Use Your Voice to Your Advantage

By: Kristin Clarke

Change your voice to change your image.

Your voice is too high, breathy, nasally, or monotone. As dialect and vocal coach to business execs and celebrities, Vivian Majkowski has heard it all—firsthand.

"You really can change your voice permanently," says Majkowski, professor of voice and speech at Savannah College of Art and Design. "But the process is an individual one."

Majkowski, who led a Master Class session at ASAE's Annual Meeting & Exposition in August, notes that the most common vocal challenge of professionals is "supporting your voice properly. … We're all born using correct vocal support, but it's just through physical habits, mainly poor posture, that we acquire habits that take us away from the natural support."

Our strong fight-or-flight instinct doesn't help, either, since we immediately tense up our muscles and hold our breath. Here's how to battle back:

Develop self-awareness. "Until you can see a habit, feel it, and understand where it kinesthetically lives within you, you cannot ask for something else to take place," she says.

Hum. It's one of the best warm-up exercises before public speaking.

Commit to breathe. "When we stop breathing, it takes away our presence, our ability to communicate, and keeps us from listening actively," she says. Inhale through a slightly open, relaxed dropped jaw. This increases your oxygen load and calms your body.

Stop sucking in your belly. "If you do, you're actually making sure your vocal support can't engage, because muscles can only do one thing at a time," says Majkowski.

Pause if your voice gets shaky. "Take a sip of water and a nice wide, deep breath. If you're standing, make sure your knees are unlocked, then start speaking again."

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: [email protected]

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[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Best Voice Forward."]

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE.