(Post by Andrew Thorp)
I was intrigued to hear Andy Murray apologise for his poor speaking voice when receiving the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award last night. It’s interesting (and admirable) that he’s acutely aware of it and he’s no doubt had some media training where the coach is trying to get him to sound more expressive.
If you’re earning the amount of money he is, perhaps it doesn’t matter so much! But one area where it really DOES make a difference is in business – more specifically in sales. Research suggests that as much as 93% of the effectiveness of communication is determined not by the words we say, but the WAY we say them. That includes the vocal tone and the body language.
When someone says they’re “pleased to be here today” but their shoulders are hunched, they’re looking down and their voice is flat you’re inclined to disbelieve the words they say and go with the remaining 93%!
A large part of successful selling is transferring the enthusiasm and belief you have for your product or service to the audience in front of you. It’s sometimes called ‘emotional transportation’ – no good if it doesn’t transfer across the floor. We read a lot into the way people say things. We’re looking for that enthusiasm and passion in their voice. A bit of gesturing and body movement adds impact to the words – it energises our message and helps the audience feel good about what they’re hearing.
Varying the vocal delivery also helps the audience pay attention. We tend to zone out when the voice is monotone; it all begins to sound like background noise and after a while we don’t really notice it’s there. Sound expert Julian Treasure reminds us that human beings respond well to ‘differencing’ – some variety in the delivery ‘keeps us on our toes’. We don’t really know what’s coming next and that makes us more attentive.
I meet a lot of business people who’ve just settled for an unremarkable way of expressing themselves. It’s well within their comfort zone. It won’t upset anyone. There’s minimal risk. But they’re doing themselves and the product/service they represent a massive disservice.
Let yourself go a little. S T R E T C H your vocal delivery until it becomes more natural and less forced. Engage the services of a vocal coach if you’re serious about this.
Enthusiasm infects people but it’s got to show on the outside if it’s going to travel across the floor and help you sell your ideas.
(By the way, I suspect Adidas marketing executives were delighted when Martina Navratilova invited Murray’s coaching team into the shot last night – nice, well-positioned, prominently logo’d T-shirt!)