How Can We Use Our Voices to Show Up More Powerfully?
Discover Tracy Goodwin's easy exercise for finding your most confident voice.
Posted Jul 03, 2017
How can we use our voices to show up more powerfully in a room? Voice and public speaking coach Tracy Goodwin, author of Captivate the Room, says the most important thing isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it. Tracy has a wealth of insights into how to connect with your most compelling, authoritative voice. Discover Tracy’s easy exercise for finding your most confident voice, why speaking loudly does not equal speaking with power, and how you can make a vocal change stick. Listen here.
Peter: Welcome to the Bregman Leadership Podcast. I'm Peter Bregman, your host and CEO of Bregman Partners. This podcast is part of my mission to help you get massive traction on the things that matter most. With us today is Tracy Goodwin. Her book is captivate the room with your voice.
It's a niche area that she's focused on that is such an important niche area which is how we use our voice and what our voice says. Not just the content of what we say, but so much of what we communicate everybody by now knows is how we communicate and the authority with which we speak. What the way we speak communicates about what we're trying to say about ourselves.
Tracy is here to talk about that with us. She has a background in acting, in speaking. She has a tremendous number of degrees. Everything from child drama to corporate communications. She is the woman for the job to help all of us figure out how to show up in a way that brings the best of who we are into the room. Tracy, thank you so much for being on the Bregman Leadership Podcast.
Tracy: Oh, I'm so delighted to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
Peter: Let's start with the basic question of why the voice is so important.
Tracy: The voice is the instrument that has the ability to make me feel something. The voice is the orchestra of the heart. It is the instrument or the tool that expresses exactly how we feel. The interesting thing about the voice is there's five vocal variety elements. There's five senses. We use our voice to touch other people's senses which in turn affects their emotions.
That's how we create connection. That's how we get ... Compel people to get action. In my world, the voice is the most powerful tool we have.
Peter: I want to reflect already because I'm attuned to it now having looked at your book and also just heard what you said that you're expressing the idea with subtle voice technique that you're expressing your emotion around. You're expressing the word that came to me was “wonder” as you were describing it. I think already I'm beginning to hear things differently than I would have heard them. Otherwise, you mentioned five elements. Can you describe them?
Tracy: Yes. There are five elements in vocal variety. Pause which is the most powerful tool in the toolbox and the one that most people avoid. There are shades of loud and soft, shades a fast and slow, shades of high and low and elongation. There's five of them. There's really a little bit more than five, but I put it in the group of five and the big problem is because of our psychology of the voice, most people gravitate to one.
When you gravitate to, "I go fast, I go fast, I go fast." Or "I get up here and I stay up here." You're so predictable and you're not touching our emotions, but when you roll in all five, you take us on a journey.
Peter: I'm curious, aside from those five, about the robustness of the voice itself. There are certain people who have a low baritone voice - can we cultivate more authority in the sound of our voice. Am I asking even the right question?
Tracy: I think that it's ultimately about confidence. I think that that confidence comes in controlling the conversation. I think that when we get locked into one thing, one, we are predictable. Every 90 seconds, our brain tells us to check out. When I know where you're going and what you're doing and that 90 seconds kicks in, I got to see what's happening on Facebook.
We want that unpredictability. We want that journey. By stepping beyond that one thing, we are conveying more confidence because when we get stuck in one thing, we're asking for permission and we're being really, really careful. What I hear you saying in your question is, "What do you think about bold choices?" I think bold choices is how we get people fired up.
It doesn't have to be my version of bold choices, I'm a little large. I'm vibrant. This is what I do, but I need your version of bold choices and yet we work in the safe box of, "What are they thinking? I don't know, I'm not sure. I don't want to cross the line." You're never going to get the result you want when you stay in that voice box. No pun intended.
