6 Brilliant TED Talks to Improve Your Speaking Voice

Sun, 30 Sep 2018 

If you ever wondered, are there any TED talks about our speaking voice? You bet! Here you have a great selection of talks that will inspire you, bring you new ideas and give you ultra practical advice to improve your speaking voice.

Laura Sicola, Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right

Laura’s talk is all about executive presence. She believes that vocal executive presence is the missing link between all the taught skills that leaders know. The disconnection between the choice of words and its execution or delivery, creates a problem of credibility. If you want to be seen like a leader, you have to sound like one. Laura quoted Margaret Thatcher, who in her early career as a politician was known for speaking with a high pitch during heated debates. To become Prime Minister, Thatcher worked with a theater coach to lower her pitch and achieved her goal of becoming a leader.

Laura recommends us to pay attention to the first impressions. When most people introduce themselves, they pronounce their own names with rhythm and intonation patterns that makes others difficult to understand. Laura’s formula is: go up in your first name, make a little pause, and go down as you say your last name.

A leader must be “Prismatic,” recognizing the audience expectations and deciding what part of  her personality to let pass: which “colors” to highlight and how.

Roger Love, Is Your Voice Ruining Your Life?

A talk without slides. Roger Love was born singing. Still a teenager he become so proficient in singing that he had the chance to teach singing lessons to Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), the Jacksons, Earth Wind and Fire, and other stars. Roger found he had the ability to change people’s voices for the better. His key points in this talk are:

1. You voice is the most powerful communication tool you possess

2. There is no difference between singing and speaking

3. All speaking is public speaking

Roger played with the audience, making them exercises throughout the talk. A key reason why even professional speakers and actors lose their voices is because they often breathe through the mouth. Breathe through the nose and you will have no problems.

With a lot of humor, Roger also stresses the importance of speaking with melody. He recommends us to spend more time “walking up the steps” because that makes people happy. In other words, speak in an ascending scale, from lower to higher notes.

Julian Treasure, How to speak so that people want to listen

Julian brings to our attention the problem of why people don’t listen to. He claims the reason is the seven deadly sins of speaking: gossip,  judging, negativity, complaining, excuses, lying and dogmatism (confusion of facts and opinions).

We should avoid these sins and we should instead use “HAIL”, the four cornerstones for a speech to be powerful: honesty, authenticity, integrity and love.

Then Julian presents the tools we all can use to speak so that people want to listen: register, timbre, prosody, pace, pitch and volume.

Towards the end of the talk, Julian asks the audience to stand up and practice the six exercises he does before any talk.

Arthur Samuel Joseph, Empowerment through Voice: Communication Mastery for Leaders

Arthur has worked for more than 50 years coaching effective communication to Oscar winning actors, world champion athletes, broadcasters, and other professionals. He tells all of them in the first lesson: “who teaches us to be ourselves?” In this talk Arthur presents the 7 rituals that will enable to be who you are.

  1. Thank you to source
  2. Love and let go
  3. Allow a slow, silent conscious loving breathe
  4. See the edge and arc of sound
  5. Take my time
  6. Pay attention / deeper listening
  7. Be My Self

Another talk full of exercises and reflections abut our powerful instrument.

Barbara McAfee, Bringing Your Full Voice to Life

Barbara starts the talk with a song. Then she reflects that the words “voice” and “vocation” have the same root in latin: vocare (to call, invoke, or name). The talk explains the five elements framework, which are five distinctive sounds of your voice.

  1. Earth voice. A pessimistic, yawny voice. Authority, grounding. Examples: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Darth Vader.
  2. Fire voice. It shows passion and personal power, good for public speaking. Examples: Martin Luther King Jr., Mick Jagger, Tina Turner.
  3. Water voice. Anything your heart has to say, caring, apology. Examples: Barbra Streisand, Desmond Tutu, Justin Timberlake.
  4. Metal voice. Sharps and it cuts through. Good for amplification. Examples: Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton.
  5. Air voice. Inspiration, storytelling. Examples: Pharrell Williams, Taylor Swift, the Bee Gees.

Barbara says we should use all these voices, each at the right time. To free the voice is to free the person.

Caroline Goyder, The surprising secret to speaking with confidence

This is my favorite. Caroline tells her story of being a voice trainer who hasn’t truly learned about deep diaphragmatic breathing, what it feels, and because of that she often felt stressed.

Her talk is an excellent example of how a unique prop can make your act unforgettable. In her preparation for this talk Caroline recalled a quote by Director Peter Brook that says “We open new drawers in the self.” She brought to the stage a bespoke human-shaped chest of drawers from which she revealed objects that supported her points:

1. The power of practice

2. The importance of the diaphragm

3. Breathe is thought (“we breathe our thoughts”).

Towards the end Caroline asked to the audience “When you enter to a room, how do you know who the most powerful person is (the one with more confidence)?” Nobody guessed. The unexpected answer was: the one who has the most relaxed breathing pattern.

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