How to find your natural voice

Nigel Farage has been in the headlines again. In fact, he has been on the front page thanks to his Brexit opinions and new found belief that we should have a second referendum on the topic.

Perhaps the real significance of this story is that a radio show host, who no longer has anything to do with UK politics, can still make front page headlines with an opinion. This is an illustration of the power Mr Farage wields and an example for all as to the power of having a genuine natural ‘voice’ (and perhaps a unusual level of self-confidence).

Mr Farage likes to conduct political conversation as if he is holding court at the bar of a public house. You may not agree with his views, but there is no disputing that he is very effective at getting them across.

As you can imagine, I observe many speakers during the course of my work; delivering presentations and seminars, giving speeches to a crowd or one on one with the media. Unfortunately far too many of these are lacking in spark, and lack of voice is often a culprit.

Have you found your own voice? It is not as easy as it sounds and there are a number of reasons for this. The main obstacle for many is the lack of confidence to go for it. We are all restrained by our fear of what other people might think, unleashing the inner conservative that reigns us back to a safe and comfortable default.

In this respect, our presentation technique can often become a little like the ‘What I really do’ memes  that hold a looking glass up to the perception v the reality.

Another impediment to finding a natural voice is that often we are in a last minute scramble to collate information for a presentation that may not be repeated. As such, you have half an eye on making sure that information comes across.

As discussed in last week’s blog on the role that storytelling can play, It’s important to remember that facts and figures do not sell a presentation – you do. So here’s a tip. Next time you are setting out to prepare content, take a post-it note and write At the end of my presentation I want my audience to… and work back from there. Once you are at ease with your content, you can start thinking working on your voice.

This brings us to the next frequently asked question. What is my voice? Some people I coach suffer from anxiety regarding the physical nature of how they sound. Controlling your breathing, adjusting pace or making a concerted effort to pause can have a dramatic and positive effect on this.

Aside from the physical aspect, it is personality that distinguishes the best from the mediocre speakers.  Again, Mr Farage has oodles of personality and knows how to croon to win over a crowd (in spite of his latest outfit resembling Doctor Who’s circa 1979). The magic ingredient is authenticity. He is, we are led to believe, being himself and this allows him to get away with a great deal in the process.

While you don’t have to go the whole Farage, let me leave you with this thought. We are all aware of what we do well in conversation or inter-personal interaction – be it being at ease around people, injecting some passion, inspiring others to follow or simply having the comic timing to see and deliver a quip. So identify your personality strength, use it as the foundations, and gradually develop your voice to make the most of it.

Luan de Burgh

January 2018

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.