Peter: You're saying something very powerful which is that it's not just about how you breathe or how you lower your voice. You're saying that it has to do with the intention with which we speak or the groundedness from which we speak and that ultimately if I've made a decision and it's a clear decision that that's more important in terms of the authority of my voice that will come through the authority of my voice as opposed to if I'm a little wimpy around my decision, I'm unsure of it or I really want your approval.
Tracy: Oh you better believe it. You better believe it. The minute I start worrying about the words and worrying about what you're thinking, see what happened to my voice, I'm not sure what's going on here. I'm playing it safe, but if I can connect to that message, forget about the words, connect to the message and bring it to life. Trust that.
Okay, I'm going to get past here and trust that I'm going to get quiet here and trust that pause. Just getting people to take a pause sometimes is massive and when they do, they see the power of it, but yeah, trusting the journey, trusting yourself.
Peter: It's actually great for coaches who are listening because as coaches, you're certainly in a position of helping someone show up powerfully, but you're also in a diagnostic position. You can hear through the hesitance of the voice that maybe they haven't totally committed. You could use that data in order to ask them a question that can get them to see that they haven't committed or they're ambivalent and to address that ambivalence. That's very powerful.
Tracy: Oh absolutely. I feel like and I train my people, "You've got to be the tour guide." I don't know what you know even if I'm in your field. Let's say Peter you and I went to the same school, we're in the same field, I don't know what you know. I didn't walk your path. I didn't have your journey. You have to be my tour guide, you have to let me know with your voice what you feel and what I should feel and when that happens, there's a connection, then you compel me to take action and you've got me. I'm a fan.
Peter: It's not what you're saying, but it's how you say it that generates feeling.
Tracy: Absolutely. I think that's the biggest mistake I see people make is they give all the power to the words. I have a saying the words are everything and they are nothing. It's how you bring them to life that changes me.
Peter: Is there a way of conveying voice in writing that does the same thing?
Tracy: That's a great question. It's certainly not ... I'm certainly not a writer and I would never say that's my expertise, but I can tell you about a couple of experiences that I have had where people have sent me their material to look at and I read it and what I felt was the same thing that I hear. I don't understand how important you are, it's your about page.
I don't feel your importance. Can you go back in and toot your own horn and your words a bit or an energy healer friend of mine, she sent me some material and I read it and I said, "I need more additives. I need more additives because I get it and I like it and it's good, but I need you to get me fired up, put in those words." It is the same.
Peter: Give us some hints now. How could we improve our voice? One of the things that you've already said is get grounded in what you're trying to say, what emotion you're trying to convey in people, how you feel about something before you speak. What other advice could you give us to improve our voice?
Tracy: First of all and yeah, grounding is huge. Connecting to that message, getting in your body because when you are up in your head thinking about those words, your voice and your body cannot work. You're disconnected and that's where ... People come to me, they say, "I'm not captivating. I have no confidence." They're focused on the words every time. That's major.
Peter: Sorry to interrupt. When you tell people to ground, how would they do that for people who don't know how to ground?
Tracy: Well, I'll give you the best, one of the very best ways I teach it and it's going to sound absolutely crazy, but you got to trust me on this it works. You sit on a hard chair, feet on the ground, hands, palms down, sit right ... Sit on your hands, palms down and speak out loud for two or three minutes. That forces your sound straight out of the pipeline.
See, because the voice is the most vulnerable tool we have, it's trying to go out the jaw, it's trying to go out the hands it's trying to go out the nose, but when you sit on your hands, it's like those rings. You have children, you stack those rings on the stick. It's like stacking those rings on the stick.
You sit there on your hands for three minutes in a hard chair, you're putting everything together and your sound will flow out and you will connect into your body. Taking in a breath is another way. I don't believe. I think it's really a slippery slope to say just remember to breathe. You're not going to because you've laid into your muscle memory.
We're in brace mode. Hold our breath, not let it out. Maybe we're going to breathe, but we're not going to let it out connecting to the breath, but if you can start with some fuel, if you can start with a breath, ground it, sit on your hands, talk out loud. Your sound is going to flow out of your pipeline. It's got to flow to me for me to connect with it. All right, that's one of the major ways I teach this.
