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Five ways to manage your voice for business success

Posted on from Economist Executive Education Navigator

You've mastered the firm handshake, professional appearance and business cards. But what about your voice? Here are five strategies to becoming a more persuasive and authoritative communicator.

1. Using fewer words imparts confidence.

The number one mistake is using too many words when fewer would do. In communication, short sounds confident.

2. Watch out for 'uptalk'.

Uptalk, or “upward intonation” is the relatively common habit of ending sentences at a higher pitch, which makes statements sound like questions. Uptalking makes us feel more friendly, but it comes across in a business situation as though you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s consensus-seeking. It’s the new un-contentious style. In other words, uptalking prevents you from sounding authoritative. 

3. Take a three-second pause before responding to a question or to something someone has said to you.

That short pause gives you the opportunity to think. You can ask yourself, ‘What is the first thing I want to say, and what are the points I want to make?’ The pause shows that you are thoughtful and considerate. That you’re really considering what you’re about to say. When someone gives us an immediate response, we often don’t have the sense that they fully heard us. Because how could you answer so quickly? Pause, and consider the full message.

4. When giving a presentation, lean into your anxiety to sound more passionate.

There is a difference between feeling nervous and feeling self-conscious. Feeling nervous has its advantages. Nervousness can release adrenaline, which can make you even more passionate. You can use the adrenaline that comes with nervousness to heighten your presentation. Use it to fuel the talk. Think of it as good energy.

5. Don't be afraid of silence

After you have finished your sentence—or presentation—don’t fear silence in the room. Resist the urge to add one more thing. When we don’t hear someone say something back right away, we assume there is something negative about the silence. Don’t ascribe negativity to the silence.

Recognise that some people are thinking and processing in that silence. You need to give them that space. Especially if you’ve presented a new idea. Or if you want a response back from them: they’re planning their response in that silent moment.

Finally, one crucial skill when communicating—whether in a meeting or one-on-one—is to know your audience. Who are you speaking to? Are you speaking to people in a mentoring session where you want to relate to them? Or are you in a meeting with executives who are looking at the bottom line? We’re lucky—we can change our voices based on who we’re talking to: babies or dogs or people who give us our paycheck.

This article originally appeared on The Economist Executive Education Navigator blog

Economist Executive Education Navigator

Economist Executive Education Navigator

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