Why vocal tone makes a difference

I was listening to Andy Murray being interviewed on the radio this morning, and my goodness that man can sound boring! I’m sure he’s perfectly good company, but his voice is unbelievably flat and monotone (more so because of the serious tone he was using to speak about the effects of the hurricane in New York City). 

It underlines once again the importance of your key communication tool – your voice – and how influential it is in determining what our audience thinks of us. You can say some great things and deliver information that ought to be useful, but if you don’t intone it well it loses its impact, and we’re less inclined to warm to you. It’s crucial that there’s an alignment between what you say, and how you say it. If you say you’re thrilled to be addressing an audience, but sound like the cat’s just died, no one will believe you! 

But equally important (as highlighted in Julian Treasure’s brilliant TED presentation on listening skills) is that humans are hard-wired to detect ‘differencing’ in sound. If we’re subjected to a continuous noise at a steady pitch for any length of time, it’s not long before we don’t even hear it. But we’re more likely to pay attention to sounds that vary in pitch, strength and rhythm.  

So take your vocal delivery seriously, record your voice and listen back to the way you say things. Work to extend your vocal range, letting yourself go a little, and see how much more enjoyable it is to listen to.

As a footnote, you may ask whether it really matters that Andy Murray’s got a boring voice! After all, he makes a good living playing tennis and just need to grunt occasionally to do that well. But all athletes need 2 careers – he’s unlikely to go much beyond 30 as a singles player (there’s no money in doubles). Look at those who’ve gone on to do well in the media – John McEnroe, John Lloyd, Sue Barker, Annabelle Croft, Boris Becker. They’ve all got nice vocal delivery, allow their personalities to come through and they’re highly sought after commentators.

So look to the future Andy!


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