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Voice your authority

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

In a scene from the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap, a rock musician explains ?that his guitar amp goes to 11 to make more noise. Most amps, he says, only ?go to 10.

Turning up the level to 11 (or even 10) can pummel your listeners. But ?when you speak, your volume plays a critical role in determining whether ?people pay attention.

By modulating your voice, you make yourself a more captivating speaker. Whether you address one person in your office or hundreds in an auditorium, the key is to adjust your communication to fit the circumstances, says Stacey Hanke, founder of 1st Impression Consulting in Chicago and co-author of Yes You Can!

Hanke's discussion with Managing People at Work: 

MPAW: How can speakers pick the right volume?

Hanke: If you think of a one to 10 scale with one as inaudible and 10 as yelling, you want to be at a seven in a group of 15 or more and at a four in a one-on-one conversation. Many people speak too softly when facing a large audience.

MPAW: How can you gauge your volume?

Hanke: Tape yourself. That helps increase your awareness of how you sound ?at a one, 10 and everything in between. Or ask a colleague to give you feedback on your voice volume in a meeting. It’s hard for you to know on your own.

MPAW: What’s the biggest mistake that managers make when ?trying to sound authoritative?

Hanke: Busy people need to breathe from the diaphragm, not the upper chest, to strengthen their voice. About 15 years ago, I heard how my voice would crack because I tried to say too much without grabbing a breath for air. I learned to pause and breathe and not combine all my sentences together.

MPAW: How did you learn to do that?

Hanke: I started to speak in short sentences and then breathe between sentences. That led me to use fewer words, get to my point faster and emphasize my key messages better.

MPAW: So pausing is important?

Hanke: Yes, it helps you breathe properly. And by pausing, you buy time to think of what you want to say next while giving others a chance to talk.

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