Lesson 4 is for Virtual Meetings
The world has changed in the last 2 years and whilst we all hope that 2022 will bring an end to the pandemic, we must face the fact that working from home has increased and is a reality that is here to stay. As a result, audio and video conferencing, virtual meetings, as well as screen-sharing with Zoom, Microsoft teams and Skype lessons are now part of the norm.
Whilst many people enjoy texting and being on facetime and Whatsapp with their friends and family, many of those people will also say privately to me that there is something more difficult in communicating and connecting over a virtual connection, particularly with regards to their work situations. As I have explained, the reason you may feel like this is that you miss the non-verbal cues and intonations in someone’s voice that are part of communication when in virtual meetings, you can also miss the manner that you are able to appreciate when you meet someone in person.
The unfortunate truth is that if we want to make ourselves understood and command the same level of attention as we do in person, we have to work harder over in virtual meetings to make a connection.
The issue with virtual meetings then becomes how to make your voice engaging and captivating when it is so easy for people to zone out once you start speaking. A monotone voice is a proven charisma killer. Studies show that we respond to voices that are more musical, and this desire for vocal interest is only accentuated over virtual meetings where other body cues are minimal.
One of the most common concerns with the voice that I encounter as a coach is how to train it so that the voice “carries through the chat” and allows the speaker to be heard in a meeting with multiple people. An example of being on Zoom, where you can unmute your mic or “raising a digital hand” cuts through the chat so your voice does not have to, but we still have issues virtually in working out how to make our voice engaging and captivating when it is so easy for our colleagues to zone out once we start speaking.
So, how do we do this? In my opinion, it means learning and re-learning our spoken English language so that we can accentuate and place emphasis where necessary. The way to do that is through the basics that we did when we were children.
Focus on Consonants and Vowels.
2 Case studies this week
Case Study 1: Featuring an International Company called XEROX
There were over 70 people on a virtual vocal session and here are feedback quotes from them:
“I was particularly interested in this session as I realized from past experience that how you use your voice impacts the message you’re sending across. I am glad I had the opportunity to get some insight into how to work to achieve better results.”
“Thanks for facilitating the session and thanks to CeCe for a fascinating masterclass. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve taken away some great tips. I appreciate how hard it is to run a class like that virtually, where people generally don’t have their cameras on but CeCe practiced what she preached by using her techniques, which kept me totally engaged…I am sure that others would have felt the same. Well worth the time.”
“CeCe delivered the session brilliantly. It was engaging throughout and her passion really came through. Very inspiring and gave me a boost of confidence in myself that I am an orator!!”
“Very enjoyable due to interaction (I’m glad I was working from home to do it) and CeCe very engaging speaker. Also very relevant I will try to use tips, especially in my virtual meetings”
Case Study 2: Featuring lawyer in Washington DC
“The lawyer’s comment after her Hack Your Voice was that she felt stronger and more powerful as she spoke. A clear and confident sound.”
As you will see, she has a lovely voice and is highly intelligent but coming across in her virtual meetings, her voice sounded timid.
After I did a few exercises with her, her volume increased and she spoke clearly, and with much more confidence, projecting in a manner that cuts through the virtual medium.
Hack 1: Hard vs soft palette
Take your tongue. Put it on the roof of your mouth. Can you feel that it’s all hard and bony? That is the hard palette. Sound bounces off the hard section before exiting your mouth.
Now take your tongue and put at the roof of your mouth again and slide it back. Three-quarters of the way it will not be hard and bony anymore; instead, it will be soft. Can you feel that? Well, that is the soft palette.
Without the proper technique and not knowing when to aim the sound on the hard palette or soft palette, that is when we can lose control of our sound.
In virtual meetings, it is very important to aim the sound onto the hard palette.
Hack 2: Consonants vs Vowels
Learning about consonants and vowels.
Find two different words from each of these consonant letters. For example, B says ‘BEE’ then ‘BAT’.
Consonants can be spoken and sung in a subtle way or in a powerful way according to the word and in the context.
Now as you say the words again in B – pronounce BAT with a hard B, then go harder on the T.
I call this warming up your voice. Keep adjusting it with the different consonants as you are walking around at home privately and be aware of your consonants.
Now experiment with your vowels:
Say A – now say AH
Say E – now say EH
Say I – now say E
Say O – now say OH
Say U – now say 00
In doing this you are “deliberately controlling the sound of your voice” and without realising it you have increased your volume by 5 per cent if your volume has been too quiet in the past. You are hacking your voice to be the most captivating, clear person on your virtual call!!!!
Hack 3: Hissing Sound
On a ‘zzzzz’ sound or ‘ssssss’ sound, you will remind yourself that you have much more control of the flow of the phrase when you speak. And this in turn will remind you NOT to speak in a monotone voice but to speak in a varied voice.
Hack 4: Before you speak in your next virtual meeting, try to remember that we are all different and that is the beauty of being human. If we were all like computers, meetings would be very boring
Hack 5: When you are on your own at home, sit at a computer but be aware of what photos or items are behind you that are shown on screen. Imagine that you are your own house designer or property designer and ensure that what is seen, showcases what you want people to see. It is never about the size of the room or the colour of the room. It is about that small caption story that is on screen.
Hack 6: As you sit at your computer, sit with your shoulders back and ensure that you are not looking down at the person. If you have to buy an inexpensive lectern to raise your eye level, face to face with your audience is important.
Hack 7: Don’t be afraid to use your voice as a powerful sound and don’t be afraid to show emotions you want to convey when you are in a virtual meeting? This shows passion, belief and your special individuality
“She knows how to make the most of someone’s talent” – BBC
“The voice & performance coach to the stars”
“A new breed of vocal coach”
“CeCe’s exercises are wonderful for me because they capture what’s best in my voice and allow me to reach new vocal areas I was always afraid to play with.”
Actor and director Idris Elba worked with CeCe Sammy Lightfoot, calling her a “music impresario” and acclaimed her as a “singing and movement advisor”.