Public speaking is incredibly difficult for most of us, but good communicators make a positive lasting impression upon us, even if they only speak for a short time. A look into how communication affects listener’s perception gives us insight into why this happens. Further, we can use this information to communicate effectively, which can directly affect our confidence in the difficult task of public speaking.
There is a large body of scientific evidence supporting the fact that we perceive speakers with a clear voice in a very favorable way. Compared to those with hoarse or scratchy voices, clear voice users tend to be viewed as more attractive, smarter, and more trustworthy. Further, we tend to think that they are more highly educated and of a higher socio-economic class. When all this is considered, it’s easy to see why our voice is such an important part of who we are, and how we see ourselves. Just as important, in English, we use our voice to convey meaning. The volume, tone of voice, and rhythm used affect what a listener hears and understands. All of these cues become even more important when we speak on the telephone in the absence of a face-to-face interaction. It stands to reason that speaking with a clear voice is very important in every interaction we have, both personal and professional; both in person, and on the phone.
Speech and Accent
Just as important to how we view ourselves is our individual way of speaking – our accent. It tells our story, and informs the listener of our nationality and ethnicity. Further, listeners form ideas regarding our education level, socio-economic class and certain personality traits based upon our speech and accent. As with our voice, this can affect how we relate to the listener, and how much they understand the content of our speech. As accent is an intrinsic part of our self-image, it is important to retain the right qualities that fit in with the ideas we have of ourselves, while maximizing our ability to relate to, and be understood by listeners. How much accent is appropriate to use then becomes a very individual idea, and may also change in different situations.
Hints and Tips for Effective Communication
I can generally recommend the following ideas to facilitate effective communication to allow you to make a favorable first impression
- Warm up your voice before important speaking events by saying a few phrases and sentences until you are happy with your voice quality and clarity.
- Conversely, when you have a cold, flu, laryngitis, etc. refrain from using your voice as much as possible. You will find that it will return to your original voice much quicker.
- Practice any presentations or speeches before the event, as you will then be aware of any difficult words or phrases and can adjust your speech accordingly.
- Relax! This is easier said than done, however, stress has a huge impact upon voice and speech. Anything that you do that helps you relax during times of stress will also positively affect your voice and speech.
- If you have any concerns about your voice or speech, you can always seek more information from A Speech Language Pathologist as we are communication specialists. You may also wish to speak to your Doctor or an Otolaryngologist to seek advice.
Alissa Gargano, SLP