Peter: Does it matter if you breathe through your nose or through your mouth?
Tracy: They call me a little unorthodox Peter. I believe what works for you works.
Tracy: I've always felt that about everything. We find your solution.
Peter: Great. What's next? We're grounded. What else can you give us?
Tracy: Okay, speed is not your friend. I hear from so many people that they go fast because they're afraid they're going to lose their audience. You're doing something that's never going to get you the result that you want because and I go back to. I don't know what you know. If you start hurrying up, you're trying to think about the words, you see me looking at my phone, you're dozing off.
No, I'm gone, I'm out. I don't know what you're even talking about. That 90 seconds kicked in, you're blazing along. I got to see what's happening on Facebook. Speed is not your friend. The goal is to calibrate that speed at what I call a five on a scale of one to ten. Ten is an auctioneer, one, you're asleep, you got to go at a five.
You can give me pops a fast and you can give pops a slow, but your core has to be a five. Going fast is not solving your problem. You got to calibrate that five.
Peter: I guess you're probably very intentional about where to be a ten, where to be a one and where to be a five. Five would be normal. What kinds of situations might we want to pop up and what kinds of situations might we want to slow down?
Tracy: I'm getting really excited. I am getting really excited. I want to speed up a little and I might role in a little loud there. Loud is what everybody ... Everybody goes to loud. I think we must have learned that in third grade or something. Be loud, be loud. No, loud is the weakest tool in the toolbox. I get excited or I really, really want to make a point. People go fast with anger. No, no, no, you want to get some power, you slow down. I need you to understand how I feel.
We get to more intense moments, we get to more feeling moments, we get to more power moments when I slow down and that's where it gets really fun Peter. You have these five elements and you start regulating them and you start controlling the conversation, not the outcome.
Peter: It's great. Give us another tip.
Tracy: All right, let's see. I think one of the trickiest ones, but one of the most important and powerful ones is melody because melody is where the trust is built and we fear melody. Melody is scary. Melody, that's I think one of the reasons that we jump into that I got to keep it all under control. We got to keep it ... Really say ... If I got to ... Don't let anybody ... They're not trusting you, they're not going to learn from you, buy from you, following you et cetera. I think it becomes important that we start playing around with melody. The best way to do that is for me to say, "Start being yourself because in life you do it."
Peter: Help me understand melody. I understand it in a song, but I don't understand it in speech.
Tracy: You see, I just went up and now I'm back down. I want to tell you something. Did you hear how I went up and down?
Peter: Maybe this is a blind spot for me around melody. Melody is when it’s pitch or it's not pitch?
Tracy: It is. It is. It's pitch. It's the ups and downs. It's the highs and lows. It's the roller coaster. I need you to see this. I want you to know how I feel. I really like where you're going with this question. I honestly think that pitch is ... I personally in my experience think that pitch gets tricky for men and I have a theory why.
Tracy: Because of what I teach, I believe in what I call psychology of the voice that our experiences in life starting from childhood lay in our voice and to our muscle memory and every bad experience, every negative shut up, be quiet you're no good, that shapes our voice. I think because men go through that voice change and they had that the girl laughed, the boys laughed.
They had this one ding and that went into that subconscious mind and laid in, "We got to be careful. We got to be careful here."
Peter: Men become more monotone in order to avoid the melody. But melody is so effective because it makes speaking and listening more interesting and also accentuates a variety of points.
Tracy: Yes. Women have an albatross with pitch as well because they get stuck up here. A lot of women do. They get stuck up here so they can't utilize the lower. I think it's one of the most fragile ones, but I think it's really important and I think that the best way in a short podcast to tell the listeners to work on it is about being yourself because the closer you get to letting me in, because you use more pitch in real life than you do when you make a business presentation.
