The best advice I ever got from my mom when heading out into the real world, was to “just be yourself.” I valued this suggestion because it validated who I was as a person, and encouraged me to be authentic in a world occasionally fraught with disingenuous people.
However, sometimes we need a little help to be our best selves when it comes to how we communicate. What do we do if we speak to fast, or too softly, or mumble when we are nervous, or have a “little girl voice,” when we are in a boardroom full of powerful executives?
Many of my clients come to The Whittaker Group for just such coaching. We work on helping students and professionals sound confident, credible, and effective through a variety of techniques ranging from abdominal breathing and good posture, to vocal variety, adequate voice production and more.
Until now, I have had to create my own materials to reinforce these strategies. I was delighted to find a reference book for my clients that is aligned with my philosophy (and my mom’s) about using your speech and communication skills to release your best and most authentic self to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
Lynda Stuckey, owner of ClearlySpeaking, and an experienced speech-language pathologist and corporate consultant, has just released a wonderful resource called, Voice Branding for Executive Leaders—How to Align your Speech, Language, and Voice Skills with your Professional Goals.
There are several features in the book that I find particularly valuable for my clients.
These include awareness surveys to help clients focus in on how they would like to be perceived by others, and what changes they need to make to their speech, voice and communication to make that happen. Lynda also takes important voice characteristics such as rate, diction, rhythm, and loudness and guides the reader through analyses of what the perceptions of the speaker and his/her reactions on both sides of the spectrum.
For example, someone that speaks very slowly may be perceived as slow thinking or cautious, inciting the listener to want the speaker to hurry up, or complete the speaker’s sentences! On the other hand, if someone speaks too quickly, they might be perceived as intense and impatient, and the listener may feel that the speaker doesn’t have time to speak with them, or may make them feel nervous and edgy. These exercises really help clients dig deeper into the psychological impact that their speech, language and communication has on others, and is a powerful motivator to facilitate change when appropriate.
“I never thought about it that way,” or “I didn’t think it was possible to change the way I sound, “ are some comments I often hear often when we are engaged in these types of conversations.
Another valuable feature of the book is the “Celebrity Corner,” where Lynda provides audio links to examples of the speech characteristics that she is discussing in a particular chapter. Hearing is believing, and these samples truly helps to highlight the impact of certain speech and vocal qualities.
Another unique feature of the book is the inclusion of case studies, where clients can see how real people with similar challenges made positive changes in their own communication. This is empowering for the doubters, who don’t believe such change is possible.
Finally, Lynda explores effective speech, voice, and communication skills that are important to specific industries such as those in the financial field, professional speakers such as teachers, coaches, and clergy, and professional athletes, for example.
I highly recommend Voice Branding for Executive Leaders to anyone seeking a practical guide to enhancing their communication to achieve the results they want in that elusive search for executive presence.