poor enunciation is especially problematic when English is a second language. If you’re hard to understand, work with a linguistic coach to learn to more effectively communicate your brilliance.

  • Volume: You want to speak with a moderate volume, neither too softly or too loudly. The volume of your voice, like the radio in your car, needs to be at the right sound level.

    Observe yourself and notice whether people ever comment that you’re speaking too softly or that you could turn it down a notch. If you speak too softy, you can be perceived as weak. If you speak too loudly, you can be perceived as a bully. Have your volume match your brand.

Telephone tips to enhance your brand

In the near future, it’s probable that most phone calls will have a visual/video component, such as Skype. But until that transition occurs, your voice carries the weight of your phone communications.

When you’re speaking on the phone, you need to paint a picture of the missing visual components for your listener. In other words, you need to practice your phone voice. Determine in advance whether your audience responds better to a bubbly, friendly, fast-paced voice or a more serious, reflective, slower paced voice.

And even though you aren’t in the same room with your audience, don’t stifle your facial expressions while you speak. If the other person says something that would prompt you to smile in a face-to-face encounter, go ahead and smile! Do your best to imitate that face-to-face encounter, and your voice will paint the necessary picture.

Having good phone manners can boost your personal brand score. Let your natural enthusiasm come through in your phone voice and try not to sound flat and monotone. If you’re nervous before you make a call, practice what you’re going to say. Be confident and practice good pitch, pace, enunciation, and volume to let your brand ring through.

When a call goes through to voicemail, make sure that you follow the same advice. In addition, leave a clear, understandable message by doing the following:

  • Speaking clearly so that the other person understands what’s said.

  • Speaking at a pace that allows them to write down a message.

  • Saying your name at the beginning and the end of the message.

  • Saying the phone number twice and saying it slowly enough for someone to write it down.