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Sound Your Best in Virtual Trainings

By Susan Berkley / December 2009

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I remember the first time I heard my own voice in a recording.

I was shocked and hated it.

It sounded thin and immature, like a high school girl's voice.

Only a small percentage of the trainers I work with say they like the sound of their speaking voice. The rest secretly dread having to teach disembodied, voice-intensive webinars, an essential element today for any trainer. They long for the good old days of classroom training where gestures, body language, whiteboards, and slides, to round out one's communication.

In a webinars or phone-based training session, the focus is on the trainer's voice, with only sparse visual material compared to what you would get in person. In this environment, vocal imperfections jump out and call attention to themselves.

Maybe you know you could sound better but you figure it's all about the content anyway so you don't give it too much thought.

No matter what you think, that voice of yours is vital to your success in e-learning training online and off. So why not learn how to maximize it?

A Book and Its Cover
Like it or not, people judge us by the way we speak. Within seconds, they unconsciously form impressions about your credibility, professionalism, and level of education They may even make decisions based on the sound of your voice that could seriously impact your career.

If your voice is soft and you can't be heard, you may mistakenly be perceived as weak or ineffective. If you've received feedback that you speak in a monotone, you might be boring people and putting them to sleep. If your voice is too high for your age or if you sound tense or shy, you may lack credibility. And you'll be perceived as less than credible if you use too many non words, or "verbal viruses," as I like to call them. If you mumble or speak with a non-native accent, you may lose your audience because they can't understand you.

But of all these vocal elements, tone of voice is perhaps the most important.

The wrong tone of voice can mistakenly offend a listener or worse.

Harvard researcher Nalani Ambady recorded surgeons speaking to their patients. She content- filtered the speech so that the voices could be heard but the words could not. The research subjects couldn't tell from the recordings whether the doctors were male or female, nor did they know what the surgeons were saying to their patients. After listening to the voices, the subjects were asked to rate the doctors on warmth, anxiousness, and dominance. To her surprise, Ambadi found that the voices that were rated as most dominant belonged to the doctors who were most commonly sued for malpractice!

The good news is that you are not stuck with your speaking voice. No matter what voice you were born with, it can easily be improved. But before I give you some suggestions for doing so, let me bust the two greatest myths about the speaking voice.

Myth No. 1
First, there is no such thing as a perfect voice. Your voice is your instrument and as such is neutral. You can learn to play it with mastery or ignore its incredible potential for influence. It may surprise you to learn that this ability to influence doesn't come from speaking flawlessly but by allowing your voice to express your unique -personality, your sense of humor, your passion for your subject, and most importantly, your affection for the audience.

Myth No. 2
Second, to have a great sounding voice, you do not need to sound like James Earl Jones or the female equivalent. In the voice-over business we call that "the voice of god" (or godess). The truth is, all voices can be beautiful if properly played.

Sounding your best doesn't mean you have to have to give yourself a total makeover. It merely means that vocally speaking, you need to be an enhanced version of yourself and that you should emphasize the qualities of transparency, focus, clarity, warmth and enthusiasm.

Transparency means there are minimal sticking points or distractions when we listen to you speak. We pay attention to the message, not the messenger. Some common sticking points are excessive verbal viruses or non-words; mumbling; speaking too fast; or speaking too softly.

Focus means speaking from the facial mask, your vocal sweet spot where your voice sounds the best. The mask is an inverted triangular area that stretches from the two sinuses down to the larynx. When you speak from the mask your voice resonates evenly in the sinuses, nose, mouth and throat. It sounds strong and beautiful and you are able to speak without strain. To focus your voice in the facial mask, or M-spot as I call it, hum until you feel a buzz in your lips and nose. Humming puts your voice in the mask. Here's a tip. To find your mask during your working day, use the verbal nod mm-hmm as you listen to people speak.

Clarity means your words are easily understood. Common impediments to clarity include mumbling or poor articulation, speaking too quickly, or a strong regional or foreign accent. If you speak too quickly, slow down by expanding the white space between your words rather than trying to say the words themselves more slowly. Focus on articulating your consonants. Consonants help you be more clearly understood.

Warmth means you can warm your voice up almost instantly by smiling when you speak. Your facial expression makes a big difference in the sound of your voice.

Enthusiasm means if you don't sound like you're excited about your subject matter no one else will get excited about it either. But here's the key: If you're feeling like your energy level is low, take a tip from actors and broadcasters and fake it. Among the many ways to boost vocal energy level is through dynamic body language. Try standing while recording e-learning sessions or during webinars and make sure you wear a telephone headset or head phones so your hands are free to gesture.

If you embrace the qualities and practices I've mentioned, there's no reason ever to hesitate over or doubt the value of your speaking voice in one of the new voice-intensive training mediums. You'll have to develop a new, nurturing relationship with your voice, but once you do, you'll not only be a better trainer. You'll stop grimacing and start enjoying the recordings you make because, yes, that really is you doing the talking, and you sound great.


  • Fri, 15 Jan 2010
    Post by Katrina

    Your voice is vital to communication especially if you are using audio or video in your online courses. Your voice creates the tone of the course and helps the student/s either engage or not engage. It is the responsibility of the instructor to give students their very best!

    Katrina DigitlChalk

  • Mon, 11 Jan 2010
    Post by Online Elearning Softwares

    Virtual Training is a part of learning online.Sound your best in Virtual training sessions because that is the impact you show your listener. Live sessions of virtual training are optimal only when one sounds his/her best. This is all encompassing the best e learning tools online in the fast changing surrounding of global competence and quality e-learning solution has gone high on the strategic list of the thinking corporate. We transform ideas and information into innovation, action, flexible delivery and rapid deployment and provide all the features you need to create professional and high quality e-learning software. Thanks Online E-learning Software & Script

  • Tue, 05 Jan 2010
    Post by Bruce

    Hearty "AMEN" to Kirk Berry's last sentence! NEVER EVER sound like you are reading - especially important if you are highlighting items in a list. Also avoid too much overmodulated 60's style Top 40 Hit Radio DJ voice. I can do that, and sometimes will as a joke, but extreme is too -- well -- extreme and it annoys listeners. Keep in mind though that voice modulation (tone-pace-volume) is critical and use those three key elements as your tool to maintain listeners' interest. Change all three in appropriate ways. The sub-conscious mind pays great attention to change and transitions, and when the sub-conscious mind notices, the conscious mind is engaged.

  • Tue, 05 Jan 2010
    Post by Susan Berkley


    Yes, the ability to work with a script is extremely helpful for webinars. Here are some of my favorite tips so you dont sound like you are reading: 1. Reduce your script to bullet points so you are not tempted to read it verbatim. Yuo'll sound more naturally filling in the details and you'll stay on point and feel more confident 2. Visualize that you are speaking to one person and one person only rather than to a group Hold a clear image of that person in your mind's eye 3. Use lots of body language...hand gestures and facial expressions to sound more animated

    Good luck!

    Susan Berkley

  • Fri, 01 Jan 2010
    Post by Kirk Berry

    I give as many as 10 webinars a month. When I first started, I would try to emulate what I would do in person which included a lot of "winging" it. After recording a few webinars and listening to them, I realized that I needed a lot more focus and attention to the voice. I found that having a "script" really helps in webinars. It helps you stay on track, and you can practice your voice. However, it is imperative that you don't sound like you are reading from a script.