Peter: Now, if you can crack this one, I'll be very impressed, but saying to someone be yourself and actually them being themselves is very difficult and I think the gap has to do with stress, it has to do with the situation. In fact, the more types of situations you say to someone just be yourself, those are the kinds of situations where they would find it most difficult to be themselves.
What tips can you give people that could help them in those moments when they are least likely to be themselves to increase the probability that they will actually be themselves?
Tracy: Yeah, that's a great wonderful rubber band ball question. I think a lot of it has to do with some inner work. I think just based on the people that I have worked with, what I have seen with them as they are exceptionally bogged down, we as a society are exceptionally bogged down with what other people think and I think that that plays a big part in, "I can't be myself because what if they don't like me." I think you have to answer the question. I'll never forget, I'll never forget the time I said to someone, "What are they going to think about me."
She looked at me and she said they're not. They're thinking about themselves and that cracked open a whole can of freedom for me because I had been ... I was raised in a family where I wasn't allowed to speak. The irony that I'm a voice coach right? All of a sudden it was like, "Oh my gosh, everybody is not obsessively thinking about whether I'm doing a good job or not." I think we have to wrap our minds around something that resonates with us that gives us the freedom to say the people that are going to like me are going to like me and the people that don't aren't and that's okay.
Peter: I can imagine in sales for example, you always care what the other person thinks because what the other person thinks makes the difference between whether you're going to be able to accomplish the sale or not. On the other hand, being too concerned about what the other person thinks is probably the thing that will counteract the sale, will be counter productive in sale.
In effect, you have to not need that sale in such a way where you could be yourself which means that the rest of your life has to be in order so that if you don't get the things that you want, you still know that you're okay and the rest of your life will be OK. Ultimately you may need to be able to give up things in order to be able to show up and not care too much or not shift your behavior in order to get somebody to think about you in a certain way.
Tracy: I love that so so much and I cannot wait to hear this podcast. I'm going to replay that over and over because that's it exactly and that's what I was talking about earlier. We have to give up the outcome. We have to play the journey because if I start focusing on, "I got to have this sale. I'm going to use your sales."
I got a habit you're going to hear the desperation in my voice. I call that voice barriers that's going to push you away. I'm going to start implementing vocally what I think is going to get me the result that I want that is never going to get me the result that I want, but if I let you connect with me, if I let you in ... I'm not saying, "I don't care about your sale. Who cares? I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying, "Let us in. That is what bold choices and vulnerability is all about."
Peter: You've had a little bit of time to get to know me at least on this podcast and I know that you've looked at some of my work because you mentioned that you've seen some of my speeches. I would love for your unadulterated feedback. What do you see that works and what do you see that I could do better in my voice from your experience?
Tracy: Great and I do love your work and that's one of the things that I love about your work is I'm taking Scorsese to a movie. I'm a stickler] on voices because I need to ... I want to be affected emotionally and that's one of the things that I have enjoyed so much about your work especially your videos which is really an albatross for many, many people and I don't believe in bad voice. I believe in voices and I believe in amazing voices and you're tough. You're tough.
You are putting me on the spot only because I'm ... There's not a lot of obvious things. I will say this you. I want to ask you a question first. Do you feel like your sound is stuck in the back of your throat sometimes?
Peter: I do.
Tracy: Yeah, okay. That's the main thing I hear. What has happened is something along the way in your life has and this is very, very common and people don't even realize it and it's a ding that came in and your subconscious mind said, "Hold up, hold up. We got this. We're going to lock this sound down a little bit." You're having to work a little harder than I want you have to work to let that sound out so literally, it becomes about tapping into a different layer of muscle memory.
It's like your pipeline has a little bit of a clog in it. It's very, very slight and the audience is going to be like, "What is she talking about? I don't hear that. Peter is great." You are great. You are so great. This is such a subtle thing.
Peter: I hear it and I feel it. How do we solve for it?
Tracy: You want me to ...
