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Hate the sound of your voice? It’s not you, it’s science!

Hate the sound of your voice? It’s not you, it’s science!

Is listening to recordings of your voice unpleasant?

One of the best ways to hone your public speaking skills or presentation skills is to record your voice when you practice.  Listening to the playback helps highlight verbal crutches you may want to eliminate such as, ‘um’, ‘like’, and ‘so’.  It also provides a way to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself: When do I sound the most clear and concise? At what points do I lose focus or lack volume?  When trying to emphasize a particular thought am I straining vocally?  These things become easier to identify and fix when you use a recording of yourself to prepare. Yet many of us would rather eat glass than listen to the recorded sound of our own voice.

It doesn’t even sound like me.

Many of our clients say they don’t like the sound of their own voice.  I often attribute this to previous negative public speaking experiences.  Maybe that failed book report from fourth grade is haunting you.  Or the time you crashed and burned giving the speech at your grandmother’s 75th birthday.  But it turns out bad past experiences are not the primary culprit – science is!

Jonah Bromwich, a reporter for the New York Times recently explored why so many of us find the sound of our own voice off-putting.  Bromwich chatted up John J. Rosowski, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School who focuses on the middle ear and William Hartmann, a physics professor at Michigan State University specializing in acoustics and psychoacoustics. (Side bar: how fascinating is the concept of psychoacoustics?  A whole branch of psychology devoted to the “psychological and physiological responses associated with sound”?!?)

Ok, so according to Hartmann, because our vocal cords vibrate when we speak we experience the sound of our own voice internally.  The vibrations of our voice “are conducted through our bones and excite our inner ears directly.”  To make things even wilder, other factors influencing how we sound to ourselves include the interaction of these vibrations with “cerebrospinal fluid, the clear liquid that sits within the brain and spine.”  More science!

Why do I sound so weird to myself?

Here’s the thing: the most typical pathway we experience sound through is external.  Vibrations from the air pass through the “chain of our hearing systems, traversing the outer, middle and inner ear.”  When we hear a recording of ourselves our brain experiences the sound of our own voice through an entirely different channel than it normally does – hence the weirdness.  This just further supports Bespoken’s belief that there are no ‘good’ speakers or ‘bad’ speakers. It also explains why many of our clients shy away from taping themselves when practicing their public speaking and presentation skills.

Now that you know why you dislike the sound of your own voice, and that it’s perfectly natural and normal, you have one less excuse not to utilize this effective and useful tool the next time you’re preparing to speak publicly.

Preparation is Key: How to speak in public successfully

Preparation is Key: How to speak in public successfully

Hillary Clinton joked at the Al Smith dinner that the only performance enhancer she used during the presidential debates was preparation. When considering how to speak in public, what’s your process? 

The presidential debates are finally over. If we’ve learned one thing from this depressing political season it’s the importance of preparation in presentation skills and public speaking.

Most of us are so intimidated by public speaking that we avoid thinking about it all together. That total lack of preparation and practice can lead to a negative experience. It’s a vicious cycle that we won’t break until we learn how to prepare and practice for ourselves.

To start us off, here are two pieces of advice I stole from two women I admire:

Do more than nothing

The exceptional photographer Sai Mokhtari said this to me last week and it’s been stuck in my brain ever since.  You may not have time to perfect a speech but if you do something more than nothing you’ll set yourself on a trajectory towards success instead of failure.

Collect little victories

Katie McKenna, author of How to Get Run Over by a Truck talks about collecting little wins. When you feel disempowered, setting yourself up for success, even in small ways, can be key to building confidence for the long-term.

Design Your Preparation Process

Whether you’re gearing up for a formal public speaking engagement or to ask for a raise you deserve, you get to decide what goes into your process for preparation. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and identifying unconscious behaviors is key to improving presentation skills.  Do more than nothing by trying one or all of these practical tips—and collect little victories along the way:

  1. Set an intention

    Know what you want to get out of your audience and how you want to make them feel. Identifying and refining an intention will take the focus off of yourself and keep you grounded. Be specific and embrace your unique perspective.

  2. Bullet point your thoughts

    Most speaking opportunities call for improvisation rather than a script—especially if there’s a Q&A component. Instead than sticking to a script, organize your thoughts into a series of bullet points, using keywords to prompt your memory. Knowing the essence of what you want to say in your bones will set you up for success.

  3. Practice vulnerability

    The head of TED says that the single most important thing you can do during public speaking is to make eye contact. Leading up to the speaking engagement, find safe situations to be open and connected. Practicing in a safe space ingrains these behaviors for when you take the stage.

  4. Wear shoes that make you feel powerful

    Many of us do not feel powerful or comfortable in our footwear. What shoes make you feel powerful? I personally prefer chunky wedges, but many women I know feel powerful in pumps. If you love those ballet flats, make sure you know why. Ditch shoes that make you feel small and take a stand instead.

Let us know how you prepare for public speaking!