Debating: The Vocal Fundamentals
I often enjoy watching and listening to the House of Lords on BBC Parliament where they debate and discuss many different topics such as schools, work experience as well as connecting music and the creative arts.
In fact, a few days ago, Peers (members of the House of Lords) were debating the Schools Bill, day one of the committee stage one, and people had different opinions in a healthy way. Their debate was a great example where every person that spoke, skillfully, carefully and respectfully shared their views, and they did not leave anyone feeling disrespected or overwhelmed.
Debates should always be welcomed as a continual process of discussion and an evolution of ideas and consensus.
As this was happening, I started to think about how people, in all areas of life, can sum up their debating position within a sentence, combined with their facial expressions and delivery.
It inspired me to address and write this article to encourage more people to debate effectively in their workplace and family life, including creative people with different opinions.
As a celebrity vocal coach and vocal advisor for many years, I feel myself getting more involved as a Public Speaking Coach, Executive Vocal Trainer as well as a Politics voice coach which are all centred around communication.
Before I go any further on the vocal fundamentals of debating, let’s read the English Oxford dictionary of these words.
Vocal – spoken (of language) produced using the voice; said rather than written; to the human voice. ‘non-linguistic vocal effects like laughs and sobs’
Fundamentals – serious and very important; affecting the most central and important parts of something
Four main components of debating
- Breathing Support
1. Breathing support
It will anchor you. So always breathe deeply and as normally before you have to give a speech. Whilst you are doing this, take the time to shake the hands of the person you are going to debate with (if it is possible), then smile before you start to speak and try to give direct eye contact with people. In that 5 seconds ‘silent rule’, your audience will begin to feel relaxed too and will subconsciously be ready to listen to you. Without realising it, you will be giving yourself mental support, stability and a sense of security in what you are about to debate.
It is similar to a vocal technique that helps you to be clear, understood and constant with your voice. In a simple way, it will give you a Technical Characterisation of your voice which can be so helpful in many ways. It will help you not to lose and also, not to strain your voice when you think people cannot hear or understand you.
Ensuring that you are speaking with diction
Firstly do not over-analyse your voice and do not speed through your words and sentences. Speak slower and clearer as our nerves will always get us to either speak faster or become more muffled than normal. Realise that any listener, including yourself, needs time to hear you and absorb what you are saying.
In addition, repeating keywords will reinforce what you are saying in a strong and assertive way. This high-quality voice will also begin to highlight your vocabulary as you are telling your story, which in turn will encourage engagement among your listeners.
A good example is listening to someone with a very different accent to yours who is not speeding up their words and is enunciating with clarity – this is very engaging.
What is the difference between diction and pitch? Pitch is more about the changing feel of your voice. Pitch can move up and down; you can go from a high pitch to low or mid-range, and or you can be airy, breathy and so much more. Another word for pitch is tone.
Your pitch, unlike diction, can help to avoid sounding like a robot. I have worked with clients who are brilliant with their vocal technique and diction, but they must also develop their vocal performance, pitch and tone. Otherwise, there is no individual sound that keeps people engaged. Combining the diction and pitch is necessary as they are complementary to each other. As diction develops a Technical characterisation and Pitch helps to establish your own Performance Characterisation.
The human reaction is fascinating, as there is always a reaction time, which can lead to being encouraged or diminished. This will then create possible negative side-effects after a period of time unless we confront what our beliefs are and embrace the fact that winning and losing are both parts of the debate. Over and over again, I have seen this in different talks. I believe that we must be focused on our key points when we are debating. It is our principle that has guided us to this belief.
In some debates, we may win and in others, we may not have the majority support, but the key is understanding we are all human beings with natural chemical reactions in a debate. We have to embrace the debate whether we win or lose.
Finally, as a democratic nation, I want to encourage more people in the Creative Arts to find those open conversations where we can all debate healthily.