Peter: Yeah. Fix me.
Tracy: Okay. I'm going to fix it. Okay, I'm going to spell a word for you. Where are you from? Are you from New York originally?
Peter: I'm from New York originally.
Tracy: Yeah. Okay. Sometimes region has to do with it as well. I want you to say a word for me. I'm going to spell it because I don't want you to say ... I don't want you to mimic me in any way. It's spelled C-O-O-L.
Tracy: Okay, say it again.
Tracy: Alright, you feel that in the back of your throat?
Tracy: Alright, now we're going to do something silly. You're going to bring your mouth really far forward, almost like you're puckering up to kiss someone. There you go. Now say it again. Say it three times in a row.
Peter: Cool. Cool. Cool.
Tracy: One more time.
Tracy: Now say it normal.
Peter: Cool. Totally different.
Tracy: Totally different.
Peter: It feels different to me.
Tracy: Yeah, it sounded totally different. It should have, it felt like probably it was flowing out a bit easier.
Tracy: Which is great. I've got these people that come, they speak six to eight hours a day and ragging their throats out. It's because they're having to drag their sound out. Literally all I did was I just propped your pipeline out a little bit. It wasn't bad. We tapped in to a different layer of muscle memory that the pipeline had forgotten.
Peter: That's very cool.
Tracy: Isn't that cool?
Peter: How do I integrate that into my everyday speaking?
Tracy: Okay. The way muscle memory works is we got to lay it in, we got to get it set and then you make it your own. Now literally, this can happen in a months' time. What we do is I give you some words and I'll send you some words and you're going to repeat those every morning. You're going to repeat those words every morning for about two rounds. You're laying it in.
It's like gym for the face. Alright? You're doing your exercise, you're doing your exercise, but it's not warm ups. We're laying in a new layer of muscle memory because you're tapping into a layer that's not serving you as best as it could. You're going to get this list of words. It sounds like cool, fool, things like that.
You're going to practice them every morning for four minutes and then it's going to start integrating itself.
Peter: Is it only operative for words like cool or does it end up affecting all of my speaking?
Tracy: It will affect all of your speaking because what I'm doing is I'm using that set of words to pull that sound out at the back of your throat.
Peter: I have to say it actually already feels to me as I'm speaking that there's a difference.
Tracy: Yeah, because what I've done is I've tapped into the middle muscles of your face that were a bit weak. The lower part of your face was holding your sound in, it was holding it in. I just propped that pipeline up. It really, it's not even about what words are we using, it's about what muscles I wanted to tap into to get that sound flowing out.
You practice that for literally my people can get their sound unstock in about two weeks.
Peter: That's fantastic.
Tracy: Yeah, it's really cool. Some people, it's the jaw. Some people it's a nasality. I could just hear it in the back of your throat. Once you free that, what I love about you is I've heard you do an amazing job with vocal variety which is my thing and I've heard you do a great job with that. That sound being stuck a little bit is inhibiting the maximum variety that I hear inside of you. I hear glimpses which is great when that sound is unstuck. Oh my gosh ... Going to the next level is what it's about is.
Peter: It's about flowing. You unclog your voice in a way that it more freely and completely conveys what it is that you're trying to express and that ultimately is they key to using your voice. I'm so delighted to have had you on the podcast Tracy. Captivate the Room with your Voice is her most recent book. We will show you how to link up with her in the show notes. Tracy Goodwin, thank you so much for being on the Bregman Leadership Podcast.
Tracy: Thank you so much for having me. I've really enjoyed being here.
Peter: I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Bregman Leadership Podcast. If you did, it would really help us if you subscribe on iTunes and leave a review. A common problem that I see in companies is a lot of busyness, a lot of hard work that fails to move the organization as a whole forward. That's the problem that we solve with our big arrow process. For more information about that or to access all of my articles, videos and podcasts, visit peterbregman.com. Thank you Clare Marshall for producing this episode and thank you for listening.