If you’ve ever sat in a meeting, silent and frustrated while the voices of your louder, though not necessarily better-informed colleagues boom across the room, you’ll sympathise with why people in business get voice coaching.
When Anne-Marie White, a workforce development manager for Hewlett Packard, approached Maynard Leigh Associates, she had two reasons. She wanted to be more vocal in meetings, and told us, "As a woman in a mostly male environment, it was hard to feel you were heard without actually shouting." She also needed to find a way of keeping people engaged on long international phone conferences - a medium that left her expressive body language redundant, and threw all the burden onto her voice.
Anne-Marie was already very articulate, with a strong presence and obvious natural talent. Yet, as Maynard Leigh associate Siobhan Stamp puts it, "her voice seemed quiet and rather thin, and was thus not fully supporting the strength of her message and personality."
We recommended three one-to-one sessions with Anne-Marie, beginning with a detailed vocal analysis. Because everyone’s voice is unique Siobhan looks at all the factors that could be affecting an individual’s expression before she works with them. This can include lifestyle, physical habits and emotions as well as the way someone uses their mouth and vocal chords. Siobhan then took a two-pronged approach. For strengthening the voice, they worked on breathing and relaxation techniques, and to give Anne-Marie more choice about the effect her voice was having on people, they explored the differences that tone, pitch, volume or tempo could make to the message.
As Anne-Marie says, "I never considered how I could change the impact of my voice - by opening my mouth more to create a different sound for instance. Of course, we all use our voices to a communicate all the time, but according to Siobhan, it is often unconsciously; by becoming conscious of how you use your voice, you help it help you to have the effect you want on people."
After the coaching, Anne-Marie gave a speech to her European team with the intention that they could then learn and deliver it themselves. "I thought, 'if they can pick up your example and do it for themselves, you know you are being effective.'"
Of all the effects that working with her voice has had, she sounds most delighted that she achieved this one. Thanks to her inspiring delivery and encouragement of her team to emulate it, they have since disseminated the speech confidently across Europe. A far-reaching effect for three coaching sessions indeed.
And according to Anne-Marie, the coaching has met and sustained her objectives of getting, and staying, more heard at work. "There were times before when I wasn’t heard, and that doesn’t even cross my mind now. I know if there’s a point I want to make, I’ll make it".