In today's job market, “Communication Skills” have transcended the ‘soft skills’ category and gone right to number one on every hiring managers list when it comes to securing new talent. For those of us who struggle with communication, this can be a daunting prospect.
Despite our competence to do the job, our ability to excel in the area of communication can be the one things standing between us and the career progression we want.
Meanwhile, those great communicators around us, can make all those high stakes communication situations, from presentations to pitches, sound effortless. It's so easy to simply experience the effects of their charisma that we're often blindsided into assuming that it's simply in their nature; that they were born like that. It's closer to the truth, however, to say that we're all born with this ability, but like many things, we second guess ourselves and lose confidence over time. The good news is that, like any innate skill, we can identify what vocal charisma is, and break down the steps you need to take to refine it.
So what is it about those communicators who make communication look so effortless? How are they able to charm every soul that crosses their path? And what are the secrets to learning one of the most important leadership traits?
Your body language
Let’s start with body language. If you care about what you're saying, then your eyes will light up. Follow this through by opening your body; release your shoulders, look up and stand to your full height. Free up your gestures. Don't cross your arms or pin your elbows to your sides. Try to crack a smile! Not only does this help with the nerves, but gestures tell a physical story that help your audience anchor ideas in their memory. Incorporating gesture will channel your energy and make you appear more connected to what you are saying.
The Way You Say It
The tone, pace and emphasis of your speech all make up the patchwork of your delivery. Lets start with the words themselves. Words are made up of vowels and consonants, and to put it simply, if you get these right, then you are plugging into something we call, word power. That’s right! Words have power.
The Power of Vowels and Consonants
Vowels introduce emotional feeling as your mouth is literally open as you deliver the sounds. So we can think of vowels as holding the soul of the word., Suppress them and you will find it very difficult to share your feelings with your listener. Consonants on the other hand, are about efficiency and respect. They contain the emotion of the vowel, and the vowels and consonants together create a powerful combination.
Next is pausing. Dividing up your thoughts into units of speech, means that you can communicate at the pace of your listener. This is crucial to keeping your listener engaged and making sure they stay with you all the way. If you speak too slow, you are lagging behind them, and if you speak too fast, you are running ahead. So instead, pull out the words and phrases that really matter to you, and decide to get those words into your listeners heads, release their power! Add in some pauses or beats as you go along, and you and your listener will be holding hands all the way.
Finally tone. Add a little bit of vocal colour in each unit (in between each pause or beat) and that will make sure each unit of speech is engaging. We call this a psychological hook, and you can literally hook in the attention of your listener, as simply as a little up and down with your voice. Your listeners won't even know why they are so engaged, but they will be!
What You Say
But what are you driving at? You wouldn’t have people over for dinner without pre-planning your meal. So think of your delivery like this; your meat is the objective(s) you want to achieve, your veg are the values you want to promote, and the seasoning is a light dusting of personal detail. Try to distil the specific things you want to say. Do the words you have chosen promote these exact ideas?
Use simple words with unequivocal definitions. Good meat is best cooked with the least fuss. Then consider your supporting dishes. What are your values? Do you want to show sensitivity? Intelligence? Wit? How about a medley of all three?
Finally, the spice, the seasoning, the dash of panache that is your personality, your story, your sensibility. Here you can express your tastes; let a little emotional pin-drop fall into the conversation to enlist empathy in your listener. Also, think about what food your guest likes? What are their tastes, their priorities?
Having vocal charisma is about achieving mastery over the language so that when we communicate people listen, not because they have to, but because they want to. Harnessing such a valuable skill can open doors, enhance our personal relationships and help us to achieve great success in our lives.
If you have a good think about any time you’ve been persuaded, moved or entertained by someone in a great conversation, no doubt that person put a little effort into the design of that interaction. But if you're ever caught on the fly, and you want to remember all of this in a nutshell, think ACE. Authenticity + Connection = Engagement.
Speaking authentically makes the voice full and resonant, it lights up your face and energises your gestures. The connection is about considering your listener, you need to care about them and think about how to serve them best. Like many skills, these steps take a little practice but once honed, you too can sound effortlessly charming.