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Tips to Improve Your Voice from an Executive Voice Coach

by Melanie Espeland, Executive Voice Coach of Espeland Enterprises

Melanie Espeland

Introduction.

There is no business leader in the world who does NOT benefit from mastering their speaking skills. Many professionals have come to me over the years asking for help with their voices. The good news is that you can create IMMEDIATE change with the do-it-yourself tips in this guide. Note that some of these exercises may feel awkward at first, and will become second nature through consistent practice.

How do I know if I have a “Good” Speaking Voice?

A potential client may be curious if they have a “good” voice, or even great speaking style.

One of the best ways to determine your skill level is through both quantitative and qualitative feedback from colleagues. How would they rate your effectiveness in 1-on-1 meetings versus group meetings? How would they rate your pacing versus volume? You can start to identify specific building blocks of speaking and situations that are your biggest opportunities.

Additionally, become an objective party by recording your meetings and watching the playback – do you sound like you thought you did in that moment? A client can also be more objective by pulling their ears forward with their palms, so that their ears are perpendicular to their head. The effectiveness is strong in that you will immediately hear a difference in how you sound to yourself versus the world around you.

Lastly, consider your executive presence ability. Do you connect easily with others? Do you develop confidence and influence with any audience through simply talk? Are colleagues glad to see you? Voice is one my six levers of executive presence, and therefore executive presence or gravitas is a strong indicator of vocal ability.

Working with a speech coach.

What will I learn from a speech coach?

I consider myself a speech coach, voice coach, and executive presence coach. I cover multiple voice coaching and speaking skills and customize the approach for my 1-on-1 engagements based upon the needs of business leaders. Some of these skills include:

  • how to talk in a technically sound manner

  • speaking with clarity

  • developing rhythm in your melody and speaking style

  • crafting a message with intention

  • how to build trust and connect with stakeholders

  • presentations with proven results

  • how to develop a sales pitch for your particular clients

  • how to speak to your specific audience and influence

  • how to find the right words for your presentation

  • the ability to present with charisma

  • public speaking and speech creation

  • perfecting body language

  • best practices for video conferences

  • how to communicate power in interviews

  • relevant pitch decks for entrepreneurs that engage

  • brainstorming interesting ideas for engaging storytelling

To learn more about this type of coaching, read my article What is an executive speaking coach?

Speaking - Use an external microphone!

Who is this training for?

This coaching can benefit executives who seek to deliver excellence. I have also helped corporate clients, including an entire team at a company as well as individual employees. Additionally, this coaching can be helpful for students who are early in their career and are interested in course work on presenting, engaging audiences, or how to give excellent speeches.

Tips to Immediately Improve Your Speaking Skills.

Body Language.

Your body must be at ease to communicate confidence and to allow for unrestricted air flow to support your voice. You can use the below warm-up exercises to improve your body language immediately.

  • Roll Down: Drop chin to chest.  Roll in a downward direction through the spine with bent knees.  Roll back up through the spine with your chin tucked until the last moment.  Let the neck and head stay loose and relaxed.  

  • Neck and shoulder roll.

  • Yawn/stretch: wide open jaw, body shaped like an ‘x’.

  • Sigh of relief: releasing your tension. 

  • Relax your body and sway like seaweed.

Pen in Mouth Technique.

The “pen in mouth” tool helps to strengthen your facial articulators and lead to clearer diction and greater projection. Think of this as a “barbell” for your mouth.

  • Place the pen over your tongue and hold in place with your teeth, thus disabling your tongue and jaw from performing the majority of pronunciation effort.

  • Clients can interact with this exercise while they say tongue twisters or simply speaking with the pen in their mouth for a few minutes before an important call or presentation.

Breathing.

A leader can deliver executive presence and speak well through simply breathing training. Think of breath as the fuel to your fire; without air, making sound is not possible. Give intention to these 3 ideas:

  • Breathe slowly

  • Breathe deeply 

  • Breathe with a controlled exhale.

Start by training yourself to breathe with your diaphragm.

  • Sit up with a straight back and relaxed shoulders.

  • Take a breath in through your nose.  At the beginning of your exhale, begin counting out loud from 1 to 10 over and over.  (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 1, 2…)

  • As you start to run out of breath during the exhale, keep counting but do so in a whisper, letting your voice gently trail off.  Try to keep going until your lungs feel completely empty. 

  • Repeat for multiple cycles.

Diction.

If English is not your first language, you may want to practice the length of vowel sound in order to improve your vocal diction or precision. Said differently, the same sound will have different elongation in different words.

  • Mead vs meat vs meander.

  • Drama vs sonata vs Swahili.

  • Audrey vs ought vs audition.

Speech Hygiene.

Good vocal hygiene and upkeep can keep your voice sounding clear and strong.  If you have difficulty talking for long periods of time or soreness, this is particularly important for you. 

  • DO:

    • Get plenty of sleep!

    • Stay hydrated:

      • Breathe in hot steam. 

      • Drink multiple glasses of water a day. 

      • You may be breathing more through your mouth versus nose.  You may also try taping your mouth shut at night to train the body to breathe through the nose.

    • Soothe a sore throat:

      • Gargle with salt water. 

      • Drink ginger lemon tea and potentially add a splash of turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties. 

  • AVOID:

    • If you have acid reflux, experiment with cutting back on acidic foods like coffee and citrus.

    • Avoid smoking in general. 

    • Avoid shouting in general. 

    • Avoid creamy/oily foods such as milk before talking. 

    • Avoid speaking with too much muscle, in particular a very tense neck.  Working on physical warmups shared in this section is helpful as well as visiting a chiropractor or masseuse for an adjustment.

Executive Voice Coaching Case Studies.

Many coaches may not have the relevant experience in voice or speech, so make sure that your coach knows how to deliver with your goals. I’ve coached my clients through 1-on-1 coaching relationships, masterclasses, group coaching, and online courses.

My testimonials in video and written format are available here.

Case Study

How to choose your Executive Voice Coach.

Executive coaches should have gone through at least one coaching program and have experience with executives or an audience similar to your archetype. For example, they may have helped a leader develop a speech; speak well in presentations; develop presence; and/or build public speaking ability.

This coach should convey confidence; have self awareness; understand what it takes to lead in your field; and what typical skills required.

As for me, I am a person who has public speaking experience on major stages such as Tedx, ABC, NBC, and others. I have training in voice and still perform in my free time as a Voice Actor! Additionally, I have Fortune 500 company experience, coaching certifications, and proven success.

How to work with Executive Voice Coach Melanie Espeland.

You can work with me (Melanie Espeland), the Executive Coach of Espeland Enterprises, by scheduling a coaching consultation to learn more about our packages. Or, if you have an urgent issue, or don’t want to wait for a consultation, you can schedule a Power Hour.

Have Questions?

If you have any questions about voice, executive presence, or communication skills, email us at hello@espelandenterprises.com.

Melanie Espeland

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