Voice, Presence and Public Speaking
(Day 16, Speaking Palooza 2019)

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July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.

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Voice, Presence and Public Speaking

By Guest Expert Dr. Elizabeth Carter

In my first book on leadership, I provide tips and tools to help a person become confident and successful in his/her own life in order to have the grounding to then be able to lead others. The beginning of the second section provided this context that may be shocking but true:

    “Age, weight, race, posture, facial expression, hair, dress, and even the way you walk are judged before you ever open your mouth.”

In the remainder of the section, I proceed to discuss elements of presence. One aspect of presence is speaking.

Voice, Presence and Public Speaking

From the book Gaining A.C.C.E.S.S. to Lead Yourself by Dr. Elizabeth A. Carter
Activity 5: Put Your Best Voice Forward

    Best “voice,” not best “foot.” As we morph into being our own “executive,” communication is very important. If we are fortunate to shine on our words alone, then we must make sure our words are clear, concise, and confident. If we are already being judged by our appearance, then our voice will confirm or correct any assumptions made.

    Confidence comes from knowledge and experience, but it does not always translate into effective communication. Many technical people speak with technical jargon incomprehensible to nontechnical people. Introverts have a natural discomfort in speaking in front of groups. Tone and cadence while speaking also impact how our words are received. Born and raised in the suburbs of New York, I knew I talked fast and had to slow down.

    One suggestion and great investment is to join Toastmasters, a communication and leadership organization. Join not because it will help you improve your confidence, tone, cadence, content, grammar, and leadership skills. Join because of everything that will happen to you after you have improved those skills.

    • I am an introvert and now I want to speak to the world.
    • My words have slowed down and the volume of my voice has increased to make sure my message is clearly understood.

    What Toastmasters has also taught me is to listen carefully to others. When I listen to others speak,

    • I am looking for them to grab my attention, and display poise, leadership, and confidence.
    • Those who speak with a lot of “ah’s,” “um’s,” and other filler words do not give me a good sense of confidence. Filler words could be a result of nervousness, preparation, or not being good at speaking extemporaneously, something else taught in Toastmasters.

    As I judge others, I work hard to emulate my own expectations. There are other organizations and private coaches that teach communication and leadership besides Toastmasters. Seek out whatever method works best for you.

If you have ever been a member of Toastmasters, or know someone who has been or still is a member, you have been a benefactor of the program.

Haven’t considered how your voice impacts your message, influence, and relationships? What can you do? First ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have you ever heard yourself speak?
  2. Did your voice surprise you?
  3. Does your voice portray how you want to be perceived?

Once you have answered those questions, here are some specific actions to take:

  1. Record yourself speaking. Have someone listen to it and give you an evaluation of the tone, volume, diction, vocal variety, and overall impression.
  2. Seek out a Toastmasters club. Go to Toastmasters.org and click on “Find a Club” at the top of the page. Volunteer to participate in Table Topics, the impromptu speaking portion of the meeting. Table Topics makes you think on your feet, which is how we interact on a daily basis. Ask for feedback on your 1- to 2-minute speech, and find out how many filler words you used. If you found the meeting interesting and feel that the tools will help you, take the opportunity and join.

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About Dr. Elizabeth Carter

Dr. Elizabeth CarterDr. Elizabeth A. Carter is an insurance professional, performance improvement leader, speaker, and author. She is currently a Director of Finance for Highmark, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. With over 25 years working in corporate settings in a financial discipline, Dr. Carter’s unique combination of financial acumen and knowledge empowerment has provided her the opportunity to lead and develop others in the areas of strategy and financial analysis, performance improvement, and talent development. She is also the CEO and Chief Improvement Officer of AAPPEAL, LLC, a company branded on her four passions of performance, engagement, analytics, and leadership.

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About the author

This post is part of Speaking Palooza. Created by Carma Spence, author of the award-winning, bestselling book Public Speaking Super Powers, it is a month-long event bringing together a wide variety of speaking experts from throughout the English-speaking world to help you overcome the fear of speaking and become a better speaker.

Please see the "About" section above for more information about today's featured expert.